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

Conceptualizing Kant’s Mereology

Benjamin Marschall

In the Resolution of the Second Antinomy of the first Critique and the Dynamics chapter of the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Sciences, Kant presents his critical views on mereology, the study of parts and wholes. He endorses an unusual position: Matter is said to be infinitely divisible without being infinitely divided. It would be mistaken to think that matter consists of infinitely many parts—rather, parts “exist only in the representation of them, hence in the dividing”. This view, according to which parts are created through division somehow, was criticized as obscure early on, and has not received much attention since. Against this trend, I show how a coherent position, which I call Mereological Conceptualism, can be extracted from the sparse textual basis.

Self-Respect and the Disrespect of Others

Christine Bratu

This paper addresses the question whether there is a rational connection between self-respect and the disrespect of others by engaging with the so-called Stoic View (SV) presented by Colin Bird. According to SV, there is no such connection because the disrespect other people show us can never provide us with a reason to lose our self-respect. This essay argues that SV is correct only from a third-personal perspective and false from a first-personal one. Since we are social cognizers, we use how other people treat us as evidence, for instance, about our moral status, and we are justified in doing so if we have no reason to dismiss them as untrustworthy. Distinguishing between the first- and third-personal perspectives is important to avoid victim-blaming. I show this by discussing an example from literature in which the protagonist concludes that she does not have equal moral status and thus lacks in self-respect without any mistake in her reasoning simply because she has been given false information about her moral status.

A New Puzzle for Phenomenal Intentionality

Peter Clutton and Alexander Sandgren

Phenomenal intentionality theories have recently enjoyed significant attention. According to these theories, the intentionality of a mental representation (what it is about) crucially depends on its phenomenal features. We present a new puzzle for these theories, involving a phenomenon called ‘intentional identity’, or ‘co-intentionality’. Co-intentionality is a ubiquitous intentional phenomenon that involves tracking things even when there is no concrete thing being tracked. We suggest that phenomenal intentionality theories need to either develop new uniquely phenomenal resources for handling the puzzle, or restrict their explanatory ambitions.

Multiculturalism, Autonomy, and Language Preservation

Ethan Nowak

In this paper, I show how a novel treatment of speech acts can be combined with a well-known liberal argument for multiculturalism in a way that will justify claims about the preservation, protection, or accommodation of minority languages. The key to the paper is the claim that every language makes a distinctive range of speech acts possible, acts that cannot be realized by means of any other language. As a result, when a language disappears, so does a class of speech acts. If we accept that our social identities are in large part constituted by the decisions we make about how to speak, then language loss will amount to a substantial infringement on our autonomy in a particularly important domain.

Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink: Nudging is Giving Reasons

Neil Levy

Nudges are, roughly, ways of tweaking the context in which agents choose in order to bring them to make choices that are in their own interests. Nudges are controversial: opponents argue that because they bypass our reasoning processes, they threaten our autonomy. Proponents respond that nudging, and therefore this bypassing, is inevitable and pervasive: if we do not nudge ourselves in our own interests, the same bypassing processes will tend to work to our detriment. In this paper, I argue that we should reject the premise common to opponents and proponents: that nudging bypasses our reasoning processes. Rather, well designed nudges present reasons to mechanisms designed to respond to reasons of just that kind. In this light, it is refusing to nudge that threatens our autonomy, by refusing to give us good reasons for action.

The Passions and Disinterest: From Kantian Free Play to Creative Determination by Power, via Schiller and Nietzsche

Eli I. Lichtenstein

I argue that Nietzsche’s criticism of the Kantian theory of disinterested pleasure in beauty reflects his own commitment to claims that closely resemble certain Kantian aesthetic principles, specifically as reinterpreted by Schiller. I show that Schiller takes the experience of beauty to be disinterested both (1) insofar as it involves impassioned ‘play’ rather than desire-driven ‘work’, and (2) insofar as it involves rational-sensuous (‘aesthetic’) play rather than mere physical play. In figures like Nietzsche, Schiller’s generic notion of play—which is itself influenced by Kant’s claim that aesthetic pleasure is orthogonal to desire-satisfaction—becomes decoupled from his (further) Kantian view that aesthetic play essentially involves a harmony of sensuous receptivity and rational spontaneity. The result, I suggest, is a self-standing opposition between desires and passions. This motivates a recognizably Romantic vision of aesthetic disinterestedness, as freedom from desire realized in a state of creative determination by passion.

