Institute of Philosophy
Russian Academy of Sciences

  Ethical Thought, 2016, vol. 16, no 1.
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Ethical Thought, 2016, vol. 16, no 1.



Carl-Henric Grenholm. Theological and Philosophical Ethics

The purpose of this article is to give an analysis of the relationship between theological and philosophical ethics. A main thesis is that these two academic disciplines are complementary. As a part of religious studies theological ethics has a different object of its study than moral philosophy. Its main task is to study the relationship between ethical models and religious traditions. Christian ethics, as critical reflection on morality within Christian tradition, can relate to moral philosophy in different ways. The author argues against a contrast theory, according to which the content of Christian ethics is completely different from ethical models in moral philosophy. He also argues against an identity theory, according to which Christian ethics does not have any particular contribution to the content of ethics. Instead he argues that we should prefer a combination theory. According to this theory, Christian ethics can relate to moral philosophy, but it can also give its own perspectives upon the interpretation of basic moral principles and values.

Keywords: Theological ethics, philosophical ethics, ethical contextualism, natural law theory, contrast theory, identity theory, combination theory, Anders Nygren, Stanley Hauwerwas, Bruno Schüller, James M Gustafson

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-5-18


Alexander Brodsky. On Scribes and Foresters. The Ethical Sense of Arche-writing

The paper is argued that the opposition between speech and writing introduced by Jacques Derrida at the end of the previous century is only a form of expressing two different understandings of language functions. According to one of them characteristic for the European culture, the main function of language is communication. According to the other understanding characteristic for the traditions of the Middle East, the main function of language is organization and structuring of the world. Although Derrida followed the second tradition, he was also determined by the European linguistic philosophy of the 20th century (philosophical hermeneutics, analytic philosophy, structuralism, etc.) when he suggested that human subjectivity is completely caused by the ‘anonymous’ speech practice which he called ‘Arche-writing’. However, the tradition he followed implied that man is independent from language because he is correlated with the creator of both language and being, i.e. with God. This aspect of the tradition became central for E. Levinas, the contemporary of Derrida. The author believes that the dialogue in the theory of Levinas is not like the ‘communicative interaction’ in Heidegger’s philosophy of language or the ‘speech acts’ in the analytic philosophy. The speech act is fundamentally contrary to the ethical relation to the Other because it makes the Other into the object of manipulation. Therefore Levinas’s dialogue suggests “the hospitality” but not ‘the communicative interaction’. The article supplements the idea of Arche-writing with Levinas’s moral idea of ‘the absolutely Other’ to continue the deconstruction of the European culture begun by Derrida.

Keywords: language, speech, writing, speech act, subject, ethics

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-19-30




Sergey Kocherov. Roman Stoicism as an Integration of Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

The idea that a theoretical doctrine emerges first, being followed by the practice on the basis of it, is not quite correct, when being applied to the evolution of Stoa and the Stoic thought during the Roman period. The doctrine brought to Rome by Greek Stoics caused the mindset and lifestyle to appear, yet Late Stoa did not emerge prior to the Roman Stoicism, but rather followed it. Their mutual influence was conditioned by the fact that the Stoic ethics turned out to be congenial to the morality of the Roman civitas, thus leading to the popularity of the Stoic doctrine in Rome. The ideal of a Stoic sage overlapped with the ideal of “valiant man” in Roman mythos, eventually resulting in the emergence of “man of merit” and, later, “man of goodness” as the normative paradigm (vir bonus). The Roman Stoicism differed from the Greek Stoa in attaching more importance to responsibilities of a person towards state and society. At the same time, paradoxically, the character of the Roman Stoicism was more self-absorbed, addressing moral experiences and contemplation of the existential bases of the being of a human. This being said, the image of “masculine beauty” of the Stoic doctrine was manifested in moral-political realities of Ancient Rome not in “the art of life”, but in the acceptance of death. In our opinion, the utmost organic unity of the Stoical ethical tradition and the morality of the Roman Stoicism was achieved by Marcus Aurelius, and his philosophy was not as pessimistic as many researchers claim. His teachings present the synthesis of service to Rome and the world, theoretical virtues of Ancient Stoa and Roman civic duties, Stoic moralizing and moral practice.

