In his second theorem in the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant states that a rational being's consciousness of the agreeableness of life accompanying his whole existence is happiness, and the principle of making this the supreme determining ground of choice is the principle of self-love. He then devotes Book I of the Analytic of this Critique to arguing that such an empirical ground cannot serve as the basis for moral law.

Self-love sounds egotistic but also natural. A certain amount seems even necessary. What is a good amount of self-love and can it be compatibly integrated into a system of ethics? If so, I assume such an ethic would not comport with Kant's idea of morality?

Would this explain Nietzsche's antipathy towards Kant?

Reference Critique of Practical Reason, 5:22

  • some amount of self love may be called excusable and healthy, but i'm not sure natural or moral comes into it
    – andrós
    Apr 13 at 4:50
  • For "what is a good amount of X" to make sense, you need some value over and above X to pass a judgment on it. Apparently, you are not bound by Kant's idea of morality, so what would that value be? Without it, the answer is whatever amount you want. Indeed, ethical egoism declares unbounded self-interest the ultimate value. Of course, some semblance of caring about others would still follow, because gaining their trust and cooperation may well be in one's self-interest. Sometimes this is called "self-referential altruism".
    – Conifold
    Apr 13 at 5:45
  • i remember you saying that the value of life extends after our death @Conifold doesn't unmitigated self interest etc. defy that? something like that, which is not meant to refute any apparent claim you have made. personally, i feel prosocial attitudes etc. just make more sense, so that the burden of proof is on anyone claiming egoism is best. not philosophical of me
    – andrós
    Apr 13 at 7:15
  • If suicide, prohibited by Kant, is the opposite of self love, then self-love is moral, at least to the extent demanded by the universal form,
    – Gerry
    Apr 13 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


I don't think you can put a quantity on it. In general, how much benevolence or courage is necessary to live a moral or happy life? The question is absurd. You can look at instances where a lack of self love in the everyday sense could lead to bad outcomes, but that's more of a self help/new age problem, and at best it is psychology rather than a question about Kant. Are you asking whether self love should be tempered by some other virtue? People that only love themselves lack many virtues, and you would be hard pressed to shift the burden of proof so that egoism is the best ethic, though some have tried beyond it's the best for me and only me.

  • more generally, people that don't care about how they are affecting others are not worth bothering with
    – andrós
    Apr 13 at 5:30

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