Institute of Philosophy
Russian Academy of Sciences




  Ethical Thought, 2015, Vol. 15, No 1.
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Ethical Thought, 2015, Vol. 15, No 1.

Table of Contents

 

ETHICAL THEORY


Sergey Kocherov. The Paradoxes of Moral Freedom

The question of moral freedom is one of the most difficult ethical issues. On the one hand, freedom is regarded as the basis of morality, being a condition of choice between ought and is, good and evil. On the other hand, freedom means making a moral decision that, albeit being voluntary, is aimed essentially at doing good deeds and assisting others in their wellbeing. Immanuel Kant made a significant contribution to clarifying the problem. He pointed out the difference between freedom as a condition and as a manifestation of morality. In this regard Kant introduced the concept of moral freedom as such a state and a level of development of a moral subject that may be defined as moral autonomy, moral lawmaking and moral sovereignty. The article examines the history of the concept, forms of its manifestation and its basic contradictions; it discusses the historical circumstances of the emergence of a morally free personality and formulates the paradoxes that are connected with exercising moral freedom. The article concludes that moral freedom, if viewed as ability for moral lawmaking, characterizes the degree to which one masters his moral “nature”.

Keywords: Moral freedom, free will, moral sovereignty, autonomy of personality, moral lawmaking

 

Gleb Mekhed. Moral Absolutism: General Description and Contemporary Approaches

The author addresses the problem of the definition of moral absolutism and its peculiar features. The analysis shows that the specificity of moral absolutism consists in a special interpretation of moral obligation, to which the highest value is attached. Such an approach leads to a radical opposition between moral ought and reality and presupposes dualistic ontology. Some characteristic features of absolutism are illustrated by the discussions that have been conducted in English-speaking ethics since the late 60's of the 20th century. These discussions have revealed essential differences between absolutist and consequentialist approaches. They implicitly affect all contemporary normative and ethical discourse. The article briefly analyzes and discusses Philippa Foot`s concept of double effect, Alan Donagan`s deontology and Alan Gewirth`s ‘specific absolutism’.

Keywords: ethics, moral absolutism, deontology, consequentialism, the doctrine of double effect, Alan Donagan, Philippa Foot, Alan Gewirth

 

 

HISTORY OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY


Andrey Seregin. Two Arguments Against Hedonism in Plato’s Gorgias

This article examines some of the logical and conceptual problems, related to two formal antihedonist arguments, that are put forward by Plato's Socrates in his conversation with Callicles in “Gorgias”. According to the first argument (495е–497а) good and evil cannot be identical with pleasure and pain, because pleasure is compatible with pain at the same time and in the same place, but good and evil are incompatible with each other. However, the very incompatibility of good and evil is inferred by Socrates from the incompatibility of the contraries in general, among which he numbers also pleasure and pain, thus contradicting himself. The second argument (497е–499a) includes the claim, that, given the hedonist identification of good with pleasure and evil with pain, those who feel pleasure should be regarded as good and those who suffer as bad, because it is the presence of goods in a man that makes him good and the presence of evils that makes him bad. But these latter statements imply the perfectionist notion of good as something which “makes good” a certain being, and, though this notion is shared by Socrates himself (506c–507a), hedonists are not at all bound to share it too.

Keywords: ancient philosophy, good and evil, Gorgias” (dialogue), hedonism, perfectionism, pleasure, Plato, Socrates

 

Roman Platonov-Polyakov. Being Toward Happiness: Eudaimonia in Aristotle’s Ethics

The article sets a goal to show happiness in Aristotle's ethics as a concept revealing a condition for possible human development both in its ultimate stage, where a human completely actualizes his abilities, existing in maximum proximity to god, and in its right directed movement, when human nature opens up in all its bodily, rational and social diversity. Therefore, development is determined not by the reduction of the human to any aspect of his nature, but by its rationally found and expressed in terms of virtues harmony; thus the very being of human is aimed at happiness.

Aristotle considers core of happiness in the “assignment” or “characteristic work” (ergon) of the human. Here “slacker” (argos) is human who is deprived of the work as meaning, meaningless, not existed for anything and happiness is not already the gift of gods or the fortuity, but it depends on the state of human life, which is defined as perfect activity.

