Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Self-Love and Altruism*

David O. Brinka1

a1 Philosophy, University of California, San Diego

Whether morality has rational authority is an open question insofar as we can seriously entertain conceptions of morality and practical reason according to which it need not be contrary to reason to fail to conform to moral requirements. Doubts about the authority of morality are especially likely to arise for those who hold a broadly prudential view of rationality. It is common to think of morality as including various other-regarding duties of cooperation, forbearance, and aid. Most of us also regard moral obligations as authoritative practical considerations. But heeding these obligations appears sometimes to constrain the agent's pursuit of his own interests or aims. If we think of rationality in prudential terms–as what would promote the agent's own interests–we may wonder whether moral conduct is always rationally justifiable. Indeed, we do not need to think of rationality in exclusively prudential terms to raise this worry. The worry can arise even if there are impartial reasons–that is, nonderivative reasons to promote the welfare of others.


* I am indebted to Richard Arneson, Neera Badhwar, David Copp, Stephen Darwall, Thomas Hurka, Terry Irwin, Diane Jeske, Philip Kitcher, Christopher Morris, Bruce Russell, Gerasimos Santas, Alan Sidelle, Michael Slote, Ed Stein, Nicholas Sturgeon, Virginia Warren, Gary Watson, the Los Angeles area Moral and Political Philosophy Society (MAPPS), the other contributors to thisvolume, and its editors, for helpful discussion of issues in this essay.