We discuss the essay “The Importance of What We Care About” (1982), in order to give a flavor of the kind of writing Frankfurt did in moral psychology beyond his famous definition of bullshit, discussed in part one.
Frankfurt wants to distinguish the question of moral good from the question of what to care about, as there are many things we care about beyond ethical ideals, and even when it comes to ethics, we may have a special care for fulfilling some particular ethical obligation. Caring is a matter of identification: counting certain things or people as part of a circle of concern, essentially part of one’s self. How and under what circumstances might we do this “wrong”? We discuss the extent to which this is a free act, bringing in Frankfurt’s notion of freedom as acting in accordance with second order desires in his 1969 essay “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.” Another relevant paper mentioned is his “Taking Ourselves Seriously” (2004).
Next episode: We’re interviewing Yascha Mounk about his new book The Identity Trap.
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