Articles in English (peer refereed journals and volumes):
1. “The False Appeal of Kantian Intuitionism” (rtf), European Journal of Philosophy, 2009, 17/1, forthcoming. This is a critical notice of The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value, where Robert Audi endeavors to defend a comprehensive ethical theory that combines Intuitionist epistemology and Kantian ethics. I argue that his moderate version of Intuitionism, while more plausible than other traditional versions, does not escape canonical objections moved to traditional forms of Intuitionism, such as the objection of disagreement.
2. “The Authority of Reflection” (pdf), Theoria, 2007, 58, pp. 43-52
This paper examines Richard Moran’s argument for the special authority of the first-person, which revolves around the Self/Other asymmetry and grounds dichotomies such as the practical vs. theoretical, activity vs. passivity, and justificatory vs. explanatory reasons. These dichotomies qualify the self-reflective person as an agent, interested in justifying her actions from a deliberative stance. The Other is pictured as a spectator interested in explaining action from a theoretical stance. The self-reflective knower has authority over her own mental states, while the Spectator does not. I highlight the implications of this construal for a theory of action, and call attention onto some other interesting normative relations between the self-reflective agent and the Other that escape both the first-person and the third-person approach. My contention is that the authority of self-reflection (and of reason) is best understood as a relation of mutual recognition between self and others, hence from a second-person stance.
(With a “Reply” by Richard Moran, Theoria, 2007, 58, pp. 71-77)
“Respect and Membership in the Moral Community”, Ethical
Theory and Moral Practice, 10/2 2007, pp. 113-128
Respect is a moral attitude typically addressed to persons in virtue of their being persons. On the Kantian view, respect is a mode of recognizing and responding to persons as rational agents. That respect aptly serves this purpose may appear doubtful. First, it seems that communal ties play a more substantial role in the experience of morality than the presumption of autonomy, contrary to the Kantian view. Second, it is doubtful whether we can fully capture the variety and significance of personal relations by focusing on respect, which demands reciprocity on the basis of autonomy. The trust of the argument is that autonomy is a capacity so abstractly defined that it can serve neither as a ground for membership nor as a basis for personal relations. The (Hegelian) alternative that I will consider in this paper is to insist that mutual recognition and its withdrawal are ruled by the concrete communities mainly via reactive emotions such as blame. To account for the variety of personal relations, it is otherwise urged that we expand our moral vocabulary to include concepts that do not demand reciprocity, such as care. My claim is that the concept of respect is more primitive and fundamental than other moral concepts. While I acknowledge the need for a rich moral vocabulary to account for the variety of personal relations, I argue that respect plays a regulative role on persons-regarding concepts.
4. “The Exploration of Moral Life” (.pdf), in J.
Broackes (ed.), Iris Murdoch, Philosopher, Oxford University Press, forthcoming
The most distinctive feature of Murdoch's philosophical project is her attempt to reclaim the exploration of moral life as a legitimate topic of philosophical investigation. To fully appreciate the novelty of her proposal we need to recognize some elements of continuity with analytic methods of philosophical inquiry and themes that belong to continental traditions. On Murdoch's view, the most important question facing moral philosophy is that of whether and how we can become better. In order to describe moral progress and failure, struggle and ascent, we need ethical concepts capable of capturing mental events such as change in mind, self-examination, and re-description. The grain of moral life, she argues, is constituted by the continuous imaginative constructions of our mind; it is there that our individuality resides. To be able to fruitfully explore and fully explicate the nature of moral life, contemporary philosophy needs to reclaim a richer moral vocabulary and elaborate a developmental model of agency capable of accounting not only for episodic changes but also for the kinds of failure and achievement that make sense only within a conception of the life of a person progressive and historical. Some fifty years after Murdoch first raised these issues, we are still very much in need of the words, the concepts, and a developmental model of agency necessary to properly account for moral life, I argue.
