Past seminars


June 7 Ericka Tucker (Marquette University)

“Chatty Kathys and Silent Deliberators: understanding the role of communication in Spinoza’s democracy theory”

Abstract: This talk is part of a chapter in my book: Absolute Democracy: Spinoza’s theory of individual and collective power. In the section before the one I will discuss in this talk, “Large Councils,” I set out Spinoza’s argument in the Political Treatise that all effective forms of polity from monarchy to democracy must have (extremely) large councils. I argue that to understand Spinoza’s democracy theory we need to understand these councils and what their function is supposed to be in the development of the power of states.

While the textual evidence for large councils is relatively straightforward, the epistemic and metaphysical role of these councils is a bit less so. I will approach the question in this talk through trying to categorize Spinoza’s theory within the current theoretical landscape. Justin Steinberg has argued that’s Spinoza is an epistemic democrat. Others have insisted on the imaginative/affective dimension of political agreement. I will argue that the best fit for Spinoza’s view is the Communicative Democracy theory of Iris Young, who celebrated and theorized the epistemic and affective dimensions of democratic communication.

Young often critiqued the rationalist dimensions of deliberation theory from Rousseau to Habermas, to the deliberative democracy theorists of the 1990s. Spinoza , similarly, would find the idea of silent deliberation deeply problematic — individually and collectively. Both Young and Spinoza agree that experiencing the world, talking with others — as many others as possible– is the best way to create strong democracy. Thus, Spinoza can be understood as a ‘communicative democrat’, and the role of large councils can be understood as having both epistemic and affective virtues in Spinoza’s democracy theory.

June 3 Luca Ferrero (University of California, Riverside)

“Temporal Selves?”
Abstract: Temporal selves are common characters in contemporary philosophical works on personal identity, moral psychology, and diachronic rationality. They are used to describe and often explain such phenomena as diachronic inconsistencies, changes of mind, temptation, weakness of will, future-directed intentions. How seriously should we take talk of temporal selves? Are they just a philosophically innocent façon de parler or should they be taken to be real entities, possibly even more fundamental than temporally extended persons? Or are temporal selves just time-slices of persons by analogy with time-slices of any extended entity? In this paper, I will argue that there is a distinctive notion of ’temporal self’—a moral psychological one—which helps account for the distinctive temporal conflicts faced by extended beings like us, beings whose executive capacities are limited to the present time but whose cognition, cares, and standpoint extend over a much larger span of time and in the mode of temporal integration rather than just temporal continuity. I will close with some tentative suggestions about the role of temporal selves in accounting for temporal personal identity.

April 26 Tiia Sudenkaarne (University of Helsinki / Tampere University)

“AMR (Bio)Ethics: Reconfiguring Justice in a Queer Feminist, Posthumanist Framework”

Abstract: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been declared by the WHO as one of the top ten global public health threats facing humanity. Following the definition by WHO, AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. The risks deemed worthy of consideration are often those to human health. Yet increasingly, AMR seriously endangers the health, wellbeing and survival of ecosystems and more-than-human-animals.

From a moral philosophical viewpoint, it can be argued that humans are exceptionally accountable for AMR. Yet moral components like accountability, rights, duties and principles in their dominant frameworks seem to offer dissatisfying solutions to issues such as AMR as its managed by steep injustices that are disproportionate between humans but also have more-than-human impact. Indeed, AMR presses urgent dilemmas that consistently raise the most difficult ethical questions: how to manage conflicting interests of environments, more-than-human animals and humans in an ethically sustainable way? In this talk, I suggest how these issues could be approached with justice as an ethical principle.

Crucially, however, ethically sustainable resolutions require new frameworks to define and apply the principle of justice. I begin my discussing bioethical principlism: its relation to AMR and its queer feminist critiques. I then analyze the issues with current ethical frameworks of AMR, focusing on the critique of human exceptionalism. In dialogue with the concepts of and discussions around multispecies justice and ecojustice, I then offer my queer feminist posthumanist framework. Further, I strive for bioethics in which the “bio” is not limited to human life, without losing intersectional insight into the existing social justice issues between groups of people. I also discuss future plans to elaborate my framework with the concepts of vulnerability and care.

April 5 Johanna Ahola-Launonen (Aalto University)

“Technological optimism and the sense of justice”
Abstract: The debate on emerging technologies, their impact, and their role in addressing global and societal challenges is polarized between technological optimism and pessimism across disciplines. Both views present themselves as rational, non-dogmatic intellectual responses. This creates political lock-ins and contradictions in how these challenges should be addressed. In this paper, I argue that we lack a set of conceptual and normative tools that would enable a meaningful discussion of technological optimism and a comprehensive understanding of its implications. First, I propose a conceptual distinction between harmful and beneficial technological optimism. This normative building bridge eases the thick attributes that originate from the analytical-descriptive accounts of the philosophy of technology. Secondly, I argue that there is a normative connection between technological optimism and the sense of justice. Beliefs about technological progress contribute to sociotechnical imaginaries, that is, collectively held and disputed, institutionally stabilized, and publicly performed visions of the future. These visions also contain perceptions of the circumstances of justice, such as the circumstance of moderate scarcity. I argue that technological optimism affects expectations of available resources, which also emerges present-day views of, for example, how burdens and benefits in sustainability transitions should be distributed.

March 29 Antti Kauppinen (University of Helsinki)

“Saying Sorry”

Abstract: Apologizing when we’re responsible for wrongdoing is an important stage in repairing a damaged relationship. But we also say sorry when we’ve been blamelessly involved in harm to others, most famously in cases of bad moral luck, but also cases of harm that results from justified action or even just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many have recently argued that we can and should take responsibility for what we’ve done in these cases. I reject these arguments, and suggest instead that these quasi- and pseudo-apologies are part of a responsibility ritual, in which both the agent and the victim have certain assigned roles that have to be sincerely performed in order to achieve the desired psychological effect. This piece of theatre serves to mend a relationship that is only threatened by the non-culpable act because of our epistemic limitations and imperfect rationality. Insofar as saying sorry here constitutes taking responsibility, it’s a matter of taking forward-looking responsibility for initiating the repair of the threatened moral or personal relationship.


October 24 Michael Cholbi (University of Edinburgh)

Voting and duties to self”

A number of philosophers are normative skeptics about voting, denying both that we have a moral duty to vote and that voting is prudentially rational. Here I explore whether such skepticism can be rebutted (or at least sidestepped) by recasting voting as a self-regarding moral concern. The thesis that we have a duty to ourselves to vote is supported by a broadly Kantian argument resting on the duty to secure for ourselves the conditions of our external freedom. That the duty to vote is a duty to oneself also explains several phenomenological features of voting and accounts for plausible ethical claims about mandated voting, the importance of being an informed voter, and the conditions for enfranchisement.

October 12 Charlie Kurth (Western Michigan University / HCAS)

Kantian Moral Anxiety”

Moral anxiety is the unease that we experience in the face of a novel or difficult moral decision, an unease that helps us recognize the significance of the issue we face and engages epistemic behaviors aimed at helping us work through it (reflection, information gathering, etc.). But recent discussions in philosophy raise questions about the value of moral anxiety (do we really do better when we’re anxious?); and work in cognitive science challenges its psychological plausibility (is there really such an emotion?). Drawing on Kant and Kantians, I develop a model of moral anxiety that highlights both its empirical credentials and its distinctive value. Kant, it turns out, was an early—and sophisticated—dual-process theorist.


May 24 Aki-Mauri Huhtinen (National Defence University)

“Reflections from Ukraine Information Influence”

Abstract: The Ukraine War is the first real media and information war. We can say the first TikTok war. Information environment is constantly networked and rhizomatic as nature so the traditional warfare becomes documented, especially in social media. Ukraine has more strategic level influence than the Kremlin during the war. One main reason is Ukraine’s ability to network between local level online information to the international audiences. In addition, president Zelenskyi’s personal talent to use and crowdsource the western audience to support Ukraine’s defence is the key element of the success in information environment. The first time in history, also the big technological companies have taken a part of Ukraine support as to take a political side. The Kremlin information war machine has located as a hedgehog defence to control its own citizenships in Russia.

April 27 Sara Protasi (Puget Sound)

“Envy and Prejudice: The Role of Envy in a Racially Divided Public Sphere”

Abstract: In recent times philosophers of emotions have started investigating the role of anger, hatred, fear, and contempt in relation to racism and racial injustice. Envy, however, has been so far ignored. In this talk I start remedying this lacuna by asking what role group envy may play in racial relations. I suggest that different forms of malicious envy play a central role in anti-Asian racism, in particular, and explore the possibility that more benign forms of envy may drive positive, if limited, political change.

March 30 Sarah Paul (NYU Abu Dhabi)

“Constrained Pragmatism”

Can practical and moral considerations make a difference to what we ought to believe?  There are good reasons to think that they can, in at least some circumstances.  Our practical interests and cognitive limitations seem relevant to whether and how we should be open to new evidence, and the stakes of being wrong seem to bear on how much evidence we need to be justified in believing.  But few philosophers wish to embrace radical forms of pragmatism that place no restrictions on the kinds of considerations that can make a difference, and thus allow factors like bribes and threats to affect what we ought to believe.  Alex Worsnip (2020) poses a dilemma for those tempted by pragmatism, arguing that there may be no “moderate” stopping-point between an anti-pragmatist view and extreme versions of pragmatism.  I will articulate and defend a “constrained” version of pragmatism that largely avoids Worsnip’s dilemma, and draw out two competing ways of filling in the details of this kind of view (based on joint work with Daniel Fogal).


September 29 Zoë Johnson King (University of Southern California):

“Reluctant Heroes”

ABSTRACT: The paper is Janus-faced, using some philosophy to explicate some empirical phenomena and then using some empirical phenomena to challenge some philosophy. Part 1 summarizes the empirical phenomena that will be my focus: the praise and gratitude heaped on essential workers during the first few months of the pandemic, the mixed reception with which this praise and gratitude was met, the surrounding material conditions that essential workers faced, and their testimony about what has motivated them to continue working in-person despite the hazardous conditions. Part 2 uses the concepts of supererogation and volitional necessity to substantiate some criticisms of the idea that essential workers are “heroes” that have been leveled by essential workers themselves (as detailed in 1); I explain three ways in which this idea is misleading and one in which it can be manipulative. Part 3 then uses testimony from essential workers about their attitudes toward their work (again from 1) to challenge the classical view that overcoming contrary inclinations to get oneself to act well is “enkratic”, but not fully virtuous, since a fully virtuous person has no contrary inclinations. I argue that essential workers’ complex relationship to their work during the pandemic shows this view to be false.

October 27 Andrew Y. Lee (University of Oslo):

“Consciousness Makes Things Matter”

ABSTRACT: Philosophers often debate what makes one better or worse off, but seldom debate what makes an entity the kind of thing that can be better or worse off in the first place. The first question concerns welfare goods; the second question concerns welfare subjects. This paper defends a phenomenal theory of welfare subjects, according to which consciousness is what makes an entity a welfare subject. On this view, the set of conscious subjects is identical to the set of welfare subjects. Alongside developing the phenomenal theory, I also address some underexplored questions about how a theory of welfare subjects ought to relate to a theory of welfare goods, and how we should think about welfare level zero.

November 24 Matthieu Queloz (Oxford):

“The Practical Origin of Ideas: Genealogy as Conceptual Reverse-Engineering”

ABSTRACT: Why would philosophers interested in the points or functions of our conceptual practices bother with genealogical explanations if they can focus directly on paradigmatic examples of the practices we now have? To answer this question, I compare the method of pragmatic genealogy advocated by Edward Craig, Bernard Williams, and Miranda Fricker—a method whose singular combination of fictionalising and historicising has met with suspicion—with the simpler method of paradigm-based explanation. Fricker herself has recently moved towards paradigm-based explanation, arguing that it is a more perspicuous way of reaping the same explanatory pay-off as pragmatic genealogy while dispensing with its fictionalising and historicising. My aim is to determine when and why the reverse movement from paradigm-based explanation to pragmatic genealogy remains warranted. I argue that the fictionalising and historicising of pragmatic genealogy is well motivated, and I outline three ways in which the method earns its keep: by successfully handling historically inflected practices which paradigm-based explanation cannot handle; by revealing and arguing for connections to generic needs we might otherwise miss; and by providing comprehensive views of practices that place and relate the respects in which they serve both generic and local needs.


January 27 Max Lewis (University of Helsinki)

“What’s Wrong with Requesting Reciprocity?”

ABSTRACT: Can it be morally wrong to request that a loved one reciprocate for a kind gesture—even when they have pro tanto moral reason to do so? Laskowski & Silver (forthcoming) argue that certain cases of requesting reciprocation are morally wrong because they constitute the expression of a disrespectful attitude toward the requestee. In this paper, I cast doubt on their argument and provide an alternative explanation for why certain cases of requesting reciprocation seem normatively problematic. First, I argue that the cases they present do not support the claim that such requests are morally wrong. Second, I argue that their account relies on an implausible view about how epistemically partial we must be toward our intimates. Finally, I argue that even if their explanation of why certain cases of requesting reciprocation are normatively problematic were correct, it wouldn’t explain how requesting (as opposed to asserting, demanding, or asking) makes a moral difference.  I then propose an alternative explanation of what is wrong with their cases of requesting reciprocation. Roughly, the problem with requesting reciprocation from a loved one is that it interferes with the requestee’s ability to act for the right reason (e.g., from gratitude or out of appreciation) and it prevents the act of reciprocating from signaling to the requester that the requestee actually acted for the right reason and therefore appreciates their gesture.

February 10 Tuomo Tiisala (University of Helsinki)

“Ethics of Understanding”

ABSTRACT: It is widely accepted that also concepts, not only propositional attitudes, require scrutiny. But why should I exert rational control over the concepts that define my understanding? In addition to epistemic motivation, I argue, there is an independent ethical obligation for a concept-user to subject her concepts to rational evaluation and potential revision. Granted that one accepts autonomy as the ethical ideal, understanding, too, not only the will, requires ethical attention. Specifically, the ideal of autonomy demands one to exercise rational control over the concepts that define one’s understanding. In contrast to the burgeoning field of conceptual ethics, however, my argument reveals a line of preparatory work one is required to undertake in order to bring concepts into the purview of rational control, in the first place. The work is needed to make explicit the inferential structure of a concept, which is what allows for its rational evaluation and revision in a piecemeal fashion, as Brandom has shown. This quest for semantic self-consciousness may be motivated by epistemic values (knowledge, truth), but I argue that the ideal of autonomy generates an independent ethical obligation to pursue it. Because understanding cannot be exhausted in representational terms, however, the ethical obligation to pursue semantic self-consciousness gives rise to a new problem of “structural heteronomy,” which I will also address.

February 22 * Joint Session with Perspectives on Science Seminar, 2:15 pm * 

Antti Kauppinen (University of Helsinki): “How Not to Make Trade-Offs Between Health and Other Goods”

ABSTRACT: In the context of a global pandemic, there is good health-based reason for governments to impose various social distancing measures. However, in addition to health benefits, such measures also cause economic and other harms. In this paper, I look at proposals to make use of existing QALY (quality-adjusted life year) valuations and WELLBYs (wellbeing-adjusted life-years) as the currency for making trade-offs between health and other goods. I argue that both methods are problematic. First, whether the costs and benefits are translated into money or well-being, the result is that morally irrelevant utilities are weighed against morally relevant ones. Second, neither of these approaches can capture the fundamental moral asymmetry between doing and allowing harm, since they construe trade-offs in terms of outcomes while ignoring information about the role of various agents in the causal chains that bring them about. I conclude that deliberation about trade-offs should remain a messy and communal process that can’t be replaced with well-intentioned calculation.

February 24 Andrew Reisner (University of Uppsala)

“Not fittingness, not reasons, and not value: Against the ‘first’ views”

ABSTRACT: This is part of a book project, The Pragmatic Foundations of Theoretical Reason, in which I explore the claim that both alethic and pragmatic reasons for belief are basic, but that they share a pragmatic foundation in a pluralist theory of wellbeing in which being in a positive epistemic state is a non-derivative component of wellbeing. This chapter argues that all three of fittingness first, reasons first, and value first views are false. It does so by showing that fittingness and reasons both have unalike variance conditions with respect to value, i.e. that sometimes the value of something can switch from good to bad or bad to good without there being any change in whether it is fitting to favour it or whether there are reason to favour it. This is a form of an argument from under-generation following on earlier work by Jonathan Dancy, Christopher Heathwood, Krister Bykvist and Andrew Reisner, respectively. It is also more tentatively that reasons cannot be analysed in terms of correctness. Because the the arguments in this paper concern the extensional adequacy of the various bi-conditionals linking fittingness, reasons, and value, they suffice for rejecting even modest versions of ‘-first’ views that do not purport to provide analyses, but rather only sets of correctness conditions for, e.g., reasons and value in terms of fittingness, or any two in terms of the third.

March 10 Jonathan Mitchell (University of Manchester)

“Experienced Mandates: Towards A Hybrid Account”

ABSTRACT: Our perceptual experiences are plausibly sensitive to a range of properties, as qualifying the objects of those experiences, which can only be adequately characterised by reference to certain kinds of bodily action, or more precisely the possibility of (or opportunity for) certain kinds of bodily-action. Here are examples: we might think that we perceptually experience – given the relevant background conditions are met, and we possess the relevant abilities and skills – trees asclimbable, walls as scalable, apples as edible, lips as kissable, obstacles as movable (call these Φ-able properties). In this paper I focus on a particular subset of experiences in which action properties are putatively represented, namely those in which, to put it metaphorically, objects (or situations) in our perceptual surroundings or environment ‘call out’ or ‘demand’ that certain actions be carried out. Susanna Siegel has provided the most detailed account of such experiences in the philosophy of perception, labelling them experienced mandates (EMs hereafter). Her approach is to build all the distinctiveness of such experiences into their intentional content. I call this the ‘complex contents’ view. Here I argue that the complex contents view is unsatisfactory. As an alternative, and drawing on recent developments in the literature on affordance perception, I present an alternative, namely that EMs involve a (distinctive) kind of bodily potentiation best understood as a kind of felt action readiness. I go on to outline a hybrid account, which combines important content-based features of EMs with this form of action-readiness.

March 24 Sergio Tenenbaum (University of Toronto)

Action First Instrumental Rationality and Risk

In Rational Powers in Action (Oxford, forthcoming), I defend what might be called an “action-first” conception of instrumental rationality; that is, a conception of instrumental rationality that takes intentional action as the fundamental category of the theory of instrumental rationality. In this talk, I will first explain more precisely the commitments of an action-first model as well as the central tenets of the specific version of the model I defend. I then outline the main attractions and advantages of such a view, especially with regards of how it can deal with the extended nature of agency. However, the model seems to face a major obstacle. The central principles of the model seem to have no application for risky contexts: its two central principles (a means-end principle of derivation and a coherence principle that requires the agent not to pursue incompatible ends) presuppose a context of knowledge for their proper application. I try to show, however, that there are promising ways to extend this model to contexts of risk and uncertainty, and that the model can both incorporate the insights of decision theory in some of these contexts, as well as providing plausible accounts of ordinary choice dispositions that are puzzling from the point of view of orthodox decision theory

April 7 Daniele Lorenzini (University of Warwick)

“Epistemic Injustice and Regimes of Truth”

ABSTRACT: Amy Allen has recently argued that Michel Foucault should be considered a theorist of epistemic injustice avant la lettre. In this paper, I complicate her claim by showing that, while Foucault’s work can indeed prove invaluable to address issues of epistemic injustice, the ways in which it can do so are not so straightforward and have consequently been overlooked. First, I discuss Miranda Fricker’s criticism of Foucault: I argue that the crux of the problem lies in her claim that the epistemic injustice framework relies on a clear-cut distinction between “what we have a reason to think” and “what mere relations of power are doing to our thinking.” Drawing from Frantz Fanon’s psychiatric writings, I show that sharply drawing this distinction is often impossible in practice, as well as detrimental to the cultivation of precisely the epistemic virtues (notably the virtue of hermeneutical justice) Fricker recommends. I then suggest a way out of this impasse: Foucault’s final elaboration of the notions of games and regimes of truth lays the foundations for a non-reductionistic epistemic pluralism that resolves the problems I identified in Fricker’s account. Finally, I address the principal objection to which my own account is vulnerable: that Foucault’s genealogical project lacks the normative resources necessary to avoid relativism. I argue that this conclusion, reached even by scholars sympathetic to Foucault such as José Medina, is unwarranted: Foucault’s genealogies derive normative significance from what I call their possibilizing and we-making dimensions.

April 21 David Estlund (Brown University)

“Proceduralism and Structural Injustice: What’s Wrong and What’s Not?”

