In his Devil's Dictionary
, Ambrose Bierce defines happiness as "an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another." Lucretius, at the beginning of the second book of his De Rerum Natura
, admits that it is sweet to contemplate others' misfortunes, not however from any fiendish pleasure in seeing our fellow men suffer, but because we ourselves are spared. Here is H.A.J. Munro's translation:
It is sweet, when on the great sea the winds trouble its waters, to behold from land another's deep distress; not that it is a pleasure and delight that any should be afflicted, but because it is sweet to see from what evils you yourself are exempt. It is sweet also to look upon the mighty struggles of war arrayed along the plains without sharing yourself in the danger. But nothing is more welcome than to hold the lofty positions well fortified by the learning of the wise, from which you may look down upon others and see them wandering all abroad and going astray in their search for the path of life, see the contest among them of intellect, the rivalry of birth, the striving night and day with surpassing effort to struggle up to the summit of power and be masters of the world.