Therefore, in the most general sense, virtues can be called parameters of human actualization, in which ideal model is set as the one that can be actualized. At this point we get not merely an action, not a rational action, which distinguishes human existence from animal existence, but an ethical action – “deed” (praxis) as the action that reveals the human himself. Truly happy person is a person who is in the process of proper development.

Keywords: happiness, being, good, goal, development, function, virtue, wise man, Aristotle, evergeia, entelecheia, eudaimonia, kalokagathia

 

Olga Zubets. Shakespeare’s 94-th Sonnet and Aristotle’s Excerpt About Great-minded: The Mystery of Similarity

The philosophical moral ideal is being analysed through revealing the similarity of the idea and the fate of the two texts – the excerpt about the Great-minded from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the 94-th Sonnet of Shakespeare. This ideal is seen as being opposed to so called sociological one and as defined by the moral subject’s sight which coincides with the optics of philosophy. The only possible content of such an ideal is the idea of subjectness, having oneself the source of the act and the whole world. And this idea is the kernel of the texts being examined which determines the likeness of their fates: the difficulties of the translation, rejection of the content being unacceptable for the everyday moral consciousness and language which leads to the mutilation of the translation and interpretation, irritating character, endless debates on the positive or negative character if the images, attempts to soften the most unacceptable statements, discredit by the suspicion in irony, search of the prototypes (coincident in Socrates), the critic’s desire to withdraw them from the collection of writings, the negative estimation of the authors.

The similarity of the fates is meaningfully determined by the fact that the ideal in the sonnet is the Aristotle’s aristocratic image of the great-minded. Shakespeare knew Nicomachean Ethics very well which is proved by both the direct reference to Aristotle and literal reproduction of his notions and ideas (such as ethics, virtue, act). The image of great-minded can be found in many of his works, for example in Coriolan. But it is in the 94-th Sonnet that great-minded has oneself as an absolute source, unmoved mover, moral subject, the lord but not a steward of own excellence.

Keywords: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, great-minded, Shakespeare, the 94-th Sonnet, moral subject, unmoved mover, philosophical ideal

 

Aslan Gadzhikurbanov. Dilemma of Naturalism and Moralism in Spinoza’s Understanding of Moral Principles

The idea of nature holds an important place in moral doctrine of Spinoza being often identified with the fundamental principles of his system – God and substance. The concept of nature is the most significant term of his philosophical discourse in the field of metaphysics and moral philosophy. The notion of a naturalistic character of Spinoza's methodology is shared by many scholars of his work. Meanwhile, he proposed a kind of moral exegesis of some important events of sacred history in Bible improving that naturalistic disposition does not always respond to the moral purposes of his doctrine. It can be argued that the ethical doctrine of Spinoza carries a certain collision between naturalism and morality which is founded on the semantic ambiguity of the concepts of nature used by Spinoza. It embraces the metaphysical, theological, naturalistic, ethical, geometrical and many other meanings.

Keywords: Nature, doctrine of Spinoza, God and substance, naturalistic disposition, moral purposes, collision between naturalism and morality, semantic ambiguity of the concepts of nature; metaphysical, theological, naturalistic, ethical, geometrical meanings

 

Andrey Prokofiev. Organizational Needs of Society as an Origin of Morality in Bernard Mandeville’s Ethics

The paper analyses ethical views of Bernard Mandeville as an example of such an explanation of morality that considers moral norms to be an element of the complex system enabled human societies to maintain their internal order and external competitive ability. In ‘An Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue’ (the part of the first volume of ‘The Fable of the Bees’) Mandeville derives moral beliefs from the rhetoric of politicians and moralists exploiting natural pride and natural shame. Besides he indicates some origins of morality that pertain to the sphere of pragmatic communication and can not be reduced to the direct influence of politicians and moralists. But they come into operation only after the ‘savage man’ has been broken and the ‘foundation of politics’ has been laid. In late works of Mandeville this simplistic and vulnerable picture turns into a more sophisticated conception of slow evolving of moral norms and psychological mechanisms through many inventions of men involved in horizontal and vertical social communications. Politicians and moralists play a significant part in this process, but only at the last stage. This enrichment makes irrelevant some criticisms leveled at Mandeville by David Hume. Hume maintains that Mandeville ‘represents all moral distinctions as the effect of artifice and education’ but the Mandevillian account of the evolution of good manners, honour, and moral virtue from the second volume of ‘The Fable of the Bees’ and ‘An Enquiry into the Origin of Honour, and the Usefulness of Christianity in War’ shows that it is not the case. Politicians and moralists just correct and reshape already existing patterns of behavior and contribute to the perpetuation of rules formed by pragmatic communicative strategies.