ABSTRACT: It is common to understand structural injustice as a kind of wrong (and not just something bad, like a hurricane) that is irrespective of any agent’s wrong. However, if wrongness is understood to warrant attitudes such as grievance and resentment, it is far from clear how it could inhere in social structure itself irrespective of wrongs of agents. Pending a solution to that culprit problem, I sketch and consider a purely procedural account of just and unjust basic social structure. A basic social structure can generate pure procedurally just outcome—outcomes grounding duties of support and acceptance—but only if structured in certain ways. When the basic structure is not so structured, while it is not a wrong (circumventing the culprit problem) it warrants a lack of (that kind of) respect for its outcomes, a kind of contempt. It is thus a moral matter in a standard sense, bearing as it does both on agents’ duties and on associated moral attitudes. Even if there’s no culprit problem, such a purely procedural account—which, I’ll argue, may be Rawls’s view—faces an important complication for the normative interpretation of democratic political procedure (a sub-system of the overall basic structure) if it is meant (as it is on Rawls’s and many other views) to partly aim at substantively just decisions.

May 5 Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin)

“Remaking the Demos ‘From Below’? Critical Theory, Migrant Struggles, and Epistemic Resistance”

ABSTRACT: Starting from Martin Luther King’s famous remark that political struggle seeks to “create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community is forced to confront the issue”, this paper explores the ways in which different forms of ‘street politics’ – direct action, civil disobedience, irregular migration – can not only be seen as responses to, but active ‘agents’ in producing crises as well as (critical, emancipatory) knowledge about them. These forms of ‘politics from below’ are not only be understood as – often quite sophisticated and theoretically informed – forms of critique, but their epistemological significance goes further because it is often precisely those who are subjected to social oppression and thereby epistemically marginalized who turn out to be epistemically privileged with regard to identifying crises for what they are. Building on empirical analyses of migrant and refugee activism and the ways in which it theorizes, denaturalizes and politicizes borders, the paper explores the production of knowledge within social movements and its implications for democratic theory.

May 17 Carla Bagnoli (University of Modena & Reggio Emilia)

*Joint Session with Perspectives on Science Seminar, 2:15 pm* 

The Objective Stance and the Boundary Problem“.

ABSTRACT: This paper investigates some unexplored ambivalences of Strawson’s distinction between the participant stance marked by reactive attitudes, and the objective stance in which such attitudes are deemed inappropriate. First, it is introduced a distinction between recipient-oriented and agent-oriented reasons for taking the objective stance, which are both practical reasons rooted in the agent’s position. The former category of reasons refers to the recipient’s capacities for moral agency, and the latter to the agent’s interests and concerns. Second, it is shown that taking the objective stance for recipient-oriented reasons (i) is a moral move, which alters one’s normative relation to others; and (ii) it may have severe disempowering effects on others. Third, departing from current debates, this investigation refocuses on cases in which the objective stance is grounded on self-defensive or adversarial reasons. The examination of such cases shows that the objective/participant divide stands behind and organizes the complex dynamics through which moral membership is negotiated. Once agent-oriented reasons are brought into focus, it appears that the divide is contestable and renegotiable: the boundaries of the relevant community can be altered by claiming and reclaiming responsibility. Correspondingly, reactive attitudes should be acknowledged as means and drives of the struggle for moral and political recognition

May 19 Amie Thomasson (Dartmouth College)

“How Can We Come to Know Metaphysical Modal Truths?”

Abstract: Those who aim to give an account of modal knowledge face two challenges: the Integration Challenge of reconciling an account of what is involved in knowing modal truths with a plausible story about how we can come to know them, and the Reliability Challenge of giving a plausible account of how we would have evolved a reliable capacity to acquire modal knowledge. I argue that recent counterfactual and dispositional accounts of modal knowledge cannot solve these problems regarding specifically metaphysical modal truths—leaving us with the threat of skepticism about large portions of metaphysics, and certain other areas of philosophy. I argue, however, that both of these problems look insuperable only if we assume that metaphysical modal discourse serves a describing or tracking function. If we adopt instead a normativist approach to metaphysical modal discourse, which sees the basic function of modal discourse as giving us perspicuous ways of conveying, reasoning with, and renegotiating semantic rules, the problems show up very differently. The modal normativist can give a plausible response to both of the classic problems of how we can come to know metaphysical modal truths.

May 24th Bruno Verbeek (Leiden University) 
Joint session with the Perspectives on Science seminar
Instrumentalism vs. Isolationism, on the appropriateness of special principles of taxation
ABSTRACTIs there justice in taxation? When reading contemporary theories of distributive justice one easily gets the impression that institutional design is merely instrumentally relevant for the implementation of the favored conception of justice. This is especially the case when thinking about the tax regime. For example, Liam Murphy and Tom Nagel in The Myth of Ownership argue that the moral evaluation of a tax regime boils down to assessing whether it is effective and efficient in realizing the preferred overall pattern of distribution. As a result, they claim that there are no special, domain-specific, normative principles for taxation. In this paper, I discuss four arguments for this negative conclusion and show that these are inconclusive. I also suggest some reasons to believe that the question whether the tax system is just is not exhausted by determining its contribution to a just distribution of burdens and benefits.


30.9. Mitchell (King’s College, London) & Alexandrova (Cambridge)

Well-Being and Pluralism

In this paper, we argue that a genuinely joined-up philosophy and science of well-being needs to embrace pluralism. Tendencies towards conceptual and methodological monism in well-being scholarship, which are clearly visible in the rising prominence and application of the construct of life-satisfaction, are, we argue, worrying and misguided. Our concerns are not merely academic—constructs and measures of well-being are increasingly used as a decision-making tool in healthcare and public policy, and the consequences of using tools which fail to take seriously the conceptual complexity and epistemic uncertainty of well-being and its measurement have the potential to be widespread and grave.

 October 21st Regina Rini (York University, Toronto)

Microaggression: Perceptions and Blame

A microaggression is a small act of insult or indignity, relating to a person’s membership in a socially oppressed group, which seems minor on its own but plays a part in significant systemic harm. Though the concept was coined in 1970, microaggressions have been the focus of intense public debate in recent years. My forthcoming book The Ethics of Microaggression places the concept in philosophical and social context. For this workshop, I present two chapters from the book. One deals with the conceptual and psychological foundations of microaggression: what does it take for something to count as a microaggression, and whose perceptions are most reliable? The second focuses on the difficulty of moral responsibility for microaggression, arguing that it is a poor target for traditional philosophical concepts of blame as backward-looking, but requires development of the neglected category of forward-looking ‘proleptic’ blame.

November 4th Margit Sutrop (University of Tartu & Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies)
What Is Involved in a Complex Notion of Trust?
Abstract: According to the standard view trust is a kind of reliance plus some extra factor. The difference is in reactive attitudes – trust can be betrayed, not just disappointed. However, this standard view is not without its problems. Firstly, not all forms of trust seem to involve reliance. Secondly, it is not certain whether every form of breached trust necessarily results in a feeling of betrayal. Thirdly, it does not seem to be sufficient to describe the nature of trust in terms of reliance combined with our reactive attitudes. We want to know what one must do in order to trust, besides reliance plus the readiness to feel in certain ways after successfully or unsuccessfully placing trust. Furthermore, such a distinction between trust and reliance does not seem to make sense in languages where there is just one word for both of them (e.g. in Estonian usaldus, in Finnish luottamus, in German Vertrauen).  

In this talk I am going to show that in order to answer the question of what is involved in trust, one must distinguish between its different forms: 1) self-trust (A trusts A); 2) trusting some other person (A trusts B);  3) trusting somebody or something to do something (A trusts B to do C). I agree with Domenicucci and Holton (2017) that we should begin by describing two-place trust (A trusts B) before proceeding to analyse three-place trust (A trusts B with C), which involves reliance. 

My brief description of the three forms of trust is as follows: whereas self-trust (one-place trust) involves confidence in one’s ability to control one’s mind and body and to fulfil one’s aims, trusting somebody else (two-place trust) entails taking a risk and giving up power or control. One makes oneself vulnerable both by refraining from taking precautionary measures as well as refraining from collecting further evidence concerning the trustee’s trustworthiness. Three-place trust may take the form either of a practical or a moral relationship. In a practical relationship of trust, A trusts B as well as relies on B to do something, arranging her life around the predictive expectation that B will do C. In a moral relationship of trust, A trusts B and relies on B with C, expecting her both predictively and normatively to fulfil a moral commitment, as well as tacitly demanding it.

 November 11th, R. Jay Wallace (Berkeley)
Resentment and Power: On the Social Dynamics of Blame
Abstract: Our practices of moral accountability involve reactive attitudes in the general key of anger, such as resentment and indignation. I argue that these attitudes involve forms of social power, and I consider the implications of this fact for the understanding and assessment of reactive blame. There are characteristic pathologies of blame that are intelligible when we see it as the exercise of social power. But the connection to power also helps us to see why it is important that we have these reactions in our emotional repertoire.
November 18th, from 4:15-5:45 pm.
David Enoch (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Levi Spectre (Open University of Israel)
There Is No Such Thing as Doxastic Wrongdoing
Abstract: People are often offended by beliefs, expect apologies for beliefs, apologize for their own beliefs. In many mundane cases, people are morally criticized for their beliefs. Intuitively, then, beliefs seem to sometimes wrong people. Recently, the philosophical literature has picked up on this theme, and has started to discuss it under the heading of doxastic wrongdoing. In this paper we argue that despite the strength of such initial intuitions, at the end of the day they have to be rejected. If it can be ever truthfully asserted that beliefs wrong, this is always derivative – beliefs wrong only in virtue of other things (like evidence-gathering actions) wronging. We distinguish between modest and ambitious doxastic wrongdoing theories (the former deny, while the latter accept, the possibility of a morally wrong yet epistemically permissible belief); we argue that each of these options faces insurmountable problems; and we offer partly debunking explanations of the intuitions purportedly supporting doxastic wrongdoing.
 November 25th Jake McNulty (New York University)
Justice as the Constitutive Norm of Shared Agency in Rousseau’s Social Contract
Abstract: Kantian constitutivists, like Velleman and Korsgaard, argue that there are norms internal to individual agency. Yet as Gilbert and others have argued there may be norms internal to shared agency as well. Might political principles of justice be norms of this second kind? I turn to the history of philosophy for an answer, focusing on Rousseau’s classic work the Social Contract. Rousseau is much better known as a social contract theorist – but I argue that he is also a constitutivist about group agency. This means he is a thinker for whom success or failure in realizing the demands of justice is nothing other than success or failure in acting together. Interpretively, this approach has the advantage of explaining away the appearance of totalitarian tendencies in Rousseau’s thinking (“the general will is always right”). Philosophically, it has the advantage of revealing in Rousseau’s writings what I believe is a unique type of social contract theory, resolutely non-hypothetical and normatively robust. In the closing sections, I respond Rousseau’s behalf to a common objection to constitutivism, Enoch’s “schmagency” objection. I also revisit the oft-raised question of Rousseau’s relation to Rawls in light of the interpretation of the former proposed here.
December 2nd Holly M. Smith(Rutgers)
Moral Decision Guides: Counsels of Morality or Counsels of Rationality?
Abstract: Many moral philosophers advocate the use of decision guides (such as “Maximize expected value” or “Do what’s most likely to be right”) to help agents make decisions when they are uncertain about the circumstances or consequences of their actions. Such decision guides enable agents to apply their moral theory indirectly to their choices when direct application is impossible. But what are these decision guides?  Some theorists view them as a special kind of moral principle, while others view them as generic principles of rational choice.  In this paper I explore this debate, and argue that the decision guides used to make moral decisions  must be accepted as a special kind of moral principle.
Bio: Holly M. Smith is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Philosophy at Rutgers University and Distinguished Research Associate at The University of California, Berkeley. She has also held appointments at Tufts University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and the University of Arizona. Her publications principally focus on topics in normative ethics, moral decision making, the theory of moral responsibility, and bio-medical ethics. In Making Morality Work (Oxford University Press, 2018), she explores how moral theories should accommodate the errors, ignorance, and misunderstandings that impede us as moral decision makers. Her current projects propose new strategies for weighing the stringency of deontological duties, for identifying and evaluating an agent’s alternatives in the context of normative theories, and for understanding supererogatory and suberogatory actions.
December 9th Fabrice Teroni & Julien Deonna (Geneva)
Which Attitudes Fit the Fitting Attitude Analysis of Value?
Abstract: According to the Fitting Attitude (FA) analysis of value concepts, to conceive of an object as having a given value is to conceive of it as being such that a certain evaluative attitude taken towards it would be fitting. Among the challenges that this analysis has to face, two are especially pressing. The first is a psychological challenge: the FA analysis must call upon attitudes that shed light on our value concepts while not presupposing the mastery of these concepts. The second challenge is normative: the FA analysis must account for the fittingness of the relevant attitudes in terms of a kind of normativity intimately related to these attitudes, but again without presupposing the mastery of the relevant value concepts. In this talk, we argue that real progress is possible if we pay close attention to the nature of the attitudes recruited by the analysis. More specifically, we argue that an FA analysis that appeals to emotions conceived as evaluative attitudes – as opposed to, for instance, evaluative judgements or evaluative perceptions – has the best prospects of meeting the two challenges and of putting the FA analysis on a strong footing.


5.2.2020 Antti Kauppinen (University of Helsinki)

Imperativism about Affective Valence

Time: 14:15–15:45
Place: Lecture Room 11, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

According to intentionalism about phenomenal character, conscious mental states feel the way they do in virtue of their content (or vice versa). Recently, it has become popular to explain why affective states (pleasure and pains, emotions, and moods) feel good or bad – their valence – in terms of their non-conceptual evaluative content. In this paper, I argue the evaluativist approach leaves crucial questions open. Generalizing arguments made in the contexts of recent accounts of pain, I hold that valence is instead explained by the imperatival content of affective experiences, together with their non-evaluative indicative content. Crudely, affective experiences tell us to see to it, if possible, that the sort of state of affairs referred to in their indicative content will or will not obtain in the future. Such imperatives have authority derived from a relevant background concern, and intensity defined in terms of the opportunity cost they tell us to bear to satisfy them. By virtue of familiar psychological mechanisms of projection, they result in affective seemings – certain things appear as to-be-pursued or to-be-avoided. I explain how this conception of generalized imperativism avoids familiar objections to earlier variants, and point to some analogies with non-cognitivist views of normative judgment.

Antti Kauppinen is Professor of Practical Philosophy in University of Helsinki.

26.2.2020 Vilma Venesmaa (University of Helsinki)

Why the triviality of normative supervenience is a non-issue

Time: 14:15–15:45
Place: Room A110, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

A paper co-authored with Teemu Toppinen.

It is commonly believed that normative supervenience is easily trivialized by defining the set of base properties that normative properties supervene on as the unrestricted class of descriptive properties. The idea is that since some descriptive properties of things are non-repeatable in the sense that they cannot be shared by distinct individuals, it trivially follows that necessarily, if something x has some normative property F, it has some descriptive property G such that everything that has G has F. For we may always assume that G is a non-repeatable property, in which case the fact that x has both G and F is enough for it to be the case that everything that has G has F. This has motivated numerous discussions about how the set of base properties should be restricted to save normative supervenience from triviality. For it is often thought that in order for the metaphysical and epistemological explanation challenges arising from normative supervenience to get off the ground, there must be some way of formulating normative supervenience that is not in danger of being trivially true.

In this paper we defend the view that this worry about triviality is not well-founded. Having first clarified what’s at stake here, we explain how, contrary to what is generally assumed, an unrestricted formulation of normative supervenience is not trivially true. The key here will be to pay close attention to our judgements about the identity of possible worlds and modal location and how they are affected by the assumption that normative supervenience holds. Once we do this, we see that the kind of non-repeatable properties that have been thought to trivialize normative supervenience fall into one of two categories. First, they may turn out not to be descriptive properties at all but rather tacitly normative ones, in which case what is trivial is not that the normative supervenes on the descriptive but that it supervenes on the tacitly normative. Alternatively, they may fail to trivialize normative supervenience for the reason that the supposed explanation for how they do so tacitly depends on normative supervenience itself.

We then close the paper by arguing against the underlying assumption that the availability of a trivial explanation for the truth of normative supervenience would undermine the metaphysical and epistemological explanation challenges arising from our commitment to it. Rejecting this view, we argue that even if we assume, contrary to the facts, that normative supervenience is trivially true, this leaves the relevant explanation challenges intact.

Vilma Venesmaa is a doctoral student of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.

4.3.2020 Hille Paakkunainen (Syracuse University)

Virtue and Practical Inference

Time: 14:15–15:45
Place: Lecture room 11, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

I start by explaining why it’s intuitively plausible that the character virtues and vices are, inter alia, dispositions of practical inference. Their proper role in an agent’s psychology is, among other things, to facilitate practical inferences from certain kinds of premises (about the choice situation at hand) to acting, intending or desiring in certain ways. I then use this claim to argue against the Humean Theory of Motivation, explaining why the Humean Theory cannot adequately account for this role for the virtues and vices. In the process, I also explain why there are, in any case, no compelling arguments in favor of the Humean Theory, and I sketch a rough model for how we should think of the character virtues and vices as dispositions of practical inference instead, if the Humean model way of thinking about them fails.

Hille Paakkunainen is associate professor of philosophy at Syracuse University. She works in Metaethics, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Action. Most of her work thus far concerns the nature of various normative phenomena, such as having a good reason for doing something, or being justified in believing something; and the relationship between such phenomena and forms of reasoning or agency.

22.4.2020 Tuomo Tiisala (University of Helsinki)

Structural Heteronomy

Time: Wednesday 22nd April 16:15–17:45

Location: The seminar will take place as an online conference via the university supported application Zoom. Join the Zoom conference here:

Abstract: The ideal of autonomy generates an ethical requirement of self-governing, but not merely in moral psychology. I argue that those who identify autonomy as the guiding ethical value ought to recognize the requirement of self-governing also in the domain of understanding. In other words, the demand for rational endorsement, which the ideal of autonomy expresses, pertains not only to one’s determination of one’s will but essentially to the very concepts one uses to think and to act as well. Reasoning with concepts whose inferential structure one does not endorse is another way in which a subject may be governed by an alien force. In fact, I argue, using the regress of rules, that this type of heteronomy is an unavoidable feature of the structure of conceptual understanding. Because the ground level of understanding consists in knowledge-how, in contrast to knowledge-that, it escapes self-consciousness and rational control – and thus apparently also the ethical requirement of self-governing. This tension between the ideal of autonomy and the pragmatist account of understanding gives rise to a new ethical problem which I call structural heteronomy. Despite being structurally unavoidable, I argue that structural heteronomy demands an ethical response. The response I defend is distinct from the cultivation of virtue in moral psychology, namely a line of ethical work that aims at semantic self-consciousness.

Tuomo Tiisala is a university lecturer in Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.


21st of August: Professor Lisa Herzog (Technische Universität München)

What would it take to turn Facebook into a democracy? Normative ideals and technical challenges

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

A paper co-authored with Severin Engelmann and Jens Grosklags.

When the relation between “Facebook” and “democracy” is discussed, the question usually is: what impact does Facebook – as it exists today – have on democratic processes? In this paper, we ask a different question: what would it mean to turn Facebook into a democracy? Given that social media platforms are here to stay, and have enormous power, it is worth exploring whether they could be governed democratically by their users. In the first part of the paper, we take inspiration from the recent debate about workplace democracy and apply them to social media platforms. We argue that, in principle, it would be desirable that users can hold those who have power over them democratically accountable. However, such a proposal immediately raises questions of feasibility. Therefore, in the following section we integrate philosophical and technical considerations, focusing on the problem of voter individuation and on mechanisms for securing the integrity of the voting process. We then consider the challenge of expert knowledge, e.g. on different technical and financial options, which voters might need to make informed decisions, but which they usually lack. We conclude by considering whether Facebook could indeed be turned into a democracy, or whether other social media networks, with more democratic governance structures, could come to replace it.

18th of September: Kristian Klockars (University of Helsinki)

Political Ontology and Democracy: The Case of Deliberative Democracy 

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 11, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Political ontological issues function as assumptions and conditions of normative conceptions such as those of democracy. The concept of political ontology is here used in a so called post-foundationalist sense to refer to the necessity of such assumptions and conditions, while simultaneously holding them to be historically contingent. As an example, I discuss the so called two-track model of deliberative democracy, as advanced by Habermas, and sift out some of the political ontological assumptions at work there. The main aim is to put the conception in a slightly different perspective in order better to assess its pros and cons. I claim the importance of introducing a wider political ontology on the basis of Lefort’s notion of the political staging of society, especially in order to highlight the power-aspect of democracy. I also claim the importance of nuancing the conception of democracy through an emphasis on the distinction between democracy as egalitarian inclusion and democracy as a certain form of power, a distinction which then in turn refer to the importance of rethinking political ontological issues.