“Breaking Ties. The Significance of Choice in Symmetrical Moral
Dilemmas”, Dialectica, 2006, 60, pp. 1-14
Despite considerable divergences about what dilemmas are and what they show, philosophers largely concur that significant moral dilemmas are tragic and arise because of value-pluralism. Symmetrical dilemmas arise when two equally grounded moral requirements clash, and none is either overriding or overridden. It is generally agreed that they are not genuine predicaments but ties that can be broken by a device of chance. Contrary to this widespread view, I argue that while randomization breaks the tie, it does not provide the agent with a moral resolution because it does not give her any decisive reason for action. Arbitrary choices do not necessarily mark a failure of rationality, but they signal a lessened authorship on action. I show that the distinction between symmetrical and asymmetrical dilemmas offers no plausible ground for a discerning use of randomization. I argue that focus on arbitrariness as the common and peculiar feature of dilemmas puts the worry of moral dilemmas in the right perspective, and helps us adequately assess their impact on ethical theory.
“Phenomenology of the Aftermath: Ethical Theory and the
Intelligibility of Moral Experience” (.pdf), in Tenenbaum S. (ed.) New
Essays in Moral Psychology, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2006, pp. 183-211
It is a matter of contention whether we need ethical theory at all. Critics argue that ethical theory does not serve any genuine purpose, and urge us to resist the temptation of theorizing when reflecting about morality. I show that it is misleading to focus on the issue whether ethical theory or phenomenology is supremely authoritative. First, this approach misrepresents from the start the relation between theory and moral experience, suggesting that there is a gap between the theory and the practice of morality. Second, it misconstrues the anti-theory critique and encourages replies that are partial or question begging. My argument is meant to refocus the debate over the viability of ethical theory by revisiting the claims about the nature of theorizing. I argue that theorizing in ethics is in itself a moral activity, continuous with our moral practices, and meant to further our understanding of the experience and aspirations we have. The distinctive purpose of theorizing is to propose a plausible and decent ideal of moral agency. In assessing the viability of ethical theory, we should consider whether it offers an intelligible picture of ourselves and posits challenges that it is worthwhile for us to undertake. On the basis of this conception of theorizing, I argue that moral phenomenology represents a test of adequacy for ethical theory to the extent that it imposes on it a requirement of intelligibility. Appeal to the agent's experience is therefore used not as a basis to counter ethical theory, but to set its agenda.
“Humanitarian Intervention. A Kantian Argument”, in Humanitarian
Intervention, ed. by T. Nardin and M.S. Williams, Nomos, 47, 2005, pp. 117-148
Arguments justifying humanitarian intervention usually aim to establish the grounds on which warfare is a permissible response. I argue that there is a strict moral duty to intervene when fundamental human rights are violated. I analyze this duty as comprising two complementary duties, to protect the victims and to coerce the wrongdoer, and defend it by appealing to Kant’s conception of respect for humanity. My argument is that both duties follow from respect for humanity and hence are a matter of justice, not of mercy. Failing to fulfill them calls for moral blame; hence neutrality is morally culpable and blameworthy. A moral case for the duty of armed intervention to protect fundamental human rights should not be confused with a legal case. To claim that there is a moral requirement to intervene is not to claim that there is a legal (and legally sanctioned) requirement to do so. Neither argument yet establishes who has the proper authority to intervene. The duty applies to the universal moral community as such and therefore is everybody’s responsibility. Because this duty concerns the international community as a whole, it should be discharged by that community by institutionalizing its responsibility.
8. “The Alleged Paradox of Moral Perfection”, in Rationality
in Belief and Action, ed. by E. Baccarini and S. Prijic, Rijeka,
Filozofski Fakultet, 2006, pp. 9-24
Some contemporary philosophers, notably B. Williams and S. Wolf, argue that moral perfection is not just an unsustainable ideal, but also an unreasonable one in that it thwarts and demotes all the various elements that contribute to personal well-being. More importantly, moral perfection seems to imply the denial of an identifiable personal self; hence the paradox of moral perfection. I argue that this alleged paradox arises because of a misunderstanding of the role of moral ideals, of their overridingness, and of the way they relate to well-being.
