Institute of Philosophy
Russian Academy of Sciences

  Ethical Thought, 2015, Vol. 15, No 2.
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Ethical Thought, 2015, Vol. 15, No 2.




Leonid Maximov. The Concept of Free Will in Ethics

The subject of study and critical analysis in this article is the concept of ‘free will’ which is commonly used in the philosophical literature to designate self-determinancy of human consciousness that is a person’s ability to make decisions arbitrarily, regardless of any external factors. The belief that the above-noted ability is really peculiar to the man as a sentient being, is widely used in ethics, law, theology and folk views; at this the free will is considered as a necessary condition for responsibility of the agent for his decisions and actions. This paper presents a number of arguments in support of an alternative position recognizing the fictitiousness of the concept of free will and universality of the principle of determinism. It has been shown that the representation of the reality of free will is based on an incorrect understanding of the mental mechanisms of motivation, on the wrongful identification of the concepts of ‘free will’ and ‘freedom of action’ as well as the denial of determinism as a fundamental methodological principle, without which the human cognition is generally unthinkable. Moreover, the concept of free will is contradictory: protecting the social institution of responsibility, it is thus actually undermines its own methodological foundation, i.e. indeterminism, because the responsibility is a factor that determines the will. In general the recognition of the reality of free will is incompatible with the obvious fact of causal dependence of the moral and other values of people, their goals and actions of the social circumstances, in which their mentality is formed. Therefore moral philosophy does not need to use the concept of free will. The origin of morality, its social functions and psychological mechanisms, the content of its principles and norms and their historical changes can be adequately described and explained only within the deterministic picture of the world.

Keywords: ethics, morality, free will, freedom of action, responsibility, theodicy, compatibility vs. incompatibility, determinism vs. indeterminism, pan-determinism, self-determinancy



Roman Platonov. Semantics of Word «ἦθος» in Ancient Greek Culture in 8–6 BC

The article sets a goal to show a collection of senses, which this word represents and which allows Aristotle in the «Nicomachean Ethics» to base moral virtues on a habit. It makes the connection disposition and habits a condition for the effectiveness of ethics as a practical science. Primarily this connection is established by identity concepts «disposition» (ἦθος) and «habits» (ἔθος). It is not obvious outside the ancient Greek language and culture and needs further explanation.

The article analyzes an usage of word «ἦθος» in ancient Greek texts to Aristotle. Additionally methodological limitations of the analysis are stipulate: 1) refusal to use of linguistic conceptions, if they build self-sufficient explanatory schemes of language development; 2) use only well-preserved texts in which a narrative is not broken. The first limitation saves from complications study by multiplication of conceptions, allows us to make a minimum deformation of meanings of word, when the context of its usage is examined. The second limitation alsosaves from complications study and demands that the textual context of usage of a word was the most free of the reconstruction. The method is called – the word in the text observation.

Three conclusionsare drawn as a result of the analysis: 1) the understanding of an order of dispensation of group life is makes precise by the differentiation of the internal and external; similarity and differences of concepts «ἦθος» and «νόμος» shows it; 2) the understanding of the internal order is makes precise by the differentiation of the general and the particular; the development of similarity of concepts «ἦθος» and «ἔθος» shows it; 3) these are just the functioning of the word «ἦθος» in ancient Greek culture allowed Aristotle to include the habit in his ethical conception, when he focuses an attention on the internal gradually formed order.

Keywords: ethos, nomos, disposition, law, custom, habit, Aristotle, ethics, method

Aleksey Babanov. Lev Shestov’s Creativity as Philosophical Ethics

The article attempts to interpret Lev Shestov’s ideas as philosophical ethics. The purpose of the article is to show that the theoretical core of the Shestov’s philosophy is the super-moral perspective and the idea of a moral subject. Starting from the definition of philosophical ethics given by A. Guseinov, the author distinguishes the two-level structure of the ethical and philosophical thought of Lev Shestov. This two-level structure represents distinction between faith, that is super-moral perspective, and moral reason. The super-moral perspective of morality and the very morality cannot be perceived beyond this distinction. The author analyses the substance of morality subjected to the Shestov’s critical attacks. For Shestov, morality serves as a correlate of the constraining reason incarnated in regulations and laws. This constraint of morality and reason can be surmounted by faith – which is the second dimension of thought and the sphere of freedom. The analyzed key issues of Shestov’s philosophy are the substitution of God by Good and its comprehension by a human being. Within the first theme, morality is interpreted and rejected as an idol preoccupying the living God’s place in human consciousness. Shestov’s conception of a human being is comprehended through such characters as the underground man, Job and Abraham. These dramatic figures of Shestov’s philosophy incarnate non-rational inner substance of human Ego that rejects its reason by moral faith. Faith or super-moral perspective of Shestov’s philosophy contains the idea of a moral subject: believer becomes like God, takes the world as his own and has the power to abrogate erstwhile Evil. The article envisages faith perceived as a paradoxical “ecstatic and personalized” action that is in equal measure personal and at the same time surpassing any personal efforts. Thus, existence of the super-moral perspective and the idea of a moral subject in Shestov’s philosophy allows us to attribute his work to philosophical ethics.

