Aspiration and Acceptance: A Theory of Self-Love

Dissertation, Yale University (1995)

I identify two fundamental ways in which one can value oneself: conditionally--believing that one is worthy of a best friend's love because one has certain qualities that are special or outstanding; and unconditionally--believing that one is worthy of a best friend's love on the basis of no special or outstanding qualities. I argue that a conditional sense of self-worth--what I call 'self-esteem'--is important to have because without it we could not pursue our deepest goals and commitments; and an unconditional sense of self-worth is important to have because having a conditional sense of self-worth requires it. ;There are two natural views about an unconditional sense of self-worth that I challenge. First, I show that there is a way of conceiving, and justifying, an unconditional sense of self-worth that doesn't rest on some idea of a universal, shared self--like Kant's noumenal self. On my view, an unconditional sense of self-worth is tied to an agent's particularity. Second, I criticize the view that a conditional sense of self-worth is important while an unconditional one isn't by showing how the former depends upon the latter. For I show that an unconditional sense of self-worth, at least on one conception of it, is justified in light of an agent's particular commitments
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