“Robert Nozick”, Croatian Journal of Philosophy, 3, 2004, pp. 312-316
This is the introduction to a volume on the philosophy of Robert Nozick, which includes contributions by C.Z. Elgin, R. De Sousa, J. Kvanving, A. Leite, E. Millgram, and M. Slors. The introduction focuses on Nozick's notion of 'explanation' and his arguments against reductionism. Philosophizing is an exercise in examining a phenomenon but also in examining it from a specific starting point. To start from a point limits the possibilities open to us. That is, in such an examination we are constrained by the fact that we have to start somewhere, we are not free-standing. That we are the kinds of beings we are matters to the kinds of enterprise we can engage in: it constraints the scope and the nature of what we are doing. But this is not to say that these constraints are fixed or unsurpassable, or that our perception of what is possible is not vulnerable to modification and revision. On the contrary, the very purpose of philosophising is to make us and our views susceptible to interesting or profitable change. In providing a deeper explanation the (good) philosopher provides an explanation that (interestingly) expands on the realm of possibilities one could conceived at first. Depth of explanation is thus an extension of the possible. The purpose of a philosophical conversation is not to get the adversary by producing a knocking down argument, but to mutually stimulate further new thoughts, to reciprocally expand the realm of what we think possible: an action in concert, rather than a combat. In reading and writing a philosophy book, Nozick imagined “author and reader travelling together, each continually spurting in front of the other”.
10. “Respect and Loving Attention” (.pdf), Canadian
Journal of Philosophy, 33, 2003, pp. 483-516
Kant's account of respect as a mark of moral agency and as the evaluative attitude toward people has been the target of severe and relentless criticisms. Iris Murdoch is generally counted among Kant's fiercest opponents, and praised for providing an alternative picture of moral agency and sensibility. She argues that Kant's conception of respect does not capture the complex and multifaceted ways in which we experience morality, but also that it does not address others as individuals. To repossess the ability to express and value mutual recognition, she urges us to abandon Kant's conception of agency and deliberation, and embrace the language of love. There is much to gain in taking seriously Murdoch's plea for a more varied moral vocabulary to express the complexity of the ways we experience morality and value others. However, contrary to Murdoch, I will argue that we would be in a better position to do so once we appreciate Kant's insights about agency and the phenomenology of mutual recognition.
“Moral Constructivism: a Phenomenological Argument”
(.pdf), Topoi, XXI, 1-2, 2002, pp.
The debate on ethical objectivity exploits the realist image of discovery and the non-cognitivist image of invention. We seem to reach an impasse when we try to accommodate the view that ethical judgments represent moral facts and that they express a motivational state. This is said to be the moral problem. In order to overcome this meta‑ethical deadlock, we are urged to give up either objectivity or practicality. I argue that these metaphors should be abandoned on phenomenological grounds. I focus on recent attempts by Blackburn and McDowell to qualify realism, and I show that their argument but it is insufficient as an account of values and inadequate to account for the normative relations that the agent establishes with her surroundings. Alternatively, I argue that phenomenology supports constructivism about normative relations. I show the merits of construction as an explanatory device.
on the Objectivity of Practical Reason”,
Croatian Journal of Philosophy, 3, 2001, pp. 307-331
This article argues that Rawls' history of ethics importantly contributes to the advancement of ethical theory in that it correctly situates Kantian constructivism as an alternative to both sentimentalism and rational Intuitionism, and calls attention to the standards of objectivity in ethics. Because of its claims on the nature of moral agency and the sovereignty of practical reason Kantian Constructivism sets the standards of ethical objectivity higher than its alternatives, and is more ambitious and more demanding than the realist conception of objectivity.