2nd of October: Tarna Kannisto (University of Helsinki)

Between the Private and the Public – On the normative roots of the school institution

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 11, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

In the talk, I consider how the principles of justice guiding the functions and aims of the formal and mandatory basic education, i.e. the school institution, should be defined. If the societal location of an institution – whether inside or outside the society’s basic or public structure – has an influence on the interpretation of the principles of justice, to which societal sphere does the school belong to, and how does this placement effect on questions concerning educational justice? What kind of social institution is the school and to which instances is it morally responsible? On one hand, the school is clearly a public institution because the state regulates, directs and often provides children’s basic education. On the other hand, the private sphere of the society overlaps with school education as the school is obliged to co-operate with the guardians (usually parents) of under-age pupils, and to conduct their education in line with the guardians’ values. In addition, the school meets several other normative and practical demands raising from various institutions of the civil society, such as professions, various associations and the market.

The talk divides into two parts. The first part concerns the relations between the principles of justice and the societal placement institutions, specifically regarding the school. In the second part of the talk, I apply Seumas Miller’s ontological theory on the moral foundations of social institutions to the case of the school in order to analyze its normative ties in more detail. In the talk, I argue that the school institution situates within the intersection of the public, social and private spheres of the society, but that social philosophers have not recognized and sufficiently analyzed this special societal placement. Consequently, it is unclear how the principles of justice should be interpreted in relation with the school institution, and thus an excessive emphasis is often given to the private or social reasons, such as those of the parents, the family, or to other contingent arrangements of the society, when defining the aims, content and institutional structure of children’s formal education. Furthermore, I contend that Miller’s teleological account helps to clarify the normative roots of the school institution, as well as provides a powerful critique against the marketization of children’s education. However, due to the school’s position in the intersection of several societal spheres, there is more work to be done to morally weigh its varying normative commitments.

Tarna Kannisto is a doctoral student of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.

11th of October: David Shoemaker (Tulane University)

Place: Room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

When Tom Brady throws an interception, he yells at himself and pounds his fists on his helmet. When Serena Williams misses a shot, she breaks her racket. When Tiger Woods misses a long putt, he falls to his knees and shakes his head. These athletes are clearly blaming themselves. Surprisingly, though, current theories of blame have a very hard time accounting for such cases. Most theories of blame take other-blame — directly expressed dyadic blame— as their paradigm, typically thought to be a response to poor quality of will or moral wrongdoing and consisting in some kind of relationship-modification, communication, or protest. None of these features seem to apply in the cases of athletic self-blame. Recently, some theorists have taken self-blame to be a more fundamental paradigm than other-blame, but they are focused on self-blame as guilt, which again can’t capture the athletic cases, because Tom, Serena, and Tiger aren’t feeling anything like guilt when they blame themselves. As a result of these problems, I offer a new theory of self-blame, one that starts by theorizing directly about the athletic cases. I draw from some fascinating recent psychological work on the phenomenon of self-talk to make the case that self-blame is in fact very different than other-blame, as is evidenced in a new puzzle I introduce about hypocrisy and its limits.

David Shoemaker is a professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Murphy Institute of Political Economy at Tulane University.

16th of October: Helen Frowe

Defensive Harm and Minimising  Harm

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 11, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

This paper begins by outlining a seeming tension between two plausible claims: first, that one may save oneself from a harm rather than someone else from a somewhat greater harm; second, that one is ordinarily under a duty to minimise harm when saving. I argue that this exception to the duty to minimise harm is explained by the limit on our duty to save. According to the Limited Use View, a duty to save is a duty to make use of oneself, or one’s resources, for the sake of others. We have only limited duties to make use of ourselves in this way; we need not make ourselves useful to others when doing so is either unreasonably costly for us, or conflicts with our other, more stringent duties. By the same token, our claims to be saved are also limited. Others need not make themselves useful to us when doing so imposes too great a cost on them, or conflicts with their other, more stringent duties. Since defensive harming is a type of saving, it falls under the remit of both the Limited Use View, and the duty to minimise harm when saving. As I argue, other-defence is typically subject to the duty to minimise harm; self-defence and the defence of special others is not. Hence, I may sometimes inflict harms on my own behalf, or on behalf of special others, that it would be impermissible to inflict in defence of strangers. I then identify a novel category of joint defence, in which mutually threatened people coordinate their resources to avert a threat. I argue that joint-defence is also exempt from the duty to minimise harm. And, finally, I argue that other-defence can also be exempt from the duty to minimise harm if the defensive action relies upon the resources of the less-imperiled person.

Helen Frowe is Professor of Practical Philosophy in University of Stockholm and the director of the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace. She is the winner of the 2019 Marc Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy.

13th November: Joonas Martikainen (University of Helsinki)

Fracturing in Political Agency as a Result of Experiential Damage

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 29, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Marginalization from political engagement has lately been discussed as a form of ‘capability inequality’, or as the lack of capabilities required by public deliberative engagement. Capability approach theorists are right to call this a form of ‘political poverty’, a form of poverty separate from a lack of material resources. However, this approach does not go far enough in exploring the embodied experiential bases of political engagement. I claim that suffering political poverty can also mean suffering from ‘experiential damage’, or damage done to one’s very perception of oneself and the social world. I engage in a phenomenological diagnostic which attends to the ways political poverty is experienced as the damaging of the affective background of perception. Experiences of poverty and social marginalization can become sedimented in one’s lived habitual body, resulting in the loss of faith in one’s ability to effect any meaningful political change. I identify four different aspects of such experiential damage which seem relevant to public political engagement: loss of trust, loss of expressivity, loss of the public world, and loss of future temporality. This diagnosis appears to agree with a broad set of descriptions of how economically marginalized groups experience their exclusion from public engagement.

Joonas Martikainen is a doctoral student of Practical Philosophy in the University of Helsinki.

27th November: Teemu Toppinen (University of Helsinki)

The inefficacy problem and robustly demanding goods

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 11, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

It often seems that we ought to perform some action, φ (e.g., vote, or refrain from eating factory-farmed meat) despite the fact that our individual actions seem extremely unlikely to make any morally relevant difference (win the election, save a chicken’s life, diminish the harm due to climate change, etc.). This is a striking problem for act-consequentialists who would like to explain the normative status of our actions in terms of their difference-making properties. The problem of explaining our (seeming) reasons in such cases – call this the inefficacy problem – may also be much more general. For instance, it is not clear whether we can explain our moral duties, in cases of the relevant sort, in terms of complicity, the moral significance of which may also depend on our individual actions making some relevant difference.

I propose that it’s much easier for our actions to make a relevant difference than is usually realized. The key is to appeal to a suitable selection of (what Philip Pettit has called) robustly demanding values in our value theory. This move is not ad hoc – it is independently plausible that our value theory is to be enriched in the relevant ways. For instance, enjoying safety requires not just escaping harm in the actual world, but doing so in a wide selection of merely possible worlds. Likewise, enjoying respect or solidarity, say, requires not just receiving a certain kind of assistance and support in the actual world, but having access to such “thinner” goods in a wide range of possible words. Whether our actions violate such robustly demanding values is not simply a matter of the probabilities of the relevant thinner goods being sacrificed. It is a matter of modal distance, or of whether our actions could easily have certain consequences. It would be terribly wrong to secretly point a revolver with one bullet in its cylinder at someone, spin the cylinder, and then pull the trigger. It would not be equally bad to do this with a massive revolver the cylinder of which had, say, 1 000 000 chambers. Yet it would be terribly wrong to do this, too. Why? Plausibly, because doing so would risk a person’s life for no good reason. While my pulling the trigger would be super unlikely to harm anyone, it could easily do so. Playing with someone’s life in this way would fail dramatically in terms of “producing the goods” of safety and respect, despite the very small chance of anyone being harmed.

This idea may also have application in the contexts of the inefficacy problem. For instance, even assuming that my eating factory farmed meat is extremely unlikely to cause suffering and death, it could easily do so – it makes the world less safe for sentient creatures, and lacking in terms of respect and solidarity for them. This gives us reason, also in the act-consequentialist framework, for refraining from eating factory-farmed meat. Plausibly, the relevant reasons are also weighty enough in order to counter-balance the trivial pleasures of eating meat. Similar considerations may support participation in collectively significant (in)action in a wide variety of contexts.

Teemu Toppinen is an Academy Research Fellow at the University of Helsinki.

12th December: Kate Nolfi (University of Vermont)

An Action-Oriented Ethics of Belief

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room A215 (Wing A, 2nd floor), Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Even the most cursory survey of our ordinary epistemic practice reveals a now familiar tension.  On the one hand, our epistemic practice suggests we expect a subject’s beliefs to put them in touch with the facts, and we demand that a subject regulate their beliefs in ways that are responsive to evidence.  On the other hand, we routinely allow that features of a subject’s circumstances which do not bear on the truth of their beliefs sometimes help to determine what the subject ought to believe and/or how the subject ought to regulate their beliefs. In this paper, I argue that a heretofore underexplored approach to epistemic theorizing is especially well-positioned to expose this tension as merely apparent.  Thus, this sort of action-oriented approach has the resources to vindicate our pretheoretical intuition that our beliefs should tether us to the facts, as well as our pretheoretical intuition that sometimes that which does not bear on the truth of our beliefs helps to determine what we ought to believe simultaneously.  As such, I suggest that the action-oriented approach to epistemic theorizing offers less revisionary answers to questions like “what, given my circumstances, ought I believe, what sorts of norms or standards govern belief and belief regulation, and what constitutes ideal belief regulation?” than its more familiar competitors can.  And at least insofar as we adopt what I suggest is an independently attractive way of conceiving of the epistemologist’s theoretical project, this result provides good prima facie reason to embrace the action-oriented approach.

Kate Nolfi ( is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vermont. Her primary research interests lie at the intersection of epistemology, metaethics, and the philosophy of mind.


23rd January: Antti Kauppinen (University of Helsinki)

Ethical Crash Optimization for Self-Driving Vehicles

Time: 14:15–15:45
Place: Lecture room 26, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

The moral importance of liability to harm has so far been ignored in the lively debate about what self-driving vehicles should be programmed to do when an accident is inevitable. But liability matters a great deal to just distribution of risk of harm. While morality sometimes requires simply minimizing relevant harms, this is not so when one party is liable to harm in virtue of voluntarily engaging in activity that foreseeably creates a risky situation. On plausible assumptions, merely choosing to use a self-driving vehicle typically gives rise to a degree of liability, so that such vehicles should be programmed to shift the risk from bystanders to users by default. Insofar vehicles cannot be programmed to take all the factors affecting liability into account, there is a pro tanto moral reason not to introduce them, or restrict their use.

Antti Kauppinen is Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.

6th February 2019: Ilari Aula (London School of Economics)

The ‘Quasi-Foundations’ of Consumer Responsibility

Time: 14:15–15:45
Place: Lecture room 5, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

In public debate, consumers are urged to act upon harms ranging from labour right violations to civil wars and environmental degradation far away. Does the globalisation of supply chains give rise to consumers’ moral responsibility to try to ameliorate harms taking place in global production processes? To answer, I take up John Dewey’s situationist ethics to build a ‘quasifoundationalist’ approach, arguing that traditional ethical theories, by striving for fixed ‘strong’ answers, are insensitive to the contextual and experimentalist nature of ethical inquiry. Instead, I suggest that the ‘weak’ foundation of pragmatism, articulated as a push towards human growth and against suffering, oppression and violence, may nevertheless ground normative claims about responsibility. A pragmatist normative ethics treats consumers’ capacity to make a positive difference to harms in global supply chains as a central yardstick when considering whether they have remedial responsibilities, while remaining sensitive to the transformative nature of assigning responsibility to actors.

Ilari Aula is a PhD Candidate in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics.

27th February 2019: Joonas Martikainen (University of Helsinki)

Political Poverty: A Phenomenological Perspective on Political Passivity

Time: 14:15–15:45
Place: Lecture room 5, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Democratic government is predicated on defending the liberty of its citizens. In most modern liberal democracies this also includes the liberty to not engage in politics, however harmful it might be to one’s interests. However, in cases of  economically and culturally marginalized groups, there is something unsatisfying about leaving the matter at that. To understand why, my dissertation work draws from sociological and phenomenological studies on experiences of social malaise and suffering. They reveal an experienced disconnect between the public world of political engagement, and many disadvantaged groups’ quietly endured frustration with politics that is often hidden from public view. Such circumstances lead many to acquiesce and endure their lot quietly, instead of protesting and acting in their interests. I have, after sociologist Eeva Luhtakallio, decided to call this phenomenon “political poverty”, the socially instituted lack of capabilities and motivation to engage with politics. By focusing on the experiences of frustration, powerlessness and humiliation that seem to underlie political passivity among many disadvantaged groups, it becomes understandable how structures that result in material and symbolic poverty also manufacture political passivity by leading many to despair of their ability to protest.

Joonas Martikainen is a PhD Student of Practical Philosophy in University of Helsinki.

6th March 2019: Sanna Tirkkonen (University of Helsinki/University of Jyväskylä)

Toward a New Philosophy of Loneliness

Time: 14:15–15:45
Place: Lecture room 5, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

In contemporary Western societies the phenomenon of loneliness is recognized as a major social problem. Different experiences of loneliness have been investigated with empirical methods, but philosophers have discussed the theme surprisingly little. When it has been touched upon, the perspective is often that of reflection (Jaspers 1983, Arendt 1978, Mijuskovic 2012). Hannah Arendt, for example, understands loneliness as the incapability of keeping oneself company by maintaining a dialogue with oneself – a thought process – in the absence of others. When this view is repeated in research literature on loneliness and its cognitive aspects emphasized, the conclusion is that the subject who experiences loneliness should adopt an attitude of acceptance and turn the experience of loneliness into a pleasant state of solitude (Svendsen 2015, Kurtz 1983).

The problem with the cognitive approach to loneliness is that it tells us very little about how it actually feels to experience oneself lonely. Therefore, Martin Heidegger’s philosophy has been used to introduce the affective aspects of loneliness into the discussion. In this theoretical framework loneliness is analyzed as an intersubjective phenomenon, which means that it can only be grasped as a relation to others, as a lack of meaningful connection (Costache 2013, Dahlberg 2009). In other words, loneliness cannot be thought without others who are either absent or with whom one experiences disconnection. However, feelings of loneliness are not the main topic of Heidegger’s ontological project, and it does not explain why we should understand loneliness as a political concern in the first place. Instead of claiming that the lonely are responsible of their state of being or feeling alone, I argue that the solutions we should seek are predominantly social and political. Thus, nuanced conceptual distinctions and descriptive accounts of loneliness are needed in order to better understand the diversity of the phenomenon and its political nature.

March 13th: Heidy Meriste (University of Tartu)

In Defense of Future-Focused Guilt

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 11, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Guilt is usually viewed as a backward-looking emotion – someone has done something wrong in the past and now, perhaps after reflection, feels really bad about it. The aim of my talk is to challenge this common assumption and to expand our understanding of guilt by defending the possibility of future-focused guilt. As I will show, the main obstacle in the way of imagining future-focused instances of guilt is a somewhat contingent fact that people who care about morality (and are thus susceptible to guilt) do not normally set out to do anything immoral. Thus, the occasion for future-focused guilt often simply does not arise. Yet, there are cases of perceived value pluralism (e.g. tragic dilemmas) where even a virtuous person might be torn between competing values and loyalties, and believe in advance that she will betray at least one of them. What is crucial, as I will argue, is that the person sincerely believes that she will do so. Last but not least, I will also defend the possibility of future-focused guilt against reductionist attempts to write it off as mere simulation guilt or guilt about one’s present character and intentions.

Heidy Meriste is a PhD student of philosophy in the University of Tartu. Her research is focused on emotions and their role in morality and good life.

25th March: Charles Gore (Glasgow and UNU-Wider)

A Joint Session with the Perspectives on Science Seminar.

The Idea of Global Goals

Time: 14:00–16:00
Lecture room 12, Main Building (Fabianinkatu 33)

Global goals have been an element of global governance since the 1960s and they have become even more important since 2000 with the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, there is almost no theorization of what global goals are, how they work, how they should work and their implications for global justice. This paper seeks to develop a theorization of the international practice associated with the collective agreement of global goals by the international community, using ideas from the philosophy of sociality.

The paper follows an analytical approach which Charles Beitz adopts in his book The Idea of Human Rights. Beitz rejects a philosophically-based characterization of human rights but rather begins his analysis by empirically identifying what human rights are in terms of their purpose in international practice as it has existed since the Second World War. He then goes on to construct a model of human rights based on this practice-based characterization and to identify the norms which competent agents engaged in this practice should be expected to follow assuming that they are faithfully committed to the practice. Finally, he raises questions about the value and justice of the practice given its nature.

The paper thus begins with a characterization of what global goals are based on the international practice and then uses the philosophy of sociality to identify, firstly, the norms and principles following from the collective agreement of global goals, and secondly, the principal sources of disagreement about these norms and principles. Global goals are an important component of a practice-based approach to global justice, and the paper concludes by considering the value and justice of the practice of internationally agreeing global goals.

Charles Gore is Honorary Professor in Economics at the University of Glasgow and Research Associate in Global Studies at the University of Sussex.

3rd April: Simon Rippon (Central European University)

Public Opinions and Political Philosophy

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 5, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

A joint paper with Miklos Zala.

If asked what morality and justice consist in, many (perhaps most) non-academics, as well as many academics, particularly in fields other than philosophy, think it natural and appropriate to survey public opinion. According to a widespread “cultural relativist” view of justice, the demands of justice are relative to the beliefs and practices that are generally accepted in a given society. This view implies that understanding what justice demands in a given society is a matter of understanding, at bottom, what people actually think, and what people actually do. This paper is a contribution to the ETHOS (Towards a European Theory of Justice and Fairness) project, which responds to a Horizon 2020 call for research proposals issued by the European Commission.[1] The call includes the following wording:

The specific challenge is to formulate a theory of justice and fairness which is normatively sound, reflective of European values and at the same time rests on solid empirical ground with regard to citizens’ attitudes and views.

How can a normative theory of justice find a “solid empirical ground” in “citizens’ attitudes and views”? Does acceptance of the European Commission’s challenge presuppose a cultural relativist view of justice? We think not. And, as contributors to the ETHOS project, we are glad of that, because, like the majority of political philosophers, we do not find a cultural relativist view of justice attractive. But we also disagree with a different group: those political philosophers who think, or who very often at least seem to assume, that it is appropriate develop our normative theories of justice without paying much heed to the views of the ordinary folk. We think that political philosophers do need to pay close attention to empirical information about what folk think, and what they experience. More specifically, we think theorists of justice ought to pay attention not just to what “the public” (as perhaps an imagined, more-or-less homogenous mass) think, but rather to what particular groups of people think and experience. That’s why the title of this paper includes an unusual plural: public opinions rather than public opinion. In this paper, we thus explore the link between, on the one hand, empirical information about what citizens think and experience, and on the other, normative political theory. We aim to show that political philosophers should take account of empirical information about public opinions. In particular, we argue that political philosophy should take account of empirical information about the opinions and experiences of minority and vulnerable groups. Furthermore, we argue that paying appropriate attention to the opinions of these groups leaves us with both a political and a philosophical challenge.

[1] European Commission Programme REV-INEQUAL-01-2016 – An empirically informed European theory of justice and fairness

Simon Rippon is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Central European University. He specializes in moral and political philosophy, with interests in metaethics, bioethics, philosophy of public policy, and theory of knowledge. He is currently working in the ETHOS project (Towards a European Theory of Justice and Fairness) , funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. There he is exploring the methodology of non-ideal political theory, and how to take into account conflicting attitudes in democracies.

10th of April: Kasper Kristensen (Uppsala University)

Spinoza on the Foundations of the State and the Legitimacy of Political Power

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40) NOTE THE CHANGE OF VENUE!

The early modern period witnessed heated debates concerning the origins and legitimacy of political power – in fact, these two questions were and continue to be inherently linked to one another. One of the key issues in these debates concerns the conception of human nature, and accordingly, the way in which the nature of political power is conceptualized is either supported by or directly drawn from a given conception of human nature. For instance, the influential Aristotelian-Thomist tradition views human nature as sociable and similarly society is based on cooperation and agreement. But this picture was fundamentally challenged by diverse intellectual and religious movements which emphasized the inherent egoism, sinfulness and conflict in human nature, such as Machiavellianism, Protestantism of Luther and Calvin, Montaignean skepticism and Hobbesianism. In this presentation, I will trace Spinoza´s theory of political power as it emerges from these debates. Furthermore, today Spinoza is often presented as a forerunner of some contemporary model of democracy, like liberal, social or republican democracy. Against such appropriation, I will rather focus on the idiosyncratic features is Spinoza’s theory and especially on the complex account of democracy that at the same time makes democracy the most powerful and desirable and the most fragile and almost impossible form of government.

