Ergo is an open access philosophy journal accepting submissions on all philosophical topics and from all philosophical traditions. This includes, among other things: history of philosophy, work in both the analytic and continental traditions, as well as formal and empirically informed philosophy. Ergo is strongly committed to diversity and especially welcomes submissions from members of groups currently underrepresented in philosophy.

Submission and publication are free, and authors retain copyright under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 license. This arrangement is made possible by generous support from the Syracuse University College of Arts and Sciences, the Syracuse University Libraries, the Syracuse University Philosophy Department, the undergraduate departments of philosophy at the University of Toronto’s St. George and Mississauga campuses, and he University of Toronto’s graduate department of philosophy.

Papers are published as they are accepted; there is no regular publication schedule.

Current Issues

Interpersonal Moral Luck and Normative Entanglement

Daniel Story

I introduce an underdiscussed type of moral luck, which I call interpersonal moral luck. Interpersonal moral luck characteristically occurs when the actions of other moral agents, qua morally evaluable actions, affect an agent’s moral status in a way that is outside of that agent’s capacity to control. I suggest that interpersonal moral luck is common in collective contexts involving shared responsibility and has interesting distinctive features. I also suggest that many philosophers are already committed to its existence. I then argue that agents who are susceptible to interpersonal moral luck are usually for this reason defeasibly entitled to make demands of those agents who are the source of that luck. This is the phenomenon of normative entanglement. I conclude by discussing some of the important ways in which normative entanglement can shape the norms that govern the actions of agents in collective contexts as well as explain some of our intuitions about what participants in these contexts owe one another.

‘Yep, I’m Gay’: Understanding Agential Identity

Robin Dembroff and Catharine Saint-Croix

What’s important about ‘coming out’? Why do we wear business suits or Star Trek pins? Part of the answer, we think, has to do with what we call agential identity. Social metaphysics has given us tools for understanding what it is to be socially positioned as a member of a particular group and what it means to self-identify with a group. But there is little exploration of the general relationship between self-identity and social position. We take up this exploration, developing an account of agential identity—the self-identities we make available to others. Agential identities are the bridge between what we take ourselves to be and what others take us to be. Understanding agential identity not only fills an important gap in the literature, but also helps us explain politically important phenomena concerning discrimination, malicious identities, passing, and code-switching. These phenomena, we argue, cannot be understood solely in terms of self-identity or social position.

The Unique Badness of Hypocritical Blame

Kyle G. Fritz and Daniel J. Miller

It is widely agreed that hypocrisy can undermine one’s moral standing to blame. According to the Nonhypocrisy Condition on standing, R has the standing to blame some other agent S for a violation of some norm N only if R is not hypocritical with respect to blame for violations of N. Yet this condition is seldom argued for. Macalester Bell points out that the fact that hypocrisy is a moral fault does not yet explain why hypocritical blame is standingless blame. She raises a challenge: one must explain what is distinct about hypocritical blame such that the hypocritical blamer lacks the standing to blame, even if the arrogant or petty blamer does not. Of those writing on hypocrisy, only we offer a direct response to Bell’s challenge. Recently, however, our account has come under criticism. We argue here that (1) our account can handle these criticisms and that (2) no other rival account adequately addresses Bell’s challenge of explaining what is uniquely objectionable about hypocritical blame. Because answering Bell’s challenge is a necessary component of any plausible account of the relationship between hypocrisy and standing, our account remains the best on offer.

Unifying Group Rationality

Matthew Kopec

Various social epistemologists employ what seem to be rather distinct notions of group rationality. In this essay, I offer an account of group rationality that is able to unify the dominant notions present in the literature under a single framework. I argue that if we employ a teleological account of epistemic rationality, and then allow that there are many different epistemic goals that are worth pursuing for various groups and individuals, we can then see how those seemingly divergent understandings of group rationality are all intimately related. I close by showing how the view has the additional benefit of allowing us to generate practical, normative suggestions for groups in the real world.

Wolff’s Science of Teleology and Kant’s Critique

Nabeel Hamid

This essay examines Wolff’s science of teleology, which has historically been dismissed as a crude physico-theology resting on a simple confusion between uses and purposes. Focusing especially on his two German volumes (German Teleology, 1723, and German Physiology, 1725), I argue that, first, Wolff never intended teleology to be a self-standing theology; and second, that teleology, as a part of physics, is primarily an applied or practical discipline. In its theological function, teleology presupposes the ontological and cosmological arguments for the being and attributes of God rendered in rational theology. As a part of physics, meanwhile, teleology presupposes the inert-mechanical view of nature which had emerged in the seventeenth century, and builds upon mechanistic physics by providing a perspective on nature as consisting of relations of benefit and advantage. The physiological part of teleology, or the study of plant and animal bodies, occupies a special place, for which Wolff deploys notions of health and sickness consistent with the mechanistic physics he accepts. With this in view, I argue that Wolff’s teleology could not be the proper target of Kant’s critique of physico-theology. Yet, there remain deeper differences between Wolff and Kant on the topic, which have to do with the sources and limits of teleological reasoning in general.

Stakes, Scales, and Skepticism

Kathryn B. Francis, Philip Beaman, Nat Hansen

There is conflicting experimental evidence about whether the “stakes” or importance of being wrong affect judgments about whether a subject knows a proposition. To date, judgments about stakes effects on knowledge have been investigated using binary paradigms: responses to “low” stakes cases are compared with responses to “high” stakes cases. However, stakes or importance are not binary properties—they are scalar: whether a situation is “high” or “low” stakes is a matter of degree. So far, no experimental work has investigated the scalar nature of stakes effects on knowledge: do stakes effects increase as the stakes get higher? Do stakes effects only appear once a certain threshold of stakes has been crossed? Does the effect plateau at a certain point? To address these questions, we conducted experiments that probe for the scalarity of stakes effects using several experimental approaches. We found evidence of scalar stakes effects using an “evidence-seeking” experimental design, but no evidence of scalar effects using a traditional “evidence-fixed” experimental design. In addition, using the evidence-seeking design, we uncovered a large, but previously unnoticed framing effect on whether participants are skeptical about whether someone can know something, no matter how much evidence they have. The rate of skeptical responses and the rate at which participants were willing to attribute “lazy knowledge”—that someone can know something without having to check—were themselves subject to a stakes effect: participants were more skeptical when the stakes were higher, and more prone to attribute lazy knowledge when the stakes were lower. We argue that the novel skeptical stakes effect provides resources to respond to criticisms of the evidence-seeking approach that argue that it does not target knowledge.

What’s Wrong with Machine Bias

Clinton Castro

Data-driven, decision-making technologies used in the justice system to inform decisions about bail, parole, and prison sentencing are biased against historically marginalized groups (Angwin, Larson, Mattu, & Kirchner 2016). But these technologies’ judgments—which reproduce patterns of wrongful discrimination embedded in the historical datasets that they are trained on—are well-evidenced. This presents a puzzle: how can we account for the wrong these judgments engender without also indicting morally permissible statistical inferences about persons? I motivate this puzzle and attempt an answer.

Coming Soon

Explaining Fictional Characters

Tatjana von Solodkoff

Anhedonia and the Affectively Scaffolded Mind

Alexander James Miller Tate

Depth, Value, and Context

Jumbly Grindrod

Non-Repeatable Hedonism Is False

Travis Timmerman, Felipe Pereira