In the moral philosophy of the last two centuries, altruism of one kind or another has typically been regarded as identical with moral concern. When self-regarding duties have been recognized, motivation by duty has been sharply distinguished from motivation by self-interest. Accordingly, from Kant, Mill, and Sidgwick to Rawls, Nagel, and Gauthier, concern for our own interests, whether long-term or short-term, has typically been regarded as intrinsically nonmoral. So, for example, although Thomas Nagel regards both prudence and altruism as structural features of practical reason, he identifies only the latter as a moral capacity, prudence being merely rational, long-term egoism. Similarly, John Ravvls and David Gauthier contrast self-interest and other nontuistic interests—interests that are independent of others' interests—with moral interest. We are morally permitted, no doubt, to act out of self-interest within certain constraints, but such acts can have no intrinsic moral worth. Pursuit of our own interests out of duty (if there is such a duty) does have intrinsic moral worth, but such pursuit, by hypothesis, cannot be motivated by self-interest. Self-interested pursuit of our own interests as such, no matter how realistic, farsighted, temperate, honest, or courageous, cannot be intrinsically moral. And this remains the case even if self-interest motivates us to perform other-regarding acts: only those other-regarding acts that are (appropriately) motivated by others' interests count as moral, because only such acts are altruistic.
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