An Argument for Objective Possibilism

Peter A. Graham

Two debates in normative ethics are the Subjectivism/Objectivism debate and the Actualism/Possibilism debate. Both have settled into rather intractable stalemates. My goal is to break through these stalemates and establish that the correct moral theory must be an Objective Possibilist one. I first argue that no Subjective Possibilism is plausible. I then argue that Actualism cannot adequately accommodate the intuitive moral data in cases of permissible beneficial sacrifice—cases in which it is permissible to harm some in order to prevent harm from befalling others. Insofar as Actualism and Subjective Possibilism are both false, some version of Objective Possibilism must be true.

What Defines a Conceptual Resource?

Paul-Mikhail Catapang Podosky

In recent social philosophical investigation, many theorists have relied on the idea that our social and epistemic dispositions depend on collective access to a shared set of concepts, or what I call a conceptual resource. What is not said in this literature is how such conceptual resources are individuated. To address this, I propose and provide an answer to The Resource Question: What is the relationship that must hold in order for a set of concepts to be the conceptual resource of a group of people? This question implies that a conceptual resource is not defined simply by the concepts that constitute it, nor solely by the group that it is attributed to. Instead, it is defined by a relationship between groups of people and sets of concepts. After surveying some possible answers, I settle on Communication: social agents must be able to use concepts in patterned interactions of communication. This answer controverts the intuitive position that social groups are bearers of conceptual resources. I argue that conceptual resources are only indirectly related to social groups.

Wronging Future Children

K. Lindsey Chambers

The dominant framework for addressing procreative ethics has revolved around the notion of harm, largely due to Derek Parfit’s famous non-identity problem. Focusing exclusively on the question of harm treats what procreators owe their offspring as akin to what they would owe strangers (if they owe them anything at all). Procreators, however, usually expect (and are expected) to parent the persons they create, so we cannot understand what procreators owe their offspring without also appealing to their role as prospective parents. I argue that prospective parents can wrong their future children just by failing to act well in their role as parents, whether or not their offspring are ultimately harmed or benefitted by their creation. Their obligations as prospective parents bear on the motivations behind their reproductive choices, including the choice to select for some genetic trait in their offspring. Even when procreators’ motivations aren’t malicious, or purely selfish, they can still fail to recognize and act for the end of the parental role. Procreators can wrong their offspring by selecting for some genetic trait, then, when doing so would violate their obligations as prospective parents, or when their motivation for doing so is antithetical to the end of the parental role.

Epistemic Oughts in Stit Semantics

John Horty

This paper explores ways in which agentive, deontic, and epistemic concepts combine to yield ought statements, or "oughts," of different characters. I am especially interested in agentive ought statements whose violation invites criticism of the agent. I refer to these statements as “epistemic oughts,” since an appeal to knowledge seems to play such an important role in their description. The investigation takes place in the setting of stit semantics, a modal framework for the analysis of agentive statements. I begin by supplementing stit semantics with an epistemic operator, and then exploring an initial account of epistemic oughts that results from combining this operator with agentive and deontic concepts in a straightforward way. After showing that this initial proposal is flawed, I then offer an account of epistemic oughts in which the role of knowledge is more complex, but which escapes the flaws of the initial proposal. Finally, I mention two directions for generalization: to relativistic oughts, and to conditional oughts.

Obligation, Permission, and Bayesian Orgulity

Michael Nielsen and Rush T. Stewart

This essay has two aims. The first is to correct an increasingly popular way of misunderstanding Belot’s (2013) Orgulity Argument. The Orgulity Argument charges Bayesianism with defect as a normative epistemology. For concreteness, our argument focuses on Cisewski et al.’s (2018) recent rejoinder to Belot. The conditions that underwrite their version of the argument are too strong and Belot does not endorse them on our reading. A more compelling version of the Orgulity Argument than Cisewski et al. present is available, however—a point that we make by drawing an analogy with de Finetti’s (1974) argument against mandating countable additivity. Having presented the best version of the Orgulity Argument, our second aim is to develop a reply to it. We extend Elga’s (2016) idea of appealing to finitely additive probability to show that the challenge posed by the Orgulity Argument can be met.

Coming Soon

What's Wrong with Machine Bias

Clinton Castro

Stakes, Scales, and Skepticism

Kathryn B. Francis, Philip Beaman, Nat Hansen

Wolff’s Science of Teleology and Kant’s Critique

Nabeel Hamid

Unifying Group Rationality

Matthew Kopec

The Unique Badness of Hypocritical Blame

Kyle G. Fritz, Daniel Miller

'Yep, I'm Gay': Understanding Agential Identity

Robin Dembroff, Catharine Saint-Croix

Interpersonal Moral Luck and Normative Entanglement

Daniel Story