Kasper Kristensen is a doctoral student in Philosophy and part of the Engaging Vulnerability research program at Uppsala University.

15th of May: Jaakko Kuosmanen (University of Helsinki)

Governing the future of human rights

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 18, 4th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

The realisation of human rights faces various complications. The existing complications arise from several sources: foundations of human rights, indeterminate content of human rights, and governance of human rights. The presentation will focus on issues relating to governance of human rights. In efforts to realise human rights through public governance, there are two key spheres of challenges: compliance-related challenges and epistemic challenges. The latter effectively mean that even if governments tried to comply in good faith with human rights obligations, it does not necessarily follow that human rights outcomes improve. Governance is a highly complex activity that is vulnerable to the law of unintended consequences. The environment within which governance of human rights takes place comprises such complicating drivers as temporality, polycentricity, complexity, human cognition, path dependence, and limited methodologies for inquiry. Therefore, institutional design aiming to improve epistemic governance of human rights needs to take into consideration these factors as its starting-point.

Jaakko Kuosmanen works as Academy Secretary at the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki.

31st of May: Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Between the local and the global: Moral economies of caring and giving in West Germany, from the refugee crisis after World War Two to “Brot für die Welt” (“Bread for the World”) in the 1960s-70s

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

In this paper, I seek to raise some questions and prompt some ideas about the changing configuration between the local and the global in the moral economy of aid in the decades since the Second World War. It brings together two interests of mine. The first has been long-standing: how have ideas about right and wrong continued to play a role in modern capitalism? Many of us will agree that E. P. Thompson’s famous declaration that industrial capitalism and liberal political economy killed moral economy is wrong. But that leaves the question wide open how moral economies have evolved in the last two centuries (examples abound: “fair” trade, saving campaigns, remittances, good/bad debt and credit; a “living” wage etc). The second interest is more recent and concerns the Germans after Hitler and how a society managed to change its values and practices. Charitable aid for development is an interesting case for both problems. It can reveal springs of empathy and compassion for those in need but also illuminates changing understandings of the local and global economy informing those moral practices.

Frank Trentmann is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London, and also at the University of Helsinki/Centre for Consumer Society Research. He has written on civil society, consumer politics, and material culture. He is the author of Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First (Penguin 2016) with several foreign translations, which won the Austrian Science Book Prize 2018. Most recently, he co-edited Scarcity in the Modern World (Bloomsbury 2019). He was awarded the Humboldt Prize for Research by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is now working on a book about The Germans and their moral transformations since the Second World War.

12th of June: Ninni Suni (University of Helsinki)

Culpability for Implicit Bias

A joint session with the Perspectives on Science Seminar.

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 11, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

This paper argues against the view that when a harmful bias, such as prejudice, is the result of widespread cultural ignorance, agents are not culpable for the resulting injustice. Assuming that some form of attributionism about moral responsibility is true, we can hold agents accountable for the harm that their biases or attitudes cause.

Implicit biases present a problem for traditional control-based accounts of moral responsibility, because they undermine two central conditions for responsibility: awareness and control. Assuming this view, one way to argue for culpability is to interpret implicit bias as a form of culpable ignorance. This line of argument traces culpability to the amount of socially available information, and because of this, it denies culpability when prejudice is widespread. However, these views tend to confuse backward- and forward-looking senses of responsibility, managing only to secure the latter. Moreover, control-based accounts of culpable ignorance itself have come under attack by skeptical arguments.

This paper argues that adopting an attributionist account of moral responsibility vindicates backward-looking responsibility even in cases of widespread prejudice. According to this view, an agent is culpable when the action or attitude reflects her personality. On this view, prejudice is a form of epistemic mistake that is attributable to the agent, either because it’s due to a distorting personal motivation, or because it reflects the agent’s stable epistemic practices. Even if this is right, though, it’s still possible to allow that we blame agents differently depending on the root and nature of their failures.

Ninni Suni is a doctoral student of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.


Friday 7th September: Simon Caney (University of Warwick)

Democratic Theory and the Future

Time: 14:15–15:45
Place: Lecture room 26, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Political systems (including existing democracies) have a tendency to engage in Harmful Short-Termism. In this talk, I define what I mean by Harmful Short-Termism (§1); provide evidence of its existence (§2). I then consider what should be done in response. To do this, I explore why this problem occurs (§3) and identify the deep structural problems that generate this problem (the “mismatches” §4). I then set out a normative framework for evaluating proposals (§5); comment on some common proposals (§6); and outline some (note only some) of my own positive suggestions (§7).

Simon Caney is Professor in Political Theory at the University of Warwick. He works on issues in contemporary political philosophy with a wide range of topics including global poverty, equality, climate change, our obligations to future generations, the social discount rate, liberal neutrality, political perfectionism, multiculturalism, national self-determination, secession, sovereignty, human rights, resistance, humanitarian intervention, war, non-ideal political theory, realism in international relations, and democratic theory.  He is currently writing two books – one is On Cosmopolitanism, and the other (co-authored with Derek Bell) is Global Justice and Climate Change (both under contract to Oxford University Press). For more information, visit

Wednesday 26th September: Johan Sandelin (University of Helsinki)

Two Possible Oversights that Have Prevented Us from Solving the Non-Identity Problem

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

We live in one of the most decisive times for the future fate of mankind. The self-inflicted problems we face will not be solved solely with the help of scientific knowledge, politics and technological advances. An ethical understanding of our obligations towards future generations is also necessary. However, special, unusual circumstances, regarding intergenerational issues, have made it difficult for ethicists to respond to the responsibility imposed on them. The main problem is the question of what it implies that an environmentally irresponsible lifestyle likely will not only affect the welfare of the future people negatively but also their identity, so that no one who finds his life worth living, strictly speaking, is harmed. How can we justify our strong intuition that this lifestyle would be immoral, when our current ethical understanding is based largely on the person-affecting principle, according to which an act can only be morally wrong if it harms or is bad for someone? The article examines whether two possible oversights might have prevented us from solving the Non-Identity Problem with a partially impersonal ethical theory: Could Parfit´s assumption of perfect equality in the future population outcomes under his consideration, have led to an over-interpretation of the Repugnant Conclusion? Could the unlikelihood of ever being born, explain why an act may be morally wrong even if no one is harmed or wronged by it?

10.10.2018: Antti Kauppinen (University of Helsinki)

Creativity, Spontaneity, and Merit

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Some notable achievements are artistic: paintings, novels, movies, and so on. They are creditable to their creators, and producing them may make admiration fitting. It’s difficult to create a great work of art, after all. Yet they are puzzling from the perspective of effort-centric accounts of achievement, such as Bradford (2015) and von Kriegstein (2016). Effort seems to play little to no role in their magnitude, even from an agent-relative perspective. They’re also puzzling from the perspective of will- or value-based accounts of attributability to the agent (Watson 1996, Shoemaker 2015). They don’t seem to reflect the agent’s quality of will or values in any straightforward way. Creative processes aren’t under voluntary control in the same way as ordinary efforts, which serve what I call a guiding aim. But I argue that our aspirational aims (like the goal of painting an emotionally powerful depiction of the horrors of war) can influence our perception of valuable possibilities inherent in the raw material of our choice (words, paints, film, etc.). The products of such implicit processes are creditable to the artist, because they disclose an aspect of her self: the self as an active perceiver. The difficulty that makes them achievements isn’t a function of effort, but precisely the absence of deliberate control, and dependence on perception delivering the goods. This picture has the relatively radical consequence that our pro- and con-attitudes towards each other don’t just track effort or values, but also a kind of spontaneity that lies below and beyond voluntary or rational control. 

Antti Kauppinen is Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.

Wednesday 31st October: Mikko Salmela (University of Helsinki)

Ressentiment – A Complex Emotion or an Emotional Mechanism?

Time: 16:15–17:45
Lecture room 9, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Ressentiment is perhaps the political emotion of our turbulent times as it has been identified behind support of both right-wing and reactionist populism and extremism as well as Islamic fundamentalism and radicalism. In general, ressentiment transforms negative emotions and feelings targeting the vulnerable self towards generic Others. However, there are several open questions about ressentiment. (1) What is ressentiment: a complex emotion, or an emotional mechanism – or both? (2) What emotions constitute or drive ressentiment; and what emotions are its outcomes? (3) What is the role of social sharing in ressentiment? In this presentation, we seek to make theoretical headway towards an empirically testable social scientific theory of ressentiment that integrates two independent traditions in the research of this phenomenon: the philosophical tradition of Nietzsche and Scheler with its contemporary proponents, and the sociological approach of Scheff and Turner that focuses on the repression and transmutation of shame.  We argue that shame and envy, possibly together, are drivers of ressentiment as an emotional mechanism of repression and transmutation, whereas anger, resentment, indignation, and hatred, reinforced by social sharing, are its outcomes.

Mikko Salmela is a Docent and University Researcher at University of Helsinki.

7th November: Matti Häyry (Aalto University School of Business)

WHY DO ELECTION ANALYSES GO SO HORRIBLY WRONG? The varieties of justice and a new ideological map for (Finnish) political parties

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Lecture room 12, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

I have been studying, with my research group at Aalto University School of Business, questions of justice for a few years now. One description of what I have personally come up with was published a while ago in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. The article, which is attached for those interested, will probably grow up to be a book sometime in the future.

One area in which we have tentatively applied the model examined in the article is party politics, but we are only just beginning to think about considering the possibility of studying it when we have the time (and preferably the money). In my presentation, I will sketch our map of justice and, in the light of it, show how pre-election analyses in Finland go systematically wrong and how they could probably be improved by using our model.

The development of the model will require empirical work, which I know next to nothing about, so it would be nice to hear suggestions from the audience as to how the model could be tested and/or applied further.

Matti Häyry is Professor of Philosophy at Aalto University School of Business in Helsinki, Finland.

14th November: Steven Firth (University of Helsinki)

The Picture Theory of Disability — An Application

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Lecture room 18, 4th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

The Picture Theory of Disability (PTD) evaluates disability as a ‘type of experience’ rather than a ‘thing someone has’. The Theory holds that the experience of disability arises through an irremediable frustration or difficulty — a sort of profound impedance — in the conduct of daily living tasks or goals-like-ours.

The PTD shows how objects in the real world (people, stairs, wheelchairs, roads, kerbs, etc.) can be represented in pictures, gifs, and videos; and how an analysis of the objects and their relations can be used to identify disabling experiences. The PTD understands disability in ‘adverbial’ terms because, in analysis, it believes disability arises as a function of how verbs are modified; roughly speaking, positive modification shows no disability; negative modification shows disability.

The PTD does not, in itself, make claims about what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. However, it employs Humean ‘sympathy’ (the notion that a person can share in the feelings of another by watching them) to help generate an understanding of how people feel when an activity is being conducted. The PTD, seems to naturally and unambiguously indicate where a situation might be ‘unfair’, ‘wrong’, or ‘bad’, and can be used to generate ameliorative responses. Applying the PTD to the case of paediatric prosthetics indicates non-intuitive results which differ from those currently employed by the medical fraternity and seems to suggest that certain prosthetics prescription can actually be counter-beneficial.

5th December 2018: Kaisa Kärki (University of Jyväskylä)

Intentional Omissions as Political Action

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Lecture room 18, 4th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Intentional omissions are about what an agent intentionally does not do. The intentional omissions of agents can consist in intentionally not voting, refusing to take part in decision making or intentionally not answering questions. How has political theory perceived this kind of (non-)behavior? Are intentional omissions necessarily political actions and if not, what are the necessary elements of intentional omissions at the political sphere?

This paper considers whether intentional omissions should be seen as forms of political action, and if so, when. The answer to this question depends on the definition of political action. It can be seen as necessarily expressive, as carrying political intentions, or as something that happens at a shared social reality of agents. I argue that intentional omissions can be political actions but not necessarily. This is because they do not necessarily have a message that could be deciphered by someone else, and they do not necessarily happen in a shared social reality but might only be witnessed by the agent herself.

Kaisa Kärki is a PhD student at the University of Jyväskylä.


Wednesday 21th March, Juha Räikkä (University of Turku)

Conspiracy Theories and Collective Responsibility

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Juha Räikkä is a professor of practical philosophy at the University of Turku, Finland. His research interests include topics such as justice, privacy, forgiveness, remorse, self-deception, just war theory, equality, burden of proof, and conspiracy theories. Räikkä’s recent publications include books Social Justice in Practice (Springer, Heidelberg 2014) and Human Imperfection (in Finnish, 2017).

Wednesday 18th April 2018: Mikko Yrjönsuuri (University of Jyväskylä)

Ethical Egoism in the 13th Century: Henry of Ghent on self-preservation

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Lecture room 10, 3rd floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

My aim is to show how Henry of Ghent’s (1217-93) ethical theory assumes that primary ethical duty is towards oneself rather than other people. I’ll first argue that Henry is to be understood as a clear ethical egoist, looking at his position in relation to what has become to be known as rational egoism. Then I’ll turn to his theory of the right for self-preservation, which he develops in discussing the subjective rights of a criminal convicted to death.

Mikko Yrjönsuuri is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Jyväskylä.

Wednesday 16th May 2018: Jaakko Hirvelä (University of Helsinki)

Modality and Debunking

Time:  14:15–15:45
Seminar room A110, 1st floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Clarke-Doane has recently argued that our beliefs within a certain domain cannot be undermined without providing grounds to doubt the safety or sensitivity of our beliefs within that domain. According to Clarke-Doane our explanatorily basic moral beliefs are modally secure on the assumption that they are true, and evolutionary debunking arguments cannot therefore undermine our explanatorily basic moral beliefs by challenging their reliability. I will challenge Clarke-Doane’s argument on multiple fronts by arguing that our explanatorily basic moral beliefs are not trivially modally secure even if true and by providing grounds to think that the our beliefs within a certain domain can be undermined without providing grounds to doubt that those beliefs are safe or sensitive. I will end up with a more positive note, by sketching a solution to the evolutionary debunking argument that builds on hinge epistemology.

Jaakko Hirvelä defended his PhD thesis “Essays on Modalized Epistemology” at the University of Helsinki in March 2018. He works mainly in epistemology, but is also interested in metaethics, metaphysics and philosophy of mind. He has published articles on the significance of peer disagreement, on the relationship between virtue-theoretic and modal conditions for knowledge and on the question how the modal condition known as the safety condition should be understood.  From September 2018 he will work as a post-doc in an ERC-project entitled ‘Competence and Success in Epistemology and Beyond’, led by Maria Lasonen-Aarnio at the University of Helsinki.

Thursday 31st May: L.A. Paul (UNC Chapel Hill)

Reverse-Engineering the Self

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

L.A. Paul is Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Paul specializes in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, focusing on questions concerning transformative experiences, perception, time, and more.

6th June: Patricia Marino (University of Waterloo)

Deontological pluralism and its consequentialist critics

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

This paper explores conceptual issues in the debate over deontological pluralism and consequentialist alternatives. In previous work, I have argued for the appeal of pluralist theories like that of W. D. Ross, in which multiple principles reflect a range of values and moral conflicts are to be expected. In response to such proposals, it is sometimes said that consequentialism itself can be pluralistic, and that maximizing a pluralistic conception of the good offers a framework superior to that of deontology. Further, recent proponents of “consequentializing,” argue that for any set of moral judgments, we can find a consequentialist theory that entails those very same judgments; then, since consequential theories allow us to bring about “the most good possible,” they are an attractive fit with our views of rational action and non-arbitrariness, and thus better justified than pluralist deontological theories. I argue here against these ideas, and in defense of pluralist deontology, drawing on considerations related to moral dilemmas, to finding the right reasons for moral judgments, to the pragmatics of moral debate and disagreement, and to the potentially distorting effects of thinking in terms of maximizing when considerations of fairness should be front and center.

Patricia Marino is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo in Canada. She works on topics in ethics, epistemology, philosophy of sex and love, and philosophy of economics. She received her PhD from the University of California, Irvine, in 2002, and was a Stanford Humanities Fellow from 2002-2004. She is the author of Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World (McGill-Queens University Press, 2015) and articles on moral dilemmas, ambivalence, sexual objectification, and other topics. She is currently working on a book tentatively titled “The Philosophy of Sex and Love: An Opinionated Introduction,” and blogs at The Kramer Is Now: Accidental Philosopher Encounters Modern Life. For more information, visit


11th October: Aino Lahdenranta (University of Jyväskylä)

Smith’s virtue ethics and the derivative value of character

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Seminar room A110, 1st floor

Most scholars today agree that the ethical theory contained in Hume’s sentimentalist moral philosophy falls under virtue ethics. There is no similar consensus with respect to Adam Smith, however, who at times seems to stress adherence to moral rules at the expense of motives and character. In this paper, I offer an interpretation of Smith’s account of virtue and vice that reveals the unity of his ethical theory. The interpretation consists of two claims and rests on the distinction Smith makes between virtue as a quality of an action and virtue as a quality of character.

First, I argue that the moral value or disvalue of an action is based solely on its motive. Smith thus advances what Michael Slote calls ‘agent-based virtue ethics’. Second, I claim that character traits derive their moral value from the moral value of actions. Crucially, mental qualities other than virtuous-making motives can contribute to the fact that one acts on such motives or does not act on vicious-making ones. I suggest that Smith’s virtue ethics is superior to Hume’s in two ways: it recognizes the moral value of actions that are out of character and allows moral motivation to have a substantive role in what makes a virtuous character.


Aino Lahdenranta is a PhD student at the University of Jyväskylä. Her main interest are the moral psychological views of early modern moral philosophy. She is currently finishing her dissertation thesis Human nature as the foundation of morality – Essays on early modern sentimentalism.

1st November: Anniina Leiviskä (University of Helsinki)

The Issue of Radical Otherness in Contemporary Theories of Democracy and Citizenship Education

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Room 18, 4th floor (Unioninkatu 40)

This paper examines the significance of Chantal Mouffe’s agonistic pluralism to the theory of democracy and citizenship education from the perspective of the concept of radical otherness. In this context, radical otherness refers to the comprehensive doctrines that are not compatible with the basic principles of democracy and that are therefore perceived as a threat to the existence of the democratic regime. Mouffe famously argues that consensus-oriented and universalistic approaches to democracy (such as John Rawls’s political liberalism or Jürgen Habermas’s theory of deliberative democracy) are at risk of excluding alternative identities, voices and viewpoints from effective participation in democratic politics. According to Mouffe, such exclusion does not only raise serious legitimacy issues but it can also be associated with the recent emergence of anti-democratic movements in contemporary European societies: the orientation for consensus and agreement at the expense of the free expression of political disagreement inevitably leads to the outburst of excluded and marginalized voices through anti-democratic channels.

Drawing on previous research, this paper suggests that in the final analysis Mouffe’s agonistic pluralism is itself unable to provide a satisfactory resolution to the issue of radical otherness: also in the Mouffean framework, “radically others” cannot be included in democratic politics in any meaningful way, which again makes these others vulnerable to anti-democratic political identification. Moreover, the paper also aims to clarify whether Mouffe’s approach provides a suitable starting-point for citizenship education in societies that are currently encountering phenomena related to the issue of radical otherness. The paper suggests that while democratic education should promote ethico-political pluralism as the essence of a healthy democratic culture, it should also involve fostering capabilities associated with reasonable democratic deliberation (i.e. mutual perspective-taking, empathy, awareness of burdens of reason, and the capacity to give and ask for reasons). The paper argues that rather than paternalistic or eurocentric, these capabilities are now more important than ever as they play a central role in creating a future democratic culture in which the need for political polarization, radicalization and violent extremism is minimal or absent.

Anniina Leiviskä is a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Her primary fields of research are philosophy of education and political philosophy. She started her three-year postdoctoral research project Democracy, Education and the Challenge of Inclusion: Reconstructing a Theory of Citizenship Education for Contemporary Democracies funded by the Academy of Finland in September 2017.

