Contemporary Moral Dilemmas

by Dorota Probucka (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 152 Pages


This book provides an overview of selected problems typical of contemporary ethics. It consists of eight chapters – articles, each of which discusses another moral dilemma. These issues are related to environmental ethics, animal rights, moral education, liberal-communitarian debate, moral cognitivism, postmodern ethics, dilemmas of migration policy, and contemporary exploitation of people. The book discusses important moral problems and can be an interesting incentive to study ethics and philosophy.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Series Information
  • Immigrants at the Gates. The Dilemmas of Migration Policy from an Individualist Perspective
  • Individualism
  • Individuals in Relation to the State
  • True and False Individualism
  • Normative Nature of Individualism
  • Self-Reliance
  • Individualism and the Issue of Immigration
  • Dilemmas of Individualism
  • Nozick’s Experiment
  • Condition of Membership
  • Metautopia
  • Another Membership Condition
  • The Minimal State
  • Bibliography
  • Moral Education from the Perspective of the Liberal–Communitarian Debate
  • Preliminary Distinctions – Community and Civil Society
  • The Problem of Moral Education
  • Bibliography
  • Dilemmas of Ethical Extensionalism
  • Bibliography
  • A Conflict Regarding Animal Rights
  • Introduction
  • Why Animal Rights Are Not the Same Thing as Legal Protection of Animals?
  • What Are Animal Rights?
  • What Distinguishes the Postulate of Animal Rights from Caring about Animal Welfare?
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Some Dilemmas in the Contemporary Environmental Philosophy
  • The Relation Men–Animals: Within or Outside Environmental Ethics?
  • The Zoos Dilemma
  • Bibliography
  • Many Faces of Exploitation
  • Bibliography
  • Postmodern Ethics in the Hermeneutical Approach
  • Rorty and the Liberal Ironist
  • Gianni Vattimo: The Optimistic Nihilist as a Moral Figure
  • Socrates as the Ethical Figure in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Philosophy
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • The Dispute Between Moral Cognitivism and Non-Cognitivism
  • Non-Cognitivism vs. Cognitivism
  • What Is the Point in Dispute?
  • What Is the Difference between the Disputes Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism and Realism vs. Anti-Realism?
  • A Short History of the Dispute
  • The Fundamental Argument for Non-Cognitivism
  • Presentation of the Argument
  • Possible Objections to the Argument
  • Objections to Non-Cognitivism
  • Geach’s Argument against Non-CognitivismCf. Geach, Ascriptivism.
  • Non-Cognitivism and the Problem of the Identification of the Pro-Attitude and the Con-Attitude
  • The Generalized Axiological Non-Cognitivism Is Pragmatically Inconsistent
  • Is a Two-Component Analysis of Evaluative Judgements Possible?
  • Blackburn’s Quasi-Realism and the Problem of Truth of Moral Judgements
  • Summary: Moral Cognitivism Is Not Completely Incredible
  • Bibliography


Edited by/herausgegeben von

Seweryn Blandzi

Advisory Board/Wissenschaftlicher Beirat

Manfred Frank (University of Tübingen)

Kamila Najdek (University of Warsaw)

Marek Otisk (University of Ostrava, Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague)

Wojciech Starzyński (Polish Academy of Sciences)

VOL. 2

Katarzyna Haremska

Immigrants at the Gates. The Dilemmas of Migration Policy from an Individualist Perspective

Abstract: Does the right of the immigrants to choose their country implicate a correlating obligation of the selected state to accommodate such individuals? In our search for an answer to the above dilemma, we will take an individualist perspective. We will refer to the concept of liberal utopia coined by Robert Nozick. Such analysis will allow us to determine a preliminary set of criteria for selecting the immigrants.

Keywords:immigration, individualism, liberal utopia, the minimal state, Robert Nozick

In recent years, millions of people have left their homeland, setting out on dreadful journeys in a tireless effort to settle in any of the stable and wealthy Western states. In accordance with international conventions, anyone can emigrate from his or her own country and choose a new one where he or she wants to live1. But does the right to choose one’s country mean the right to reside in it and – further – does it imply the acquisition of civil rights? Neither the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) nor even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) – which is, after all, of a declaratory nature, and creates no legal obligations for the signatories – provides for such a possibility. They do not impose the obligation on the host nation to accept an alien as a fellow citizen. One can leave his or her country, but there is no guarantee that one will be accepted in another – gaining the status of contemporary Metics, or – even less probably – full citizens.

And so, significant limitations are encountered when determining the position of an individual towards the state in the context of international law, all the more visible in practice, in the realm of real politics. The state holds a monopoly ←7 | 8→on legal violence in a given area. Bearing in mind the rules of political realism, it is difficult to expect that the state – disposing of the greatest known power – would not use it to control such an important sphere as immigration. That it would give up the possibility of selecting newcomers and refusing entry to troublesome individuals or undesirable population groups.

The Western migration policy raises heated debates, in which ethical arguments mingle with pragmatic rationale. However, it should be clearly stated that these discussions are not about refugees. Those who flee war violence, discrimination and injustice should be welcomed and given all the help possible. This is due to the widely accepted social morality and human rights, including the right to freedom and security2, and in the case of persecution – to political asylum3. Compliance with this duty does not seem to be a deed of great merit, but neglect should be treated as a misdemeanour. The problem concerns another category of people knocking on our doors – those immigrants who are under no threat in their homeland. They come to our borders because they are looking forward to improve their lives. They do not flee their countries because of persecution, but leave them voluntarily, motivated by hope for a better life. They wish to decide for themselves, to take matters into their own hands and create their own fate. They do not come to us temporarily, only to go back once the threat has cleared; they want to live with us permanently, to found new home on our soil, to become our neighbours and fellow citizens.

