Moral Impossibility

Moral Impossibility: Rethinking Choice and Conflict (MIGHT)

Principal investigator: Dr. Silvia Caprioglio Panizza
Period:  1. 1. 2022 – 31. 12. 2023
Grant No. 101026701 (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship)



The project aims to offer a theoretical framework for a significant yet under-explored set of phenomena which I will call ‘moral impossibility’ (MI), and to use the theoretical understanding achieved to propose a new approach to intractable moral conflict. MI refers to what – for moral reasons – lies outside the range of possibilities available in one’s choices. While empirical and logical impossibilities are widely accepted, moral ones are far less obvious, yet they shape and delimit, often silently, all choices. These include the possibilities we never consider, those we cannot make sense of (e.g. because too morally abhorrent), and those we consider but cannot bring ourselves to carry out. Neglecting the role of MI leads to crucial misrepresentations of situations of conflict in contemporary philosophy. Using recent case-studies, I propose to analyse intractable moral conflict in terms of moral possibilities that are not shared between the parties, in opposition to the dominant ‘disagreement’ model. The objectives of the research are 1) to construct a conceptual framework of MI, 2) to conduct a normative analysis of its most controversial manifestations, and 3) to use the conceptual and normative frameworks to offer a new understanding of the causes, meaning, and possible resolution, of intractable moral conflict. Each objective corresponds to a work package with a distinct methodology and contributing to a different branch of ethics: moral theory/ moral psychology, normative ethics, and applied ethics.