Morality and Need

David B. Wong

in Natural Moralities

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780195305395
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786657 | DOI:
  Morality and Need

Show Summary Details


Morality can enter deeply into human identity, but we can question whether its influence is a good thing for us. Though a traditional goal of moral philosophy is to establish that the individual’s flourishing requires morality, this chapter explores the more modest and achievable goal of showing that morality is consistent with flourishing. Criticism is directed at the pessimistic stance, based on Foucault, that morality’s constitution of individual selves is necessarily an exercise in power and domination. A case is made, partly through the exploration of an argument from Xunzi, that morality answers to powerful needs in human beings, and partly through discussion of the story of John Sassall, a country doctor who found fulfillment not only in caring for his patients but in bearing witness to their lives. He also found deep depression in recognizing the limits on what he could do for his patients, and this leads to the conclusion that any vindication of morality must be incomplete as long as those who seek to accomplish moral ends must do so in oppressive structures that drastically limit the life prospects of many.

Keywords: flourishing; Foucault; morality; needs; Sassall; Xunzi

Chapter.  13547 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.