15th November: Gunnar Björnsson (Stockholm University)

Disagreement in judgment

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Room 18, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)

Deep and systematic moral disagreement provides difficulties for orthodox cognitivist accounts of disagreement. Even if some accounts of reference fixing for moral concepts make it possible for parties of such disagreement to have the same determinate moral properties in mind, we seem to have no positive reason to think that this is actually the case. Though it seems obvious that the parties disagree, it is not obvious that their claims have incompatible representational contents. Apparently, then, our sense of disagreement has some other source. But the best-known non-cognitive account of moral disagreement, in terms of Stevensonian conflicts in attitude, faces its own problems. Not all cases involving conflicting attitudes seem to be cases of disagreement and not all moral disagreement seems to involve conflicting attitudes. Moreover, there are no obvious independently motivated amendments of the account that give us a unified understanding of disagreement. Puzzles analogous to these arise for accounts of disagreements in other potentially non-objective domains, such as those of taste and epistemic modality. In this talk, I develop and propose an account of disagreement in judgment that promises a principled explanation of why some differences in mental states constitute disagreement whereas differences in other states do not. According to this account – Discursivism – disagreement in judgment is essentially tied to communication and consists in a certain potential for disagreement in discourse.

Gunnar Björnsson in Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University and the initiator and former coordinator of the Gothenburg Responsibility Project. His research interests fall into metaethics, moral psychology, naturalized theories of cognition, philosophy of language, and moral responsibility. His work on moral responsibility focuses on developing a general theory of both individual and shared responsibility; his work within metaethics focuses on the nature of moral judgments, moral motivation, and moral disagreement. For more information, see


22nd February, Hanna Lukkari (University of Helsinki)

Self-determination, minority protection regimes and the limits of international law

Time: 16:15-17:45

Place: Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40), room A110, 1st floor

Taking its cue from Hannah Arendt’s evocative narrative of the fate of minorities in the interwar Europe, this paper first briefly studies the international legal context of that time and then presents a legal-theoretical reading of the claims to self-determination by minorities that could not be heard as such within the extant international law. The paper points out that minority protection regimes (Minority Treaties and regional autonomy arrangements) were a form of governance of ethnic-cultural plurality that interpreted the claims made by minorities as claims to non-discrimination within the new nation states. As such, international law could recognize cultural difference. However, the paper argues, by containing difference as cultural difference, minority regimes attest to international law’s blindness to more radical political claims. The paper intends to show how claims to self-determination by minorities make manifest the limits of international law, limits within which it is possible to present intelligible legal claims. Such claims intimate the possible existence of another political-legal collective than an extant state and manifest themselves as ‘strange’ in the eyes of international law and incompatible with it. The concept of difference as ’strangeness’ is thus introduced to make sense of difference that is not reducible to cultural otherness and that attests to the limits of the international law’s powers of containment. The paper is a draft of a subchapter for a thesis in legal theory investigating the limits of international human rights protection.

Hanna Lukkari (Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki) is a PhD researcher in legal theory currently preparing a doctoral thesis investigating the limits of international human rights protection. She is interested in minority and refugee protection in particular, as well as in phenomenological and other continental approaches to the philosophy of law and politics.

15th March: Jussi Backman (University of Jyväskylä)

Arendt on the (Meta)politics of Thinking in Greek Philosophy

Time: 16:15-17:45

Place: Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40), room A110, 1st floor

The paper focuses on Hannah Arendt’s account, in The Life of the Mind, of the twofold relationship between the activity of thinking and politics that she discovers in Greek philosophy. From its initial stages, she claims, philosophy offered a radical alternative to what she sees as the prephilosophical and essentially political Greek ideal of life that consisted in undertaking great and beautiful actions and thus achieving the immortal fame of the Homeric heroes. The philosophers, however, depreciated fame and honor, which depend on recognition by others; only the philosophical contemplation of things in the light of their ultimate and timeless principles would bring truly “immortal” self-sufficiency, albeit only for a small intellectual elite. Thus, Platonic philosophy signals, for Arendt, the start of a long philosophical tradition of subordinating the political realm to higher, “metapolitical” ideals and ends.

For Plato and Aristotle, philosophical thought begins from wonder and culminates in contemplation. However, Arendt maintains, the Platonic dialogues also reveal another function of thinking, voiced by the figure of Socrates: self-examination. As discourse with oneself, thinking turns the human individual into a “two-in-one” and allows her to avoid mute loneliness through being “by herself.” Since discursive self-reflection seeks to avoid contradiction with oneself not only on the logical but also on the moral level, it can also function as conscience by judging the intrinsic value of one’s own actions. This internal judging can be further materialized in the interpersonal space of politics in the capacity of judging the acts of others; in this way, thinking can serve as a starting point for politics in the Arendtian sense. Together with Kant’s Critique of Judgment, the Socratic “two-in-one” thus forms the basis for Arendt’s own, unfinished theory of judging. The paper concludes by briefly developing the implications of this missing theory and arguing that it would have been a crucial complement to Arendt’s disputed notion of the “banality of evil” of totalitarian subjects such as Adolf Eichmann, characterized by an “inability to think” (and, hence, to judge).

Jussi Backman is University Lecturer and a university researcher in philosophy at the University of Jyväskylä. He specializes in phenomenology, philosophical hermeneutics, continental ontology and political theory, and ancient philosophy, and is the author of Complicated Presence: Heidegger and the Postmetaphysical Unity of Being (SUNY Press, 2015).

5th April: Elisa Aaltola (University of Eastern Finland) 

Omnivore’s Akrasia: An Aristotelian View into Animal Politics

Time: 16:15-17:45

Place: Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40), lecture room 18, 4th floor

One of the most frustrating obstacles to animal advocacy is individuals, who accept the arguments presented in animal ethics, but who nonetheless choose to act against those arguments in their own lives. This forms the central question faced by contemporary animal politics: How to affect political change, when reasoned arguments do not suffice to alter people’s behaviour? The paper approaches this question via an old philosophical paradox – akrasia. In a state of akrasia, we know x to be good, yet voluntarily act against x. What will here be termed “omnivore’s akrasia” is a state, wherein one believes that it is, prima facie, morally wrong to harm other animals for secondary purposes, and wherein one yet willingly takes part in practices that cause such harm. Omnivore’s akrasia will be addressed specifically via an Aristotelian viewpoint, which gives foundations for four interpretations. According to these interpretations, the akrates acts against her moral judgment due to either 1) intoxicating desires or emotions, 2) illusions or phantasia, 3) alien pleasures, and lack of proper pleasures such as the joy of temperance, or 4) societal influence. Following suit, it will be suggested that animal advocacy and politics would benefit from concentrating on exposing the forms of emotive or hedonistic inclinations (together with the phantastical illusions that they are often entwined with) that support the status quo, accentuating the joys of virtues such as justice and empathy in the animal context, and demanding a more wide-spread change in our societal and political institutions, toward a direction that facilitates habituation of pro-animal virtue.

Elisa Aaltola is a University Researcher in Philosophy at the University of Eastern Finland. The focus of her research is in animal philosophy, moral psychology, and environmental ethics. Her books include Animal Suffering: Philosophy and Culture (Palgrave MacMillan 2012) and Animal Ethics and Philosophy: Questioning the Orthodoxy (Rowman and Littlefields 2014, co-edited with John Hadley). Her book Empatia: myötäelämisen tiede will appear in 2017 (co-written with Sami Keto).

31st May: Säde Hormio (University of Helsinki)

Time: 16:15–17:45
Place: Seminar room A110, 1st floor

Direct responsibility for climate change harms? Lifestyle emissions and duties of justice

While the science is clear ― humans cause climate change ― it is usually assumed that people cannot be said to cause harm as individuals. Rather, as their participation is marginal they cannot have direct responsibility with regards to climate change harms. In contrast to this popular view, I will argue that while many of our individual emissions indeed do fall under marginal participation, such as a one-off decision of taking a plane or a train, some of us will also have direct duties to mitigate. However, this will not be our exclusive duty (or for the vast majority of us even our most important duty regarding climate change) as climate change cannot be solved without collective entities stepping up to meet their obligations. This is where shared responsibility qua members of collective agents applies.

I will argue, following Broome (2012), that the harm our individual emissions cause is mainly the increased risk of harm. The special features of climate change, including the extremely long timeframe certain greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere and various tipping points, mean that individual emissions can have exponential effects, and in the long run they will almost certainly cause harm. This is why climate change differs from most other cases of imperceptible effects where arguments for difference-making considerations are debated. However, contrary to Broome, I will argue that offsetting is not the silver bullet to meet our duties. Rather, we should look at our lifestyle emissions (in contrast to questioning each individual purchase and consumer choice). The strength of the duties we get from this should be balanced in consideration of our other duties.

Säde Hormio (Social and Moral Philosophy, University of Helsinki) is a PhD candidate who has just finished her monograph which explores marginal participation and complicity in climate change harms. She is interested in normative and applied ethics, as well as questions of social ontology, and is one of the editors of The Ethical Underpinnings of Climate Economics (Routledge 2017).


14.12. Jaana Hallamaa (University of Helsinki)
Multilateral reciprocity – applying and expanding Tuomela’s theory of  social action

Time: 16:15-17:45

Place: U40 seminar room 18

Social sciences mostly deal with different aspects and versions of   social action within different settings. There is a plethora of  different theories of co-operation, often coupled with conceptions of  power. From a philosophical point of view, not all these theories have  a basis on well-defined concepts.

In my talk, I will present my suggestion – based on Raimo Tuomela’s   theory of social action – for a simple, easy to use, analytical and  heuristic tool for dealing with different types of social action in  social settings. I expand Tuomela’s theory by combining it with Peter Morriss’ philosophical analysis of power as ableness. In this way, it  is possible to apply Tuomela’s model to social action based on the use  of various types of power mechanisms.


Jaana Hallamaa is Professor of Social Ethics, Theological Faculty, University of Helsinki
The talk is based on Hallamaa’s forthcoming book Yhteistoiminnan etiikka (Gaudeamus 2017)

16.11.2016 Kristian Klockars (University of Helsinki)

Good Democracy?

Time: 16:15-17:45

Place: U40 seminar room 18

Abstract: We are accustomed to view democracy as a good. Although this may be a justified starting point, I also find it important to pose the question of good democracy. By this I imply several issues, in this presentation mainly the relation between ideal and reality. An outcome of my reflections is a general thesis: What if democracy or good democracy is to be understood as several things and not as a singularity or a core issue? A connected claim is that discourses of democracy need to bring together conceptual, ontological and normative issues.

Insofar as democracy is understood as a good or a political ideal the general formulation of democracy as a power of the people is not sufficient. We also need to spell out what this means in terms of the basic values of democracy. These, again, need then to be reconnected to the idea of a power of the people. This, again, brings in ontological issues. Insofar as democracy is a political concept it involves a reference to a political reality and to the existence of political power. One could claim that it conceptually and normatively refers to a demand of realization, and a realization that is to be set in certain terms: power, the existence of people and a power of the people. Simultaneously these normatively have to fulfil the demands set up by the democratic values, thus including freedom, equality and participatory rights. How is this to be made intelligible?

Kristian Klockars is University lecturer in Practical Philosophy at the
University of Helsinki. His main fields and areas of interest are
political philosophy, philosophy of democracy and critical theory.

21.9. Marko Ahteensuu (University of Turku)
Risk, Calamity and Apology

Time: 16:15-17:45

Place: Metsätalo, Unioninkatu 40 (U40) seminar room 18 (4th floor)

Post-accident apologizing brings to the fore ethical questions related to unacceptable risk-imposition and moral blameworthiness. Risk decisions, even when they are part of or preceded by systematic risk analysis, often appear unsatisfactory–or they seem much less satisfactory–after a calamity has taken place. Yet, if relevant considerations available to be known pre-accident were adequately taken into account and safety measures implemented accordingly, nobody is morally blameworthy and an apology is not required–at least not in a strict sense. It is argued here that this first impression is overly simplistic and misses important subtleties related to ethical evaluation under outcome uncertainty. Most, if not all, real-life cases of post-accident apologies do not meet the standard of correct risk analysis, but can be explained by incorrect risk analysis and/or apology without fault-admitting. Besides the empirical question of what is being apologized for, there is a philosophical issue: does a post-accident apology conflict with correct risk analysis? This paper spells out and evaluates five possible ways of solving the mismatch. They include mistaken apology, apologizing for contribution, unavoidable regret, flawed principles of risk analysis, and impossible correct risk analysis. The tension between an authentic apology and (correct) risk analysis reveals discrepancies in moral intuitions and precepts, but also more generally vexed issues in theories and practices of decision-making under outcome uncertainty.

Marko Ahteensuu works as a Collegium Researcher at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS) and Philosophy Unit, University of Turku. His current project is entitled “Biodiversity, Ethics, and Scientific Uncertainty: Philosophical Contribution to Conservation in the Era of Rapid Anthropogenic Environmental Change”. He has also published papers on the precautionary principle and public engagement in the context of modern agricultural biotechnology. Between Sept. 2015 and Aug. 2016, he was a Visiting Researcher at the Division of Philosophy at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm. Ahteensuu is a Docent in practical philosophy and he completed his doctorate in 2008, both at the University of Turku. More info:


16.3. Sonja Amadae (University of Helsinki)

Liberalism and the Politics of Domination

Abstract: The role of having the power to exert control over others has been central to the late twentieth-century debate between liberal and republican philosophers. Famously, Quentin Skinner argued that individuals are not free simply because no one and no state plays a coercive role in their lives. Instead, the real mark of freedom is that no other party even has the power to dominate agents. This line of thinking underlies Philip Pettit’s argument that freedom is non-domination. In addition to Pettit, Jerry Gaus and Amartya Sen also concerned to establish the necessary and sufficient conditions to guarantee to individuals at least a basic level of freedom. Gaus works to define the conditions under which a state is permitted to coerce citizens. Sen defines a minimal liberal condition under which the most elementary concept of freedom must protect an individual’s right to make at least one pair-wise choice. Each of these approaches to freedom focuses on the rights enjoyed by individuals in order for them to qualify as “free.” My particular interest in this paper is to identify what justiciable moral obligation follows from a compelling (unanimously agreed on) definition of agentive freedom.

S.M. Amadae is the author of Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy (Cambridge UP, 2016) and Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy: The Cold War Origins of Rational Choice Liberalism (University of Chicago Press, 2003). Other publications include “The Long Term Viability of Team Reasoning” Journal of Economic Methodology 2016; and “Normativity and Instrumentalism in David Lewis’ Convention,” History of European Ideas 2011.

20.4. Katariina Holma (University of Eastern Finland)

Creating Critical Thinkers

“Knowing why we are doing something helps us in knowing how to do it.”

(Israel Scheffler)

Abstract: One traditional way to understand the field of philosophy of education is to think that philosophers of education apply philosophical theories and concepts to educational contexts. In my presentation, I will suggest a somewhat different view about the nature of this academic field. In my presentation, I will discuss my work in progress with Nicholas C. Burbules in order to demonstate how educational concerns and questions can sometimes challenge our philosophical ideas. In our essay with Burbules, we are questioning some contemporary philosophical interpretations of the educational ideal of critical thinking. Our starting point has been to take seriously the advice of Israel Scheffler – who is one of the most important figures of philosophy of education of the last century – and to explore the ideal of critical thinking by asking why should critical thinking, in the first place, be fostered through education. From this perspective, we have ended up in challenging some dimensions of the “Kantian-based” accounts of critical thinking. In addition, we have drawn on contemporary empirical findings in order to question the dichotomy between reason and emotion which, in our view, underlie these accounts. We conclude that educational programs that aim to foster critical thinking but do not take into account some deeper moral and emotional concerns, may actually work against the very aim of creating critical thinkers.

Katariina Holma is Associate Professor in theory and philosophy of education at the University of Eastern Finland. She is the PI of the research project “Growth into Citizenship in Civil Society Encounters” funded by the Academy of Finland (2015-2019). Her recent publications include “The Philosophy of Personal Epistemology” (with Heidi Hyytinen) Theory and Research in Education 2015, “The Critical Spirit: Emotional and Moral Dimensions of Critical Thinking” Studier i Peadagogisk Philosophy 2015, “Fallibilist Pluralism and Education for Shared Citizenship” Educational Theory 2012, “The Epistemological Conditions of Moral Education” Educational Theory 2011. She serves as a member of the review board of Educational Theory for 2016-2019.

4.5. Annamari Vitikainen (UiT – The Artic University of Norway)

Conceptualizing Indigenous Citizenship: equal, differentiated, or shared citizenship?

This paper considers some of the recent conceptualizations of indigenous citizenship as equal, differentiated, and shared citizenship. It draws from the now common understanding of indigenous citizenship as “citizenship as shared fate”, and aims to show how this understanding of shared citizenship may inform other elements of citizenship – namely, those connected to equal legal rights and to citizen participation.

The concept of “citizenship as shared fate” aims to capture the idea of indigenous people and the state’s majority population (thenceforth: national majority) as living in complex, historically formed, interdependent relations that tie their fates together. As opposed to the shared identity theories of citizenship, the understanding of citizenship in terms of shared fate sees the indigenous people and the national majority as sharing a common bond, while keeping their own distinctive identities. While the citizenship as shared fate has been developed to counter the more rigid and homogenizing understandings of citizenship as shared identity, its normative implications extend beyond the psychological (identity-based) realm of citizenship. From the point of view of political power, for example, citizenship as shared fate has provided grounds for different types of shared-rule institutions, as the interdependency of the two groups is seen to create a need also for power sharing institutions.

Apart from its normative effects on political institutions, the understanding of citizenship in terms of shared fate may also have effects on the other dimensions of citizenship, including legal and participatory elements of citizenship. These two elements of citizenship have often been understood differently: While the formal legal citizenship rights are often viewed as distinctively equal (that is, uniform), the quest for equal (now, effectively equal) public participation is often viewed as also requiring differentiated treatment or differentiated group rights. In this paper, I aim to map out some of the ways in which the understanding of indigenous citizenship in terms of shared fate may affect these common understandings of legal and participatory aspects of citizenship, by diversifying the common object to which the equal legal rights and the effective means of participation are supposed to apply.

Annamari Vitikainen is Associate Professor in Philosophy and member of the Pluralism, Democracy, and Justice research group ( at University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway (UiT). She is the author of The Limits of Liberal Multiculturalism: Towards an individuated approach to cultural diversity (Palgrave Macmillan 2015) and she is currently working on two broader research projects, one on Cosmopolitanism, Global Institutions, and Cultural Justice, another (in co-operation with the Center for Sami Studies (SESAM), UiT) on Indigenous Citizenship Education.

Vitikainen received her doctoral degree from the Department of Social and Moral Philosophy, University of Helsinki in 2013, and she has also worked as a visiting scholar at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at ANU (2008), and at the University of Bremen (2011-12).

For contacts:

11.5. Heta Gylling (University of Helsinki)

Berkeley against FreeThinkers

Abstract: George Berkeley’s Alciphron is unlike any other book he wrote. I do not mean the fact that he composed it in a form of dialogues between four speakers and a narrator who does not actively participate in the discussion. That is not controversial at all and considering Berkeley’s literary skills, not even a highly ambitious scheme. What makes it different and, at least for some readers, a thoroughly puzzling composition is its apologetic nature. It is dedicated to the cause of Christian faith and it is to attest the manifest existence of a benevolent God and Infinite Spirit who has revealed to us the comforting promise of Afterlife, immortality in a Future State. All these convictions were fundamental to Berkeley himself. He was openly hostile to all who did not share his beliefs. He saw dangerous enemies in past and present. In New Theory of Vision Vindicated and Explained, published right after his return from America, he reminds the reader how wide spread irreligion has become:

“That atheistical principles have taken deeper root, and are farther spread than most people are apt to imagine, will be plain to whoever considers that pantheism, materialism, fatalism are nothing but atheism a little disguised; that the notions of Hobbes, Spinosa [sic], Leibnitz, and Bayle are relished and applauded; that as they who deny the freedom and immortality of the soul in effect deny its being, even so they do, as to all moral effects and natural religion, deny the being of God, who deny Him to be an observer, judge, and rewarder of human actions; that the course of arguing pursued by infidels leads to atheism as well as infidelity. I p. 254

His work is an important testimonial of determined resistance to emerging liberal modernity and early enlightenment both in science, ethics, and church politics. In my presentation I will portray Berkeley as a religious man who fought the new trends in society. His relevant judgments and recommendations are unforgiving and often heartless.

Heta Gylling is a University Lecturer in Social and Moral Philosophy at the University of Helsinki, and every second year (together with T. Airaksinen) a docent at Whitehall Museum, Middletown, RI (former residence of George Berkeley, built in 1729).

