Self-Esteem and Ethics: A Phenomenological View

Anna Bortolan* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This paper aims to provide an account of the relationship between self‐esteem and moral experience. In particular, drawing on feminist and phenomenological accounts of affectivity and ethics, I argue that self‐esteem has a primary role in moral epistemology and moral action. I start by providing a characterization of self‐esteem, suggesting in particular that it can be best understood through the phenomenological notion of “existential feeling.” Examining the dynamics characteristic of the so‐called “impostor phenomenon” and the experience of women who are involved in abusive relationships, I then claim that self‐esteem fundamentally shapes the way in which self and others are conceived, and the ethical demands and obligations to which they are considered to be subjected. More specifically, I argue that low self‐esteem—which in the experience of women may be rooted in particular assumptions regarding gender roles and stereotyping—can hinder autonomy, make it difficult to question other people's evaluative perspectives and behaviors, and attribute to others responsibility for their actions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-72
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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