This book offers a new argument for the ancient claim that well-being as the highest prudential good -- eudaimonia -- consists of happiness in a life according to virtue. Virtue is a source of happiness, but happiness also requires external goods.
In the moral philosophy of the last two centuries, altruism of one kind or another has typically been regarded as identical with moral concern. When self-regarding duties have been recognized, motivation by duty has been sharply distinguished from motivation by self-interest. I think this view is wrong: self-interest can be the motive of a moral act. My chief concern is to argue that self-interested action -- i.e., action motivated by rational self-interest -- can be moral, but the data I use (...) to argue for this also provide compelling empirical evidence that all human motives do not reduce to self-interest, that altruism is possible. (shrink)
Liberal political theory sees justice as the "first virtue" of a good society, the virtue that guides individuals' conceptions of their own good, and protects the equal liberty of all to pursue their ends, so long as these ends and pursuits are just. But ever since Marx's declaration that "liberty as a right of man is not founded upon the relations between man and man, but rather upon the separation of man from man...,"i liberal society has been frequently criticized for (...) falling seriously short of the conditions of a good society.ii A prominent recent criticism of this sort has been voiced by "communitarians," who charge that the primacy of rights in liberalism reveals a failure to appreciate the value of friendship and community, and tends to undermine their possibility.iii My aim in this paper is to defend liberal political theory, understood as the theory that justifies a polity of individual rights and justice, against this charge.iv My main argument will be directed at the assumption that there is an inherent tension between rights and justice on the one hand, and familial love and friendship on the other. According to the communitarian, two or more individuals constitute a community when they share a common conception of the good, and see this good as partly constitutive of their identities or selves.v Such "constitutive community," in Michael Sandel's words, may be a close friendship or family relationship, or an intermediate association such as a neighborhood organization, or a comprehensive political community. The communitarian charges that in making justice the first virtue of social institutions, liberalism undermines community at all levels, and this for two reasons. First, liberalism demands that we revise or surrender our conceptions of the good - including our attachments and commitments to family and friends - if they should turn out to be unjust. But this demand, the communitarian claims, requires attitudes 2 that are inconsistent with these attachments and commitments.. (shrink)
In the moral philosophy of the last two centuries, altruism of one kind or another has typically been regarded as identical with moral concern. When self-regarding duties have been recognized, motivation by duty has been sharply distinguished from motivation by self-interest . Accordingly, from Kant, Mill, and Sidgwick to Rawls, Nagel, and Gauthier, concern for our own interests, whether long-term or short-term, has typically been regarded as intrinsically nonmoral. So, for example, although Thomas Nagel regards both prudence and altruism as (...) structural features of practical reason, he identifies only the latter as a moral capacity, prudence being merely rational, long-term egoism. Similarly, John Ravvls and David Gauthier contrast self-interest and other nontuistic interests—interests that are independent of others' interests—with moral interest. We are morally permitted , no doubt, to act out of self-interest within certain constraints, but such acts can have no intrinsic moral worth. Pursuit of our own interests out of duty does have intrinsic moral worth, but such pursuit, by hypothesis, cannot be motivated by self-interest. Self-interested pursuit of our own interests as such, no matter how realistic, farsighted, temperate, honest, or courageous, cannot be intrinsically moral. And this remains the case even if self-interest motivates us to perform other-regarding acts: only those other-regarding acts that are motivated by others' interests count as moral, because only such acts are altruistic. (shrink)
Friendship is a cardinal human value, and requires both the "other-regarding" and the "self-regarding" virtues. Thus an analysis of friendship can illuminate the nature of morality, and provide a test of adequacy of rival moral theories. But even when it is recognized that friendship involves virtue, the role of justice is usually ignored, thanks to the idea that justice is an impersonal, "public" virtue. But justice is crucially important in friendship, and is connected as well with benevolence. The current attempt (...) of certain philosophers to see justice as stemming from reason, and benevolence from sympathy, is an attempt to save something of Kantian rationalism, which sees all of morality as stemming from pure reason. But neither a partial, nor a consistent, rationalism is justified by the relevant facts: our moral consciousness, and our knowledge of moral development and behaviour. Morality must be explained in terms of both reason, and emotion and desire. And only then can the virtues of friendship be properly understood. ;These virtues are best displayed in the friendship that is an end in itself, where friends love each other as unique and irreplaceable persons. The end love of friendship is quite different from agapaic love, which ignores the person by ignoring her qualitative identity; and from Platonic love, which ignores the person by ignoring her numerical identity. A moral theory that cannot accommodate the end love of friendship as an intrinsically moral phenomenon, cannot accommodate the idea of a person as an end in herself. Utilitarianism and Kantian rationalism both suffer from this defect. Again, loving a friend as an end implies loving her as a part of one's own happiness or well-being. Morality too, then, can be an end in itself as well as a part of one's own well-being. This "Aristotelian view" challenges the standard distinction between deontological and teleological theories, where the former holds that morality is an end in itself, unrelated to human good, and the latter holds that it is not an end in itself, but related as a means to an independently definable human good. (shrink)