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Moral Dilemmas / Problems

In relation to ethics the terms ‘conundrum’, ‘dilemma’, ‘predicament’, ‘problem, and ‘quandary’ are often used interchangeably, but it is important to distinguish different notions corresponding to different types of situation. Here the terms problem, perplexity, and dilemma are used to distinguish these. First, then a moral problem is a feature or state of affairs that poses a challenge or makes a demand on how to act. Someone who becomes pregnant but does not want to have a baby faces a moral problem expressed by the question ‘what is the right thing to do?’: a) to end the pregnancy, b) to continue it but to seek immediate adoption, or c) to have and raise the child. The woman may be clear as to which of these she believes it is right to pursue but nonetheless recognise that the situation is problematic and that others might judge there are reasons to choose a different course. A moral perplexity is a situation in which it is not clear what the right thing to do is or even what the way to work this out may be. For example it is sometimes argued that reparations should be made for slavery. But to whom and by whom and on what basis should this be done? Is it for the direct descendants of slave owners to make reparations to the direct descendants of their ancestors’ slaves? What if there are no direct but only distant descendants on either side? What if in some case the descendants of owners are poorer than the descendants of slaves, or have no resources? What if the principal beneficiaries of slavery were not the owners but their societies? Should it then be for the (descendant) society to make reparation? The point here is that in thinking about the issue all sorts of further questions arise and it is difficult to know how to answer them, hence how to address the issue of reparation. Finally, a moral dilemma is a situation in which it seems that whatever one does one will not have done something one ought to have done. This may take two forms. First, where one ought to do A and one ought to do B but circumstances make it impossible to do both. Doing neither is a double failure, and doing one is a single failure. Second, where one ought to do A and one ought not to do A. Here the dilemma is not created by a circumstantially impossible requirements but by directly contradictory ones. An example would be where you had promised X that you would do A and promised Y that you would not do A. Unlike problems and perplexities dilemmas seem so directly contradictory that some philosophers have argued that they are illusory and they seek to explain away the appearance of them.

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    • Suggested

    E. J. Lemmon, Moral Dilemmas, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Apr., 1962), pp. 139-158

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    • Suggested

    Alasdair Macintyre, Moral Dilemmas, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 50, Supplement (Autumn, 1990), pp. 367-382

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    Philippa Foot, Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 80, No. 7 (Jul., 1983), pp. 379-398

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    Harvard Live Pandemic Ethics with Michael Sandel

    Michael Sandel leads Harvard students, faculty, and staff in a lively discussion about the big social, ethical, and political questions raised by the COVID pandemic. View this University-wide discussion on Pandemic Ethics: Should we use surveillance technologies to monitor compliance with social distancing? If hospitals have too few ventilators for those in need, how should they be allocated? Should we be willing to risk some loss of life to restart the economy?

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    The Trolley Problem

    Michael tries a more concrete approach to solve the trolley problem. The Good Place 'Chapter 19' Season 2, Episode 6 'The Trolley Problem' - Chidi and Eleanor tackle a famous ethical dilemma, leading to a conflict with Michael; Tahani confides in Janet. Welcome to the OFFICIAL Comedy Hub Channel. With all of your favourite moments and characters from some of the worlds best comedy, including The Office US, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine Nine and many many more. Subscribe here - youtube.com/channel/UCGfUuxBzB8E30XjCjOvji2w?sub_confirmation=1 Check out the official Peacock YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/peacocktv The Office U.S.: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheOfficeUS Parks and Recreation: https://www.youtube.com/c/ParksandRecreation Brooklyn Nine-Nine: https://www.youtube.com/c/BrooklynNineNineOfficial Watch full episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine here: https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/brooklyn-nine-nine ITunes: http://apple.co/2gsqIjI Watch full episodes of Parks and Recreation here: https://www.uphe.com/tv/parks-and-recreation-the-complete-series Watch full episodes of 30 Rock here: https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/30-rock Watch full episodes of The Office US here: https://www.uphe.com/tv/the-office-the-complete-series Watch full episodes of The Good Place here: https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/the-good-place Subscribe here - youtube.com/channel/UCGfUuxBzB8E30XjCjOvji2w?sub_confirmation=1 #TheGoodPlace #nbc

