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.
Papers are published as they are accepted; there is no regular publication schedule.
Jeremy Fischer, Rachel Fredericks
Creepiness and the emotion of the creeps have been overlooked in the moral philosophy and moral psychology literatures. We argue that the creeps is a morally significant emotion in its own right, and not simply a type of fear, disgust, or anger (though it shares features with those emotions). Reflecting on cases, we defend a novel account of the creeps as felt in response to creepy people. According to our moral insensitivity account, the creeps is fitting just when its object is agential activity that is insensitive to basic moral considerations. When, only when, and insofar as someone is disposed to such insensitivity, they are a creep. Such insensitivity, especially in extreme forms, raises doubts about creeps’ moral agency. We distinguish multiple types of insensitivity, respond to concerns that feeling the creeps is itself objectionable, and conclude with a discussion of epistemic issues relating to the creeps.
Reporting one’s experience of the film Alien, one might say that one saw Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley fighting the monster, but one might also say that one imagined Ripley fighting the monster. This paper aims to figure out the experience that the verbs “to see” and “to imagine” characterize in such reports. For this purpose, I first introduce four requirements for an account of film experience. Secondly, I examine the main theses on the role of imagination and perception in film experience, arguing that none of them satisfies all the requirements. Thirdly, I propose a new thesis according to which the spectator of a fiction film imagines being a subject of a different kind, namely, a disembodied subject of experience who can perceive events that occur in a world in which that subject has no place. I argue that this thesis satisfies all the requirements.
Bryan C. Reece
Aristotle’s theory of human happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics explicitly depends on the claim that contemplation (theôria) is peculiar to human beings, whether it is our function or only part of it. But there is a notorious problem: Aristotle says that divine beings also contemplate. Various solutions have been proposed, but each has difficulties. Drawing on an analysis of what divine contemplation involves according to Aristotle, I identify an assumption common to all of these proposals and argue for rejecting it. This allows a straightforward solution to the problem and there is evidence that Aristotle would have adopted it.
Actions can have, or lack, moral worth. When a person’s action is morally worthy, she not only acts rightly, but does so in a way that reflects well on her and in such a way that she is creditable for doing what is right. In this paper, I introduce an analogue of moral worth that applies to belief, which I call epistemic worth. When a person’s belief is epistemically worthy, she not only believes rightly, but does so in a way that reflects well on her and in such a way that she is creditable for believing what is right. While the notion of epistemic worth is independently interesting, the main aim is to show that appealing to it provides a response to arguments against the view that truth is the fundamental norm for belief and, thereby, to arguments for the view that knowledge is the fundamental norm for belief. The direction of travel does not only run from ethics to epistemology. In closing, I tentatively suggest that some of the points to emerge when developing the account of epistemic worth might prompt revisions to the account of moral worth.
Kant holds that the applicability of the moral ‘ought’ depends on a kind of agent-causal freedom that is incompatible with the deterministic structure of phenomenal nature. I argue that Kant understands this determinism to threaten not just morality but the very possibility of our status as rational beings. Rational beings exemplify “cognitive control” in all of their actions, including not just rational willing and the formation of doxastic attitudes, but also more basic cognitive acts such as judging, conceptualizing, and synthesizing.
Aristotle analyses a large range of objects as composites of matter and form. But how exactly should we understand the relation between the matter and form of a composite? Some commentators have argued that forms themselves are somehow material, that is, forms are impure. Others have denied that claim and argued for the purity of forms. In this paper, I develop a new purist interpretation of Metaphysics Z.10–11, a text central to the debate, which I call ‘hierarchical purism’. I argue that hierarchical purism can overcome the difficulties faced by previous versions of purism as well as by impurism. Roughly, on hierarchical purism, each composite can be considered and defined in two different ways: From the perspective of metaphysics, composites are considered only insofar as they have forms and defined purely formally. From the perspective of physics, composites are considered insofar as they have forms and matter and defined with reference to both. Moreover, while the metaphysical definition is a definition in the strict sense of ‘definition’, the physical definition is a definition in a loose sense. Analogous points hold for intelligible composites and geometry. Finally, neither sort of definitional practice implies that, for Aristotle, forms are impure.
This paper aims to illuminate the deep explanatory challenge to normative realism that underlies two familiar objections to that view. According to the first objection, the realist cannot explain the distinctive deliberative significance of our normative thought. According to the second objection, the realist cannot explain how our normative thought has determinate representational content. This paper argues that, properly understood, these seemingly distinct objections are in fact mutually reinforcing sides of a single deep challenge to the realist’s ability to explain what we know about our normative thought: the deliberation/representation challenge. I spell out this challenge and suggest that it is an excellent candidate for the deepest problem in the philosophy of mind for the normative realist. This paper also shows that addressing this challenge to the normative realist—as opposed to the moral realist—is illuminating. There are natural and promising replies to each side of the challenge available to the moral realist that are not available to the normative realist. But focusing on the challenge to the normative realist helps us to see that these replies fail to address the challenge in its deepest and most general form.
Katherine Gasdaglis and Alex Madva
What is the intersectional thesis a thesis about? Some understand it as a claim about the metaphysics of oppression, social kinds, or experience; about the limits of antidiscrimination law or identity politics; or about the importance of fuzzy sets and multifactor analysis in social science. We argue, however, that intersectionality, interpreted as a thesis in any particular theoretical domain, faces regress problems. We propose that headway on these and other questions can be made when intersectionality is modeled as a regulative ideal, i.e., a guiding methodological and practical principle, and not as a general theory or hypothesis. Qua ideal, intersectionality requires activists and inquirers to treat existing classification schemes as if they are indefinitely mutually informing, with the specific aim of revealing and resisting inequality and injustice. Qua regulative, intersectionality points to a rich and expanding set of heuristics for guiding social-scientific research and the construction of multifaceted political coalitions.
This paper recovers a historically important debate about the ontological status of an agent’s action. When one physical substance acts upon another what is the ontological status of the causal activity by which the former moves the latter? According to the Aristotelian position on action defended up through the seventeenth century, agents cause their effects immediately. There is no intervening causative entity by which an agent causes a change in its patient. The agent’s action is the very motion or change which the agent causes. This paper examines Thomas Aquinas’s intriguing development of the Aristotelian position and Peter Auriol’s incisive critique. Auriol contends that a physical agent’s action must be really distinct from, causally prior to, and separable from the motion which the agent causes. Auriol posits that actions are dynamic, fleeting causative entities which exist just as long as an agent is initiating a motion. The recovery of Auriol’s position challenges a standard historical narrative which holds that up through the early modern period philosophers thought that causes must be persistent stable objects. Auriol’s views show that transitory causative entities, such as forces and events, popularized in the mid-eighteenth century, have a legacy in medieval thought. Furthermore, Auriol’s position that action is a really distinct and separable entity from motion anticipates an important shift in historical thinking about the nature of motion and its ability to persist without an active cause.