6.6. David Faraci (Georgetown University)

Knowledge, Necessity and Defeat

Abstract: A staggering amount of work in the philosophies of apparently necessary, a priori domains like mathematics, logic, ethics and philosophy itself concerns the so-called Benacerraf-Field Challenge and its relatives: For us to know, our beliefs must correspond to the truth. Yet in certain domains, such correspondence can seem troublingly mysterious. It calls out for explanation; yet none seems available, even in principle. If it is indeed impossible to explain belief-truth correspondence in these domain, perhaps this should undermine those beliefs. Many find this line of thought intuitive. But for the past four decades, there has been a general worry about its legitimacy lurking in the background: David Lewis apparently suggested that in domains of necessary truth, our beliefforming methods are infallible because they trivially meet certain modal conditions on knowledge. In this paper, I argue that the intuitive underpinnings of both the Challenge and the relevant modal conditions expose the failings of this “Lewisian” line of argument and set the stage for more careful development of the Challenge itself

David Faraci completed his PhD in philosophy at Bowling Green State University in 2012. Since then, he has held positions at Virginia Tech, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and (currently) Georgetown University. David’s primary area of research is metaethics, but he has also published on practical reasoning, the nature of property rights, and in the experimental philosophy of moral responsibility, and has research interests across normative and applied ethics.


9.12. Visa Kurki (University of Cambridge)
How can corporations be legal persons? Lessons from social ontology

Abstract: It is famously the case that not only human beings but also corporations are persons in the eyes of the law. This has traditionally been taken to mean simply that corporations are “right-and-duty-bearing units”. Personhood is thus given a specific legal meaning that is separate from other senses of personhood (cf. “person” as ‘individual’ or ‘moral agent’). Legal personhood pertains to how a legal system treats X, rather than to the attributes of X directly. This is reflected in, for instance, that legal historians often analyse slaves as having been property rather than legal persons.

The aim of the paper is to bring together recent developments in social ontology and in theories of rights and to use this to show that the existing theories of legal personhood are inadequate. It is argued that groups often hold various legal positions, such as rights and duties, regardless of whether they have been granted legal personhood. A group of friends who start an ad hoc restaurant for a day have (qua group) the right to receive payment from their customers regardless of whether their business has been registered as a corporation. This is one of the inadequacies of the traditional theory of legal personhood: according to the traditional theory, the group would already be a corporation and thus a legal person, as only legal persons can hold rights.

Right-holding in general is thus not constitutive of legal personhood. It is rather argued that legal personality consists of several separate but interconnected incidents, which together constitute legal personality. Such incidents are, for instance, being able to own property; being able to perform legal acts such as enter into contracts; holding fundamental rights, and so on. One’s legal personality depends on whether one holds such incidents in a legal system, and this is dependent on the legal system in question: in the antebellum US, a black individual might have been property in some US states and a person in others.

X’s legal personality is thus dependent on whether she/he/it holds incidents relating to legal personhood. However, such incidents only make sense in two cases: if X is a sentient being – and thus of moral value – or a legal agent, that is, a sufficiently developed agent that can for instance meaningfully enter into contracts. Only sentient beings and legal agents are thus potential legal persons. In the case of legal agents, what Raimo Tuomela dubs extrinsic agency is sufficient: one does not need to have the mental states of an agent but rather behave as if one is an agent. This is why groups can be legal persons in a very real sense; this is not merely a “legal fiction”, as some authors like to claim.
Visa AJ Kurki (LL.M., LL.B.) is a PhD candidate in legal philosophy at the University of Cambridge, working under the supervision of Prof Matthew Kramer. In his PhD dissertation, Kurki attempts to develop a general theory of legal personality that would explain what is meant when corporate personhood is discussed or when the Nonhuman Rights Project calls for animal legal personhood. Apart from personhood, he’s interested in animal ethics, the Hohfeldian analysis of rights, social ontology and speech acts.

 7.12. Greg Bognar (University of Stockholm)
 A New Argument Against Moral Relativism

Abstract: I present an argument against moral relativism.  My argument proceeds in

three steps.  First, since there are many views that go by the name of moral
relativism, I begin by identifying my target.  I argue that moral relativism
is a realist, cognitivist, and naturalist metaethical view.  Second, I spend
some time clarifying how an argument against this view can be constructed.
Because standard defenses of moral relativism are an admixture of conceptual
and empirical claims (concerning, typically, alleged facts about moral
diversity and disagreement), sorting out what count as admissible evidence
and support against relativism is actually a complex task.  Third, I lay out
my argument.  I show an example of moral norms that applies to all moral
agents.  I present and interpret the evidence for this norm, and then I
explain how it can be used to build an argument against moral relativism.  I
conclude by defending my argument from some possible objections.

Greg Bognar is a Senior Lecturer in Practical Philosophy at Stockholm
University and a Senior Researcher at the Stockholm Centre for Healthcare
Ethics (CHE).  Earlier, he worked at the Harvard University Program in
Ethics & Health, the Center for Bioethics at New York University, and La
Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.  His research interests are in
ethics and political philosophy, especially bioethics, population ethics,
and the philosophy of public policy.  His book, The Ethics of Health Care
Rationing, co-written with Iwao Hirose, was published by Routledge.

25.11. Teemu Toppinen (University of Helsinki)
Why Quasi-Realists Can Have it Both Ways

Abstract: Quasi-realism in metanormative theory is supposed to be a pretty cool view. On one hand, it’s a form of expressivism: normative beliefs are fundamentally explained as broadly desire-like states, not as representations of things as having normative properties. This, one might think, allows the quasi-realist to be a naturalist of sorts (no ‘spooky’ normative properties). On the other hand, the quasi-realist project, if successful, allows an expressivist to nevertheless say that there really are objective normative properties and truths – roughly: normative properties and truths that are independent of what we believe, want, or take the normative truth to be. There are such truths, alright (that sounds like normative realism); it’s just that they don’t do any explanatory work when it comes to explaining the nature of normative thought and talk (and so they aren’t spooky). The quasi-realist wants to have it both ways.

Recently, some critics (e.g., Sharon Street) have suggested that quasi-realists are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. On their view, if the quasi-realist project is successful, the quasi-realist ends up facing some of the ‘robust’ realists’ problems. Here’s one relevant challenge. Plausibly, we track the independent normative truth fairly reliably. But it’s also plausible that we can give a fully naturalistic (e.g., partly evolutionary) causal explanation of why we have the normative beliefs that we do have. Why is it, then, that we are fairly reliable normative judges? We track the presence of mid-sized objects in our immediate environment fairly reliably, because it’s been very useful to do so accurately. But that story won’t work in the case of normative truths, or so says the quasi-realist. We track what’s nauseous fairly reliably, because what’s nauseous is determined by our reactions. But that, too, won’t work if we want to hold on to the idea of independent normative truths. Is it just a Cosmic Coincidence, then, that we got it mostly right? That sounds bad.

I argue that from an expressivist perspective, the explanatory challenge at issue can only be understood in ways that allow for answers, and that the way of understanding it that raises trouble for realism turns out to be unintelligible, upon closer inspection. Quasi-realists can, then, explain everything that needs explaining by their own lights.


Teemu Toppinen ( is a postdoc at the University of Helsinki (Social and Moral Philosophy, Department of Political and Economic Science). His current project, *Relational Expressivism – Explaining Normative Thought and Talk*, is funded by the Academy of Finland. Toppinen’s research is mostly focused on metanormative theory (metaethics, epistemic normativity, etc.), but he also dabbles in normative ethics. Recently, he’s been thinking about quasi-realism, explaining necessary relations between natural and normative properties, reasons primitivism and reasons for belief, akrasia and expressivism, disagreement and expressivism, normative uncertainty and expressivism, the so-called hybrid views in metaethics, and scalar consequentialism.

11.11. Antti Kauppinen (University of Tampere)
Rationality and Reasons

Abstract: It has been common to think that reasons are one thing and rationality is another. Rationality is a matter of having a proper order in one’s mind, as John Broome puts it, and your mind can be in proper order even if you fail to recognize what reasons you as a matter of fact have. Yet if rationality and reasons come apart, and it is our reasons that determine what we ought to do, why should we care about being rational at all? There’s a puzzle here, and many have recently argued that what we are rationally required or permitted to think somehow hangs on the reasons we have after all. In this paper, I sketch a surprisingly Platonistic account of rationality as responsiveness to reasons.

Antti Kauppinen is an Academy of Finland Research Fellow, based at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Tampere. His current research project (2015-2019) focuses on well-being, happiness, and agency. He is also Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, where he previously worked as an Assistant Professor.

28.10. Piotr Makowski (Adam Mickiewicz University)
Plasticity of Planning Agency

Abstract: In his planning theory of intention (PTI), Michael Bratman proposed an
account of the conditions of psychological stability (PS) for planning agents (Bratman
1987; 1992; 2010). PS is based on the idea of ‘nonreflective (non)reconsideration’ of
future-directed intentions: our plans are stable as long as we rationally revise or
retain our intentions, according to the information about environment of our actions.
Despite its seeming comprehensiveness, the Bratmanian approach to PS as a
psychological norm appears as narrow, since it explicitly does not embrace these cases
of intending in which we are forced to abandon our plans (or their parts) because of
environmental fluctuations. Bratman leaves the issue of planning stability in unstable
agential ecosystems unexplored: we do not know whether his account of PS applies
also to such environments or not.
In my talk I want to fill this gap in PTI. My strategy is two-fold. Firstly, I try
to explore the nature of PS in unstable agential environment, by introducing the idea
of plasticity of planning (PP), which comes from the praxiology of plans proposed by
Tadeusz Kotarbiński (Lvov-Warsaw School). To show explanatory virtues of the
Kotarbińskian idea (Kotarbiński 1961; 1983) in the context of PS, I use the concept
of partial intentions (Holton 2008). Secondly, I intend to show that PP is entirely
compatible with the Bratmanian approach to PS and that we need combine these
two accounts to get full and mature understanding of stability of our agency. The last
part of my talk supports the proposed account of PP by making use of recent
findings in developmental and social psychology.

Piotr Makowski (born 1982) is an assistant professor at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (Poland), currently working in the areas of action theory and metaethics. He defended (cum laude) his PhD thesis in naturalistic metaethics in 2010 at Adam Mickiewicz University. He is the author of (inter alia): one monograph: After Metaethics (2012, 290 pp., in Polish) and a few papers on action theory (issued in international and Polish publications). He is also a co-editor of the volume Praxiology and the Reasons for Action (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction 2015, in press). He has given invited talks in India, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and USA. Recently he completed two scholarships: at Roma Tre University, Italy (2014-15) and at the University of California, Davis (2012-13). In 2012 he was awarded a Fulbright Senior Advanced Research Award, and in 2013 – a Scholarship for Distinguished Young Scientists (from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education).

7.10. Miira Tuominen (University of Jyväskylä)

Justice to the Living: On Porphyry’s Ethics of On Abstinence

Abstract: My talk is related to a monograph I am working on that centers on the question of what role our concern for ourselves and our concern for others, self-interest and other-regard, or self-interest and morality, if you wish, play in the ethics that emerges from or takes shape in Porphyry’s (c. 234-305CE) arguments against consuming animals in his On Abstinence from Injuring Animals. I shall argue that, according to Porphyry, there is absolutely no tension between our concern for others in terms of justice, beneficence, and reverence and our concern for ourselves in the quest for happiness understood as the assimilation to god. This was a standard understanding of the goal of human life in late ancient Platonism, building on a brief reference to such assimilation in Plato’s Theaetetus 176b1-2 that also forms the basis of Plotinus’ reflections on virtue in Ennead I.2.

Quite the contrary, from Porphyry’s perspective, the further we extend our justice and beneficence (within the sphere of living beings), the more we manage to assimilate ourselves to god that is entirely beneficent. Conversely, if we are merely concerned with the closest human individuals in our circle, this means that we are not just in the internal sense (of Plato’s Republic 4) but our soul is led by passions rather than reason. This also means that we cannot be externally just and beneficent to others, because our being operates from lack, trying to acquire and even steal something that belongs to others (their lives, bodies, belongings, and so on). For Porphyry, it all revolves around the common assumption (in ancient philosophical schools) according to which being good (or virtuous) is necessary for happiness together with the assumptions about what being good means. In a word, one cannot be happy without being good, and what is good cannot but do good to others as well. However, Porphyry adds his own twist to this general Platonic tenet according to which the wider our scope of justice and beneficence (doing good), the better and godlike and thus happier we are, and the nature of justice requires that this circle ultimately has to be extended to all living beings.

Miira Tuominen is an Academy Research Fellow (University Lecturer) in Philosophy at the University of Jyväskylä. After defending her PhD thesis Ancient Philosophers on Principles of Knowledge and Argumentation (University of Helsinki 2001), she has worked as a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago, three Centres of Excellence financed by the Academy of Finland, History of Mind (2002-07), Philosophical Psychology, Morality and Politics (2008-13), and Reason and Religious Recognition (2014-19) as well as the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (2006-08), Centre for Advanced Studies at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (2009-10), and, since 2008 as University Lecturer in Philosophy at the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, and as Academy Research Fellow (2011-16).

Her earlier research projects and publications, for example the monograph Apprehension and Argument: Ancient Philosophers on Starting Points for Knowledge (Springer 2007) as well as numerous articles have mostly focused on themes in the history of epistemology in classical antiquity as well as the Hellenistic period and late antiquity, philosophical psychology (especially on theories of perception and intellectual understanding of reality in Aristotle and the (Platonic-) Aristotelian tradition of late antiquity), and the history of logic with a focus on Aristotle’s theory of argumentation. However, she has also edited a volume on the cultural and historical significance of the philosophical and cultural conceptions of suicide (titled Culture, Suicide, and the Human Condition, edited together with Marja-Liisa Honkasalo, Berghahn 2014), and since 2009 she has been working on themes in ancient ethics; the volume Quest for the Good Life: Ancient Philosophers on Happiness (edited together with Øyvind Rabbås, Eyjólfur K. Emilsson, and Hallvard Fossheim) is forthcoming in 2015 (from Oxford University Press).

Her current research project is titled ‘Self-Interest and Other-Regard in Late Ancient Ethics’, and one of its main products is the monograph on the basis of which Tuominen will give her talk a the seminar of Moral and Political Philosophy.

For a list of publications, see:

30.9. Jack Woods (Bilkent University)
Footing the Cost (of Normative Subjectivism)

Abstract: It is widely assumed that there is something bad about fundamental normative contingency (i.e. that holding fixed the non-normative facts, what we ought or have reason to do might differ between contexts). But this assumption is rarely argued for. And on deeper inspection, it is difficult to see any non-question-begging argument that endorsing the possibility of fundamental normative contingency should have any problematic impact on our normative outlook. Endorsing the possibility of divergence in normative standards, so to speak, underwrites divergence in normative reasons, but endorsing the possibility of such divergence in our normative reasons does not come with significant cost. I do not expect to convert realists this way; rather, removing this stumbling block to views which endorse normative contingency—such as subjectivism.

My strategy in defending this view it to distinguish two sense of reasons and, correspondingly, two senses of normative necessity—*ontic* and *evaluative* necessity. The  former type of necessity is when reasons hold no matter the context, no matter what norms we use in evaluating the context. The latter type of necessity holds no matter what the context, but only from the standpoint of a single system of norms. I describe three arguments in favor of normative necessity and argue that all three support a form of evaluative necessity, but not a form of ontic necessity. But subjectivism, in its plausible forms, only implies *ontic* contingency, not evaluative contingency. I close by suggesting that we do not even need full evaluative necessity to make sense of our intuitions of normative necessity—evaluative necessity for beings like us will suffice.

Jack Woods is an Assistant Professor at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. He works on Metaethics, Philosophy of Logic, and Philosophy of Language. He has published papers on expressivism in *Philosophers’ Imprint*, *Ethics*, and *Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy* and papers on the philosophy of logic in *Synthese*, *Thought*, *and *Logique et Analyse*. His recent work has focused on conventionalism in metanormative theorizing, inferentialism about logical connectives, and grounding the distinctions between the ethical and the natural.

16.9. Johanna Ahola-Launonen (University of Helsinki and Aalto University)

The luck egalitarian paradox
Abstract: In this paper, I discuss some challenges in the internal coherence of luck egalitarian theories, especially the concept of personal responsibility. The basic tenet in the theory is that normative power is given to the distinction of voluntary choice and circumstance as a condition for assigning the burden of responsibility: the principle of responsibility states that inequalities that derive from unchosen features in people’s circumstances are unjust, while inequalities that result from the choices people make voluntarily are just. Prevalent criticism towards the theory is the obscure line between choice and circumstance, and potential harsh outcomes if the category of choice is too strict leaving people too easily without assistance. Most of the luck egalitarian theorists admit this problem by acknowledging that choices most often entail circumstance-driven factors related to social, cultural, and environmental circumstance.
I argue that this diminishing of the original principle demonstrates a paradox in the original theory: On the one hand, if luck egalitarians commit to the principle of responsibility as such, the theory faces the apparent accusation of being harsh, insensitive to context, and loses the egalitarian goal of actually securing any kind of genuine equal standing among citizens. On the other hand, if the principle of responsibility is diminished to be sensitive to context and circumstance-driven choices, it remains questionable whether it is actually capable of making any directing principles. Thus, either the theory becomes non-egalitarian, or it vanishes. Luck egalitarian theory has been explained to be a theory about “what to think, not what to do”, but it remains a question whether the theory is able to offer any reasonable guidance for intuition. Furthermore, the theory is widely applied in political thinking, without due consideration of its limitations.

Johanna Ahola-Launonen, BSc, MSc, is a Doctoral Candidate in Social and Moral Philosophy at the University of Helsinki; and coordinates the project Justice and its Alternatives in a Globalizing world at Aalto University. Her research interests focus on distributive justice, the philosophy of responsibility, the social determinants of health, and the methodology of bioethics.

2.9. Frank Martela (University of Helsinki)
Three pillars of morality – Towards an empirical understanding of the nature of morality

How one should live? The question can be interpreted both morally and non-morally, but this ambiguity has rarely been addressed by modern moral philosophy. Addressing it amounts to defining what is the specific moral sphere of life as compared to other, more prudential considerations. The present article aims to provide one such definition, where the core of morality is seen to lay on three pillars: 1) The specific social function of morality in promoting beneficial social cooperation and making living together possible. 2) The innate dispositions that motivate us through awakening specific moral emotions in specific situations. 3) The culturally constructed moral system with its code of conduct that people consciously aim to follow through their evolved capability for rule-following. Although some moral systems might partly expand beyond these three pillars, morality is incomprehensible if we exclude completely any of these three pillars. This definition leaves room for ambiguous border cases and for plurality of different moral systems, but nevertheless provides some standards through which to justify and evaluate the merits of different moral systems thus making moral progress possible.

Frank Martela is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Theology at University of Helsinki. His main research focus is on intrinsic motivation, compassion and meaning in life, which he explores both through psychological methods and through conceptual work, and both within the context of social psychology and organizational research. He received his Ph.D. in Applied Philosophy and Organizational Research from Aalto University, Finland in 2012. As regards philosophy, his main interest is in American Pragmatism – especially John Dewey – and how to apply his way of philosophizing to questions of morality and philosophy of science. He has published in journals such as Journal of Personality and Organization Studies.

26.8. Raj Patel (University of Pennsylvania)
The natural and the social in the metrics of justice.
Abstract: Should an appropriate metric of justice be sensitive to internal individual differences? Rawlsian resourcists (most prominently Thomas Pogge) claim that the answer to this question is no. Pogge insists that persons are entitled to a kind of standardized package of resources provided by the basic structure of society as a matter of justice. Capability theorists (most prominently Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen) claim the answer to this question is yes. Nussbaum and Sen insist that the provisions of the basic structure of society ought to be sensitive to the way individual differences interact with social norms and other environmental factors. Capability theorists generally view this sensitivity to variation as a virtue of their account.
Whether principles of justice ought to be sensitive to internal individual differences is informed, at least in part, by how we conceive of these differences. How this question is resolved relies on an underlying understanding of a natural/social inequality distinction, one that is much invoked in theories of justice. For example, many resourcists hold that the distribution of natural endowments (internal abilities and disabilities) is neither just nor unjust in itself. This provides motivation for the view that a metric of justice ought not to be sensitive to particular types of individual internal differences.
In this paper, I claim the capability theorist can save what they take to be a virtue of their account—the sensitivity to the variation of individuals—without being committed to the view that the distribution of natural endowment is in itself a matter of justice. They can do this by claiming that the relevant internal differences the capabilities approach takes into account is sensitive to a kind of sophisticated understanding of the natural/social inequality distinction—a distinction which Pogge’s criticisms seem to underappreciate.

Raj Patel is PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. He received an MPhil in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge in the UK in 2014. Before that, he worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. on issues relating to privacy and security, amongst other things.

His research interests are in the history and philosophy of science and technology, and political philosophy. He is particularly interested in issues at the intersection of these two research areas.