What would be the situation of immigrants if we ignore international regulations and the socio-economic interests of individual states, and consider only the issue of philosophical individualism? Like all rational and free individuals, both hosts and newcomers have certain competences in accordance with the individualist doctrine. Do we have any duties towards immigrants in the context of an individualistic perspective? Is their right to leave their homeland and choose a new place to live accompanied by our duty to accept them? What conclusions does the dialectic of mutual powers lead to in this regard? Within ←8 | 9→individualism, how to solve the conflict between contradictory values, interests and emotions, felt by the free individuals on both sides of the border crossing?


The individualist perspective is the philosophical foundation of our civilization. If we look for the most prevalent assumptions, values and rules in our dominant view of the world, the principle of individualism would be a major one. It is no coincidence that while travelling around the United States in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that the individualistic attitude had emerged and spread with democracy, and that faith in the individual human being became the American credo: “[…] individualism is of democratic origin, and it threatens to spread in the same ratio as the equality of condition”4. The United States was at that time the civilization of the future, the forerunner of human history. What characterized the then American society soon became the differentia specifica of the entire Western world.

Individualism may be characterized as a position based on three assumptions: (1) there are only individuals in the social and political spheres; (2) their actions are the ultimate driving force of all social facts; (3) their mental constitution makes them responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their own actions5. Individualism treats humans as spiritually formed individuals, mature, capable of making their own choices – without the support of top-down institutions or spontaneously formed communities. At the heart of this concept is the idea of a conscious, intellectually self-sufficient, rational mind – an autonomous moral entity responsible for life decisions. Individualism places trust in people, seeing in them the potential for individual causal capability. It is assumed that, left to themselves, individuals can live their lives creatively, in a sense of fulfilment and inner satisfaction.

The above characteristic of the position of an individual in relation to the community requires a certain reservation, namely it should be restricted to adults. Individualism acknowledges lack of decision-making autonomy in children and adolescents, and the impact of the environment on the development of this age group. It is believed, however, that while the environment significantly builds the identity of young people, the educational process has its natural end and should not be extended beyond that boundary. It is recognized that beyond the threshold of adulthood, we are dealing with mature individuals who enter the social space as full-fledged entities.

Individuals in Relation to the State

Individualism recognizes the substantiality of the individual and the unreality of the social whole, and is thus identified with methodological and ontological nominalism. As Friedrich A. Hayek wrote: “[…] there is no other way toward an understanding of social phenomena but through our understanding of individual actions directed toward other people and guided by their expected behaviour. This argument is directed primarily against the properly collectivist theories of society which pretend to be able directly to comprehend social wholes like society, etc., as entities sui generis, which exist independently of the individuals which compose them”6.

According to the individualist perspective, individuals ontologically come first and are semantically superior to all organizations and communities. They are the only true reality of social and political life, the original source and ultimate goal of all public activity. They only need the state for strictly defined tasks, and its shape is conditional and can be challenged at any time. Similarly society – it is formed because it satisfies the needs of its members. Its value is secondary and instrumental. Public bodies have specific tasks to perform, are evaluated in terms of the degree of their implementation and can be questioned should a need arise. Individualist language is used to form arguments for the equality of all people and the universal natural laws, concepts of social agreement and the idea of civil disobedience.

Individualism is the essence and the philosophical foundation of liberalism. The principle of the individual taking precedence over the collective permeates all areas of the philosophy of liberalism – liberal methodology, anthropology, ethics and pedagogy. According to Adam Krzyżanowski, “the supporters ←10 | 11→of liberalism are constantly and universally striving to intensify individual life by denying the statist bonds that inhibit the free development of an individual, preventing them from attaining full bodily and spiritual strength that it can afford”7. The individualist features distinguish this ideology from other ones – conservatism, socialism, and traditional anarchism are community based. Anti-statism and anti-collectivism are the demarcation line separating liberal doctrine (and its radical variants, such as anarcho-capitalism) from the rest of the ideological world.

True and False Individualism

F.A. Hayek distinguishes between true and false individualism. According to this author, true individualism is characterized by anti-nationalism and anti-constructivism. Although social institutions are the work of individuals or human communities, this does not mean they are backed with a conscious intention, a rational decision: “by tracing the combined effects of individual actions, we discover that many of the institutions on which human achievements rest have arisen and are functioning without a designing and directing mind”8. They are a side effect of cultural evolution, an unforeseen side effect of innumerable initiatives undertaken by entrepreneurial individuals. Most social phenomena are unintended consequences of a large number of unknown individuals, whose spontaneous activity – the “invisible hand” – has given rise to an unpredictable effect.

In turn, rationalism and constructivism are the hallmarks of false individualism. This version of individualism is accompanied by faith in the power of the individual mind. Constructivists believe that “since man himself has created social institutions and civilization, he must be able to change them according to his will, needs and desires”9. They reject solutions that go beyond rational arguments, and works of culture that would not be constructs of an individual intellect. Hayek warned against overconfidence in the power of human reason. He wrote: “If we stopped doing everything for which we do not know the reason, or for which we cannot provide a justification in the sense demanded, we would probably very soon be dead”10.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
Philosophy Ethics Moral dispute Moral practice Moral research Moral conflicts
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 149 pp.

Biographical notes

Dorota Probucka (Volume editor)

Dorota Probucka is the Head of the Department of Particular Ethics, Theory of Mediation and Negotiation at the Pedagogical University of Cracow, as well as the editor-in-chief of the Polish Journal of Moral Education. She is also the author of several books devoted to ethics and numerous articles.


Title: Contemporary Moral Dilemmas
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
152 pages