Self-love and the structure of personal values

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Authenticity, it is plausible to suppose, is a feature of one’s identity as a person – of one’s sense of the kind of life worth living. Most attempts to explicate this notion of a person’s identity do so in terms of an antecedent understanding of what it is for a person to value something. This is, I argue, a mistake: a concern is not intelligible as a value apart from the place it has within a larger identity that the value serves in turn to constitute; to assume otherwise is to risk leaving out the very person whose identity these values allegedly constitute. By contrast, I offer an account of values as always already a part of one’s identity. I do so by providing an analysis of values in terms of what I call “person-focused emotions,” emotions like pride and shame. Such emotions, I argue, involve a commitment to the import of a person primarily and, only secondarily, to things valued, and in this way enable us to understand what it is to value these things for the sake of the person. The upshot is a more satisfying account of a person’s identity and values, an account that can provide the necessary background for a more thorough investigation of authenticity.


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