Self-sceptical ethics and selfless morality
a historical and cross-cultural overview
A prima facie case is presented for seeing various kinds of ethical significance in a family of views that share a 'self-sceptical" approach to personal identity. Variations on a simple self-sceptical argument for moral altruism can be found throughout the Buddhist philosophical tradition, as well as in contemporary Western philosophy, whereas key elements of this approach seem absent from long stretches of pre-modern Western philosophy. This chapter considers some exceptions to that pattern, in ancient and medieval Western philosophy, and other exceptions in early modern philosophy. The richness of various Buddhist approaches is highlighted, by contrast, including metaphysical and meta-ethical themes, as well as moral ones. The historical question of whether the exceptions in Western sources may have been influenced (directly or indirectly) by Buddhist sources is considered. The chapter closes with an overview of the various perspectives presented by the other contributors to this volume, and some common threads running through different segments of the volume; for example, some perspectives favour reductionist accounts of selfhood, while some favour non-reductionist accounts, and this difference can be ethically salient, which itself illustrates the basic idea that there are legitimate normative connections between self-sceptical metaphysics and ethics.
Davis, G.F. (2018)., Self-sceptical ethics and selfless morality: a historical and cross-cultural overview, in G. F. Davis (ed.), Ethics without self, Dharma without atman, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 1-20.
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