Self-Love in Early 18th Century British Moral Philosophy: Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Hutcheson, Butler and Campbell

Dissertation, Neuchâtel (2009)

Christian Maurer
University of Lausanne
The study focuses on the debates on self-love in early 18th - century British moral philosophy. It examines the intricate relations of these debates with questions concerning human nature and morality in five central authors : Anthony Ashley Cooper the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Bernard Mandeville, Francis Hutcheson, Joseph Butler and Archibald Campbell. One of the central claims of this study is that a distinction between five different concepts of self-love is necessary to achieve a clear understanding of the debates on self-love. Thus, egoistic self-love, self-love as love of praise, self-love as self-esteem, self-love as excessive pride and self-love as self-respect are distinguished. The role of these different concepts is analysed in the mentioned authors ’ theories of human nature and morality, and the relations between the concepts of self-love and other essential concepts of moral philosophy such as benevolence, pity and virtue are examined. This study highlights the importance of the widely discussed claim that self-love is the only motive for human agents and shows that the moral rehabilitation of self-love becomes an important issue for the period. Commentators generally agree on the importance of the notion of self-love for the period’s moral philosophy, yet little attention has been paid to the different concepts of self-love. Present-day philosophy’s tendency to equate self-love with egoism is too simplistic, and the insufficient recognition of the vagueness of the notion of self-love is shown to be an impediment to an appropriate reconstruction of important arguments in the debates on self-love. The framework suggested in this study thus enables a better comprehension of the different accounts of self-love in the selected authors ’ moral psychologies, and of their views of the moral value of self-love. This facilitates the shedding of light on central aspects of moral philosophy at the beginning of the 18th century
Keywords Moral philosophy  moral psychology  self-love  egoism  self-esteem  pride
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