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What is Self-Esteem?

Jessica Isserow (Leeds)


Self-esteem is traditionally regarded as an important human good; as an intrinsically—and indeed, instrumentally—valuable species of self-worth that we’d do well to promote in others and ourselves. But it has recently suffered a number of injuries to its good name. Critics allege that endeavours to promote self-esteem merely foster narcissism or a sense of entitlement, and they urge us to redirect our efforts elsewhere. In this paper, I argue that such criticisms are symptomatic of a normative decline in our ways of thinking and theorising about self-esteem rather than a defect in the construct itself. My overarching aims are twofold: (i) to expose the core normative limitations of different conceptions of self-esteem, and (ii) to recover the notion of self-esteem as an intrinsic good. The first of these two aims will form my focus in the talk.




This event will be broadcast live from Senate House via Zoom. If you choose to attend in person please adhere to the University of London guidance to wear face coverings at all times while in the building and maintain social distancing whenever possible. 

For those who intend to join virtually the link to the zoom meeting will be emailed to you upon registration. 


The Institute of Philosophy hosts a regular workshop series entitled ‘The Practical, the Political, and the Ethical’. The series was created in 2015 by Véronique Munoz-Dardé (UCL) and Hallvard Lillehammer (Birkbeck) in order to discuss work in progress from visiting speakers. This year the series is convened by Mollie Gerver (Essex) and Jonathan Gingerich (KCL).  Talks are normally 50 minutes (no pre-circulation of the paper), followed by discussion. All are welcome.