13. “Value in the Guise of Regret” (.pdf), Philosophical
Explorations, 2000, III, 2, pp.
According to a widely accepted philosophical model, agent-regret is practically significant and appropriate when the agent committed a mistake, or she faced a conflict of obligations. I argue that this account misunderstands moral phenomenology because does not adequately characterize the object of agent-regret. I suggest that the object of agent-regret should be defined in terms of valuable unchosen alternatives supported by reasons. This model captures the phenomenological varieties of regret and explains its practical significance for the agent. My contention is that agent-regret is a mode of valuing: a way in which the agent expresses and confers value.
mobsters, autonomy, and self-respect”
(presented at the International Conference of Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Amsterdam 2008; pre-selected for a special issue of Ethical Theory and Moral Practice).
Differently from the Ideal mobsters that populate philosophical debates (Cohen 1996, Korsgaard 1996), Real mobsters resemble morally decent agents in surprising ways (Gambetta 1988, Pagden 1988, Saviano 2005). Not only do they accept complex codes of norms, they also take care of the interests of their community and are prepared to face the consequences of their actions. They show internal coherence, a sense of loyalty, a solid sense of identity, responsibility toward other members of the clan, cooperative virtues, a wide range of moral emotions (including shame, guilt, compassion, and love), and an attachment to their stile of life that stands critical reflection. On reflection, they prefer to lead a risky and short but 'glamorous' life than a tranquil and anonymous life protected by legality. If they are defective agents, how is their failure to be understood, why should they be interested in correcting it, and how? This paper argues, contrary to Cohen and Frankfurt, that immoral agency differs from moral agency and it is a defective form of agency because it is not fully autonomous. By appealing to Kant's distinction between self-esteem and self-respect, reputation and dignity, I argue that autonomy requires the recognition and appropriate consideration of others as well as of ourselves. The immoralist is sensitive to reputation but lacks self-respect. Sensitivity to reputation explains the quality of his social network, lack of self-respect his propensity to risk and inappropriate consideration of others. In contrast to Korsgaard, I argue that lack of self-respect is not due to a flaw in the process of reflective endorsement, and does not lead to logical incoherence. Rather, the immoralist is not capable of engaging in a dialogical form of practical reflection, which requires relating to others as having equal standing.
Sensitivity to morality may be acquired by practicing an appropriate kind of practical reflection. The gain is not in self-knowledge, but in self-respect. This is no irresistible evidence for the mobster to adopt morality. Therefore, the case of the mobster has consequences for the prospects of rationalism. Rationalists have tried to build arguments that prove morality to be overriding and sovereign, the ground of self-understanding and practical identities. They have tried to show that immoralism is incoherent and self-defeating. Their opponents have argued that such arguments fail and have judged the prospects of rationalism by its very standards: if morality cannot be defended on such apodictic grounds, then there is no hope for rationalism. The burden of proof is whether we can rationally force mobsters to enter morality. My claim is that in accepting this burden of proof, both rationalists and their opponents misrepresent the task and consequently the prospects of rationalism because they misjudge the practical role of reason. To ask for proofs inevitably leads to skepticism; but this is not because it attaches to morality too high standards of objectivity or provability. Rather, it is because it misconceives of what it takes to counter the mobster. Even if they were available, proofs would be wasted on him. To convince him, morality ought to be proposed as an adequate subjective motive, that is, a motive that makes sense for him to acquire. To give up the search for proofs is not to admit that practical reason is inert or that we should rest content with lower standards of objectivity in ethics. The compelling quality of practical reason does not consist in its alleged capacity to force one to agree on pain of incoherence. The objective appeal of morality is shown when it presents us with the prospect of a transition worth undertaking.
“Practical Reflection and Agential
Aug 2008, presented at the British Society for Ethical Theory, University of
Philosophical reconstructions of practical reflection typically involve metaphors such as stepping back, standing above, distancing, or bringing into view. The suggestion is that we claim authority over actions via a dissociating exercise, which allows the agent looks at herself and her motives as if from outside. Authorization of action requires that the agent momentarily alienate herself from the actual mechanisms that guide her action, and then somehow regain integrity and undertakes action. While philosophers differ as to how the detaching effect of practical reflection should be characterized, there is a widespread agreement that a sort of estrangement is a necessary and preliminary stage of authorizing action. In this paper, I examine different accounts of “reflective detachment” and of their purposes, and show that they fail to address the question they are designed to answer, that of agential authority. My argument is that all such accounts are vulnerable to the paradox of inner judgment formulated by Kant because they are inherently monological. They reduce reflection to a dissociating exercise, lack objective standards, and misunderstand the reason why agential authority ought to rest on objective standards. Alternatively, I propose to construe practical reflection as a form of address, hence inherently dialogical. My chief task is to elucidate this claim by identifying the role of others in the practice of rational reflection, within the framework of Kantian Constructivism. The dialogical structure of reflection allows us to solve the paradox of inner judgment and explain why and in which sense agential authority needs objective standards.
Work in progress:
moral concerns. On the subjectivity of practical reason. Book project.
A restatement of the main claims defended in Moral Dilemmas (Genova, 2006) and The Authority of Morality (published in Italian, Feltrinelli, Milano, 2007), completely revised in structure.
and the Emotions (edited
by C. Bagnoli).
In his seminal essay “Morality and the Emotions” (1973), Bernard Williams complains that the moral philosophers of his days found “no essential place for the agent’s emotions, except perhaps for recognizing them in one of their traditional roles as possible motives to backsliding, and thus as potentially destructive of moral rationality and consistency” (p. 207). Williams identifies three reasons for this neglect: a simplified conception of moral language, a rather simple view of emotions, and a legalistic conception of morality. In the last three decades, these alleged causes for neglect have been to a large extent removed. Current models of moral language and practical reasoning are hospitable to emotions. A legalistic conception of morality is seldom (if ever) defended; and advocates of duty-based ethics generally recognize the importance of emotions in moral reasoning. Cognitive sciences have highlighted the functional and phenomenological complexity of emotions, and their findings have a significant impact on the philosophical understanding of our emotional life. Despite these deep changes in our philosophical landscape, how emotions specifically contribute to morality remains an open and rarely addressed question. The aim of this volume is to present different ways to approach the issue of moral emotions. In particular, the essays in this collection consider whether some emotions specifically mark the moral domain, are conducive to moral consciousness and moral behavior, affect our decision-making, enter our moral perception of reality and supply reasons for moral judgment. Authors (to date): Aaron Benz’ev, Larry Blum, Talbot Brewer, Maudemarie Clark, John Deigh, Bery Gaut, Angela Smith, Christine Tappolet, and Paul Thagard.
1. “Kantian Constructivism Reconsidered”
While there is a sharp disagreement about the prospects of Kantian Constructivism (hereafter KC), there is a significant agreement that KC does not represent a distinctive meta-ethical theory. Some question KC’s status as a meta-ethical doctrine (Darwall et al. 1997: 12-15; Hussain & Shah 2005, 2007). Others object that KC does not offer a genuine alternative to Realism or Anti-realism. More specifically, the objection is that the constructivist conception of ethical objectivity is either tacitly parasitic on realism or it proves too weak to avoid relativism (Wedgwood 2002: 139-41; Timmons 2003: 400; Shafer-Landau 2003: 43). Call this the instability objection. In this paper I argue that these worries arise because KC is mistakenly construed as a version of Proceduralist Realism, hence as a claim about the ontological priority of procedures over the truth of moral propositions (Korsgaard 1996: 35, 2003; Rawls 2002; James 2007; Street 2008). My first aim is to provide an alternative characterization of KC as a form of Cognitivist Irrealism (Bagnoli 2000). My second aim is to show that KC eschewes the instability objection. KC opposes (B) as heteronomous doctrines that misunderstand the practical function of reason and fail to offer an adequate account of ethical objectivity. The claim is that to be objective reason must be a constructive capacity. But this claim appears unjustified and/or circular (Krasnoff 1999). I show that this objection rests on a misunderstanding of Kant’s argument of the Fact of Reason. Finally, I consider a merit of KC that is routinely overlooked in the debate focused on its instability. The construction of reasons is not a solitary endeavour; rather, it is constitutively open to public assessment. That is, it (constitutively) requires that we act under the representation of others as interlocutors with whom we exchange reasons. The content of reasons is always both communal and tentative, revisable and defeasible because the construction of reasons is subjected to public constraints. KC thus proves to importantly account for phenomena that escape other meta-ethical accounts of reasons, namely, change and progress. To correctly appreciate this historical dimension of KC, it is necessary to focus on the reflexivity of reason and on the nature of its own constraints, rather than on its alleged atemporal procedurality.