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    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Menu Browse Table of Contents What's New Random Entry Chronological Archives About Editorial Information About the SEP Editorial Board How to Cite the SEP Special Characters Advanced Tools Contact Support SEP Support the SEP PDFs for SEP Friends Make a Donation SEPIA for Libraries Entry Navigation Entry Contents Bibliography Academic Tools Friends PDF Preview Author and Citation Info Back to Top Moral Dilemmas First published Mon Apr 15, 2002; substantive revision Mon Jul 25, 2022 Moral dilemmas, at the very least, involve conflicts between moral requirements. Consider the cases given below. 1. Examples 2. The Concept of Moral Dilemmas 3. Problems 4. Dilemmas and Consistency 5. Responses to the Arguments 6. Moral Residue and Dilemmas 7. Types of Moral Dilemmas 8. Multiple Moralities 9. Conclusion Bibliography Cited Works Other Worthwhile Readings Academic Tools Other Internet Resources Related Entries 1. Examples In Book I of Plato’s Republic, Cephalus defines ‘justice’ as speaking the truth and paying one’s debts. Socrates quickly refutes this account by suggesting that it would be wrong to repay certain debts—for example, to return a borrowed weapon to a friend who is not in his right mind. Socrates’ point is not that repaying debts is without moral import; rather, he wants to show that it is not always right to repay one’s debts, at least not exactly when the one to whom the debt is owed demands repayment. What we have here is a conflict between two moral norms: repaying one’s debts and protecting others from harm. And in this case, Socrates maintains that protecting others from harm is the norm that takes priority. Nearly twenty-four centuries later, Jean-Paul Sartre described a moral conflict the resolution of which was, to many, less obvious than the resolution to the Platonic conflict. Sartre (1957) tells of a student whose brother had been killed in the German offensive of 1940. The student wanted to avenge his brother and to fight forces that he regarded as evil. But the student’s mother was living with him, and he was her one consolation in life. The student believed that he had conflicting obligations. Sartre describes him as being torn between two kinds of morality: one of limited scope but certain efficacy, personal devotion to his mother; the other of much wider scope but uncertain efficacy, attempting to contribute to the defeat of an unjust aggressor. While the examples from Plato and Sartre are the ones most commonly cited, there are many others. Literature abounds with such cases. In Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, the protagonist ought to save his daughter and ought to lead the Greek troops to Troy; he ought to do each but he cannot do both. And Antigone, in Sophocles’s play of the same name, ought to arrange for the burial of her brother, Polyneices, and ought to obey the pronouncements of the city’s ruler, Creon; she can do each of these things, but not both. Areas of applied ethics, such as biomedical ethics, business ethics, and legal ethics, are also replete with such cases. 2. The Concept of Moral Dilemmas What is common to the two well-known cases is conflict. In each case, an agent regards herself as having moral reasons to do each of two actions, but doing both actions is not possible. Ethicists have called situations like these moral dilemmas. The crucial features of a moral dilemma are these: the agent is required to do each of two (or more) actions; the agent can do each of the actions; but the agent cannot do both (or all) of the actions. The agent thus seems condemned to moral failure; no matter what she does, she will do something wrong (or fail to do something that she ought to do). The Platonic case strikes many as too easy to be characterized as a genuine moral dilemma. For the agent’s solution in that case is clear; it is more important to protect people from harm than to return a borrowed weapon. And in any case, the borrowed item can be returned later, when the owner no longer poses a threat to others. Thus in this case we can say that the requirement to protect others from serious harm overrides the requirement to repay one’s debts by returning a borrowed item when its owner so demands. When one of the conflicting requirements overrides the other, we have a conflict but not a genuine moral dilemma. So in addition to the features mentioned above, in order to have a genuine moral dilemma it must also be true that neither of the conflicting requirements is overridden (Sinnott-Armstrong 1988, Chapter 1). 