Possibilities, Impossibilities and Conflict in Ethics

June 1, 2023 - June 2, 2023
Centre for Ethics, University of Pardubice

nam. cs. legii 565
Pardubice 53002
Czech Republic

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

View the Call For Papers


  • Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions


Open University (UK)
The New School
Raimond Gaita
University of Melbourne
Open University of Israel


University College Dublin

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Possibilities, Impossibilities and Conflict in Ethics

Conference funded by the MSCA project MIGHT

(‘Moral Impossibility: Rethinking Choice and Conflict’)

Hosted by the Centre for Ethics, University of Pardubice

Thursday & Friday, 1&2 June 2023


Keynote speakers

Alice Crary (The New School for Social Research)

Raimond Gaita (Melbourne University)

Sophie Grace Chappell (Open University)

Gabriel Abend (University of Lucerne)

with a guest lecture by Aviad Heifetz (The Open University of Israel)

Conference description

Moral choices always occur among a limited number of possibilities. While a lot of thought has gone into understanding how the best or better option is selected and realised, little has been said about how possibilities are delimited, which ones are excluded and why, and how we come to ‘see’ the possibilities that we see – all of which, however unconscious or neglected, determines every choice and action.

While empirical and sometimes logical limits to ethical possibilities are relatively clear (often in the form of the ‘ought implies can’ principle), this conference aims to explore the moral limits to possibilities. Morality, in other words, is at work not only in choosing the best course of action, but also in limiting the possibilities among which we can - morally - choose. Some of these limits, for their very nature, will never be known. Sometimes these limits are unconscious. Sometimes we are aware of possibilities, yet cannot take them as actual possibilities for ourselves. These limits have been observed, in various ways, by philosophers such as Bernard Williams (moral incapacity), Cora Diamond (the difficulty of reality), John McDowell (virtue as silencing certain options), Raimond Gaita (unthinkability), Tamar Szabó Gendler (imaginative resistance), and others.

This conference brings together theoretical work on the nature and scope of moral limits to possibility, and applied work on how acknowledging such limits, and their variability among individuals, groups, and cultures, can help understand moral conflict and disagreement. Hence, both theoretical papers and papers that examine concrete case studies or examples from significant contemporary issues are welcome. We also welcome interdisciplinary papers as well as individual contributions from different disciplines (philosophy, political theory, psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, etc.).

Possible (and impossible) topics include, but are not limited to:

-       The nature and varieties of possibility in ethics

-       The causes of various forms of moral impossibility

-       The difference between psychological and moral impossibility

-       Practical necessity

-       The limits of the discussable

-       Alternative possibilities and moral responsibility

-       The work of Bernard Williams, Raimond Gaita, John McDowell, Cora Diamond, Stanley Cavell, Harry Frankfurt (and others) in relation to the conference’s theme

-       Imaginative resistance and its application outside of fiction

-       The differences between impossibilities in action, thought, and imagination

-       The role of conceivability and possibility in ethics

-       Individual vs collective sources of impossibility

-       The social and cultural elements of moral impossibilities

-       The application of moral impossibilities to conflict analysis

-       Moral impossibilities and social/cultural taboos

-       The political and social manifestations of moral impossibilities

-       The meta ethical consequences of moral impossibility (for moral realism, moral relativism, etc.)

-       Moral impossibility and normative ethical theories   

-       Moral impossibility and related concepts in moral psychology (imagination, desire, fear, shame…)

-       Moral impossibility/impossibilities in contemporary culture

-       The normativity of moral impossibility (when is it good, if ever, for us to be unable to think, do, imagine something?)

This is an in-person conference.

Please submit a 250-300 word abstract [email protected] 15 February 2023. 

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May 1, 2023, 9:00am CET

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