The Journal of Ethics 19 (1):53-72 (2015)

Vanessa Carbonell
University of Cincinnati
We emerge from certain activities with an altered sense of self. Whether returning from a warzone or from an experience as common as caring for an aging parent, one might remark, “I’m not the same person I was.” I argue that such transformations are relevant to debates about what morality requires of us. To undergo an alteration in one’s self is to make a special kind of sacrifice, a sacrifice of self. Since projects can be more or less morally obligatory to the extent that they require more or less sacrifice, we must incorporate these unique sacrifices into any accounting of the contours and limits of moral obligation. But sacrifices of self pose a special difficulty for any such accounting, precisely because of their transformative nature. Unlike most other sacrifices, they cannot be analyzed entirely in terms of wellbeing. Using real-world case studies and examples, I argue for the existence of two types of sacrifice of self, involving changes in identity and moral agency. I argue that sacrifices of self require particular attention because they may be extra difficult to compare with other costs and with moral gains.
Keywords Sacrifice  Self-sacrifice  Identity  Demandingness  Moral obligation  Wellbeing
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10892-014-9186-x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,018
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Oxford University Press USA.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
A Defense of Abortion.Judith Jarvis Thomson - 1971 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1):47-66.
Saints and Heroes.J. O. Urmson - 1958 - In A. I. Melden (ed.), Essays in Moral Philosophy. University of Washington Press.

View all 42 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

When Does ‘Can’ Imply ‘Ought’?Stephanie Collins - 2018 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 26 (3):354-375.
You Oughta Know: A Defence of Obligations to Learn.Teresa Bruno-Niño & Preston J. Werner - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):690-700.
Sacrifice and Relational Well-Being.Vanessa Carbonell - 2018 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 26 (3):335-353.
The Value of Sacrifices.Jörg Löschke - 2018 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 26 (3):399-418.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Ratcheting-Up Effect.Vanessa Carbonell - 2012 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 93 (2):228-254.
Is Sacrifice a Virtue?Michael Gelven - 1988 - Journal of Value Inquiry 22 (3):235-252.
Nietzsche and the Eternal Return of Sacrifice.K. D. - 2003 - Research in Phenomenology 33 (1):167-185.
Self-Sacrifice in Heidegger.Thomas Mautner - 2010 - Philosophia 38 (2):385-398.
Preferentism and Self‐Sacrifice.Chris Heathwood - 2011 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (1):18-38.
A Satirist's Sacrifices.Fritz Graf - 2011 - In Jennifer Wright Knust & Zsuzsanna Varhelyi (eds.), Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice. Oup Usa. pp. 203.
Andrew S. Jacobs.Small Sacrifices - 2011 - In Jennifer Wright Knust & Zsuzsanna Varhelyi (eds.), Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice. Oup Usa. pp. 251.
Sacrifice In Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.Paolo Diego Bubbio - 2012 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (4):1-19.
Kant’s Sacrificial Turns.Paolo Diego Bubbio - 2013 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 73 (2):97-115.
Self-Interest and Self-Sacrifice.Connie S. Rosati - 2009 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 109 (1pt3):311 - 325.
Sacrifice Imagined: Violence, Atonement, and the Sacred.Douglas Hedley - 2011 - Continuum International Publishing Group.
The Hero and Asymmetrical Obligation: Levinas and Ricoeur in Dialogue.Katherine E. Kirby - 2010 - International Philosophical Quarterly 50 (2):157-166.


Added to PP index

Total views
106 ( #109,014 of 2,498,515 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
11 ( #67,692 of 2,498,515 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes