Conference: Possibilities, Impossibilities, and Conflict in Ethics

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

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.).

Conference Program:



8:30-9:00 Registration and Welcome

9:00-10:00 Keynote

Alice Crary (The New School for Social Research, New York) ‘Political Possibilities’

Coffee break

10:20-11:20 Parallel sessions

Panel A: Impossibility and the other (Chair: Antony Fredriksson)

Joel Backström (Åbo akademi) ‘Longing and impossibility’

Yanni Ratajczyk (University of Antwerp) ‘Moral perception as Imaginative Apprehension: Moral Possibilities and Impossibilities’

Panel B: Contradictions (Chair: Ondřej Beran)

Sasha Lawson-Frost (Durham University) ‘Towards an ethics of contradiction: Simone Weil and the difficulty of philosophy’

Matt Dougherty (University of Vienna) ‘The Ethical “Excluded Zone”’


Short break

11:30-12:30 Parallel sessions

Panel A: Deep disagreement (Chair: Ryan Manhire)

Jordi Chilton (KU Leuven) ‘Deep disagreements and moral progress’

Serhiy Kish (University of Pardubice) ‘Does deep moral disagreement exist?’

Panel B: Evil and trauma (Chair Ondřej Beran)

Agata Łukomska (University of Warsaw) ‘The “Thick” Concept of Evil as a Conveyor of Moral Impossibility’

Jack Idris Sagar (University of Bristol) ‘Trauma, History and The Moral Impossibility of Explanation’


12:30 – 14 Lunch break

14:00-15:00 Keynote:

Sophie Grace Chappell (Philosophy, The Open University) ONLINE

‘On being ‘the only thing to do’: practical reasoning and practical necessity’


Coffee break

15:20-16:20 Parallel sessions

Panel A: Moral Necessity (Chair: Antony Fredriksson)

Kyle Fruh (Duke Kunshan University) ‘The Compulsion of Moral Heroes: Practical Necessity Rather than Illusion, Obligation or Virtue’

David Peroutka (Jan Evangelista Purkyně University & Charles University) ‘Moral necessity: Freedom when there is no choice’

Panel B: Certainty and doubt (Chair: Ryan Manhire)

Konstantin Deininger (University of Vienna) ‘“There’s Nothing Else to Think But …”: On the (Im)Possibilities of Moral Certainties’

Samuel Laves (Nova University Lisbon) ‘Wittgenstein and the Logical Possibility of Moral Doubt’


Short break

16:30-17:30 Parallel sessions

Panel A: Social norms and limits (Chair: Niklas Forsberg)

Jon Bebb (University of Manchester) ‘Representing Normal Possibilities’

Krzysztof Sołoducha (Military University of Technology Warsaw) ‘Methods and conditions of creating hybrid ethics for AGI-machines’

Panel B: The limits of psychology (Chair: Laura Candiotto)

Jenny Zhang (University of Edinburgh) ‘The Possibilities of Moral Life and the Impossibility of Moral Psychology’

Konstantin Eckl (University of Vienna) ‘The limits of moral emotions - possible and impossible uses of the Yuck Factor in Bioethics’

17:45 Walking tour of Pardubice with Peter Tuck

19 Conference dinner at Galerie Café




9-10 Keynote: Raimond Gaita (Melbourne University) reflections on moral impossibility and the unthinkable


Coffee break

10:20-11:50 Parallel sessions

Panel A: Obligation and impossibility (Chair Matti Syiem)

Etye Steinberg (University of Haifa) ‘Unthinkable Actions’

Olof Leffler (University of Pavia) ‘Kantian Doubts about Categorical Imperatives’

Matilde Liberti (University of Genoa) ‘Yet another distinction in Aristotle’s moral psychology: Inverse Akrasia and Moral Impossibility’

Panel B: Conflict and incommunicability (Chair Lesley Jamieson)

Olli Lagerspetz (Åbo Akademi) ‘The Morally Unsayable and “Reality”: The Case of “Im Westen nichts Neues”’

John McGuire (University College Dublin) ‘Conspiracy Thinking and Political Impossibility’

Silvia Caprioglio Panizza (Centre for Ethics, Pardubice) ‘Talking across mutually impossible worlds’


Short break

12:00-13:00 Guest lecture: Aviad Heifetz (The Open University of Israel)

‘Simone Weil on moral impossibility and moral dexterity’


13 – 14:30 Lunch break

14:30-15:30 Parallel sessions

Panel A: (Im)possibilities and non-human animals (Chair Mira Reyes)

Amber Elise Sheldon (Boston University) ‘The Moral Impossibility of Eating Lab-Grown Meat’

Erich Linder (University of Vienna) ‘Seeing possibilities in animal ethics’

Panel B: Feminist and queer impossibilities (Chair Olena Kushyna)

Camilla Kronqvist (Åbo Akademi) ‘What cannot be done? The possible and impossible in moral conversations on gender’

Salla Aldrin-Salskov & Niklas Toivakainen (University of Helsinki/ Åbo Akademi) ‘The sense of “ab-sense”: on the impasse at the heart of ethics’


Coffee break

15:50-16:50 Parallel sessions

Panel A: Resistance in fiction and music (Chair Lesley Jamieson)

Pedro Rapallo Zubillaga (California State University) ‘Impossibly Immoral Fictions and How to Understand Them’

Salla Aldrin Salskov & Ryan Manhire (Åbo Akademi University) ‘Moral Possibilities and Impossibilities in Kendrick Lamar's “Auntie Diaries”’

Panel B: Making climate change impossible (Chair Niklas Forsberg)

David Rozen (Centre for Ethics, Pardubice), Alex Putzer (Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa) ‘The moral impossibility of destroying the conditions for human well-being’

Geraldine Ng (Philosophy Lab CIC) ‘Climate change, moral hopelessness, and Nietzsche’s splendid individual’


Short break

17-18 Keynote: Gabriel Abend (Sociology, University of Lucerne)

‘Making things possible’


18:00 Conclusions and Reception

19 Dinner at Tandoor Pardubice


This conference is part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship Project 2020 "Moral Impossibility: Rethinking Choice and Conflict (MIGHT).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101026701.