Devaluing Importance

It is widely thought that we have good reasons to do important things with our lives, or to become important people.  These reasons go beyond impersonal considerations, such as the moral obligation one might have to cure a terrible illness, for example.  Being important is also thought to be something worth striving for out of self-interest; an especially significant life is something worth wanting for oneself.  Although this kind of judgment is widespread, and although it often makes brief appearances in philosophy, it has not received sustained, systematic examination.  And I will argue that it is mistaken: from the perspective of what’s in our self-interest, we have no good reason to be important. In fact, being unimportant (while still mattering to a degree) comes with a valuable kind of liberation.

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