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Duty and Desire


Duty and Desire




On the one hand, it seems as though most of our behaviour can be explained by our personal preferences: If we want to know why you apply to a particular university, the answer seems likely to appeal to facts about what you wanted. It seems that even moral behaviour can be so explained: If you give money to Oxfam, that too is probably explained by the things you wanted to achieve. But if even apparently moral behaviour is motivated by our own desires, does that show that we are never truly moral at all? Or should we be moved to deny that all behaviour is explained by preferences precisely we are sometimes moved by a sense of duty?

Why this is important?

The balance of selfish and moral motivations in humans is a central feature of life of relevance to us personally and politically.

Key descriptors

Morality, preference, selfishness.

Suggested age range


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