Morality can hardly perform a function, which is discussed in this chapter, unless it offers directives that not only can but frequently do differ from those of self-interest itself. The idea of potential congruence asserts that the relation between morality and the interests of the individual agent is characterized by a high degree of mutual accommodation, so that the frequency and severity of conflict between these two perspectives is significantly reduced. Conflicts are nevertheless possible in principle, but the extent to which they arise in practice is not fixed or immutable. Instead, the frequency of conflict depends to a considerable degree on the character of the prevailing social and political institutions. Achieving convergence between morality and self-interest is in part a social and political task. The account of the “priority” of morality developed by Thomas Scanlon in his book What We Owe to Each Other (and elsewhere) is similar in a number of respects to this chapter's account of potential congruence.
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