Dilemmas and Moral Realism

Utilitas 11 (01):71- (1999)
Abstract
I distinguish two different arguments against cognitivism in Bernard Williams’ writings on moral dilemmas. The first turns on there being a truth of the matter about what we ought to do in moral a dilemma. That argument can be met by appealing to our epistemic shortcomings and to pro tanto obligations. However, those responses make no headway with the second argument which concerns the rationality of the moral regret that we feel in dilemma situations. I show how the rationality of moral regret can be explained on an ‘independent desire’ model. And I show how Williams’ second argument only appears to have force because of a certain faulty way of conceiving of the issue over cognitivism. But Williams’ argument rightly alerts us to the rational role of desire in our moral thought
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