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  Ethical Thought, 2017, vol. 17, no. 1.
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Ethical Thought, 2017, vol. 17, no. 1.




Andrey Prokofyev. Why Should I be Moral? (The Theoretical Context of Justification of Morality)

The paper reconstructs the general theoretical context of attempts to justify morality. Morality will be justified if we find some convincing arguments that affirm the significance of moral values and the imperative force of moral norms. The emphatically personal form to articulate the problem of justification of morality is the question ‘Why should I be moral?’ It coexists in moral philosophy with a different fundamental question, the question about causes of the constant reproduction of moral beliefs and moral activity (‘Why people do comply with moral norms?’). There is a steady trend in the contemporary ethics to drive out the justificatory problematique. The author demonstrates that two circumstances prevent this outcome. First, we can not cease to discuss moral values and norms in the perspective of the agent or the first person. Second, if we do not take into account this perspective, we can not create the fully-fledged explanation of morality. The author criticizes the C.M.Korsgaard’s typology of conceptions that try to justify morality. He divides them into two general groups. One of them founds the moral duty on the agents own good interpreted as advantage or happiness. The second identifies the moral duty with the voice of reason. In this case moral beliefs can be understood as a result of the special form of rational inquiry or as a necessary correlate of the human capacity to apply reason in practical matters. The paper ends by the analysis of the so-called Prichard’s dilemma – the main theoretical obstacle to justification of morality.

Keywords: explanation of morality, justification of morality, moral skeptic, reason, happiness, Prichards’ dilemma

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-5-17

Stephen Darwall. The Foundations of Morality: Virtue, Law, and Obligation (transl. into Russian by R. Apressyan)

Presenting the main tendencies in early Modern ethics Stephen Darwell assumes that natural law theories modernized by Grotius, Pufendorf, Hobbes, and Locke played significant role in its formation and development. The early Modern natural law theories are distinct in recognizing a possibility of other than universal reason principle of behavior – an egoistic reason in a form of prudence: an agent acts morally just realizing his/her aspiration towards individual good (‘rightly understood’). The early Modern natural lawyers proposed an idea of normative order aimed to limit selfish intentions by the means of socially imputed rules based on a kind of authority. In this context the issues of imputation, foundation of obligations and their difference, responsibility, etc., were proposed for discussion. Darwell considers other tendencies in the early Modern ethics as critical reaction to the challenges stimulated by theories of natural law. Rationalists like Cudworth (one of Cambridge Platonists), Shaftesbury, Leibniz, Malebranche, and Spinoza, sidelining or even refusing the normative component of morality, regarded individual morality to be a result of one’s comprehension of the objective course of things, divine or natural. On the basis of such comprehension individual self-determines him/herself as a virtuous moral agent. Mandeville provided the most outstanding criticism from egoistic perspective. He demonstrated ambiguity in relation between motives and consequences (morally good motives can lead to socially ill consequences) and thus influenced the development of utilitarianism, which insisted on constitutive role of results as a factor of behavior evaluation. Discussion between sentimentalists (Hutcheson, Hume, partly Butler) and rationalists (Clarke, Balguy, Wollaston, Price, Read) provided one more alternative to the theories of natural law: disagreements regarding the faculty (sense or reason) owing to which the agent perceives moral qualities pertain the foundation of morality; in sentimentalism morality was ultimately associated with virtue and in rationalism – with obligation.

Keywords: ethics, early modern moral philosophy, natural law, obligation, virtue, egoism, rationalism, sentimentalism, moral sense, reason, prudence, utilitarianism

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-18-47



Nikolaj Plotnikov. Notions of Liberty: Universalism and Сultural Particularity

The author outlines the problem of historical explications of the notion of liberty. On one hand, the historical analysis leads to semantic pluralism and pluralism of contextualization of the notion of liberty. Liberty as the universal norm and anthropological constant is the reaction to these pluralisms. On the other hand, the thesis on the normative universalism of liberty remains a postulate, if it does not rely on a social consensus on the central value of liberty. The analysis of these forms of consensus is described as a “hermeneutics of liberty”. Its task is to show the formation of the conceptual differences in the notion of liberty in the different cultural contexts. Another task is to show the intersection in the public discussion, where the consensus on the main aspects of liberty emerges.

