Institute of Philosophy
Russian Academy of Sciences

  Ethical Thought, 2017, vol. 17, no. 2.
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Ethical Thought, 2017, vol. 17, no. 2.





Systematization in Modern Ethics: Theoretical Approaches, Methods, and Schemes. Proceedings of round table discussion. Disputants: Ruben Apressyan, Olga Artemyeva, Elena Belyaeva, Nonna Eyngorn, Elena Kunderevich, Leonid Maximov, Elena Meleshko, Tatiana Mishatkina, Vladimir Nazarov, Vadim Perov, Tatiana Porohovskaya, Andrey Prokofiev, Alexander Razin, Alexei Skomorohov, Anatoliy Skripnik, Olga Zubets

A round table on systematization of Ethics knowledge in scholarship and education was held following a discussion in the Department of Ethics (Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences) of a draft text-book, Ethics, by Ruben Apressyan, who had suggested an innovative approach to presentation of Ethics in higher education. The discussion in the Department of Ethics allowed to propose the following questions for the round table conversation: general principles of structuring Ethics curriculum, criteria of selection the most relevant for education philosophical and normative topics, implementation of historical-philosophical heritage and the results of current discussions in teaching Ethics, reasonable correlation between general and applied ethics, incorporation Ethics topics in teaching social sciences and humanities, the relevance of Ethics curriculum to today state of art in Russian higher education. Discussants (representing different Russian universities as well as Belarus and Ukraine ones) shared their experience in teaching Ethics and developing text-books in Ethics in universities and secondary school as well. The round table discussion reflected a broad variety of theoretical approaches and methodological attitudes in the present regional Ethics discourse and show the discussed issue as applicable mainly to the tasks of teaching Ethics rather than to theoretical scholarship in moral philosophy and applied consideration.

Keywords: Ethics (general, normative, applied), morality, history of Ethics, Ethics education, systematization of knowledge, Philosophy and Ethics, case-study

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-2-5-45


Leonid Maximov. On the Concept of Justice: Analytical Notes

The paper is devoted to the critical analysis of the concept of justice, which is commonly used in philosophical and scientific literature, including works specially focused on the development of theoretical conceptions of justice. It is shown that significant conceptual differences and disputes between theorists are caused not only by differences in their world outlook and methodological principles, but also the historically formed ambiguity of the term justice and logical mistakes in the developing and justification of the theories of justice. Typical mistakes are considered, namely: nondistinction of the word and concept of justice; use of the word “justice” in the nonspecific, broad meaning coinciding with meaning of the word “morality”; confusion of the theoretical conceptions and normative positions, substitution of the theory describing and explaining a justice phenomenon by the moralistic declarations; violation of “Hume's guillotine”, i.e. the logical interdiction on deducing the prescriptive statements from descriptive ones, which creates only the appearance of a substantiation of the theory. Arguments are made against the ascription to the phenomenon of morality of essentially non-moral values and motives such as love, compassion, benevolence, altruism, etc., against the interpretation of them as “higher” (in the moral sense) values compared with the motive of duty and, respectively, with a duty-oriented justice. The inclusion of these motives and actions to the sphere of morality, recognition of their “supererogation” status (as opposed to “simple due” actions in the name of justice) leads to a blurring of the specifics of morality, its principles and norms, based as Kant convincingly showed, on the idea of duty.
Keywords: justice, word vs. concept, theory, moral vs. off-moral, theoretical vs. normative, Hume's guillotine, love vs. duty, altruism vs. egoism, duty vs. supererogation

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-2-46-58




Olga Zubets. Choice and Deliberation: On the προαίρεσις

The article considers the question of understanding the choice and deliberation within the ethical teaching based on the concepts of self-sufficient act and the subject of morality as its origin. Aristotle’s ethics is exactly such a theory, and the article analyses the fragments from “Nicomachean Ethics” crucial for the understanding of προαίρεσις. Aristotle makes an attempt to describe theoretically the point of transition from the human activity “for the sake of something else” to the acts of the doer making choice “for the sake of the acts themselves”. Within this philosophical task he introduces a concept of προαίρεσις (choice) and deliberation as leading the origin of the act to oneself. This choice does not mean choosing between something, but it is only the choice of self-sufficient acting. Neither the choice, nor the deliberation is the conclusion or deduction from any knowledge, as well as they do not have any form of knowledge, but are given in the actuality of an act. Deliberation as leading the origin of an act to the ruling part of a person and the choice for the sake of the act itself, so to speak, abolish the world based on the cause-effect relationship and means-ends connection: the combined thing of deliberation and choice is what man is doing in the act himself which is being of yourself. Neither the reasoning on the rightness of the act, nor the desire of an end are sufficient for the act; Aristotle puts προαίρεσις as an efficient, moving origin between them and the act.Deliberation and the choice are performative that is they are equal to their givenness in the act. They are not mediated by either time, or circumstances, or the actor. Even more: προαίρεσις is the man himself and a virtuous man is the one choosing for the sake of the act itself.

Keywords: ethics, Aristotle, “Nicomachean Ethics”, choice (προαίρεσις), deliberation, act, origin, self-sufficient, virtuous, knowledge

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-2-59-72


Andrei Seregin. Instrumentalism and Inclusivism in Aristotle's Interpretation of “External” Goods (on EN 1099a24–b7)

This paper deals with the question of which role “external” goods play in achieving happiness according to Aristotle. There are two basic approaches to this problem, which I refer to as “inclusivism” and “instrumentalism”. Instrumentalism implies that happiness consists in virtuous activity of human soul, while “external” goods are only significant for it insofar as they contribute to this activity in one way or another. On the other hand, from the inclusivist point of view, at least some “external” goods are parts of happiness in their own right and so it is their non-moral content that is of importance for it. I discuss this alternative with regard to EN 1099a24–b7, where some scholars find evidence in favour of (partial) inclusivism, and try to show that consistently instrumentalist interpretation of this passage is preferable. In doing so, I pay special attention to the attempts of interpreting it in the light of EN 1099b26–28. In my opinion, the analysis of these two passages and some other relevant places in Aristotle’s texts allows to distinguish three basic versions of instrumentalism in Aristotle: “external” goods can influence happiness not only because (I) they are literally used as instruments in the very process of virtuous activity, but also because (II) their simple presence enables or facilitates this activity, even when they are not used as its instruments, whereas (III) some of them are necessary preconditions of our physical existence, so that in the last analysis virtuous activity is impossible without these latter goods either.