Spring 2015

19.5. Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies): Philosophy of the Body: Extending Politics of Difference to Politics of Commonalities

The body has been one of the grand discoveries of 20th century philosophy. Friedrich Nietzsche´s philosophy of the body and the embodied self has been a stepping stone for feminist philosophies, influencing different versions of feminisms such as the difference feminism of Luce Irigaray and the queer feminism of Judith Butler.
Butler´s philosophy has been especially influential as a theory underlying politics of difference. The politics of difference have been important for human rights struggles, yet lack aspects of commonalities (material and embodied) that are crucial for present day global politics. I will discuss how a material based philosophy of embodiment offers theoretical means to extend a politics of difference to a politics of commonalities.

Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir is a professor of philosophy at the University of Iceland and presently Jane and Aatos Erkko Professor at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. She studied philosophy in Boston and Berlin. She has published books on the philosophies of Nietzsche and Arendt, feminist philosophy, philosophy of embodiment, Beauvoir, and women in the history of philosophy. She is member of the board of FISP (International Federation of Philosophical Societies) and chair of its gender committee, and she is one of the founders and first chair of board of the United Nations University GEST Programme, a transnational studies and training program in gender equality.

7.5. Daniel Nolan (Australian National University): The Ontology of Moral Reasons

We deliberate about moral reasons and cite them to each other all the time. But what kind of entity are the reasons we rely on as moral agents? One popular approach, defended for example by Scanlon, takes moral reasons to be certain propositions. But other options are available as well. We could take them to be familiar features of our world under special descriptions: perhaps the reason for my feeding the hungry is their hunger. Or perhaps reasons are certain familiar states of affairs, properties, or property-instances. Or perhaps they are sui generis entities. Or maybe they are order n-tuples of some or all of the above. Or maybe we should not give a straightforward answer to the question of what reasons are: perhaps we should be pluralists, allowing many different categories of entities to be reasons. Or perhaps reasons are ontologically mysterious because they are only convenient fictions. This paper will seek the best option for the ontology of moral reasons.

Daniel Nolan is Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University. He primarily works in metaphysics, but has interests in philosophy of science, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, and meta-ethics as well.


29.4. Adrian Walsh (University of New England / University of Helsinki): Applied Ethics, The Empirical and the Defeasible A Priori

In recent years there has been a remarkable increase in scepticism about the existence of a distinct method that philosophers have at their disposal. Some philosophical naturalists, such as David Papineau, claim that philosophical and scientific methods are of a single kind. What might be the implications of such theses for the more applied areas of philosophy, including applied ethics and political philosophy? If there is no distinctive method in philosophy in general then surely a fortiori matters must be worse for applied philosophy. If philosophy is ultimately an empirical pursuit—if that is what it means for there to be no distinctive philosophical method—then how could applied philosophy be anything other than empirical? In this paper I explore how applied philosophy is possible as a distinctively philosophical form of analysis and make some general claims about what good applied philosophy involves. Answering these questions about the nature of applied philosophy involves thinking carefully about how philosophical analysis differs from the sciences, since applied philosophy necessarily engages with the empirical realities of the practical problems it confronts. In explaining how applied philosophy is possible and what makes for good applied philosophy, I begin with the claim that the defeasible a priori is at the heart of philosophical method and then provide a taxonomy of ways in which applied philosophy engages with the empirical. I also suggest that this line of inquiry might well shed light on philosophical method more generally.

Adrian Walsh is an Australian philosopher from the University of New England who works mainly on topics in political philosophy, the philosophy of economics and philosophical methodology. In 2013 and 2014 he held a research fellowship in TINT at the University of Helsinki.

15.4. Marion Godman (University of Helsinki / University of Cambridge): Psychopathy, instrumental aggression and the neuroscience of responsibility

When an individual kills another intentionally, the public will often demand that the killer be held responsible despite — and perhaps even especially — if they have a diagnosis of psychopathy. In recent years however there has been pressures on the courts from a different direction. This pressure comes from many scientists and philosophers who argue that psychopaths’ deficits in empathy and moral cognition should rather be grounds for excusing psychopaths of their violent crimes. As I have argued elsewhere the evidence bearing on moral cognition is not entirely convincing (Godman and Jefferson forthcoming); moreover, it is unclear how far the advocates want to generalise this argument for excuse as many of the discussed deficits are arguably also deficits amongst the population with anti-social personality traits at large.

In this talk, I therefore want to turn to a different set of findings which show how there are two distinctive kinds of aggression that are implicated in violent behaviour: on the one hand, there is reactive aggression, where the aggression is a reaction to a provocation and associated with poor impulse control, and, on the other, there is instrumental aggression, which is a proactive aggression used by the agent to achieve a particular end and has been associated with fearlessness. Though psychopaths display excessive reactive aggressive, recent work in psychology and neuroscience shows that what is is distinctive amongst subjects with psychopathy is their use of instrumental aggression and lack of response to fear conditioning. Research also shows that planning is more likely than not with respect to serious crimes. This suggests that the instrumental aggression which is distinctive to psychopathy, is also highly relevant for explaining many of their violent crimes. But does this use of instrumental aggression amongst psychopaths in any way provide a ground for excuse? I argue that is does not. The psychopath has still voluntarily chosen to act on the particular desires that they have. These desire are often more reprehensible than most of ours, but that it is the job of a liberal society not to coerce its members into adopting the same values. Nor should it be a liberal society’s job to provide coercive constraints against all risky behaviour (though arguably it has a preventative duty to protect members against the occurrence of violent crimes). I thus conclude that at least with respect to the psychopaths’ use of instrumental aggression, science and philosophy should not let psychopaths off the hook.

For the past year and a half I have been a Research and Teaching Associate at the History and Philosophy of Science department, Cambridge University. I just returned to Helsinki and my post as a researcher at the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of Social Sciences (TINT). My research interests span a range of topics in the philosophy of science with a particular interest in the sciences of biology, psychiatry, and psychology. Increasingly, I find my research veering into moral and political philosophy as well.

18.3. Sami Pihlström (University of Helsinki)
Varieties of Kantian Anti-Theodicism

This paper examines the way in which the problem of evil – a traditional issue in the philosophy of religion and theology, with fully secular dimensions as well – ought to be approached. Thus, one goal of the paper is to engage in a moral critique of contemporary philosophy of religion. It is argued that theodicies are ethically inappropriate reactions to the problem of evil. Particular attention will be devoted to the emergence of anti-theodicism in Kant. Three different post-Kantian anti-theodicisms are identified: “post-Holocaust”/Jewish, Wittgensteinian, and pragmatist. In their different ways, all these traditions of anti-theodicist thinking can be seen as presenting an essentially moral argument against theodicism, based on the idea that theodicies fail to adequately recognize the meaninglessness of suffering and typically treat suffering human beings as mere means to some alleged overall good.

Sami Pihlström is Professor of Philosophy of Religion at the University of Helsinki and Director of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. He also leads the group “Contemporary Philosophy of Religion” within the Centre of Excellence “Reason and Religious Recognition” funded by the Academy of Finland (University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, 2014-19). His most recent monograph is Taking Evil Seriously (Palgrave Pivot, 2014).

11.3. Simo Kyllönen (University of Helsinki): Whose fault? Whose duty? – Climate change and collective responsibilities of unstructured groups of emitters

Anthropogenic climate change raises many difficult questions concerning the relationship between individual and collective responsibilities. While it is ever more evident that unmitigated climate change will cause serious harm to very many people, the wide dispersion of causes and effects makes it difficult to identify the agents to whom the accountability for the foreseeable climate-related harm and the correlative duty to prevent it should be assigned. According to one view, emitters’ responsibilities are primarily collective, because their actions cause climate-related harm only in combination with the actions of others. They are also able to prevent any such harm by acting together. This collectivistic approach, however, has also been seriously criticized. Some have pointed out the difficulties the approach faces in identifying the relevant harm-causing collectivity, while others have questioned the capacity of unstructured emitters to perform required collective action in order to discharge their duty of preventing the harm.

This paper examines the collectivistic approach from the viewpoint of these critical objections and suggests an alternative way to conceptualise emitters’ accountability for the climate-related harm and their correlative joint duty to prevent it. The view advocated in the paper holds that individuals who knowingly participate in the carbon intensive ways of acting are also individually accountable for the adverse outcomes of anthropogenic climate change. By grounding emitters’ individual duties directly on their shared individual accountability for the harmful outcome rather than on their membership in the putative group capable to prevent it, the view is able to start with each individual emitter already having a reason to promote the joint efforts and others having a warranted reason to expect such promotion from her. Since this kind of warranted expectations can also offer a basis for appraisal of individual’s action and of her character revealed by her habitual ways of living, the paper hopes to be able to address some of the collective action problems faced by unstructured groups of emitters when they aim to perform their joint duties.

Simo Kyllönen is PhD candidate in social and moral philosophy and a researcher in the project “Climate Ethics and Economics”. He has published articles on environmental political philosophy from the point of view of collective action and democratic decision-making. His current research focuses on ethical principles of responsibility and of intergenerational justice and their relevance to economic analysis of climate policies.

18.2. Timo Airaksinen (University of Helsinki): Desire and Anxiety

In cognitive philosophy/psychology, intention and intentionality have been naturalized in terms of actions, which allegedly turns this approach into a pragmatist one (see J.M. Roy, “Cognitive “Neuroscience of Action” in F. Grammont et al., Naturalizing Intention in Action, MIT Press, 2010, p. 301-3). I suggest that we may also approach desire in a dialectical, pragmatist, and naturalistic manner. I offer a detailed model of desire, which exhibits all these three features. Desire cannot be explained in terms of actions simply because desire is not essentially related to action. Instead, we can use happiness and satisfaction. Of these, happiness is a directly and satisfaction an indirectly naturalistic term. In analytical philosophy of action, these two terms are normally dismissed as irrelevant, although they are critical to a pragmatist model of desire. We can call it dialectical because of a feedback loop whose purpose is to fix an emerging contradiction. Like so many dialectical conceptual strategies, this leads to difficult problems of (practical) rationality.

Next, I sketch a pragmatist model of desire. Desire aims at its own satisfaction whose criterion is the happiness of the agent. We start from (real, factual) happiness in a naturalistic manner. Desire always comes in two modes, de dicto and de re. I interpret the first to entail a narrative about the features and the desirability of the object of desire. The second is, to put it bluntly, what you actually find in the world and what you get. I argue that the two objects may not fit together so that desire would be satisfied. Hence, the agent is unhappy. We can say that desires make people unhappy, like the Buddhists, Epicureans, Schopenhauer, and Freud among others have argued. However, the agent has at her disposal certain methods and mental procedures by means of which she can reduce the conflict between the two diverse objects of desire. I review these methods. The most important of them is to look back, after receiving the real object, and modify the narrated object until the two fit together. The criteria of fit must then be discussed separately. Anyway, this is a dialectical feedback loop. We must then ask what kinds of modifications are rational (there should be no self-deception). I assume that some modifications are rational because they are needed to make the agent happy, which indicates a successful fit and satisfaction. The criteria of fit can then be evaluated in naturalist and pragmatist terms. A good fit is useful and beneficial; a bad fit is harmful.

I will develop my model of desire by utilizing Rescher’s ideas concerning the pragmatist philosophical method as presented in his most recent books, like The Pragmatic Vision: Themes in Philosophical Pragmatism (2014), Pragmatism: The Restoration of Its Scientific Roots (2012), and Realistic Pragmatism: An Introduction to Pragmatic Philosophy (2009); also Dialectics (2007). Rescher has not written much about cognitive psychology/philosophy and hence this may be a good opportunity to test his ideas in a new context.

Timo Airaksinen is a professor of social and moral philosophy at University of Helsinki

4.2. Arto Laitinen (University of Tampere): Hegelian Constructivism in Ethical Theory?

This paper discusses three takes on constructivism and realism in Hegelian ethical theory. Each sees Hegel as socializing Kant’s moral theory, but they locate the role of social constructions differently. The straight social constructivist position is the so-called “standard story” (Pippin, Pinkard, Brandom). The second is Robert Stern’s hybrid of command view of obligatoriness with realism concerning rightness, and the third is so-called “mediated realism” or “sublated constructivism” formulated here. The first has problems in accounting for fallibility and progress, the second with coherence and Hegelian credentials, whereas the third is arguably Hegelian and avoids the problems of the first two.

Arto Laitinen is a Professor of Social Philosophy at University of Tampere.

14.1. Eerik Lagerspetz (University of Turku): Democracy and the All-Affected Principle

The All-Affected Principle has an important status in recent theoretical discussions on democracy. According to the principle, all who are affected by a decision should have a right to participate into making it. It is often assumed that the proper or optimal boundaries of democratic decision-making units can be derived from this principle. This paper is basically a critique of this claim. In the first parts of the paper, the All-Affected Principle is distinguished from some related principles. Nevertheless, even a more precise version of the principle is still troubled by ambiguities. It is argued that Robert Goodin’s reading of the principle is the only coherent one. However, if this reading is accepted, the principle cannot be used for its original purpose. The last parts of the text focus on some largely unexamined aspects of the All-Affected Principle. First, the principle should also work as a means of exclusion, not only of inclusion. Second, if, as the principle states, participation rights are based on interests, it is by no means obvious that these rights should be equal. Third, the principle cannot provide us with a non-institutional starting point. Nevertheless, a much weaker form of the All-Affected Principle may have some plausibility.

Eerik Lagerspetz is the Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Turku. He has published two books and several articles on the philosophy of institutions and on the philosophical aspects of collective decision-making.

Autumn 2014

19.11. Yakup Bektas (Tokyo Institute of Technology)
“On Heidegger’s conception of “modern technology””

Highly opaque and challenging though they are, Martin Heidegger’s writings on technology remain hugely popular. His essay “The Question Concerning Technology” in particular has been the subject of endless interpretations and discussions. Yet many of us still wrestle with his enigmatic statements such as, “the essence of technology is by no means anything technological,” or elusive terms such as Gestell or “enframing,” “the essence of technology.” The focus of this talk is Heidegger’s central assertion that there is a distinction between traditional technology, techne, a form of poiesis (expressing a unification of craft and art), and the more aggressive, domineering, uncontrolled, and ever-expanding modern technology. Although each is a mode of “revealing,” the old windmill, for example, depends entirely on the wind’s blowing, while a modern dam on the Rhine turns the whole river into a power plant, and, in turn, makes it a part of a larger system or power grid. Is the difference between them more fundamental than one of degree or scale? If technology is no longer merely an “instrument” or “means to an end”; if it escapes definition as its natural, social, institutional, and human boundaries become impossible to distinguish, then, is it possible to grasp its “essence”? Or if technology is an abstraction, what agency does it have? How can it be both an expression of and “the supreme danger” to human freedom or “free essence”? Considering such questions, the talk will trace Heidegger’s idea of modern technology and how it encompasses human Being and its world experience, drawing on his lecture series “Hölderlin’s Hymn-‘The Ister’” (1942), “The Turning” (1949), “The Question Concerning Technology” (1949; 1954) and other essays.

Yakup Bektas is a historian of technology at Tokyo Institute of Technology. He received his MA and PhD from the University of Kent at Canterbury. His wide research interests include social history of electric communication and railways. One his (co-authored) recent articles assesses the Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam (

12.11. William Mander (University of Oxford)
“Idealism and axiarchism”

Recent times have seen the reappearance of an age-old line of thinking – rechristened ‘the axiarchic argument’ – which regards goodness as the explanatory ground of reality itself. The universe exists because it is good that it should do so. Philosophical Idealists have been rare in the present day, which makes it all the more interesting to note that two of the very small number of contemporary idealists – John Leslie and Nicholas Rescher – have both independently supported such axiarchic reasoning. This paper examines their differing versions of the argument and considers why this line of reasoning might be thought especially attractive to idealists.

Bill Mander is Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University, where he is a Fellow of Harris Manchester College. He has published numerous articles and books on Idealism, Nineteenth-century British Philosophy and pantheism. His current research examines the nature and history of idealist ethics.

5.11. Mikko Salmela (University of Helsinki)
“Emotional roots of right-wing political populism”

The rise of the new populist right has been associated with fundamental socioeconomic changes fuelled by globalization and neoliberal economic politics. It has been argued that low- and medium-skilled workers who are least capable of flexible adaptation to post-industrialist societies where moral norms, ideologies, traditions, and knowledge are constantly challenged and revised have suffered most. They experience an increasing sense of vulnerability, defeat, and a lack of self-esteem, and are to prone perceive immigrants and refugees as people who ‘steal’ their jobs and social benefits. Yet economic factors do not fully explain the rise of new right as these parties have gained success also in Central and Northern European countries where unemployment rates are below OECD average and social welfare systems compensate for actual and potential losers from globalization. I suggest that emotional processes that affect people’s identities provide an additional explanation for the popularity of nationalist right, not only among low- and medium-skilled workers but also among entrepreneurs and middle class citizens whose insecurities manifest themselves as fears of not being able to live up to salient social identities and their constitutive values, many of which originate from more affluent times, and as shame about this anticipated or actual inability. This mechanism is particularly salient in competitive market societies where responsibility for success and failure is attributed primarily to the individual. Under these conditions, many tend to emotionally distance themselves from social identities that inflict shame and other negative emotions, instead seeking meaning and self-esteem from those aspects of identity that are perceived to be stable, such as nationality, ethnicity, religion, language, and traditional gender roles – many of which are emphasized by new populist right. At the same time, repressed shame manifests as anger and resentment against immigrants and other minorities who appear as enemies of these more stable social identities.

Mikko Salmela (D.Soc.Sci) is currently a university researcher at the Finnish Center of Excellence in the Philosophy of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki. Salmela is specialized in empirically informed philosophical research of emotions, and more recently, collective emotions. His recent publications include a co-edited volume (with Christian von Scheve), Collective Emotions (OUP, 2014), and a monograph True Emotions (John Benjamins, 2014).

15.10.2014: Kaisa Herne (University of Tampere)
“Does impartiality presuppose empathy?”

Impartiality is often seen as a necessary precondition for ethical reasoning. In this paper, the focus is on theories where a certain view of justice or morality is justified by the choice of an ideal impartial decision maker or several decision makers in an impartial choice situation (Harsanyi 1953, 1955, R. M. Hare 1963, Rawls 1971, 1993, Scanlon 1982, 1998, Sen 2009). Impartiality requires an unbiased evaluation of the consequences of a certain ethical principle from all relevant perspectives. This suggests that some form of empathy might be needed for the achievement of impartiality. Impartiality is indeed often claimed to entail some form of empathizing – putting oneself in other peoples’ shoes and seeing things from their perspective. However, a thorough discussion of what kind of empathizing impartiality actually requires is missing. What does it mean to put oneself in others’ shoes? What is the role of empathy in impartial theories of justice? Does impartiality require the understanding of others’ sentiments in a particular social position? The aim of this paper is to analyze various conceptualizations of impartiality with respect to the role empathy might have in these approaches. It seems that the type of impartiality has little relevance to the potential role of empathy, whereas the measure of justice seems to be relevant. In particular, there seems to be a room for empathizing in theories of justice that rely on subjective well-being. However, it is also argued that the relationship between resources, subjective sentiments and empathy is by no means unambiguous. The paper also pays attention to various empirical problems of impartial empathy.

Kaisa Herne is a professor of political science at the University of Tampere. Her research focuses on questions of justice and fairness, the notion of impartiality, deliberative democracy and voting rules. Her publications range from political philosophy to empirical testing of theories related to political science, economics, and social psychology. In empirical work, she has mainly used the experimental method.

1.10.2014: Helena Siipi (University of Turku)
“Is de-extinction possible?”

De-extinction means bringing extinct animals back to life, often by the methods of modern biotechnology. Several research groups around the world are working towards de-extinction with their ultimate goal to produce animals that are genetically, morphologically, and by their behavior similar to members of a species that once went extinct. In this paper I argue that, even supposing that re-creation of exact replicas were possible, it is questionable whether the individuals produced by de-extinction technologies are members of the original species. Rather, idea of possibility of de-extinction rests on contestable views concerning species identity and extinction.

Helena Siipi is docent in philosophical ethics. She works as a Collegium Researcher at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies and the Unit of Philosophy, University of Turku.

17.9.2014: Martina Reuter (University of Jyväskylä)
“Hannah Arendt and John Rawls on the justification of civil disobedience”

In this paper Reuter argues that though Arendt’s and Rawls’s remarks on civil disobedience show resemblance in their details, they are based on profoundly different conceptions of how civil disobedience is justified. Whereas Rawls argues that the justification of civil disobedience is ultimately based on the principle of justice, Arendt denies the existence of any ultimate principle and argues that disobedience has to be grounded in qualitative opinion shared by a group of people. Arendt substitutes the role of conscience with the profound human capacity to make and keep promises. Thereby an internal agreement between me and myself is substituted with an agreement between me and others.

Martina Reuter is docent in philosophy (University of Helsinki) and
university lecturer in gender studies (University of Jyväskylä).