Keywords: philosophy, morality, super-moral perspective, two-level structure, moral subject, philosophical ethics, reason, faith, God.



Olga Zubets. Gods Do Not Lie

The article is devoted to the justification of the impossibility of lying within the moral space and of its defense in moral philosophy. The author addresses Socrates and Kant as agreeing in two essential points: in seeing morality and lying as connected with the relation of a person towards oneself and in barring themselves from choosing lying as their own act. The author understands the main ethical question of Ancient Times as the question of being themselves the answer to which is given in the concept of action based on carrying back the origin of action to himself. Thus the question of the permissibility of lying becomes the question if it is possible to prefer Non-Being to Being. Article touches it through three subject-matters: on an action as an answer, on god’s not-lying, on speech as an act. Socrates describes different cases of telling lies with good aims and does not give any answer about its moral sanction. But he gives an absolute answer by stating that he never lies himself and by considering his act to be the most valid proof. The philosopher’s act appears to be the most decisive and absolutely undeniable answer to the inherent incompleteness of thinking which is not able to pass into an act. Tracing the initiative of act back to himself human being chooses not the human but the divine in himself. Therefore while he tells lies within the logic of substantive activity and politics, in the moral space does he acts as a divine one who does not lie being self-sufficient. Being an act speech is a moral phenomenon and a subject of moral philosophy. As an act it is self-sufficient and cannot be seen through gnoseology. Prohibition of lying (or impossibility of it within moral space) is the basic condition of both speech and human being as ζῴον λόγον ἔχον. For man there is no choice between truthfulness and lying but only between speech and silence, Kant’s reticence.

Keywords: morality, moral philosophy, action, lying, Being, true self, origin (initiation) of act, god, Socrates, Kant, reticence

Yulia Sineokaya. Right to Deceive (Towards a Problem of Advantage and Disadvantage of Lie for Education)

The article is devoted to the question of advantages and disadvantages of lie for life. The process of formation of values and social stereotypes is one of the most hidden productions in the world. On the one hand, mass media, forming the public opinion of the nation, openly use small lie for the sake of a victory of the great truth. On the other hand, the parental lie appears to be one of the most effective and therefore widespread methods of education of children. Is there is a difference between deception and veracity, lie and the truth and, if so, what is it? Is lie appropriate as educational tool and the means of socialization? Or maybe, the truth is just the other side of lie? To answer the question about the benefits and dangers of lie in the world of the adults, it is necessary to understand, whether there is the truth in parental lie. Does parental lie really promotes children's obedience and forms in children the knowledge of ethical value of the truth? What is the long-term influence of parental deception of the child’s perception of himself and his parents? Can parental lie be justified and what, instead of deception, can help parents upbring their children? Looking for the answer in Montaigne, Kant and Nietzsche, as well as relying on results of the analysis of contemporary sociological, anthropological and psychological research, the author argues that neither half-truth, nor lie is effective in establishing moral principles.

Keywords: Ethics, moral principles, philosophical anthropology, revaluation of values, formation of ideals, social stereotypes, children's lie, parental deception, truth.

Andrey Prokofiev. The Problem of the Use of Force in Utilitarian Ethics

There are three main points on the problem of moral grounds of the use of force: non-violence ethics, deontological ethics of force, cosequentialist ethics of force. The simplest version of cosequentialist ethics of force is utilitarian one. Contemporary utilitarians criticize two premises of non-violence ethics: 1) it is absolutely impermissible to treat a person in such a way that she rejects, 2) we are not responsible for the unprevented harm if its prevention requires us to use force. Arguments against the first thesis substantially differ in the hedonistic utilitarianism and the utilitarianism of preferences. The utilitarianism of preferences is more in agreement with the importance that common morality attaches to abatement of violent acts especially killings. The utilitarian criticism of the second thesis rests on the demonstration of the dubious motives that led to absolutization of the prohibition against the use of force and the lack of reasons for the absolute priority of the principle ‘do no harm’ over the principle ‘prevent harm’. The author of the paper makes a conclusion that the utilitarian criticism of non-violence ethics is convincing. The deontological ethics of force rests upon the idea of inviolability of rights and different versions of the double effect reasoning. Utilitarian critics use against it two polemical strategies. The first is to show its internal inconsistency. The second is to prove that intuitions underlying it are products of the evolutionary history of the humankind and thus do not have any normative significance. The utilitarian criticism of the deontological ethics of force is not as strong as the criticism of nonviolence ethics. This implies that there is a necessity to construct a synthetic approach that should be consequentialist by its general structure but adapt some distinctions advanced by deontologists.

