Moral Dilemmas

Blackwell (1988)
A strong tradition in philosophy denies the possibility of moral dilemmas. Recently, several philosophers reversed this tradition. In this dissertation, I clarify some fundamental issues in this debate, argue for the possibility of moral dilemmas, and determine some implications of this possibility. ;In chapter I, I define moral dilemmas roughly as situations where an agent morally ought to adopt each of two alternatives but cannot adopt both. Moral dilemmas are resolvable if and only if one of the moral oughts overrides the other. ;In chapter II, I criticize several opponents of moral dilemmas, including utilitarians, Kant, Aquinas, and Ross. My main criticism is that no opponent of moral dilemmas can adequately justify moral residue . ;Chapters III and IV concern the two main arguments against the possibility of moral dilemmas. First, the argument for 'ought' implies 'can' runs as follows. If the agent cannot adopt both, then it is not the case that the agent ought to adopt both. But the agent ought to adopt both, since the agent ought to adopt each . Thus, the defining judgements of a moral dilemma seem to imply a contradiction. In response, I argue that the relation between 'ought' and 'can' is not a logical implication but a conversational implicature. ;Chapter IV concerns the argument from 'ought' implies 'permitted': If the agent ought to adopt one alternative, then the agent is permitted to adopt that alternative, which means that it is not the case that the agent ought not to adopt that alternative. But the agent ought not to adopt that alternative, since the agent ought to adopt the other alternative and cannot adopt both. I respond that 'ought' does not logically imply but conversationally implicates 'permitted'. ;In chapter V, I argue that, despite recent claims, both moral realism and anti-realism are compatible with the possibility of moral dilemmas. Thus, there are several reasons to accept and no reasons to deny the possibility of moral dilemmas
Keywords Ethics  Dilemma
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book $152.44 new   $2520.00 used    Amazon page
Call number BJ1031.S55 1988
ISBN(s) 0631157085  
DOI 10.2307/2219643
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 35,941
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

I Ought, Therefore I Can.Peter B. M. Vranas - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 136 (2):167-216.
Does Thought Imply Ought?Krister Bykvist & Anandi Hattiangadi - 2007 - Analysis 67 (4):277–285.
A Contrastivist Manifesto.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 2008 - Social Epistemology 22 (3):257 – 270.
Does 'Ought' Conversationally Implicate 'Can'?Bart Streumer - 2003 - European Journal of Philosophy 11 (2):219–228.

View all 38 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Two Types of Moral Dilemma.John R. Welch - 2001 - In Matti Häyry & Tuija Takala (eds.), The Future of Value Inquiry. Rodopi.
Moral Dilemmas.Christopher W. Gowans (ed.) - 1987 - Oxford Uiversity Press.
Moral Dilemmas and Comparative Conceptions of Morality.Peter Vallentyne - 1992 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):117-124.
Epistemological Dilemmas of Contemporary Ethics.Harun Tepe - 2007 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 1:25-30.
Expressivism and Moral Dilemmas: A Response to Marino.Carl Baker - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (4):445-455.
Moral Dilemmas and Moral Theory.H. E. Mason (ed.) - 1996 - Oxford University Press.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
71 ( #92,126 of 2,293,874 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
15 ( #31,331 of 2,293,874 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature