Workshop "Self-interest and Other-regard"; 27.28 November, Reykjavik, Iceland

On the Conceptual History of the Good (CHG)

Third Workshop

Self-interest and Other-regard


University of Iceland, Reykjavik.

November 27-28, 2015

The project On the Conceptual History of the Good organises its third and last exploratory workshop, which pertains to the emergence of the idea that self-interest conflicts with other-regard. As Julia Annas has shown in her seminal Morality and Happiness (1993), a supposition of such a conflict was by no means central in the ancient discussions. Ancient ethics simply does not build on a supposition that self-interest conflicts with other-regard. By contrast, in early modern discussions such a conflict is often (though not without exception) assumed.

The workshop Self-interest and Other-regard takes this as its theme and asks: When and why did philosophers start to assume that self-interest conflicts with other-regard and that it is the latter rather than the former that pairs with morality? Did medieval distinctions between various kinds of goods (especially between pleasure and justice) lead to the idea that the former is merely a self-interested good as opposed to an other-regarding and moral one? If so, was this idea immediately accepted by later generations? If the idea of such a distinction was new, were there some compelling arguments that prompted other philosophers to endorse a new idea? Or was it rather some contingent development that led to the early modern discussions?

Together with this discussion, the third workshop raises the question of how we should in fact understand morality. A simple distinction between self-interest and other-regard has already become subject to criticism as the basis of morally praiseworthy action. If the subject needs to write his or her own interests out from the calculations concerning what actions to perform, does this lead to a credible picture of moral agency? How can morality retain its motivational force that so effortlessly combines with a notion that takes morality to contribute to a good life? We maintain that the historical discussions as such cannot be taken as the basis of a new moral theory. Rather, our conviction is that contemporary theories of virtue ethics cannot be successful in introducing an alternative to modern moral theories without understanding the complicated history through which the conceptual distinctions studied in this series of workshops developed. In our third workshop we also explore into the ways in which such an understanding could be utilised in envisaging new ethical viewpoints that combine some of the historical insights with the current theories.

The workshop is open for all interested.



Friday, November 27

Ancient Philosophy


Eirikur S. Sigurdarsson: Antiphon and Aristotle's animals: On nature and selfishness

Svavar H. Svavarsson: Happiness, other people, and god


Eyjólfur K. Emilsson: Self-interest and other-regard in Plotinus


From Medieval to Early Modern Philosophy


Matthew Kempshall: The common good in late medieval political thought


Juhana Toivanen: Is Socrates permitted to kill Plato? Nicholas of Vaudémont on the relation between private and common good


Anna Becker: Oeconomics and the common good in early modern Aristotelianism


Saturday, November 28

Early Modern Philosophy


Frans Svensson: The possibility of living well: Value, virtue and knowledge in Descartes’s ethical philosophy


Ville Paukkonen: Shaftesbury’s moral internalism and Berkeley’s heteronomous critique


Peter Myrdal: The form of Leibniz´s perfectionism


Valtteri Viljanen: Kant and Schopenhauer on self-interest and other-regard

Closing Panel


Dominic O’Meara: Remarks on the terminology and conceptual field of 'Concern for self and for Others’

General discussion (chair Miira Tuominen)