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  • Thumbnail for Morality and the nature of the self
    Morality and the nature of the self by Marsh, Henry Reid

    The relationship between morality and the self has been a subject of both philosophical and theological speculation. In the religious sphere these two concepts—morality and the self—often hold great significance as they tend to correlate at least somewhat directly with either temporal happiness or soteriological beliefs. In many religious and philosophical systems, the belief in a permanent self (that may or may not carry over in an afterlife) is thought of as a necessary substratum of an agent to account for moral agency and moral responsibility. My thesis, however, is that a belief in a permanent self that is subject to personal everlasting soteriological repercussions is not necessary for moral agency (moral agency entailing responsibility, accountability, and motivation). My argument employs a close reading of two examples of comprehensive religious/philosophical systems: the Madhyamaka Buddhism of 14th century Tibetan philosopher Tsongkhapa and the process theism of 20th century philosopher Charles Hartshorne. In light of the philosophical moral systems used, I conclude that not only is the lack of a permanent self coherent with moral agency, but the lack of a permanent self actually increases a sense of moral agency and responsibility in an agent as well as increases happiness in one’s life.