2. “Of Two Minds” (Aug 2007).
Harry Frankfurt argues that ambivalence is a pernicious disease of the mind, which shows lack of love for oneself. The healthy self is unified by and wholeheartedly invested in what it loves. On the contrary, the ambivalent self is impeded by its own reservations and uncertainties, and thus inevitably self-defeating. Frankfurt concludes that deficiency on wholeheartedness is a kind of irrationality analogous to contradiction, which renders our practical lives incoherent. My aim is to offer some reasons to reject this conclusion. Ambivalence names a cluster of different phenomena, not all of which are misfortunes to cope with or results of failures. Tolerating ambivalence can be a practically wise attitude to endorse.
3. “Moral Emotions and the Authority of
How exactly to identify moral emotions is a matter of dispute, but there is a large agreement that emotions such as blame, resentment, shame and guilt stand out as the most plausible candidates. I will argue that to single out reactive emotions as representative of moral sensibility encourages a specific conception of morality and its authority. Morality is understood as a normative system based on the demand of reciprocity that offers protection and warrants cooperation among its members. Key to the enforcement of moral norms are moral emotions, which are characteristically punitive and retaliatory in that they respond to threats against cooperative schemes. This account of moral emotions has a significant appeal. First, it explains the characteristic way morality binds the moral agent: one is motivated to act morally to avoid painful emotions, such as shame and guilt. Second, it explains why one is concerned by moral transgression even when not personally wronged: one feels threatened as a member of the moral community, and as such one is entitled to respond. Finally, this account recognizes a crucial contribution of moral emotions to moral normativity: they work like sanctions that enforce moral norms. My aim in this paper is to show that this view underestimates the significance of moral emotions (reduced to external aids to our hampered rationality) because it misunderstands the way morality binds us. The issue is conceptual, psychological, and normative. It concerns the question of how to define moral emotions and their function, how we actually experience morality, and how we should understand it. The alternative I suggest is that moral emotions are responses toward humanity and richly articulate the experience of respect, that is, the experience of autonomy and mutual recognition. In a Kantian fashion, I argue that respect is a mode of recognition and the source of moral concern. A moral community is characterized by normative relations of mutual respect and recognition among its members. To enter such relations, we ought to be capable of acting on principles, which is a kind of normative behavior that differs from enforcing a norm. The authority of the claims that we can advance as members of the moral community springs from mutual recognition, not from the enforcement of norms. As sensitive modes of mutual recognition, moral emotions are constitutive of moral rationality.
