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. Generous support from the undergraduate departments of philosophy at the University of Toronto's St. George and Mississauga campuses and the University of Toronto's graduate department of philosophy make this arrangement possible.

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

Current Issues

Ontic Explanation Is either Ontic or Explanatory, but Not Both

Cory Wright and Dingmar van Eck

This paper advances three related arguments showing that the ontic conception of explanation (OC), which is often adverted to in the mechanistic literature, is inferentially and conceptually incapacitated, and in ways that square poorly with scientific practice. Firstly, the main argument that would speak in favor of OC is invalid, and faces several objections. Secondly, OC’s superimposition of ontic explanation and singular causation leaves it unable to accommodate scientifically important explanations. Finally, attempts to salvage OC by reframing it in terms of ‘ontic constraints’ just concedes the debate to the epistemic conception of explanation. Together, these arguments indicate that the epistemic conception is more or less the only game in town.

A Language for Ontological Nihilism

Catharine Diehl

According to ontological nihilism there are, fundamentally, no individuals. Both natural languages and standard predicate logic, however, appear to be committed to a picture of the world as containing individual objects. This leads to what I call the expressibility challenge for ontological nihilism: what language can the ontological nihilist use to express her account of how matters fundamentally stand? One promising suggestion is for the nihilist to use a form of predicate functorese, a language developed by Quine. This proposal faces a difficult objection, according to which any theory in predicate functorese will be a notational variant of the corresponding theory stated in standard predicate logic. Jason Turner (2011) has provided the most detailed and convincing version of this objection. In the present paper, I argue that Turner’s case for the notational variance thesis relies on a faulty metasemantic principle and, consequently, that an objection long thought devastating is in fact misguided.

Getting Expressivism Out of the Woods

Sarah Zoe Raskoff

In a recent paper, Jack Woods (2014) advances an intriguing argument against expressivism based on Moore’s paradox. Woods argues that a central tenet of expressivism—which he, following Mark Schroeder (2008a), calls the parity thesis—is false. The parity thesis is the thesis that moral assertions express noncognitive, desire-like attitudes like disapproval in exactly the same way that ordinary, descriptive assertions express cognitive, belief-like attitudes. Most contemporary defenders of expressivism seem not only to accept the parity thesis but also to rely on it to distinguish their view from subjectivism, so Woods’s argument against it poses a serious challenge to the view. In this paper, I argue that Woods’s argument is unsuccessful, but show that diagnosing precisely where it goes wrong raises interesting questions for expressivists—and metaethicists more generally—about the transparency of our moral attitudes.

What is Fake News?

Nikil Mukerji

In this paper, I offer an analysis of fake news—a notion that has entered public debate following the 2016 US presidential election. On the view I defend, fake news is a variant of Frankfurtian bullshit, viz. bullshit asserted in the form of a news publication. Like the bullshitter, the publisher of fake news is indifferent to the truth and intends to cover up this indifference. At any rate, so I argue. To this end, I first introduce four test cases that a satisfactory analysis should match (Section 1), review some factors that might explain how fake news differs from related phenomena (Section 2), and develop my analysis based on that review (Section 3). After that, I clarify the individual components of the account (Section 4) and discuss possible objections to my view (Section 5) before I conclude with a few thoughts on the practical problem that fake news poses.

What Is a Sexist Ideology? Or: Why Grace Didn’t Leave

Hilkje Charlotte Hänel

This paper brings forward two claims. First, sexual violence is a social practice within a broader framework of sexist ideology. And, second, such an ideology is necessarily holistic and self-operative. I spell out the first claim with the help of Sally Haslanger’s current research on social structures and ideologies. However, in order to show that a recent case of sexual violence is part of a broader sexist framework, I argue that we need to draw upon further research that focuses on the holistic and self-operative character of said ideologies. Additionally, I develop two insights that follow from understanding sexual violence as a social practice within a sexist ideology. If the sexist ideology constrains our actions and the intelligibility of our actions, then (a) the concept of consent becomes problematic in light of the sexist ideology, and (b) we should think about educational strategies to counter the sexist ideology, and not imprisonment.

Content and Target in Pictorial Representation

Gabriel Greenberg

Truth, or accuracy, is widely thought to be the centerpiece of any formal theory of meaning, at least in the study of language. This paper argues for a theory of pictorial accuracy, with attention to the relationship between accuracy and pictorial content. Focusing on cases where pictures are intended to convey accurate information, the theory distinguishes between two fundamental representational relations: on one hand, a picture expresses a content; on the other, it aims at a target scene. Such a picture is accurate when the content it expresses fits the target scene it aims at. In addition, content is thought to divide into two aspects: singular content specifies the particular individuals which a picture is of, and attributive content specifies the properties and relations which the picture ascribes to those individuals. For a picture to be accurate, both aspects must be matched in the target. I call this the Three-Part Model, because it distinguishes between a triad of factors— singular content, attributive content, and target— which together determine pictorial accuracy. Through close examination of a series of cases, I argue that each component of this model is essential in order to make sense of pictorial accuracy across a range of cases.

Practical Deliberation and Background Conditions on Normative Reasons for Action

Rachel Johnson

This paper concerns accounts of normative reasons for action that distinguish between the content of a reason and its “background conditions” (the explanation of why it is a reason). Such accounts sometimes appeal to this distinction to try to avoid what I will call “problematic thought objections”. These objections reject some accounts of normative reasons because (they claim) those accounts allow agents to have thoughts or motivations that a well-functioning practical reasoner ought not or cannot have (e.g., thoughts about her desires). These “problematic thoughts” concern the targeted account’s explanation of why reasons are reasons, so accounts that distinguish between reasons and background conditions can attempt to avoid these objections by claiming that thoughts about background conditions are not part of practical deliberation. I argue that this response fails because it is possible for a well-functioning practical reasoner’s motivation by a normative reason to include a recognition of its background conditions even if the reason itself does not. A well-functioning practical reasoner’s motivation by a normative reason may include motivation by the recognition that her reason (at least partially) justifies her action. This recognition may include an understanding of the background conditions on reasons. If this is right, it suggests a constraint on accounts of normative reasons: an account must be such that a practical reasoner can be moved by thought about its explanation of the nature of normative reasons without thereby becoming less well-functioning.

Coming Soon

A Formal Apology for Metaphysics

Samuel Baron

Why Do Desires Rationalize Actions?

Alex Gregory

Descartes’s Anti-Transparency and the Need for Radical Doubt

Elliot Samuel Paul

Racializing Races: The Racialized Groups of Interactive Constructionism Do Not Undermine Social Theories of Race

Phila Msimang

Frege's Conception of Truth: Two Readings

Junyeol Kim