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Duty and Desire


Duty and Desire


Humanities & Art


In this session we’ll explore the tension between your moral duties and your personal preferences. Morality seems to require you to do certain things regardless of your own preferences, as when you are obliged to pay back a debt although you’d rather keep the money. But is it even possible to do something if you have absolutely no desire to do it? And what should we say to someone who tells us that he cares nothing for morality? We’ll explore questions about human motivation, the nature of morality, and the possible conflicts between morality and rationality.

Why this is important?

It connects to central questions in philosophy about ethics, human nature, and rationality: about the very idea of a moral duty; about the conflicts between human altruism and self-interest; about whether it is rational to be nice; and about many other topics besides. It also connects to questions in other disciplines such as politics and economics, such as the appropriate balance between the common good and self-interest, and role of preferences in explaining behaviour.

Key descriptors

Philosophy; ethics; metaethics; moral psychology; altruism; egoism; categorical imperatives; desire; preference

Suggested age range

Years 11-13

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