3. Problems It is less obvious in Sartre’s case that one of the requirements overrides the other. Why this is so, however, may not be so obvious. Some will say that our uncertainty about what to do in this case is simply the result of uncertainty about the consequences. If we were certain that the student could make a difference in defeating the Germans, the obligation to join the military would prevail. But if the student made little difference whatsoever in that cause, then his obligation to tend to his mother’s needs would take precedence, since there he is virtually certain to be helpful. Others, though, will say that these obligations are equally weighty, and that uncertainty about the consequences is not at issue here. Ethicists as diverse as Kant (1971/1797), Mill (1979/1861), and Ross (1930, 1939) have assumed that an adequate moral theory should not allow for the possibility of genuine moral dilemmas. Only recently—in the last sixty years or so—have philosophers begun to challenge that assumption. And the challenge can take at least two different forms. Some will argue that it is not possible to preclude genuine moral dilemmas. Others will argue that even if it were possible, it is not desirable to do so. To illustrate some of the debate that occurs regarding whether it is possible for any theory to eliminate genuine moral dilemmas, consider the following. The conflicts in Plato’s case and in Sartre’s case arose because there is more than one moral precept (using ‘precept’ to designate rules and principles), more than one precept sometimes applies to the same situation, and in some of these cases the precepts demand conflicting actions. One obvious solution here would be to arrange the precepts, however many there might be, hierarchically. By this scheme, the highest ordered precept always prevails, the second prevails unless it conflicts with the first, and so on. There are at least two glaring problems with this obvious solution, however. First, it just does not seem credible to hold that moral rules and principles should be hierarchically ordered. While the requirements to keep one’s promises and to prevent harm to others clearly can conflict, it is far from clear that one of these requirements should always prevail over the other. In the Platonic case, the obligation to prevent harm is clearly stronger. But there can easily be cases where the harm that can be prevented is relatively mild and the promise that is to be kept is very important. And most other pairs of precepts are like this. This was a point made by Ross in The Right and the Good (1930, Chapter 2). The second problem with this easy solution is deeper. Even if it were plausible to arrange moral precepts hierarchically, situations can arise in which the same precept gives rise to conflicting obligations. Perhaps the most widely discussed case of this sort is taken from William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice (1980, 528–529; see Greenspan 1983 and Tessman 2015, 160–163). Sophie and her two children are at a Nazi concentration camp. A guard confronts Sophie and tells her that one of her children will be allowed to live and one will be killed. But it is Sophie who must decide which child will be killed. Sophie can prevent the death of either of her children, but only by condemning the other to be killed. The guard makes the situation even more excruciating by informing Sophie that if she chooses neither, then both will be killed. With this added factor, Sophie has a morally compelling reason to choose one of her children. But for each child, Sophie has an apparently equally strong reason to save him or her. Thus the same moral precept gives rise to conflicting obligations. Some have called such cases symmetrical (Sinnott-Armstrong 1988, Chapter 2). 4. Dilemmas and Consistency We shall return to the issue of whether it is possible to preclude genuine moral dilemmas. But what about the desirability of doing so? Why have ethicists thought that their theories should preclude the possibility of dilemmas? At the intuitive level, the existence of moral dilemmas suggests some sort of inconsistency. An agent caught in a genuine dilemma is required to do each of two acts but cannot do both. And since he cannot do both, not doing one is a condition of doing the other. Thus, it seems that the same act is both required and forbidden. But exposing a logical inconsistency takes some work; for initial inspection reveals that the inconsistency intuitively felt is not present. Allowing \(OA\) to designate that the agent in question ought to do \(A\) (or is morally obligated to do \(A\), or is morally required to do \(A)\), that \(OA\) and \(OB\) are both true is not itself inconsistent, even if one adds that it is not possible for the agent to do both \(A\) and \(B\). And even if the situation is appropriately described as \(OA\) and \(O\neg A\), that is not a contradiction; the contradictory of \(OA\) is \(\neg OA\). (See Marcus 1980 and McConnell 1978, 273.) Similarly rules that generate moral dilemmas are not inconsistent, at least on the usual understanding of that term. Ruth Marcus suggests plausibly that we “define a set of rules as consistent if there is some possible world in which they are all obeyable in all circumstances in that world.” Thus, “rules are consistent if there are possible circumstances in which no conflict will emerge,” and “a set of rules is inconsistent if there are no circumstances, no possible world, in which all the rules are satisfiable” (Marcus 1980, 128 and 129). Kant, Mill, and Ross were likely aware that a dilemma-generating theory need not be inconsistent. Even so, they would be disturbed if their own theories allowed for such predicaments. If this speculation is correct, it suggests that Kant, Mill, Ross, and others thought that there is an important theoretical feature that dilemma-generating theories lack. And this is understandable. It is certainly no comfort to an agent facing a reputed moral dilemma to be told that at least the rules which generate this predicament are consistent because there is a possible world in which they do not conflict. For a good practical example, consider the situation of the criminal defense attorney. She is said to have an obligation to hold in confidence the disclosures made by a client and to be required to conduct herself with candor before the court (where the latter requires that the attorney inform the court when her client commits perjury) (Freedman 1975, Chapter 3). It is clear that in this world these two obligations often conflict. It is equally clear that in some possible world—for example, one in which clients do not commit perjury—that both obligations can be satisfied. Knowing this is of no assistance to defense attorneys who face a conflict between these two requirements in this world. Ethicists who are concerned that their theories not allow for moral dilemmas have more than consistency in mind. What is troubling is that theories that allow for dilemmas fail to be uniquely action-guiding. A theory is appropriately action-guiding if it assesses an agent’s options as either forbidden, (merely) permissible, or obligatory (or, possibly, supererogatory). If more than one action is right, then the agent’s obligation is to do any one of the right acts. A theory can fail to be uniquely action-guiding in either of two ways: by recommending incompatible actions in a situation or by not recommending any action at all. Theories that generate genuine moral dilemmas fail to be uniquely action-guiding in the former way. Theories that have no way, even in principle, of determining what an agent should do in a particular situation have what Thomas E. Hill, Jr. calls “gaps” (Hill 1996, 179–183); they fail to be action-guiding in the latter way. Since one of the main points of moral theories is to provide agents with guidance, that suggests that it is desirable for theories to eliminate dilemmas and gaps, at least if doing so is possible. But failing to be uniquely action-guiding is not the only reason that the existence of moral dilemmas is thought to be troublesome. Just as important, the existence of dilemmas does lead to inconsistencies if certain other widely held theses are true. Here we shall consider two different arguments, each of which shows that one cannot consistently acknowledge the reality of moral dilemmas while holding selected (and seemingly plausible) principles. The first argument shows that two standard principles of deontic logic are, when conjoined, incompatible with the existence of moral dilemmas. The first of these is the principle of deontic consistency \[\tag{PC} OA \rightarrow \neg O\neg A. \] Intuitively this principle just says that the same action cannot be both obligatory and forbidden. Note that as initially described, the existence of dilemmas does not conflict with PC. For as described, dilemmas involve a situation in which an agent ought to do \(A\), ought to do \(B\), but cannot do both \(A\) and \(B\). But if we add a principle of deontic logic, then we obtain a conflict with PC: \[\tag{PD} \Box(A \rightarrow B) \rightarrow(OA \rightarrow OB). \] Intuitively, PD just says that if doing \(A\) brings about \(B\), and if \(A\) is obligatory (morally required), then \(B\) is obligatory (morally required). The first argument that generates inconsistency can now be stated. Premises (1), (2), and (3) represent the claim that moral dilemmas exist. 