4. “Moral Perplexity”. Moral dilemmas are taken to show that ethical theory is incoherent or indeterminate or that it is applied to imperfect agents. Philosophers are with the meta-ethical question as to whether and how the possibility of moral dilemmas undermines ethical theory, or with the normative issue as to how to resolve them. Each kind of approach shows a peculiar distortion. On the one hand, in considering moral dilemmas from a meta-ethical perspective, one comes to the odd conclusion that they are a problem for ethical theory, rather than for us. On the other hand, the debate in normative and applied ethics treats moral dilemmas as hard cases to be resolved, and focuses on strategies of conflict-resolution. Neither of these debates about moral dilemmas undertakes the task of investigating the importance that moral dilemmas have for the agent. Because of this neglect, we fail to appreciate adequately the implications of moral dilemmas for ethical theory. My proposal is to reconsider this issue by focusing on the agent's perception of a moral dilemma, a state that I call moral perplexity. I will argue that when approached from this subjective perspective, moral dilemmas reveal something novel and important about the need for a moral resolution of our moral conflicts, and suggest that we reconsider the scope and purpose of moral deliberation as well as the practical aims of ethical theory.
“Reflexivity and Moral Change” (draft 8 Dec 2006).
Most of recent accounts represent reflexivity as an exercise in dissociating two elements of reflective consciousness, the “thinking self” and the “acting self”. The gap thus created allows us to act on reasons of our own. This is how we claim ownership on our action. My purpose in this paper is to offer an alternative account of the agent’s stance by proposing a more robust conception of reflexivity. We are peculiar animals not so much because we can stand above our desires, make plans and hold them effective over time, but because we impose on them a direction. My case will rest on the phenomenology of moral change. To vindicate the possibility of change, failure, and progress, we ought to reject the accounts of reflectivity that simply institute a division between the thinking and the active self. I argue that the capacity for moral growth is a neglected yet key aspect of human agency. To properly understand this historical dimension of our agency, I propose to take self-reflection as a form of self-address that crucially involves others. By exercising this normative role and actively participating in the practice of self-reflection, others make our narratives practical.
6. “The Mind Apart: Variations on the
This is an investigation of the conditions of success of action on stage. My argument is that action on stage is a form of second-personal address where the public is always directly implicated and determines the condition of success. My case rests on the analysis of three examples (i) a parte, (ii) Bertolt Brecht's estrangement technique, and (iii) Jerzy Grotowsky's chosen audience.
[This project is borne out of my participation in several workshops for theater directors and playwrights at the European School of Drama in San Miniato, in 2004, taught by Andreas Wirth (Universität der Künste, Berlin), Jorge Majorga (Real Escuela Superior de Arte Dramatico, Madrid), David Edgar (UK), Enzo Cormann (Ecole National Superieure des Arts et Techniques du Theatre, Lyon), and in 2006 by Anatolij Smelianskij (Moscow Art Theater School).
Papers delivered at the meetings of the American Philosophical Association
Division, Cleveland, 04/25/03
Moral perplexity describes the state of an agent who regards herself as having two incompatible reasons for action (neither of which is decisive), and finds impossible to deliberate further. It is generally argued that moral perplexity is of no philosophical relevance unless it is otherwise shown that incompatible requirements really bind the agent. Against this view, I argue that reflection on moral perplexity urges us to re-examine the grounds upon which the distinction between spurious and genuine conflicts is based, and calls into question the ideal dimension of ethical theory. To properly account for moral perplexity, we ought to reconsider the bounds, the purpose, and the structure of deliberation. Conflict-resolution is not the sole task of deliberation, which ought to be conceived more broadly as the structuring of agential integrity. This finding is of consequence for ethical theory in that it suggests that we redefine its normative aims.
and Insight: The Intuitionist View of the Normative Question”, A.P.A. Pacific Division,
San Francisco, 04/20/01
The intuitionist conception of the normativity of ethics is generally rejected as problematic on the account that it involves a queer and redundant ontology. In response to the objection of queerness, and in a spirit of reconciliation, many non-cognitivists have proposed to revise the intuitionist semantics and epistemology, while retaining the claim that ethical judgments are normative.These corrective proposals perpetrate a serious misunderstanding about the normativity of ethical judgments. They assume that Intuitionism is committed to the view that ethical judgments are judgments about intrinsically motivating properties. In contrast to this assumption, I argue that Intuitionism conceives normativity as reasons-givingness. My contention is that this interpretation eschews the objection of queerness, and it makes better sense of the Intuitionist critique of naturalism and non-cognitivism. More importantly, it vindicates the intuitionist conception of moral activity as vision and insight.
