Self-Interest and Beyond
Using classical and contemporary philosophical ideas, and stories from literature and film, this book involves the reader in considering alternative possibilities for self-development. It challenges the reader to reflect seriously about his or her own patterns of thinking about how to live, showing the superficiality of much of our thinking about what is in our interest. Often people count up potential gains of an act without considering whether the gains and the way of living required to attain them fit within their conception of the life they want to have. To work for us, instead of against us, our thinking about how to benefit ourselves needs to be guided by informed judgment about what kind of self to be.
The book shows that
- Self-interested thinking is incomplete and often counterproductive unless it is guided by a conception of the self one aspires to be and the life one aspires to live.
- The kind of thinking needed to choose a self differs from self-interested thinking and cannot be reduced to considerations of self-interest.
- Serious reflection on the self often gives a person reason to build into the self a range of concerns that result in motivations other than self-interest. Many people will have reason to form a self motivated by fundamental concerns for moral living.
Self-interest is usually conceived to be in significant conflict with moral living. However, descriptions of the nature of this conflict typically assume a self without a moral identity. If we imagine a self whose identity is partially shaped by moral aspirations, the contrast between self-interest and morality is less sharp, and the nature of the conflict is significantly altered.