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Douglas Portmore

Welfare, Achievement, and Self-Sacrifice

by Douglas W. Portmore

Many philosophers hold that the achievement of one's goals can contribute to one's welfare apart from whatever independent contributions that the objects of those goals or the processes by which they are achieved make. Call this the Achievement View, and call those who accept it achievementists. In this paper, I argue that achievementists should accept both (a) that one factor that affects how much the achievement of a goal contributes to one’s welfare is the amount that one has invested in that goal and (b) that the amount that one has invested in a goal is a function of how much one has personally sacrificed for its sake, not a function of how much effort one has put into achieving it. So I will, contrary to at least one achievementist (viz., Keller 2004, 36), be arguing against the view that the greater the amount of productive effort that goes into achieving a goal, the more its achievement contributes to one's welfare. Furthermore, I argue that the reason that the achievement of those goals for which one has personally sacrificed matters more to one’s welfare is that, in general, the redemption of one's self-sacrifices in itself contributes to one’s welfare. Lastly, I argue that the view that the redemption of one's self-sacrifices in itself contributes to one's welfare is plausible independent of whether or not we find the Achievement View plausible. We should accept this view so as to account both for the Shape of a Life Phenomenon and for the rationality of honoring "sunk costs."

ISSN 1559-3061
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