3.9.2014: Teppo Eskelinen (University of Eastern Finland)
“The Allocation of Financial Risks and Social Justice”

The emergence of financial capitalism has changed considerably economic relations, economic priorities and patterns of distribution. But should this change imply also a need to update theory of justice – or do the concepts designed for assessing production-centred capitalism still suffice? In my presentation, I will analyse this issue by discussing the just allocation of financial risks. The questions discussed will be: First, what is a financial risk as a (negative) commodity, and why should financial risks belong to the scope of distributive justice at all? Second, what kinds of criteria for assessing the just distribution of risks in a financialised society are needed?

Teppo Eskelinen is a political philosopher and political economist. He obtained his PhD in philosophy from the University of Jyväskylä, after which he has worked at Aalto University school of economics, The Left Forum think tank, and the University of Eastern Finland, where he currently functions as a researcher at the department of social science.

Spring 2014

28.5. Constantine Sandis (Oxford Brookes University)
“Action in Ethics”

It is said that we must hate the sin and not the sinner. But what about the sinning? This paper argues that most moral philosophy lacks a coherent notion of action. I propose an account which entails a fundamental distinction between doing the right (or wrong) thing and acting rightly (or wrongly). I next consider some tempting ways of understanding this distinction (e.g. in terms of types vs. tokens, the evaluative vs. the deontic, etc.) before concluding that the latter phenomenon – but not the former – is deeply interconnected with our motivational sets.

Constantine is Professor of Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He has published numerous articles and books on the philosophy of action and its explanation, including A Companion to the Philosophy of Action (with T. O’ Connor, 2010) and The Things We Do and Why We Do Them (2012).

14.5. Jack Russell Weinstein (University of North Dakota)
“Adam Smith’s Advice on Living Well in a Commercial Society”

Adam Smith’s advice on how to live well is intertwined with his larger discussions of the proper institutions for humankind. He is explicit that a commercial society is to be preferred over all other types because of the freedom and opulence it provides. His argument is built on the conviction that commercialism brings with it a good standard of living, a stable society, enhanced knowledge, satisfying religious belief, liberty, the ability to follow one’s own interests, an educated populace, and the possibility of international cooperation. For Smith, while there are varying standards of living well, many of which have merits for their given contexts, one must look towards nature and human discovery to determine the best life in the most promising society. This article outlines the way in which Smith sees the good life as natural, illustrates the principles of human behavior that Smith sees as motivating people towards the good life, and concludes with a list of Smith’s key elements that are required to live well in a commercial society.

Dr. Jack Russell Weinstein is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Dakota and the host of the public radio show Why? Philosophical discussions about everyday life (WHY? Radio for short). He is the author of three books and dozens of articles, and has edited four collections. He is the recipient of the 2007 UND Foundation/McDermott Award for Individual Excellence in Teaching, the top teaching award at his university. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University in 1998. He is the author of three books On Adam Smith and On MacIntyre, both volumes in the Wadsworth Philosophers Series, and most recently Adam Smith’s Pluralism: Rationality, Education, and the Moral Sentiments.

7.5. Simo Vehmas (University of Helsinki)
“Moral Status and Profound Intellectual Disability”

The starting point of this paper lies in the various debates concerning moral worth of human beings with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD). Some argue (e.g. Jeff McMahan) that those with such disabilities are morally less valuable than so-called normal human beings, whereas others (e.g. Eva Feder Kittay) argue that all human beings have equal moral value and so each group of people ought to be treated with equal concern. I will argue in favor of a reconciliatory, hybrid view that takes points from opposing camps in the debates about the moral worth of humans with PIMD. The view in question, roughly, is this: most humans with PIMD are persons in the morally significant sense and so deserve equal moral consideration to ‘normal’ human beings. Some humans with PIMD may not, however, be persons but nevertheless deserve equal moral consideration to persons because they stand in a special relation to persons.

I have studied special education, philosophy and various other subjects, but haven’t been trained properly in anything. I have worked in various academic positions in Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Turku, most notably as professor of special education in Jyväskylä (2008-2013), and since August 2013 as professor of disability studies at the University of Helsinki. I have specialized in theoretical issues related to disability. For further information, see

23.4. Susanne Uusitalo (University of Turku)
“Rethinking Informed Consent in Research on Heroin-Assisted Treatment”

[Joint work with Barbara Broers.] Can heroin addicts give consent to research on trials in which heroin is prescribed to them? Analyses of addicts and informed consent have been an object of debate in several articles. Informed consent requires the agent not only to be competent but also give it voluntarily. This has been questioned because of alleged features of heroin addiction. Until recently the discussion has focused on heroin addicts’ desires for heroin, whether they are irresistible and thus pose a problem for giving consent. A recent article by Edmund Henden concentrates on heroin addicts’ options and voluntariness. We continue with this focus on the options but question the plausibility of framing these in terms of heroin and access to it. As Henden and others have argued in light of empirical evidence, the problem is not whether the addicts can resist their desires for heroin. Yet the way in which the options are typically laid out in this discussion suggests an assumption that participation in the research is based on the addicts’ views on using the drug. We argue that this way of presenting the options is, first, a mismatch to the studies carried out and, second, symptomatic of potential misconceptions about heroin addiction and addicts. Furthermore, we also suggest that the account of voluntariness needs to be realistic in order for subjects to be able to give consent voluntarily in actual situations, and for medical research to carry out studies on improving outcomes in addiction treatment in an ethical way.

Susanne Uusitalo is a PhD candidate in philosophy in the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Philosophy at the University of Turku. Her thesis deals with questions concerning addiction in terms of theory of action and agency and she also works with bioethical issues.

16.4. Jukka Mäkinen (Aalto University)
“In Defense of Regulated Market Economy”

[Joint work with Eero Kasanen.] The discussion about the political role of business firms has gained momentum in business ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) studies. The dominant framing of the political CSR discussion challenges the traditional economic conception of the business firm and aims to produce a paradigm shift in CSR studies where the traditional apolitical view of corporations’ roles in a society is replaced by the political conception of CSR. In this paper, we show how the major framing of political CSR discussion calls for redirection to take international hard legal and moral regulation as well as the need for the boundaries between business and politics into account.

Jukka Mäkinen, PhD is Senior University Lecturer in Philosophy of Management at the Aalto University School of Business. He approaches the political and socio-economic roles of businesses in a society from the perspective of the contemporary theories of social justice. He is engaged in various research projects and networks in the fields of business ethics and corporate social responsibility studies. His research has appeared in journals such Business Ethics Quarterly and Utilitas. jukka.makinen [at]

2.4. Francesco Orsi (University of Tartu)
“Perverse Reasons”

A perverse motive to do x is provided by a fact about x which, at least intuitively, implies that there is at least some reason not to do the action, and, as far as it goes, no good reason to do it; e.g. the fact that the action is morally wrong, or bad for the agent, or cruel, or stupid are such kinds of facts. What seems perverse in perverse action and motivation is such suspension and subversion of the ordinary normative implications of these facts. I will discuss whether acting for perverse reasons is possible, and what exactly can be said against it–exactly in what sense this is acting for the wrong kind of reasons. I will also explain why this is relevant to recent discussions of the so-called buck-passing account of value proposed by T. Scanlon and others.

Francesco Orsi is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Tartu, and is currently working on the research project “The Unity of Normative Discourse” (2013-2016). His work touches on value theory, the relation between reasons and values, and the history of analytic moral philosophy, particularly the British intuitionists. He has previously worked and studied at the University of Reading and Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa).

19.3. Michiru Nagatsu (University of Helsinki)
“The ethics of social nudge”

This paper discusses normative foundations of nudge, in particular social nudge, policy interventions to induce voluntary cooperation in social dilemma situations. First, I start by characterizing paternalism in terms of a means-end relationship (Hausman and Welch, 2010), and de fine nudge paternalism by narrowing the means part of this de finition. I then focus on one speci c means of nudge paternalism, i.e., the exploitation of mechanisms outside the belief-desire psychology. Several philosophers (Grüne-Yanoff , 2012; Hausman and Welch, 2010) have criticized this method byclaiming that it reduces the autonomy of agents. The literature, however, lacks explicit discussions of autonomy, reflecting the fact that the standard rational choice, being a static theory of consistent choice, cannot be used to judge whether a dynamic preference change is autonomous. Bovens (1992) proposes a theory of preference change which requires that a particular preference change be coherent with the agent’s global preference structure, but not that the change take place under her control or intention. Bovens (2009), based on this theory, makes a distinction between coherence-friendly and coherence-unfriendly nudges. Although he notes a “nagging concern” regarding social nudge because it belongs to the second category, I argue that social nudge can be normatively acceptable. I draw on a concrete example of anti-littering campaign discussed by Thaler and Sunstein (2008) and others, and in so doing, off er the first discussion of relative merits of the team reasoning approach (Bacharach et al., 2006) vs. social norm approach (cf. Bicchieri, 2006) in this normative context.

Michiru Nagatsu is a TINT postdoc at Social and Moral Philosophy. He’s interested in, among others, behavioural economics and epistemic, practical and ethical issues arising from applying ‘behavioural insights’ from experiments.

5.3. Hektor K. T. Yan (City University of Hong Kong)
“On experimental philosophy, morality and meaning”

As experimental philosophers are conducting more empirical works on ordinary people’s moral intuition, this paper takes a critical look at the role of experimental philosophy in the context of moral philosophy. It attempts to explore a possible source of unease towards experimental philosophy by investigating some implicit ethical assumptions employed by experimental philosophers. With reference to the works of Raimond Gaita, questions regarding the methodology of experimental philosophy will be raised. Despite the claim of being a form of empirical inquiry, the attempts to conduct research on human being’s intuitions on different issues (moral or otherwise) may involve significant value judgements. A central claim in this paper is the view that moral seriousness requires one to stand behind one’s words. If this kind of moral seriousness is an essential element of moral reasoning, the way experimental philosophy conducts empirical works on morality is at risk of distorting a significant component of moral reasoning.

I teach philosophy and ethics at the Department of Public Policy at the City University of Hong Kong, where I hold the post of Assistant Professor. Previously I was involved in the research project ‘Enhancing Moral Reasoning and Moral Imagination in Ethics Education’. My recent publications include: ‘Epicurus, death and grammar’, Philosophia (forthcoming); ‘Can animals sing? On birdsong, music and meaning’, Social Science Information, Volume 52, Number 2, 2013, pp. 272-286; ‘The Jewish Question revisited: Anti-Semitism and “race” in Wagner’s Parsifal’, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Volume 43, Number 2, 2012, pp. 343-363; and ‘Bruckner and the Third Reich: Philosophical Reflections on Taste’, Think: Philosophy for everyone, Summer 2011, Volume 10, Number 28, pp. 89-100. Until recently I was the principal investigator for the research project ‘“Race” in Hong Kong: Racial Categories and the Perpetuation of Racisms and Racial Discrimination’. At the moment, I am taking part in an on-going research project ‘The Ethical Status of Non-Human Animals from an East-West Comparative Perspective’.

19.2. Matti Häyry (Aalto University)
“The interesting eventual arbitrariness of applying ethical theories: The case of Martha Nussbaum, capabilities theory, and male circumcision”

Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities theory states that democratic societies should, among other things, provide protection for the bodily integrity of human beings, including security against violent assault. Since infant male circumcision is, by definition, non-voluntary, and is intended to remove an organic part of the penis, it easily fulfils the criteria of violating bodily integrity and committing a violent assault. So it seems that Nussbaum should take a stand against infant male circumcision. However, she does not do so, but, instead, seems to condone the practice in her statements on it.

I find it interesting that philosophers almost invariably struggle to apply their own theories consistently to real-life practices; and I think that it is a lot of fun to observe how they try to wriggle out of the intellectual webs they have themselves brought into existence by focusing more on what they are convinced is right than on the presuppositions of their own theories and views. In this presentation, I will try to convey my amusement in the face of this phenomenon, using as an example Nussbaum’s adventures in the murky waters of capability and genital mutilation.

After several misspent years in the Finnish military, I studied practical philosophy, theoretical philosophy, aesthetics, folkloristics, and many other subjects at the University of Helsinki in the early 1980s. I worked in Helsinki as philosophy teacher and researcher until 2000, achieving at some point for a while the high rank of Acting Professor of Practical Philosophy. After a short bout as Professor of Philosophy in Kuopio, I moved in 2001 to the North West of England, and worked first as Professor of Moral Philosophy and Head of Centre for Professional Ethics at the University of Central Lancashire, and then from 2004 as Professor of Bioethics and Philosophy of Law at the University of Manchester. In September 2013, I was appointed to a professorship in philosophy at the Aalto University School of Business. My main research areas have been moral and political philosophy from historical, theoretical, and applied points of view.

5.2. Aki Lehtinen (University of Helsinki)
“A critique of social choice theory: Interpersonal comparisons in the theory of voting”

This paper provides a philosophical critique of social choice theory insofar as it deals with normative evaluation of voting and voting rules.If interpersonal comparisons are not to be made, the only way in which voting institutions may be normatively evaluated is by imposing conditions on aggregation functions. I argue that it is perfectly legitimate to make interpersonal comparisons of utilities in evaluating how well outcomes of voting rules reflect information about individual preferences. Social choice theorists tend to think that different voting rules incorporate different comparisons because they assume that votes to correspond to utilities. Strategic voting implies that such an assumption is illegitimate. It also implies that the very idea of evaluating the performance of voting rules in terms of normative conditions on social choice functions is misguided. Satisfying a normative condition matters very little because the conditions are always evaluated under the false assumption of sincere behaviour, and introducing strategic behaviour always leads to a violation of any condition that makes a difference between voting rules. The problem is that social choice theory gives unreliable knowledge about the kind of information that the various rules collect: since all voting rules collect at least some information on preference intensities, their normative evaluation should take such intensities into account.

I am trained as an economist and a philosopher. My PhD degree (2007) is from the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics, Rotterdam. My current position is a University researcher at the University of Helsinki. I am part of the Finnish Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, participating in an Academy of Finland project on ‘Models and Simulations in and across the Social Sciences’. My publications are in robustness and modelling, philosophy of economics and game theory, and on voting theory. See for further information.

22.1. Nora Hämäläinen (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies)
“Trying to see our invisible environment – or why self-help matters to moral philosophy”

Although analytic moral philosophy has, over the past decades, broadened its scope to include narrative literature, moral history and empirical research, moral philosophers still have a strong propensity to listen above all to each other. Combined with the ambition to formulate a universal ethics, this habit has the tendency to hide from our view the nature and complexities of our own moral present, and thus also to make invisible the background of historically contingent moral life and evaluation against which our moral theories inevitably take shape. In my talk I will discuss how and why I use contemporary popular self-help literature as focal material for my excavation of contemporary moral life.

Nora Hämäläinen is currently working on the research project “The Making of The Good Person – Moral Philosophy, Self-Help and Technologies of the Self (2013-2016) at the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies. Her doctoral dissertation “A Literary Turn” (University of Helsinki, 2009), treated the roles of narrative literature in contemporary analytic moral philosophy. She has written about philosophical methodology, the ethical uses of literature, moral change, and the philosophical work of Iris Murdoch.

Fall 2013

18.12. Eero Kaila (University of Helsinki)
“Excuses and Character: Blame Mitigation in Theories of Responsibility”

This presentation contrasts two different approaches to blame mitigation in theories of responsibility. It is an extract from the first draft of the forthcoming doctoral thesis by the presenter. The dissertation is an attempt to evaluate different approaches to the topic of responsibility. Blame as a concept has been a popular subject within the responsibility-related discussions in philosophy recently. Here the theme is approached by looking at the exceptional cases, where some mitigating factors have an effect on the end-result of responsibility assessments. Blame mitigation through excuses, as the theory of reactive sentiments made famous by Peter Strawson and his follower R. Jay Wallace advances, is in focus as the most popular interpretation. In the presentation it is noted how the latter author expands the categories made by the former, while introducing exemptions to moral assessments as a separate category of excuses. Additional detail to the differences between the two sentimentalist thinkers is brought by utilizing additional conceptual distinctions made by authors such as Bernard Williams and Marion Smiley. Through analysis of the different types of excuses, some of the issues related to the reactive sentiments  -approach are highlighted. How the excuse-based approach relates to the character-based approach in Aristotelian virtue ethics is also discussed briefly in the end. By way of contrasting the different ways of conceptualizing blame mitigation, criticism toward both of the approaches is discussed in an attempt to describe the dialogue about responsibility and blame between the two alternatives.

Eero Kaila (MSocSci) is a Doctoral Student at the University of Helsinki (Social and Moral Philosophy). He is currently working on his dissertation on the topic of Character in Theories of Responsibility. He has worked as a researcher on the project “Responsibility: A Philosophical Inquiry into Ethics and Politics of the Concept” (2010-12) and has also held a course on contemporary philosophy at the university during the last few years.

11.12. Jurgen De Wispelaere (McGill University)
“Universal Basic Income: From Justice to Legitimacy?”

Many advocates argue for a universal and unconditional basic income on principled grounds as constituting a core component of a just social order. In this paper I argue the idea that basic income constitutes a requirement of social justice is flawed for two reasons. On the one hand, principled arguments are too weak to offer a comprehensive argument in favor for the basic income proposal. Theories of justice often remain silent on key design features of any plausible basic income scheme – and are therefore too indeterminate – or else proscribe radically incompatible design precepts, preventing basic income advocates to reach agreement on a “specific” basic income scheme. On the other hand, even where we have good independent reasons to endorse a basic income policy – perhaps reasons grounded in pragmatic rather than principled considerations – basic income must still meet the test of legitimacy. In a democratic society where disagreement persists regarding which theory of justice to adopt, the principle of legitimacy plays a key justificatory role. However, the contemporary debate about basic income gives us little indication under what conditions basic income should be regarded as a legitimate (rather than a just) policy. In this paper I propose two conditions that basic income must meet: basic income must receive sufficient “popular support” and basic income must be “effective”. Each of these legitimacy conditions poses stringent challenges when applied to the case of basic income, which are nevertheless often misunderstood in the contemporary debate. Moreover, the basic income proposal appears to suffer from a pernicious “governance paradox”, in which strategies to boost popular support for basic income simultaneously impairs its effectiveness (and vice versa). This governance paradox affects both the immediate political feasibility of basic income as well as its long-term political resilience or stability. I conclude that the most important challenge for basic income advocates today is to find a solution to the legitimacy problem, rather than waste further effort examining whether basic income is just.

Jurgen De Wispelaere is an MHERC Research Fellow at the Institute for Health and Social Policy, Faculty of Law and teaches political philosophy in the Department of Philosophy, McGill University, Canada. Previously he taught at Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. His published work on basic income has appeared in Analyse und Kritik, The Political Quarterly, Social Services Review, Policy and Politics, International Social Security Review, Politics and Political Studies. He is a founding editor of the journal Basic Income Studies and co-editor of The Ethics of Stakeholding (Palgrave, 2003), Recognition, Equality and Democracy (Routledge, 2007), and most recently Basic Income: An Anthology of Contemporary Research (Wiley, 2013). He is currently completing a book on Republicanism, co-authored by Simon Birnbaum and David Casassas (Bloomsbury, 2014).

27.11. Tuija Takala (University of Helsinki)
“Challenges in Philosophical Bioethics: Reflections on methods and approaches

This talk will provide a meta-analysis of the place of philosophy and philosophers in bioethics.  I will take a critical look at the various roles philosophers occupy and raise questions about our methodological choices and their justifications. The talk will be based on three short papers.´In “Demagogues, Firefighters and Window Dressers: Who Are We and What Should We Be?” (CQHE, 2005) I studied the various roles that philosophers seem to be occupying in bioethics and ended up defending the importance of “basic” theoretical and conceptual research. In “High Hopes and Automatic Escalators: A Critique of Some New Arguments in Bioethics” (JME, 2007) that I wrote together with Prof S. Holm, we analysed the use of arguments in bioethics and suggested that a) many of the arguments leave something to be desired, and that b) more often than not, bioethics is about rhetoric. The third paper, “Neuroethics and Animals, Methods and Philosophy” (CQHE, 2014) is a co-authored commentary piece to a special issue. The part relevant for my talk is on pages 5-7. It lays out the reasons for my current disillusionment with bioethics more generally. In the discussion period, I hope that you will convince me that the outlook for philosophical bioethics is not quite as bleak as I now see it.

Dr Tuija Takala is an Adjunct Professor of University of Helsinki (Social and Moral Philosophy) and Academy of Finland Research Fellow. She is currently working on her Academy of Finland project “Methods in Philosophical Bioethics”. Takala has been a Senior Lecturer in bioethics and moral philosophy at the University of Manchester and she is the President of the European Society for Philosophy of Medicine and Health Care.

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