Why should I be moral?

From the perspective of self-interest, can we show that it is reasonable to conform to the expectations of morality? Does it pay to be moral? Doesn’t morality demand that I suppress my own inclinations and desires for the benefit of others and how can that be reasonable? Unless I am better off being moral than I would be otherwise, no reasons could motivate me to conform to the expectations of morality. Yet moral thinking seems to require an impartial perspective, where our motivating reasons are not driven by or biased by self-interest, as the interests of all should be equally considered.

In this module you will study the following notions of morality


As a social contract | As overcoming self-interest | As constitutive of self-interest


Click on the above links to be taken to these sections.


The department is aiming to update these topics so that you will be able to access information about your course from this website. If you cannot download something or are having problems using the site, please contact Mr. Winter.

Morality as a social contract

  • Is it reasonable to conform to the expectations of morality because morality is a conventional agreement for our mutual advantage?
  • Exactly what kind of agreement could it be?

Morality as overcoming self-interest

  • Is it reasonable to conform to the expectations of morality and these expectations disregard self-interest as morally relevant?
  • Does eschewing self-interest leave us without any motivating reasons to act altruistically?
  • Is moral motivation a reflection of natural dispositions (eg Humean ‘sympathy’) and, if so, what might be the implications for ethics?

Morality as constitutive of self-interest

  • Can we articulate our self-interest independently of morality?
  • Is it reasonable to conform to the expectations of morality because self-interest can only be realised in the context of a moral life.
  • Are self-interested reasons compatible with an understanding of morality?