David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Synthese 88 (1):43 - 55 (1991)
In moral dilemmas, where circumstances prevent two or more equally justified prima facie ethical requirements from being fulfilled, it is often maintained that, since the agent cannot do both, conjoint obligation is overridden by Kant's principle that ought implies can, but that the agent nevertheless has a disjunctive obligation to perform one of the otherwise obligatory actions or the other. Against this commonly received view, it is demonstrated that although Kant's ought-can principle may avoid logical inconsistency, the principle is incompatible with disjunctive obligation in standard deontic logic, and that it entails paradoxically that none of the conflicting dilemma actions will in fact occur. The principle appears to provide the only plausible safeguard against deontic antinomy, but cannot be admitted because of its collision with considered moral judgments.
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