“Generous to a Fault”

Ruth W. Grant

in In Search of Goodness

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780226306834
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226306858 | DOI:
“Generous to a Fault”

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This chapter, which challenges the determination of altruism with moral goodness and the presumption that altruism and egoism are mutually exclusive, utilizes Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree in order to argue that there are forms of altruism which are not good because they are destructive of psychic health and human flourishing. Moreover, it investigates the alternatives presented by Plato and Sigmund Freud. For Plato, there can be no conflict between goodness and psychic health because the two are one and the same. For Freud, the demands of morality are the source of painful psychic conflicts. A vision of goodness as psychic health provided good grounds for avoiding injustice. Freud's children's stories rarely have entirely happy endings. “Ethics of altruism” too often fail to recognize the claims of the self, and as a result make the mistake of measuring goodness by the self-sacrifice it requires.

Keywords: moral goodness; altruism; egoism; Shel Silverstein; Giving Tree; psychic health; Plato; Sigmund Freud

Chapter.  9611 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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