Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 (4):411-435 (2005)

Lawrence Lengbeyer
United States Naval Academy
What are the cognitive mechanisms that underlie selfless conduct, both ‘thinking’ and unthinking? We first consider deliberate selflessness, a manner of selecting acts in which, in evaluating options, one expressly chooses not to weigh the potential consequences for oneself (though this formulation is seen as needing some qualification). We then turn to unthinking behavior in general, and whether we are responsible for it, as the foundation for analyzing the unthinking variety of selflessness. Using illustrative cases (Grenade Gallantry, The Well-Meaning Miner, Ignorant Ilya, Self-Disregarding Sally) we explore just what is involved in setting aside one's self-interests unthinkingly. Eventually, this account links up with work on mental compartmentalization, as it becomes apparent that unthinking selflessness encompasses both unthinking behavior (calling upon inexplicit cognitive utilization of stored images) that is selfless, and thinking behavior (calling upon reasoning with sentences) that is unthinkingly selfless (by virtue of an unreasoned, automatic shift of cognitive standpoint to a ‘compartment’ that omits information about one's self-interests). The analysis points toward a practical program for generating increased selflessness in ourselves and others.
Keywords Philosophy   Ethics   Ontology   Political Philosophy
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10677-005-8838-0
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: 70,039
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

Involuntary Sins.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1985 - Philosophical Review 94 (1):3-31.
The Rationality of Emotion.Ronald de Sousa, Jing-Song Ma & Vincent Shen - 1987 - Philosophy and Culture 32 (10):35-66.

View all 10 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Philosophy for That Time: The Philosophy of Selflessness.Andrzej Grzegorczyk - 2004 - Dialogue and Universalism 14 (5-6):167-172.
Naturalism, Method and Genealogy in Beyond Selflessness.P. J. E. Kail - 2009 - European Journal of Philosophy 17 (1):113-120.
Selflessness in the Pattern of Salvation.Cyril G. Williams - 1971 - Religious Studies 7 (2):153 - 167.
Nietzsche on Selflessness and the Value of Altruism.Bernard Reginster - 2000 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 17 (2):177 - 200.
Beyond Selflessness in Ethics and Inquiry.Christopher Janaway - 2008 - Journal of Nietzsche Studies 35 (1):124-140.
Nāgārjuna's “Middle Way”: A non-eliminative understanding of selflessness.Dan Arnold - 2010 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 253 (3):367-395.
The Fallacy of Selfish Selflessness.Edmund J. S. Sonuga-Barke - 1989 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12 (4):721-722.


Added to PP index

Total views
70 ( #164,072 of 2,505,624 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #277,206 of 2,505,624 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes