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Values, meaning and identity : the case for morality Boston, Alexander Holtby


Since Plato's time, there have been attempts to show that the generally altruistic way of life is superior to the totally selfish way of life. Drawing upon the conclusions of philosophers and social psychologists, I argue that it is better to have a fairly moral character than a totally selfish one. I first argue that it is possible to have genuinely altruistic motivations (rather than disguised selfish motivations). I then show that both the altruistic and the selfish way of life are genuine choices for rational beings. Next I argue that the nature of values is such that they require reinforcement from others in order for us to verify that what we believe to be values are indeed values. I further argue that values are unattainable for the totally selfish person. Subsequently, I point out that values are necessary for an agent to have a meaningful life, and very likely necessary for a human to be able to have a sense of self. Since most people desire to have a meaningful life and a sense of self, I argue that the benefits possible to the fairly moral person outweigh the benefits possible to the totally selfish one, even if the latter can disguise her selfishness completely.

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