Keywords: Liberty, the universal norm, hermeneutics, the historical consensus, the different traditions of the understanding of liberty

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-48-55

Ruben Apressyan. Freedom: Understanding and Experiences

Modern observers often interpreted the idea of freedom as it is represented in the Russian intellectual history and social practice in the terms, proposed by Russian philosopher Georgy Fedotov, who elaborated the lexical concept of svoboda (‘freedom’), which had been given by Russian lexicographer Vladimir Dal. They epitomized the Russian sense and understanding of liberty reducing it to volja (will/wish) as aspiration towards personal independence, relaxedness, unaccountability, and ultimately to self-will and arbitrariness, mostly in their extreme manifestations. There is no enough attention to a fact, that Fedotov points to the Russian understanding of freedom as volja as may be a dominant, but not a single tendency in the Russian tradition and that he rooted this tendency in the heritage of the 16th century Moscow kingdom (with tsar’s tyranny, rightlessness of nobility, serfhood of peasants). Besides this tendency Fedotov recognizes European cultural influence as well; at the time of Russian Empire it had some impact on the Russian sense of freedom, though he does not give a clear explanation of this aspect of the Russian cultural-historical experience. However, Fedotov shows the difference between freedom in private and public life. Boris Vysheslavtsev’s analysis of freedom is worth attention comparatively with Fedotov. Reexamining the traditional philosophical dilemma of negative and positive freedom Vysheslavtsev emphasized potential positive implication of negative freedom, which thus cannot be reduced completely to that what Fedotov discovered in the Russian idea of volja. Taking into account the sociocultural experience related to negative and positive freedom, one should recognize that no community could survive without communicative and public practices assumed by positive freedom. In particular social-cultural systems such practices are not necessarily associated with the idea of freedom; still they are expressed in various ideas, which in this or that way are related in philosophy with the idea of freedom. The relation of this idea to other basic ethical and, broader, cultural concepts is reflected in various forms in the Russian philosophical thought, what one can discover for instance in Vladimir Soloviev, Ivan Ilyin, and Nicolai Berdyaev.

Keywords: ‘svoboda’ (freedom), ‘volja’ (will), positive and negative freedom, sublimation of freedom, moral experience, Eussian intellectual history, N. A. Berdyaev, B. P. Vysheslavtsev, A. Wierzbicka, I. A. Ilyin, V. S. Soloviev, G. P. Fedotov 

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-56-69

Svetlana Kirshbaum. On the Limits of Freedom

The question of the limits of freedom can be asked not only in philosophical, but also in linguistic terms. Freedom has many meanings, and its limits can be identical to dividing lines between different interpretations of this concept and its synonyms. Dictionaries try to develop clear-cut distinctions between diverging definitions, but in practice everything is more complex. The strict lexical and semantic order of dictionaries can be disturbed, definitions can be mixed or substituted for one another. Svoboda and volia represent just such a case. There is practically no difference between these two concepts in “Explanatory dictionary” of V.I. Dal'. However, G.P. Fedotov in his essay “Russia and Liberty” draws a sharp distinction between svoboda and volia, turning them into antonyms. Volia assumes negative connotations, and its alleged Russianness became a starting point for reflections about Russian freedom in cognitive linguistics. If for Dal' svoboda and volia are almost synonyms, modern dictionaries acknowledge their overlap only at one point – when staying out of prison is concerned. Through this loophole, however, these concepts can intrude on each other’s territory, and svoboda can be substituted for volia. In my essay, I will track relationships, balances and interpenetrations of the concepts svoboda and volia resulting – as it seems – in their interchangeability in the Russian public discourse.

