The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness, than the destruction of millions of our fellow-beings. – William Hazlitt
As early as 1796, when he was just eighteen, the English essayist William Hazlitt may have become the first Westerner to see that self-concern is not rationally required.
Hazlitt published his insight in 1805, in his Essays on the Principles of Human Action. Introducing the 1990 edition, John Price informs us that “The reading public and the reviewing journals regarded it, for the most part, with indifference or hostility.” Hazlitt’s Essays and the idea they contain fell into obscurity for the best part of two centuries, after which the idea re-emerged independently as part of a new wave of thought about personal identity (more…)