Keywords: ethics, morality, social order, human nature, social evolution, Bernard Mandeville, David Hume

 

Ruben Apressyan. The Concept of Moral Sense in Francis Hutcheson (Early Period)

The concept of ‘Moral Sense’ is one of the main focuses in Francis Hutcheson’s moral philosophy. This is evident already in his early work, An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), which is substantially analyzed in this paper. Hutcheson justified moral sense in its opposition to reason – a faculty aimed to utility and to social factors of decision making, like custom, education, tradition, religion, etc. Owing to Hutcheson’s specification of moral sense as a capacity of perception and judgment independent of concerns regarding private good and opposite to reason as a capacity for means analysis one can appreciate Hutcheson’s conception as a pre-Kantian attempt of justification of moral autonomy. Hutcheson is distinguished for explicit presentation (with particular theoretical means) the variety of external factors limiting the moral agent’s independence. By explication of person’s self-sufficiency in motivation and judgment, her independence of external determination and, hence, the specificity of morality, Hutcheson demonstrated a way, how the moral phenomenon may be conceptualized. Hutcheson’s moral philosophy provides a true basis for understanding the process of conceptualization of morality in Modern philosophy.

Keywords: moral sense, benevolence, utility, moral autonomy, Hutcheson, Shaftesbury, sentimentalist ethics, Kant

 

Konstantin Troitsky. Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theory and the Idea of Imperativity in the German Philosophical Thought (late 19th – early 20th century)

The article addresses modification of imperativity in Kant’s tradition with an emphasis on its connection to the issues of war and peace. The author demonstrates the transaction from Kant’s categorical imperative to the Baden school’s idea of value , then to the critics of the universal moral law and the declaration of the individual law in Georg Simmel’s ideas and, finally, to the postulation of “external struggle of gods” as an expression of unremovable conflict of values in Max Weber’s works. The fact that we talk here about common tradition is confirmed by great attention and by developing of their ideas through opposition to Kant’s system. The transformation coincides with the departure from the ideals proclaimed by the progressive development of the Enlightenment to the postulation of permanent economic and military conflict. In the XX and XXI centuries, in the era of the danger of nuclear war the worldview of “eternal struggle” is not only unrealistic but also unacceptable. To find ways to overcome the existing installation and to the prevalence of the desire for the agreement and harmony on the disagreement and separation requires understanding of the path that led to the present state of things.

Keywords: Kant, Windelband, Simmel, Weber, the categorical imperative, values, the universal moral law, the individual law, perpetual peace, eternal struggle, reason

 

Maria Rohozha. Ethical Implications of Hannah Arendt’s Studies of Totalitarianism

Arendt was one of the first researchers who substantiated unprecedented nature of totalitarianism as phenomenon of the twentieth century. The paper represents ethical implications of totalitarianism based on Arendt’s examination of the human condition and humanity in dark times, banality of evil and radical evil, guilt and responsibility. According to Arendt, totalitarianism is the system of mass terror, which is formed under the conditions of destruction of the political sphere of human interaction, while providing propaganda for masses of alienated individuals. Arendt argued that in the moral sphere the success of totalitarianism was a result of noncritical adherence to norms at the morality-etiquette level. Obeying criminal demands and orders without any reflection, person is able to make evil acceptable and to become an accomplice in crimes, insensibly for her(him)self. The human qualities are represented to the full in the public sphere where a person by use of speech and action arranges the world for her(him)self and the future generations as well. Acting in public space spontaneously and creatively, a person develops her or his own judgment and makes morality the topical matter, thus preventing the recurrence of totalitarianism.