Myths of Moral Theory”, Symposium in honor of Amelie Rorty, APA Eastern Division, 28 December 2001
Amelie's Rorty's work in ethics is an attempt to repair a damage, that of having rescinded the links between ethics and politics on the one side, and ethics and psychology/philosophy of mind on the other side. Because they have isolated ethics from the investigation of the mind and the community, modern and contemporary philosophers have an incomplete and thus inadequate account of morality. This paper deals with the implications of Rorty's critique for our conception of theorizing in ethics. She objects that contemporary ethics is by and large subjugated to three myths that tell us, respectively, that morality focuses on action, that is individual, and that it concerns a special domain. The main question I am concerned with is whether we are warranted in attributing morality a special kind of dignity and importance. I argue that even though Rorty's critique of these assumptions is compelling, we still have a good reason to consider morality supremely important. This reason is grounded in a specific conception of practical deliberation as improvisatory and constructive, and on the consequent idea that morality is pervasive.
4. “The Paradox of Moral Perfection”, A.P.A. Central Division, Minneapolis, 05/04/01 (see #7)
on Respect and Perfection”, A.P.A. Central Division, Chicago, 04/20/00
A common criticism of Kantian ethics is that it does not provide an adequate account of moral agency because it underlies an untenable moral psychology. Particularly, it is objected that on this view emotions and feelings are alienated from moral agency. I. Murdoch has argued that Kant's treatment of emotions reveals a deeper problem concerning Kant's conception of moral perfection. According to Murdoch, Kant misconstrues perfection as the nullifying attempt to reach a purified and angelic dimension of rationality and thus reduced to the virtuous exercise of overcoming temptation. Emotions are allowed to return to the moral domain as a kind of “rather painful thrill which is the by-product of our status as dignified rational beings”. I attempt to respond to this objection by examining the role of moral sentiments in Kant's theory of practical reasoning, their relation with virtue and with perfection. Although I primarily focus on respect, I contend that Kant acknowledges a crucial role to moral sentiments: they establish the objective reality of the moral law and make us responsive to it. Thus, moral sentiments ultimately are the basis of our responsibility and personality. They explain how we take responsibility for ourselves.
Books in Italian (with summary in English):
Articles in Italian:
1. “Rispetto, reciprocità e eguaglianza democratica”, Il Rispetto Eguale, a cura di Ian Carter, E. Galeotti, V. Ottoneli, Bruno Mondadori, Milano, 2008, pp. 79-100.
2. “Iris Murdoch: il realismo come conquista individuale”, in Oggettività e morale. La riflessione etica del Novecento, ed. by G. Bongiovanni, Bruno Mondadori Editore, Milano, 2007, pp. 114-130
4. “Il costruttivismo kantiano e l'oggettività”, in Oggettività e morale. La riflessione etica del Novecento, ed. by G. Bongiovanni, Bruno Mondadori Editore, Milano, 2007, pp. 257-276
5. “Deliberare, confrontare, misurare” (.pdf) RagionPratica, 26, 2006, pp. 65-80
7. “Il costruttivismo kantiano”, in Ceri L. and Magni F. (eds.) Reasons of Morals, ETS, Pisa, 2004, pp. 63-84
10. “La pretesa di oggettività in etica” (.pdf), in Usberti G. (ed.) Modi dell'oggettività, Bompiani, Milano, 2000, pp. 7-22
12. “Ragioni imparziali. Hare dal relativismo all'utilitarismo” (.pdf), Annali del Dipartimento di Filosofia di Firenze, 8, 1992, pp. 86-133
(updated September, 2008)