CFP: The Ethics of Inefficacy

Submission deadline: August 1, 2024

Conference date(s):
June 2, 2025 - June 4, 2025

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Conference Venue:

Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg
Gothenburg, Sweden

Topic areas


CfP: The Ethics of Inefficacy

University of Gothenburg, June 2-4, 2025

Confirmed speakers:  Mark Budolfson, Julia Driver, Julia Nefsky (keynote), and Carolina Sartorio.

Organisers: Mattias Gunnemyr, Rutger van Oeveren, and Jan Willem Wieland.


Deadline: August 1, 2024

Send to: [email protected]

Often, many actions together bring about an outcome, yet no individual action makes a difference to the occurrence of the outcome. Examples include climate change, overfishing, injustices in the global garment industry, holding shares in unethical companies, and more. Most agree that individuals still have reasons to act in some way in such cases. This raises a normative puzzle, the “Inefficacy Problem”: when and why do individuals have reasons to act even though doing so makes no relevant difference? At least since Parfit’s influential Reasons and Persons (1984), philosophers have been puzzled over this question. In recent years, this problem has received growing interest from philosophers and others, and generated much philosophical debate.

We are inviting papers on particular reasons for individuals to cooperate (e.g. to refrain from flying, in light of climate change), given that doing so is (typically) inefficacious, and closely related issues. The work should be new – for instance, raise new problems or respond to recent literature – and not just a summary of previous work. Contributors are asked to pick a view (or set of views) on the Inefficacy Problem and discuss, defend, or challenge a version of it. (In contrast, we are not looking for applied papers that merely apply various approaches to a case.)

Some examples of questions papers can address:

Instrumental reasons:

- Are there consequentialist/expected utility reasons to cooperate?

- Are there helpfulness reasons to cooperate?

- Are there participation/causal reasons to cooperate?

- Can we make direct or indirect differences in the first place?

- Can we derive individual reasons to cooperate from group reasons?

Non-instrumental reasons:

- Are there expressive/integrity reasons to cooperate?

- Are there fairness/universalisability reasons to cooperate?

- Are there self-interested/contractarian reasons to cooperate?

- Are there rationality/resoluteness reasons to cooperate?

- Are there reasons to employ self-binding/precommitment to cooperate?

Further issues:

- Can approaches to the sorites give us a solution to the inefficacy problem?

- Do interpersonal and intrapersonal dilemmas admit of similar solutions?

- Do collective harm and collective benefit cases admit of similar solutions?

- How do reasons to cooperate come in different degrees of strength?

- Are they similar to perfect or imperfect duties? Is it possible to “offset” violations?

Anonymized submissions of a maximum of 4500 words (notes and references included) and a 150-word abstract can be sent to [email protected] by August 1, 2024.

We aim to publish all papers presented at the conference in a volume edited by Mattias Gunnemyr, Rutger van Oeveren, and Jan Willem Wieland.

The conference includes a Young Scholar Award for PhD students and those within 3 years of defending their PhD by the time of the conference. The award covers travel and accommodation expenses up to € 500.

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