Keywords: Morality, non-violence ethics, deontological ethics of force, consequentialist ethics of force, contemporary utilitarianism

Vladimir Bakshtanovsky. Applied Ethics as a Project-oriented Knowledge (Theory and Experience of New Mastering of Oecumene of Applied Ethics)

In the article, we proceed the study of the modern Russian applied ethics development from its original image attached to the metaphor “ethics is practical philosophy” to the “change” of its name which sounds as “innovation paradigm of applied ethics”. At the first stage, implicit image of the future applied ethics stays within the banal idea of the efficiency of ethical-philosophical knowledge focused on the praxeology of moral choice that is provided with a technology of professional and ethical education as a method of ethical practical work. In this method, the application of already existing ready ethical knowledge to learning situations of choice was dominant. Stages of life of innovative paradigm itself differed by their focus on the development of moral situations in modernized society with its specific ambiguity of choice and thereafter, orientation of the ethics on project-oriented mastering of new situations of public morality ofa society that is becoming civil. The crucial know-how of innovative paradigm defining the type of its practicality – a test by a situation of moral choice.

The motive of insistent identification of the direction as an innovative paradigm is in the forecasting determination of the limited practicality of many new other paradigms of applied ethics and in legitimating of a project-oriented knowledge, not allowing being satisfied with an application of ready ethical and philosophical knowledge. A project-oriented knowledge subordinates the cognition of “small” systems to the objective of their development. Know-how of a project-oriented knowledge is the formation of special style of project activities implying the reliance on the moral creativity of the subject, the technology of creation and application of a project-oriented ethical knowledge providing full efficiency of such creativity.

Innovative paradigm enables targeted capacity reflection of a project-oriented knowledge in the study of university ethics in general, and its agenda and the Code of Ethics of the university in particular. The author presents the capacity of a project-oriented knowledge on the basis of university ethics – model experience of elaboration of Professionally-ethical code of the Tyumen State Oil and Gas University. And within this experience the author highlights the stage of “conceptual requirements specification” development, involving the identification of the Code as (a) the phenomenon of applied morality and (b) the subject of ethical and applied knowledge.

Keywords: applied ethics, innovative paradigm of applied ethics, a project-oriented knowledge, the situation of moral choice, university ethics, Professionally-ethical code of the university




Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Letter on the Virtue and Happiness (Foreword, translation, commentary by Anna Kigay)

Yakov Milner-Irinin. Category of Purity in the Ethical Science

The article is devoted to comprehensive analysis of purity concept which the author considers to be one of key importance in ethics together with such ethical concepts as good, evil, duty, ideal, etc. It is relevant to both human life and ethical knowledge. The author distinguishes purity from the concepts of moral principle and rule, showing that purity is basic and determines the moral quality of both principles and rules. Category of purity is studied in three main perspectives: a) human life; b) ethical science; c) moral principles and rules. First, purity is understood in terms of intentions, motives and thoughts, informed by conscience. Second, it is regarded as freedom from all kinds of invasions from outside ethics such as politics, sociology, etc. Thus purity provides strict correspondence of ethics to its own meaning as a study on ought. Third, purity is considered as appropriate cognition of moral principles and rules and ways of their implementation.

Keywords: purity, ethics, morality, principles, rules, conscience, action, freedom, human nature



Vladimir Shokhin, Agathology: The Contemporaneity and the Classics (Disputants: Ruben Apressyan, Olga Artemyeva, Abdusalam Guseinov, Aslan Gadzhikurbanov, Alexei Gaginski, Andrey Seregin, Alexei Fokin, Vladimir Shokhin)

The term Agathologie (“the teaching of the goods”) was inaugurated about seventy years before Axiologie (in “Handbook of the Christian Ethics” by Cristoph Friedrich von Ammon in 1823), but met with a great mishap, inasmuch as up to the beginning of the 21th century it had been mentioned only by a few compilers of philosophical lexicons. Vladimir Shokhin, who rediscovered the term about twenty years ago (without any suspicion of the existence of Ammon’s work) undertook an attempt not only to vindicate it but also reformat both theory and practice of “the practical philosophy” from the point of view of the teaching of the goods. The resulting book Agathology: The Contemporaneity and the Classics dealt with three main tasks: 1) to offer the agathological completion of contemporary ethics and anthropology, 2) to reconstruct the teachings of the good and the goods in the ancient India and China, in the earlier Antique thought, in all Greco-Roman philosophical schools, in the Patristics and Scholasticism; 3) to use “the antique balance” for measuring the contemporary “practical philosophy” and questioning in which measure the medieval teachings of the goods have a specific Christian contents. The book was discussed at Institute of Philosophy in 2014, November. Here speeches of the participants of that discussion are presented in accordance with their succession in discussion. Among the questions raised by them are: Whether agathology should be regarded a specifically ethical trend? Are we justified in regarding virtue ethic an inconsistent agathological trend? Is the author of the book justified in paying only modest attention to the Aristotelean highest good? Is it true that we are to let alone an attempt to define of the good? What is the essential difference (if there is) between the goods and values? In which a measure the medieval theology acknowledged personal goods (besides the general ones)? etc. The discussion is concluded with Shokhin’s answers.

Keywords: ethics, the good, the goods, values, Aristotle, Kant, Moore, definition, Antiquity, Middle Ages