Keywords: freedom, polysemy, society, power, violence

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-70-79

Natallia Vasilevich. Between Liberated Freedom and Free Obedience: Teaching of the Orthodox Church on Freedom

The article deals with the notion of freedom in the framework of two Orthodox social doctrines, which are formulated in documents of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as in concepts developed in the texts adopted by the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church and during pan-Orthodox preparatory process of this Council. In the first case, concept of freedom is represented in soteriological perspective through distinction, if not contradiction and conflict between two types of freedom: freedom of choice (self-determination, and freedom from evil (ἐλευθερία). On the one hand, freedom of choice is supported as integral substantial feature of human personality. On the other hand, it is treated as the origin of sin and a force, which by influence of sin threats human dignity expressed in freedom of evil. In such a concept human being turns out to be incapable to use his free will sovereignly; and external mechanism of coercion and its regulation are to play significant role to “liberate freedom” from sin. There are attempts to avoid absolutisation of freedom of choice in pan-Orthodox documents too. Such a freedom os considered to be a necessary precondition for person’s spiritual perfection and for choice of good, however it presents risk of evil and spiritual degradation. Institutional dimension is focused not on external mechanisms of coercion to ensure that free will moves in the right direction, but rather on guarantees of protection for the space of freedom, where free choice of the right direction of the will as free submission can be performed. In the final document of the Council notion of freedom was balanced with notion of responsibility.

Keywords: freedom, self-determination, responsibility, institutions, person, orthodoxy, sin, Holy and Great Council

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-80-93



Grigory Gutner. National Narrative and National Responsibility

Ethical validity of the question of national responsibility is considered in the paper. The significance of the theme is determined by the need to overcome the totalitarian legacy and pressing moral evaluation of the Soviet past. The precedents of taking responsibility for the crimes committed in the past by other people are discussed. Classification of guilt undertaken by K. Jaspers is considered to clarify the concept of responsibility. Particular attention is paid to the concepts of moral and metaphysical guilt. The issue of national ownership is considered in correlation with the concepts of national identity and national narrative. The totalitarian regime creates its own narrative, using the potencies of the national narrative. However as the narrative created by the totalitarian regime legitimizes a criminal practice, taking it represents both moral and metaphysical guilt. The article clarified the concept of a national narrative itself. Consideration of this concept relies on the theories of Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner. We describe the social and existential significance of the national narrative, define connection between the national narrative and ideology. The article shows that the responsibility of the nation could be to revise the national narrative, and, perhaps, and rejection of it. Necessity of this revision is due to the fact that the criminal totalitarian practices, using the capabilities of the national narrative, reveals its original predisposition to the justification of the totalitarian regime and thus reveals that it is morally and metaphysically (in the sense of Jaspers) invalid. However, the lack of the national narrative means abandoning the principle of life of person and puts he/she in the hardest existential situation. This implies morbidity in relation to any criticism of the past, which is manifested both in German and in Russian mass consciousness.

Keywords: Responsibility, National Narrative, National Identity

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-94-109

Andrey Sychev. On the Sources of the Ethics of Holy Foolishness

The article deals with the socio-cultural origins of the ethics of holy foolishness as the radical religious and philosophical form of the overcoming of evil. The author focuses on the moral ambiguity of holy foolishness, which manifests itself in the contradiction between the appreciated goals and dubious means to achieve them – ridicule, scandals and provocations. Reconstruction of the main cultural meanings specific to the practices of holy foolishness is carried out in the course of cultural-historical analysis of its most probable sources – Eastern mysticism, Old Testament prophetism, and some concepts of ancient philosophy. The disregard of the holy fools to the generally accepted norms and values is explained by the mystical nature of their activities, the negation of ostentatious piety, and intentional rupture of social connections, allowing expressing their own opinions freely. The foolishness for Christ’s sake is justified in the context of religious ideas about the wisdom and morality, dating back to the texts of St. Paul. The article offers several interrelated attempts to explain the practice of holy foolishness from the position of Christian ethics. Firstly, it is considered as the apophatic representation of religious moral ideal, or holding representative samples of wrong acts before the eyes of people to cause the aversion to them. Secondly, it is understood as the practice of cultural renewal, opposing the routinization of moral values and norms in Christianity. Thirdly, the holy foolishness is shown as an attempt to influence the lumpen strata of the urban population who reject traditional forms of moralizing. Fourth, the foolishness for Christ’s sake is considered as a specific form of martyrdom in the conditions of the prevalence of Christian values. The author claims that all the life of holy fools is the attempt to prove that holiness is not only compliance with norms, but also departing from them, and the true saints may be not the most pious, but the most contemptible of those who are around us.