Keywords: Late Stoa, Roman virtues, vir bonus, man of goodness, service to Rome and the World

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-31-45


Maria Gel`fond. The Problem of the Meaning of Life in the Moral and Religious Philosophy of Leo Tolstoy

The article is devoted to the specificity of Leo Tolstoy`s understanding of the meaning of human life. The problem of the meaning of life is of key importance in Tolstoy’s moral and religious teaching. Tolstoy regards the question of value and purpose of human existence as not only theoretical one, but also as existential and practical. Tolstoy’s failure to find the answer became the reason of deep personal crisis, which turned out the catalyst for his spiritual quest. Tolstoy’s original religious and philosophical synthesis as the doctrine of ‘the real enjoyment of life’ had become the direct result of this quest. In the article the author reconstructs and analyses theoretical sources and methodological grounds of Tolstoy`s philosophy of life and reveals them in terms of ‘the rational faith’ concept. Pondering the concept, the author appeals to the European classical philosophical theme of correlation between truth and the good and demonstrates the tendency to their identification in Tolstoy`s moral and philosophical teaching. This view allows Tolstoy to construct the epistemological, ethical and axiological grounds as necessary conditions for establishing the universal value and positive meaning of the human life. Thus Tolstoy`s faith accumulates in itself ‘the sense of life’ and ‘the strength of life’ assuring the reliability and continuity of the human Self. The analysis of Tolstoy’s concept of faith in all its complexity is independent task in the research. As a result this concept was presented as the way of direct understanding of the real essence of life and at the same time as normative and practical strategy of conscious and expedient human existence.

Keywords: Leo Tolstoy, ethics, moral, religion, philosophy, meaning of life, intellect, faith, truth, the good

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-46-65

Elena Demidova. Cognition of the Other in M.M. Bakhtin’s Philosophy of the Act

The article is devoted to the problem of cognition of the Other in the M.M. Bakhtin’s philosophy of the act. In the first part the author examines some tensions and contradictions within Bakhtin’s views concerning the problem. On the one hand, he negates the need for knowledge of the Other in the process of committing an ethical act, on the other, considers that the understanding of the Other is impossible without cognition. The moral action takes different forms. In the case of direct, spontaneous act, no deep knowledge of the Other is necessary. But if the act is deliberate and affects the essential foundations of the human being, than cognition of the Other is of great importance. The author considers the acting I in Bakhtin’s philosophy by analogy with the I, acting in accordance with the Golden rule of morality and demonstrates the symmetry of these perspectives in relation to the Other. It helps to understand why Bakhtin in the essay Toward the Philosophy of the Act concentrates on the I-for-myself, through which the human being is aware of his/her uniqueness in the participation in Being and responsibility for the act. In both cases personality and individuality of the Other does not matter.

Keywords: Mikhail Bakhtin, philosophy of the act, Golden Rule, dialogue, cognition of the Other, ethics, act, the Other

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-66-76




Konstantin Troitskiy. The Prohibition of Lying as a Condition for the Perpetual Peace

The discussion presented in the book On Right to Lie is of great interest. Kant’s short essay became a litmus paper indicating at first sight radical different positions, which dispute with each other for the right to be called ethical position. During his life Kant observed a lot of science discussions. But proposing own critical approach as a basis to the solution of conflicts and to the establishment of peace, he did not surmise that his short essay could cause such a violent ethical dispute. The first part of the article presents an attempt to give a demonstration of two pairs of oppositional views, which can be distinguished in the discussion on Kant’s essay. These views consist in two formal and two substantive approaches. The second part of article is devoted to the study of the place of violence and lie in Kant’s works. Finally, in the third part the prohibition of lying is examined as an important and necessary condition for the perpetual peace.

Keywords: Immanuel Kant, perpetual peace, lie, right, ethics, violence, nonviolence, prohibition

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-77-92


Boris Shalutin. Morality, Law and Lies

The author argues that law and morality give conflicting answers to the question of the admissibility of lie from philanthropy. This is due to a fundamental difference in the nature of moral and legal regulation of behavior. Exploring the origin of law, the author shows that it is based on rational procedures, contracts and conflict resolution. So lie is unacceptable under any circumstances within the framework of the law, because it contradicts to the very nature of the law. In his understanding of morality the author follow Schopenhauer, who recognized a rational component in it, however, found that the phenomenon of compassion is its foundation and essence. This implies that the opposition between good and evil determines the character of moral regulation. The good is a highest and absolute moral value, whereas the opposition of truth and falsehood is though important but subordinate. Thus, if in a certain situations the behavior, which is determined by the value of good, is contrary to the behavior, which is determined by the value of truth, the moral regulation allows for the possibility of falsehood. Lie thus remains evil, but is the lesser of two evils. Since the spheres of the moral and the legal regulations are overlapped, there may be situations of conflict between morality and law. To resolve such conflicts it is necessary to understand the following important distinction between the legal and moral obligations. Legal obligations exist or do not exist. Moral obligations can be stronger or weaker, and it depends, inter alia, on the degree of closeness between people. The author argues the thesis that in the event of a conflict between the supreme moral duty, on the one hand, and legal, on the other hand, man should act in accordance with the first.

