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Virtue and Moral Reasoning Under Oppressive Social Conditions

Concordia University in Montreal, February 10-11, 2018

KEYNOTES BY: Charlotte Witt (U New Hampshire), Eric Wiland (U Missouri, St. Louis), Elijah Milgram (U Utah), and Macalester Bell (Bryn Mawr College).


How should we think about virtue and practical rationality under oppressive conditions? Practical rationality and virtues are often understood in terms of ideals, such as: fully flourishing agents, ideal observers, or reasoners who are not subject to influences of sensibility. It is unclear, however, whether such ideals are helpful for us, non-ideal agents when facing real-life decisions in a non-ideal world.

One well-known problem for virtue theories here is that a less than fully virtuous agent shouldn’t always do what a fully virtuous agent would do in her situation. Must we perhaps turn to conceptions such as care, social practices, spheres of virtues, bounded rationality, moral advice or the like to determine the role of virtues and rationality under non-ideal social and political conditions?

Traditionally, virtues are seen as closely related to practical rationality (see Aristotle, Kant, Foot). Some have claimed, however, that certain character traits—for instance an unwillingness to compromise—count as virtues in the context of systemic injustice but not in other contexts. If what counts as a virtue depends on the political circumstances, then what counts as practically rational will probably depend on the same factors. But shouldn’t rationality be the same for everyone? Can rationality require us to do what is less than fully rational if what would be fully rational is beyond reach?

POSSIBLE QUESTIONS include, but are not limited to: How can ideals of complete virtue or rationality be relevant for non-ideal agents in non-ideal social circumstances? What does it mean for oppressed people to be virtuous and rational? How do social structures make it difficult to become virtuous or rational? Are virtues or rationality relative to social and political contexts? What resources does virtue ethics offer to theorize non-ideal political conditions? Are some virtues essentially geared towards non-ideal social relations? What role should moral advice, testimony and consciousnessraising play in situations of oppression? How should we reason together about policies when our practical rationality is impaired?

SUBMISSION RULES We welcome submissions from a wide range of philosophical perspectives. Women and members of underrepresented groups are particularly encouraged to apply. Please submit an anonymized abstract (500-1000 words; pdf, doc, or docx) through EasyChair. Selection will be via blind review.

DEADLINE: September 30, 2017.

NOTIFICATION BY: October 30, 2017.


A website for the workshop will be available. For other questions, please email one of the organizers: Ulf Hlobil (ulf.hlobil@concordia.ca) or Katharina Nieswandt (katharina.nieswandt@concordia.ca).


Source de l’image.