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PoEthics: for a new 'tragic' ethics of affection

Project description

Moral philosophy: insights into affection in ethics

Homer and Sophocles are well-known ancient Greek poets, portraying moral dilemmas of evil, violence and injustice. With a focus on their work, the PoEthics project, funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, aims to explore the role of sensitivity and bond of affection in ethics. Specifically, the project will engage with contemporary ethical strands in analytic philosophy, hermeneutics and feminist thought. In doing so, it will employ an approach that places the role of personal affections at the core of moral behaviour. Project work will provide key insights into ancient texts for specialist theatre and general audiences.


PoEthics investigates the role of affection in ethics, with a specific focus on two ancient Greek poets, Homer and Sophocles. Both depict moral dilemmas of evil, violence and injustice. Conflicts, such as in the stories of Achilles or Antigone, seem unavoidable in the community. On the other hand, sensible characters, like Hector, Ajax or Deianeira, overwhelmed by bad luck and compelling passions, fail to save themselves and their beloved ones. The problem vividly expressed in these literary works is how men can find a solution in such hostile situations avoiding violence, pain, sorrow, and death. Is rationality, practical reasoning, or observance of principles – whether divine or positive ones – enough? PoEthics will explore if the subtler ethical message lies in human sensitivity and bonds of affections, often symbolized by minor characters whose significance need to be re-evaluated. Bernard Williams has endorsed a moral model which takes into account the irrationality of luck and the concreteness of every single person’s desires, hopes and emotions in ethical judgments and actions. On the same path are the works by Nussbaum. Lévinas, Arendt and following feminist though, especially Cavarero and Butler, instead, put at the center of moral discourse the concept of 'shared vulnerability' and the role of the 'other'. PoEthics engages with these contemporary strands in ethics but proposes a new approach, which puts at the core of moral behaviour the role of personal affections. This novel ethical paradigm addresses concrete societal and individuals’ problems involving complex ethical issues. PoEthics’ aim will be to spread the knowledge of these ancient texts to specialistic theater and general audience. Through the fellowship I intend to enhance my expertise in reception and classical studies and to expand my knowledge in moral philosophy. At Utrecht University, my host institution, I will be working at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

Funding Scheme



Net EU contribution
€ 187 624,32
3584 CS Utrecht

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West-Nederland Utrecht Utrecht
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data