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True self-love and true self-sacrifice

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In recent commentary on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, a distinction is commonly drawn between ‘proper’ and ‘selfish’ forms of self-love. In arguing that not all vices of self-focus can be captured under the heading of selfishness, I seek to distinguish selfishness from self-centredness. But the latter vice has a far more handsome cousin: proper self-focus of the kind necessary for ‘becoming a self’. As various feminist thinkers have argued, this will be missed if we valorise self-sacrifice too uncritically. But nor need the latter concept be ditched. By distinguishing varieties of self-sacrifice, we can see the importance of avoiding the all too easy slide from proper self-sacrifice to outright self-annihilation. And we can discover that this avoidance is aided by recognising a kind of pride as part of true self-love.

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Lippitt, J. True self-love and true self-sacrifice. Int J Philos Relig 66, 125–138 (2009).

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