Longreads Needs Your Help

During our Winter Member Drive, we are hoping to raise $50,000 in funding for new journalism and storytelling.

If you support our mission, please contribute today: Make a contribution

Your support means more top‑notch journalism and storytelling.

Make a contribution

Why Do We Get Suspicious About ‘Extreme Morality’?

“Some thought people who appeared to be extremely ethical must be somehow cheating—that they couldn’t actually be doing all those good things. Others believed they were doing those things, but they found that so weird that they thought they must have some kind of mental illness—that they must lack the ordinary component of desires or feelings, or that there was something robotic about them.

“I think that if you’re doing something that’s hard to do and good to do, and that makes you feel proud, I just don’t see why that’s so terrible. One kidney donor told me that his donation made him feel better about himself—that it was one really good thing he’d done in his life, which he had otherwise made a pretty complete mess of. Some psychologists think you shouldn’t donate in order to feel better about yourself, but it strikes me as an excellent reason!”

-The New Yorker’s Larissa MacFarquhar, in conversation with the Boston Review’s David V. Johnson, on “extreme moral virtue.”

Read the story