Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy


Agency without Action: On Responsibility for Omissions

Issue: • Author/s: Sofia Bonicalzi, Mario De Caro
Topics: Ethics, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of action

In the last few years, there has been a growing philosophical interest in the problem of moral responsibility for omissions. Like actions, however, omissions are not all-of-a-kind. Recently, most of the research effort in this field has been devoted to the so-called unwitting omissions. However, in some cases, people make clear-eyed, or quasi-clear-eyed, decisions about not interfering with a given course of action potentially having unethical consequences (let’s call these decisions witting omissions). In this paper, we abstract away from the epistemic concerns that typically refer to unwitting omissions to…

Doing, Allowing, Framing: A Case for Moral Heuristics

Issue: • Author/s: Camilla F. Colombo
Topics: Ethics, Metaethics, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of action, Theoretical philosophy

Is doing harm morally worse than allowing it to occur? Our every-day intuitions, supported by a long-standing tradition in moral philosophy, suggest that this is the case. Nonetheless, the study of framing effects and cognitive biases has pointed out that our intuitions over the doing/allowing distinction are far from robust and reliable. This line of research casts doubts over the adequacy of our intuitions in grounding the moral principle “doing is worse than allowing” and seems to downplay the doing/allowing distinction as a cognitive bias or as a byproduct of…

Free Will in Leibniz’s Thought

Issue: • Author/s: Gianfranco Mormino
Topics: Ethics, Metaethics, Moral Philosophy, Theoretical philosophy

Since the beginning of his activity, Leibniz considers the notion of free will as absurd; he holds this notion not only unnecessary to found moral responsibility but also as an impediment to the correct understanding of divine and human retribution. What prevents many readers to accept this view is Leibniz's insistence on contingency as a requisite of free actions: I argue that the possibility of ‘being otherwise’ in a different possible world has nothing to do with freedom, which is a perfection, but rather explains the fact that our actions…

Free Will: A Pseudo-Problem? Schlick on a Longstanding Metaphysical and Ethical Debate

Issue: • Author/s: Sofia Bonicalzi
Topics: Ethics, Metaethics, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of action, Theoretical philosophy

Free will, famously described by David Hume as “the most contentious question of metaphysics, the most contentious science”, has long been a subject of intense debate, particularly regarding its compatibility with a deterministic universe and its implications for ethical questions, notably moral responsibility. Moritz Schlick, a leading figure in the Vienna Circle and the neopositivist movement, challenges the validity of this debate, asserting that it arises from linguistic and semantic confusions surrounding terms like ‘freedom’, ‘determinism’, and ‘will’. Reflecting the neopositivist disdain for metaphysics and normative ethics, Schlick posits that…

Good Reasons for Acting: Towards Human Flourishing

Issue: • Author/s: Giulia Codognato
Topics: Epistemology, Ethics, Metaethics, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of action, Political philosophy

The aim of this paper is to show that if and only if agents are motivated to act by good reasons for acting, they flourish, since, in so doing, they consciously act in accordance with their nature through virtuous actions. I offer an account of what good reasons for acting consist of reconsidering Aquinas’ natural inclinations. Based on a critical analysis of Anjum and Mumford's work on dispositions in analytic metaphysics, I argue, contra Hume’s law, that Aquinas’ natural inclinations show that metaphysics is foundational for ethics. I claim that…

Hegel on Free Will

Issue: • Author/s: Thomas Meyer
Topics: Ethics, Metaethics, Metaphysics, Moral Philosophy, Theoretical philosophy

In this essay I present Hegel’s philosophy of free will. Although free will plays a crucial role in Hegel's practical philosophy, freedom is also part of his philosophy of mind, his philosophy of nature, and his Science of Logic. After examining the philosophical motivations that led Hegel to create his system of philosophy, I will outline the basic concept of free will presented in the introduction to his Elements of the Philosophy of Right. This concept, however, still allows for free will skepticism, which motivates me to reconstruct the metaphysical…

Human Enhancement and Reproductive Ethics on Generation Ships

Issue: • Author/s: Steven Umbrello, Maurizio Balistreri
Topics: Epistemology, Ethics, Metaethics, Moral Philosophy

The past few years have seen a resurgence in the public interest in space flight and travel. Spurred mainly by the likes of technology billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the topic poses both unique scientific as well as ethical challenges. This paper looks at the concept of generation ships, conceptual behemoth ships whose goal is to bring a group of human settlers to distant exoplanets. These ships are designed to host multiple generations of people who will be born, live, and die on these ships long before they…

Hume on Free Will

Issue: • Author/s: Lorenzo Greco
Topics: Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of action, Theoretical philosophy

In this essay, I discuss David Hume’s reasoning on free will as he presents it in A Treatise of Human Nature and An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. I proceed by showing how Hume’s compatibilist solution acquires meaning in the light of his sentimentally based science of human nature, which conceives human beings as reasonable, social, and active creatures. Within Hume’s empiricist, naturalistic, and sceptical approach, we deal only with perceptions and never with things themselves, and human experience is structured in a causal order which allows us to organise both…

Intra-Personal Compromises

Issue: • Author/s: Juha Räikkä
Topics: Epistemology, Ethics, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of action, Political philosophy

The most usual philosophical questions about compromises have been those related to inter-personal compromises, in which parties are compromising with each other, rather than intra-personal compromises, which are often psychologically demanding. This paper aims to fill the gap in the discussion and briefly analyze the nature of intra-personal compromises. The starting point here is the assumption that inter-personal compromises cannot be made without intra-personal compromises, although intra-personal compromises are common even when they are not linked to inter-personal compromises. The main question addressed in the paper is whether the intra-personal…

Locke on Free Will and Epistemic Responsibility

Issue: • Author/s: Samuel C. Rickless
Topics: Epistemology, Ethics, Metaethics, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of action, Theoretical philosophy

This article summarizes John Locke’s considered views on freedom, explaining that freedom is a power of the mind to act in accordance with its volitions, that freedom is a power that can belong only to substances, that we have the freedom to will in many cases, including the power to hold our wills undetermined and thereby suspend the prosecution of our desires.  This is a seemingly reasonable account of how our minds work, and should work, when we make (important) decisions.  But Locke takes us to be morally responsible and…
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