Keywords: Aristotle, happiness, inclusivism, instrumentalism, non-moral good and evil, Stoicism, virtue

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-2-73-90


Vladimir Nazarov. The Ethical Structure and Moral Symbols of Inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy

The three-level ethical structure of Dante’s Inferno (incontenenza–matta bestialitade – malizia) is analyzed in this article in relation to Aristotle’s “triad of vicious morals” (kakia, akrasia, thēriotēs). The interrelation of the Christian scheme of sins with the circles of Inferno is investigated. It is emphasized that Dante uses four kinds of similar terms that characterize the guilt of Inferno sinners: 1) peccato (sin); 2) colpa (wine, offense); 3) vizio (vice); 4) cattivo (bad). This makes it possible to establish more clearly the correspondence of sin and punishment.

The contents of article is revealed through commenting of disputable moral collisions and ethical problems of Dante’s poem and through the interpretation of moral symbols of the Inferno. The author singles out nine ethic and philosophical, symbolical values of the idea of Inferno including: Inferno as a symbol of moral freedom; Inferno as a symbol of absolute loneliness; Inferno as a symbol of “bad infinity” of sufferings; Inferno as a symbol of eternal and “incomplete” dying, etc. In the conclusion humanistic sense and mission of the Inferno expressed in the concepts of “the will to Inferno” and “the right to Inferno” are discussed.

Keywords: ethics, Inferno, sinners, vices, intemperance, brutality, malice, violence, deception, betrayal

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-2-91-106


Tamara Dlugach. The Concept of Conscience and Polemic About Conscience in the French Enlightenment

The article raises the question of conscience as a moral impulse to the life of each individual. A brief history of the issue is considered. In connection with the history of the issue, the views of such French philosophers of the eighteenth century as Lametri and Rousseau are analyzed. Lametri proceeds from the belief that all human behavior, all properties, desires, are determined by mechanical laws. In Lametri's opinion people's striving for physical pleasures is recognized as mechanically conditioned, since the physiological processes are basically the movements of the smallest atoms of the sense organs. The whole human life is determined by the desire for physical pleasures and the desire to avoid suffering. Conscience wouldn`t be here, its presence is in fact caused by a wrong childhood education, ignorant ideas. If so, then, according to Lametrie, a human being needs to get rid of it.

Rousseau, on the contrary, regards the conscience as the most important motivator of the moral actions of a human being; it is closely connected with religious faith. God put moral impulses in the heart of a human being and made conscience a voice of the soul. According to Rousseau, conscience is determined by the social state of a person. Distinguishing between good and evil, a person strives to treat all people «in accordance with conscience”. Conscience is not prejudice, but the deepest property of the human soul. It has nothing to do with sensual pleasures, but with demands for altruism. Often people even sacrifice their lives to save the life of another person.

Keywords: public good, conscience, moral values, physical pleasures, soul, inner voice

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-2-107-124




Judith Jarvis Thomson. A Defence of Abortion (Translation and Notions by Alexander Finiarel)

“A defense of abortion” is the most famous work by American moral philosopher Judith Thomson. It is of interest because Thomson is trying to overcome the gap between pro-choicers who think that a fetus is not a person and a woman has a right to dispose her body as she wants and pro-lifers who on the contrary think that a fetus is already a person which has a right to live and this right outweighs a woman’s right to dispose her body. To do that Thomson proposes an unusual for this dispute way: she assumes that pro-lifers are right about a fetus being a person. She thinks that basing on this argument they jump into the premature conclusion that abortion is impermissible. She draws our attention to the fact that the right to live does not include the right to demand from anybody any efforts or resources to support one’s life and this is exactly what a pregnant woman does since the fetus resides in her body and feeds at her expense. Hence, if a woman did not want the fetus to be in her body, if she did not want to call it into the existence and even more so if the fetus threatens her own health and life then she has every right to get rid of it and a third party has a right to help her even if it would perhaps be an indecent act.

Keywords: abortion, ethics, right, person, fetus, body

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-2-125-142


ʻAbdurrahman Badawi. Is it Possible to Construct an Existentialist Ethics? (Translation, Foreword and norions by Faris Nofal)

The present work is the first commented translation into the European language of treatise of leading existentialist of Egypt, historian, philosopher, writer and translator ʻAbdurrahman Badawī (1917–2002), which had been published in 1953th and entitled as “Is it Possible to Construct an Existentialist Ethics?”. In this work Badawi goes back to the ethical projects of Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, to analyze and criticize them. In opinion of thinker, ethics, in its classical understanding, cannot arise up on the existential field, which refuses every value or ethical “boarder”. Adaptation of religious ethics to the existential systems results in the submission of existential teachings to the “shackles” of captivity in face of the “Higher example”. Possible ethics of existentialism, in obedience to Badawī, is only the “ethics” of totally free, not-recurrent act.

Keywords: existentialism, ethics, Modern Arabic Philosophy, S. Kierkegaard, М. Heidegger, J.-P. Sartre, S. de Beauvoir, K. Jaspers, ʻA. Badawī

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-2-143-160