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Stockholm Philosophy Colloquium: Jessica Isserow (Leeds)


Date: Thursday 3 February 2022

Time: 16.00 – 17.45

Location: Zoom:

What is self-esteem?


Self-esteem is an important and highly sought after human good. Yet academic philosophers have contributed curiously little to the study of self-esteem. Indeed, self-esteem is often treated in philosophical circles as the insignificant moral cousin of self-respect. To my mind, however, the project of identifying what self-esteem is—or, perhaps, what it ought to be—is indeed a project of moral importance. Many object to self-esteem initiatives on the grounds that they do little more than foster narcissism and a sense of entitlement. From this, it may be tempting to infer that we simply shouldn’t be promoting self-esteem. But another lesson we may draw is that these initiatives weren’t really promoting self-esteem at all—or not, in any event, self-esteem of the kind worth having. It is the philosopher’s task to find out what (if anything) the latter is; whether there is a concept of self-esteem capable of doing justice to our pre-theoretic idea that there is a sense of self-worth that is worth promoting in others and ourselves. It is precisely this task that I wish to undertake in this paper. My starting ambition is to develop desiderata for a plausible account of self-esteem. I arrive at these desiderata through a careful consideration of where extant accounts go wrong.