UCL Philosophy


O'Brien: Self Matters

31 March 2023

Lucy O'Brien (UCL) & Marie Guillot (Essex): Self Matters Ergo (March 2023)

We argue that relating to myself as me provides, as such, a reason to care about myself: grasping that an event involves me, instead of another, makes it matter in a special way. Further, this self-concern is not simply a matter of seeing in myself some instrumental value for other ends. We use as our foil a recent skeptical challenge to this view offered in Setiya (2015). We think the case against self-concern is powered by unwarrantedly narrow construals of three key notions. One is the notion of a first-personal way of relating to oneself. A narrow account of the first person in terms of special epistemic relations to oneself makes it easy to overlook a source of non-instrumental reasons of self-concern, located in the special relation a subject has to herself as agent. Two is the notion of what it is to be a reason. And three is the notion of self-concern itself. We show that the skeptical case rests in part on a slide towards neighbouring but distinct notions of egoism and selfishness. We also argue that Setiya’s notion of self-love, offered to capture the pre-theoretical intuition of self-concern, cannot do it justice.