Keywords: morality, law, lies, empathy, contract

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-93-111


Mariya Rogozha. Prohibition of Lying in the Ethics of the Act. Perusing I. Kant’s essay “On a Supposed Right to Lie” in the Light of H. Arendt’s Philosophy

Kant’s prohibition on lying is analyzed in the light of theoretical discussion on the sense of morality between Ruben Apressyan and Abdusalam Guseynov. The distinction between the spheres of individual and public morality makes it possible for different approaches to consider the prohibition on lying as the factor of the moral action. In the article Kant’s ethical and philosophical ideas are considered through the prism of social and political stance Hannah Arendt’s. Arendt proposed to consider three perspectives of human affairs in Kant’s philosophy: human species and its progress, a human person as a moral being and end in oneself, men in plural, whose true end is sociability. The Enlightenment provides a person with the opportunity to free oneself from superstitions and to follow Reason, and the moral law defines its demands. The moral law also obliges a person to act according to the duty; the prohibition on lying being one of its particular forms. At the level of Kant’s moral subject, the prohibition on lying is specified in deliberated efforts of an actor to follow the absolute duty. In the case of the householder, to follow the duty means to not lie to the malefactor about the location of a friend. The alternative to such action is the recognition of personal moral failure as any other choice is inevitably defined by partiality, not by the moral law. However, absolute prohibition against lying in its ultimate implementation eliminates actor’s ability to recognize the good and the evil, while eliminating one’s responsibility and allowing to hide behind the moral law. In the sphere of human interaction, persons verify correctness of their actions by means of judgments. Under the circumstances of conflicting obligations, an actor is able to comprehend all contradictions, to make a judgment and to take responsibility in position of “non-alibi in being”.

Keywords: Immanuel Kant, Hannah Arendt, lying, Enlightenment, moral law, absolute prohibition, power of judgment, common sense, sociability, obligation.

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-112-129


Gleb Mekhed. Moral Absolutism and Noble Lie

The author analyzes the approach to the problem of lie proposed by Kant in the essay “On the alleged right to lie from philanthropy” which caused a vivid discussion in Russian ethics. In everyday life we usually guided by the logic of common sense and we are constantly focused on searching for compromises. Therefore, it is very difficult to switch to another logic – the logic of uncompromising morality when it is necessary to preserve the human dignity and individual freedom. Nonetheless, it may be heartless to follow the unconditional imperatives of formal morality in usual life. Obviously, the Kantian commitment to tell nothing but the truth in any situation contradicts intuitions of commonsense morality. The main value for Kant is the internal integrity and moral autonomy of the subject, focused only on himself, his noumenal and panhuman basis. A brief excurse into the specification and typology of ethical absolutism taken by the author allows determining the position of Kant and his followers as an abstract absolutism. At the same time, the rejection of abstract absolutist approach to the issue of lie does not necessarily lead to the rejection of absolutism in general, as it is demonstrated in the analysis of alternative ethical positions of A. Gewirth and N. Geisler. In conclusion, the author poses the question of the possibility of combining the deontological and consequentialistic position within a coherent normative doctrine.

Keywords: ethics, moral absolutism, deontology, consequentialism, lie, Immanuel Kant, Abdusalam Guseinov, Alan Gewirth, Norman Geisler

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-130-143




The Phenomenon of Universality in Ethics. Roundtable Discussion. (Disputants: Ruben Apressyan, Daniil Aronson, Olga Artemyeva, Elena Demidova, Leonid Maximov, Andrey Prokofiev, Konstantin Troitskiy)

In a paper presented by Ruben Apressyan and the following discussion the phenomenon of universality is discriminated in its various forms – as a characteristics of the most general normative content of morality contradistinguished to particular circumstances and situations, as a peculiar feature of values addressed in by corresponding requirements to everyone, and as a peculiar attribute of judgments to be universalizable, i.e. to be applied to every relevantly identical situation. In different contests and interpretations universality may be associated with absoluteness, objectivity, impartiality, or even uniformity. The disputants are strived for higher terminological accuracy in the discourse of universality and for more precise configuration of concepts used to reflect the scope of relevant meanings. To further the discussion on universality one needs adequately conceptualized understanding of the subject, in the context of certain conception of morality; otherwise the concept of universality would be doomed to nebulosity. Morality is heterogeneous in its different manifestations and universality is like it: in different spheres of morality it appears in different forms. Diverse connotations of universality in different conceptions reflect actual heterogeneity of the very phenomenon of universality. The roundtable is expected to promote up to date rethinking of the problematique of universality and its advanced introduction in Ethics scholarship and education.

Keywords: universality, universalizability, morality, ethics, impartiality, values, norms, normative-communicative discourse

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2016-16-1-144-173