Keywords: holy foolishness, holiness, asceticism, provocation, mysticism, prophetism, Cynicism, Christian ethics

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-110-123



Andrey Sochilin. The first attempt for the history of «The Science of Natural Law»

The article is an introduction to the translation of the first chapter “On the Origin and the Progress of the Science of Natural Law” from the treatise “Sample of controversies on natural law, which were caused by himself [i.e. by Pufendorf” (1678) of the German jurist, philosopher and historian Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694). The paper clarifies the historical path of the term “natural law” (“jus naturale”) as it applied to the early modern and contemporary historiography of moral philosophy. It is claimed that a decisive factor of the effectiveness of the model outlined in the “On the Origin and the Progress” is both retrospective and prospective awareness of the natural law tradition, that is, quite clear a vision of its conceptual and theoretical sources together with a consistent view of the progress in elaborating natural law theory. In the introduction different contexts of “On the Origin and the Progress” are analyzed, as well as its role in the structure of the entire treatise. The topics and main points of the chapters of “Sample of controversies” are listed, followed by and connected to the analysis of the structure of its first chapter. Three methodological guidelines are stated, which according to Pufendorf should be followed to accomplish the task of constructing “the system of natural law which is full and accommodated to the comprehension by all mankind”. That is 1) the avoidance of all religious and theological issues and orientation only to the most evident and therefore universal human values; 2) the consistency, which stems from making a deductive system embracing all what is pertaining to natural law and resting on some clear stated hypothesis; 3) deep theoretical substantiation from an elaborated knowledge of the human nature in respect to moral actions and social interaction.

Keywords: natural law, jus naturale, history of moral philosophy, models of history of moral philosophy, Eris Scandica, Latin language

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-124-135

Pufendorf Samuel von. On the Origin and the Progress of the Science of Natural Law (transl. from Latin into Russian by A. Sochilin)

The publication contains the translation of the first chapter of the treatise of the German jurist, philosopher and historian Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694) “Sample of controversies on natural law, which were caused by himself [i.e. by Pufendorf]”. It was published in 1678. This text entitled “On the Origin and the Progress of the Science of Natural Law” is a part of so called “Eris Scandica” (“The Scandinavian Quarrel”) corpus, which was caused by the magnum opus of Pufendorf – “De jure naturae et gentium” (1672). “On the Origin and the Progress” is known as the first text among the so called “histories of morality” – the group of treatises dated from 17th to first half of 18th century, in which the evolution of the modern law theory was described. The model of the history of natural law, which was outlined in the “On the Origin and the Progress”, in fact also served as the model for writing history of the entire European moral philosophy. Here Pufendorf is describing and analyzing prerequisites and sources of the Modern Natural Law, which can be found in Old and New Testament tradition, in Roman Jurisprudence and Ancient Greek Philosophy. He also reviewed briefly the works of Hugo Grotius, John Selden, Thomas Hobbes and Richard Cumberland. All the books and traditions are being considered in the scope of constructing “the system of natural law which is full and accommodated to the comprehension by all mankind”. The text is permeated with the idea of the progress in natural law theory, which is possible to achieve, with insisting on the necessity to keep away from religious and theological quarrels in developing the theory, and also with striving for the consistency, methodological clarity and the elaboration of the broad theoretical grounds of the natural law theory. This text has translated to Russian for the first time.

Keywords: “the Science of Natural Law”, natural law, jus naturale, history of moral philosophy, Grotius, Selden, Hobbes, Cumberland

DOI: 10.21146/2074-4870-2017-17-1-136-149

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