Malebranche develops a powerful synthetic approach to the problem of self-love. Instead of simply counterposing love of self and love of God, he posits three basic inclinations: a love of the good in general; a love of self, in which the desire for happiness is paramount; and a love of other human beings. Love of self is measured ethically in terms of its relationship to love of Order — the divinely-grounded hierarchy of values. It is not intrinsically bad, even in fallen human beings: it can be enlightened and regulated (with the help of divine grace) so as to be reconciled with the love of Order. However, even our love of God must be rooted in our desire for happiness: absolutely disinterested love is impossible, though the love of God may induce forgetfulness of self.
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