Sacrifices of Self are Prudential Harms: A Reply to Carbonell

Abstract

Vanessa Carbonell argues that sacrifices of self, unlike most other sacrifices, cannot be analyzed entirely in terms of wellbeing. For this reason, Carbonell considers sacrifices of self as posing a problem for the wellbeing theory of sacrifice and for discussions about the demandingness of morality. In this paper I take issue with Carbonell’s claim that sacrifices of self cannot be captured as prudential harms. First, I explain why Carbonell considers sacrifices of self particularly problematic. In order to determine whether some state of affairs is (or would be) harmful for someone, it is necessary to assume a particular account of welfare. In this paper, I assume the self-fulfillment account of welfare (Haybron 2008). I introduce this theory and show that it can account for the harm of sacrifices of self.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Derek Parfit (1995) rejects this condition.

  2. 2.

    It is also a question that proponents of a Parfitian account of what matters in prudential evaluations need to address. (Parfit 1995)

  3. 3.

    Kagan does not make this proposal with regard to the self-fulfillment account of welfare, but in the context of a discussion about what matters in survival.

  4. 4.

    Proponents of a Parfitian account of what matters in prudential evaluations usually appeal to psychological continuity and connectedness. (Parfit 1995) Again, these criteria have not been discussed specifically with regard to the self-fulfillment account of welfare.

References

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  5. Parfit, Derek. 1984. Reasons and persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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  6. Parfit, Derek. 1995. The unimportance of identity. In Identity, ed. H. Harris. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Correspondence to Tatjana Višak.

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Višak, T. Sacrifices of Self are Prudential Harms: A Reply to Carbonell. J Ethics 19, 219–229 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10892-015-9196-3

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Keywords

  • Vanessa Carbonell
  • Identity
  • Moral obligation
  • Sacrifice
  • Self-fulfillment
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Wellbeing