Keywords: Arendt, totalitarianism, banality of evil, radical evil, humanity, responsibility, judgment, morality, etiquette

 

Maria Gel’fond. Leo Tolstoy’s Ethics: Dilemma of Freedom and Law

The author addresses the legacy of Leo Tolstoy – the great Russian writer, philosopher, moralist and original religious thinker. The article focuses on the dilemma between law and freedom – essential for the understanding of Leo Tolstoy's moral and religious ideas. The author reconstructs and analyses the correlation between deontological and perfectionist arguments in Leo Tolstoy’s moral and philosophical teaching. Tolstoy’s Ethics of Love is regarded as a way of overcoming the traditional antinomy of freedom and necessity.

Leo Tolstoy’s moral and religious teaching is examined in the wide ideological context, which includes all fundamental philosophical ideas, spread in Russia and Europe in the late 18th – early 19th century. The author compares Tolstoy’s and Kant’s interpretations of the moral duty and moral law. The articles emphases the special features of Tolstoy’s apprehension of metaphysical and ethical aspects of Christian doctrine, first of all as combining the ethics of law and the ethics of merciful love.

The author comes to the conclusion that the moral law, as Tolstoy sees it, is the imperative formula of the human being’s real freedom, i.e. the freedom of the sentient being directed towards the idea of absolute perfection.

Keywords: Leo Tolstoy, ethics, moral, religion, philosophy, intellect, truth, freedom, moral law, God, ideal, good

 

Elena Demidova. The Appearance of the Other in Mikhail Bakhtin’s Early Philosophy

Mikhail Bakhtin is well known as one of the prominent scientists and thinkers of the 20th century, who had attracted attention to the problem of Dialog, problematized this phenomenon and made its analytical reconstruction. However, the essay “Towards a philosophy of The Act” was written by Bakhtin as if he had no any idea of a Dialog. The Other as a personality was not introduced into reality, but was represented only as one of the objects surrounding Me (The Self). The article is providing an analysis of the process of appearance of the Other for Me (The Self) and the role of Me (The Self) in institutionalization of the Other. The peculiar feature of the process was that only being in interaction with Me (Self), the Other may appear as a personality. While reconstructing the architectonics of the Event, Bakhtin defines the following structural components: Two Parties – Me (The Self) and The Other as two axiological centres; three worlds – Space, Time and Sense. The first step towards the Other is the Vision of the Other, the second is perception of its corporality, and the third – perception of the spiritual – inner world of a human. The point is that without the Dialog between Me (The Self) and The Other it is impossible to recreate personal integrity as described in Bakhtin’s work “Art And Responsibility”.

Keywords: Mikhail Bakhtin, The Other, Self-cognition, Body, Soul, Mind, Sense, Ethical, and Aesthetic

 

 

ROUNDTABLE BOOK DISCUSSION


Andrey Prokofiev, Giving Everyone His Due… An Introduction to the Theory of Justice. Disputants: Ruben Apressyan, Boris Kashnikov, Leonid Maximov, Olga Artemyeva, Grigory Kanarsh, Maria Gel’fond, Konstantin Troitsky, Gleb Mekhed, Andrey Prokofiev

This publication contains comments made by participants of the roundtable on A.V. Prokofyev’s recent book “Giving Everyone His Due…: An Introduction to the Theory of Justice” (M.: Alfa-M, 2013). The main problems raised in the comments are following. Is there a possibility or necessity to apply the notion of theory to ethical researches of justice criteria and their practical use? What is the best methodology of normative ethics in whole and the theory of justice in particular? Should we count justice as a central moral value or should it be expelled into the sphere of natural law? Is the confrontation of ethics of love and ethics of justice inevitable, and if so, how deep is it? Are we permitted to use the traditional collocation ‘just war’ discussing the question of the morally justified recourse to war? What relevance the Aristotelian conceptualization of justice has to the contemporary discourse on justice? Are the foundations for a linkage of justice and fairness sufficiently strong?

Keywords: Morality, normative ethical theory, ethics of justice, ethics of love, fairness, just war