Melanie Désirée Spangehl

The Profit of Morality. The Reconciliation Project between being moral and well-being

Since 2020 I am a PhD student in philosophy at the University of Konstanz. My PhD thesis is supervised by Prof. Dr. Jacob Rosenthal and supported by a fellowship of the State Graduate Funding (Baden-Wurttemberg). My main area of research is ethics and moral philosophy.

In my bachelor thesis (2016) I discussed Nietzsche’s objections to Arthur Schopenhauer’s ethics of compassion and dismissed them as misunderstandings. In form of a comparative analysis, my master thesis (2019) investigated whether it might be possible to prove the irrationality of hidden wrong-doing either using Plato’s prudential conception of rationality or Kant’s non-prudential conception of rationality. I received the VEUK-award for both degrees. As Plato’s account seemed more promising to me, I decided to pursue this line of argument further in my PhD studies.

My PhD thesis is dedicated to a specific version of moral justification, formally known as the “reconciliation project” between morality and individual well-being. The goal of this project is to successfully argue that enlightened self-interest recommends being moral as well as preferring morality over immorality. This goal has been labelled as the search for the Holy Grail of Moral Philosophy and, to my mind, this is not an overstatement.

My work has a twofold task: (1) One part is a historical analysis of three different approaches towards the reconciliation project, which are rooted in Mill’s utilitarianism, Hobbes’ contractarianism, and Aristotle’s virtue ethics, respectively, and are correspondingly grounded in three prominent conceptions of well-being: hedonism, desire-fulfillment theory, and eudaimonism. The purpose of this part is to analyze whether or in how far contemporary versions of these approaches can achieve the reconciliation. (2) In a further systematic part I am going to develop my own contribution to the reconciliation project by arguing that individual well-being cannot reasonably be understood as a process of maximization, but paradoxically requires an acceptance of restrictions for one’s own benefit. As morality in contrast to immorality involves such an acceptance, being moral is essential for individual well-being.

My further research interests are in the history of philosophy, ancient philosophy and the philosophy of religion. On a philosophical-theological academy in Neuhaus Castle, Gais (South Tirol) I presented on the topics „Gott und Zeit bei William L. Craig“ (2016, William L. Craig on God and Time) and „John Hick - Gott hat viele Namen“ (2017, John Hick - God has many names). In the Konstanz lecture series “Early Lunch Philosophy” I gave a talk about “Kants Pflichten gegen sich selbst und der Einwand der beliebigen Entpflichtung” (2019, Kant’s duties to oneself and the objection of arbitrary exemption).