1. \(OA\) 2. \(OB\) 3. \(\neg C (A \amp B)\) [where ‘\(\neg C\)’ means ‘cannot’] 4. \(\Box(A \rightarrow B) \rightarrow(OA \rightarrow OB)\) [where ‘\(\Box\)’ means physical necessity] 5. \(\Box \neg(B \amp A)\) (from 3) 6. \(\Box(B \rightarrow \neg A)\) (from 5) 7. \(\Box(B \rightarrow \neg A) \rightarrow(OB \rightarrow O\neg A)\) (an instantiation of 4) 8. \(OB \rightarrow O\neg A\) (from 6 and 7) 9. \(O\neg A\) (from 2 and 8) 10. \(OA \text{ and } O\neg A\) (from 1 and 9) Line (10) directly conflicts with PC. And from PC and (1), we can conclude: 11. \(\neg O\neg A\) And, of course, (9) and (11) are contradictory. So if we assume PC and PD, then the existence of dilemmas generates an inconsistency of the old-fashioned logical sort. (Note: In standard deontic logic, the ‘\(\Box\)’ in PD typically designates logical necessity. Here I take it to indicate physical necessity so that the appropriate connection with premise (3) can be made. And I take it that logical necessity is stronger than physical necessity.) Two other principles accepted in most systems of deontic logic entail PC. So if PD holds, then one of these additional two principles must be jettisoned too. The first says that if an action is obligatory, it is also permissible. The second says that an action is permissible if and only if it is not forbidden. These principles may be stated as: \[\tag{OP} OA \rightarrow PA; \] and \[\tag{D} PA \leftrightarrow \neg O\neg A. \] Principles OP and D are basic; they seem to be conceptual truths (Brink 1994, section IV). From these two principles, one can deduce PC, which gives it additional support. The second argument that generates inconsistency, like the first, has as its first three premises a symbolic representation of a moral dilemma. 1. \(OA\) 2. \(OB\) 3. \(\neg C (A \amp B)\) And like the first, this second argument shows that the existence of dilemmas leads to a contradiction if we assume two other commonly accepted principles. The first of these principles is that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. Intuitively this says that if an agent is morally required to do an action, it must be within the agent’s power to do it. This principle seems necessary if moral judgments are to be uniquely action-guiding. We may represent this as 4. \(OA \rightarrow CA\) (for all \(A\)) The other principle, endorsed by most systems of deontic logic, says that if an agent is required to do each of two actions, she is required to do both. We may represent this as 5. \((OA \amp OB) \rightarrow O(A\amp B)\) (for all \(A\) and all \(B\)) The argument then proceeds: 6. \(O(A \amp B) \rightarrow C(A \amp B)\) (an instance of 4) 7. \(OA \amp OB\) (from 1 and 2) 8. \(O(A \amp B)\) (from 5 and 7) 9. \(\neg O(A \amp B)\) (from 3 and 6) So if one assumes that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ and if one assumes the principle represented in (5)—dubbed by some the agglomeration principle (Williams 1965)—then again a contradiction can be derived. 5. Responses to the Arguments Now obviously the inconsistency in the first argument can be avoided if one denies either PC or PD. And the inconsistency in the second argument can be averted if one gives up either the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ or the agglomeration principle. There is, of course, another way to avoid these inconsistencies: deny the possibility of genuine moral dilemmas. It is fair to say that much of the debate concerning moral dilemmas in the last sixty years has been about how to avoid the inconsistencies generated by the two arguments above. Opponents of moral dilemmas have generally held that the crucial principles in the two arguments above are conceptually true, and therefore we must deny the possibility of genuine dilemmas. (See, for example, Conee 1982 and Zimmerman 1996.) Most of the debate, from all sides, has focused on the second argument. There is an oddity about this, however. When one examines the pertinent principles in each argument which, in combination with dilemmas, generates an inconsistency, there is little doubt that those in the first argument have a greater claim to being conceptually true than those in the second. (One who recognizes the salience of the first argument is Brink 1994, section V.) Perhaps the focus on the second argument is due to the impact of Bernard Williams’s influential essay (Williams 1965). But notice that the first argument shows that if there are genuine dilemmas, then either PC or PD must be relinquished. Even most supporters of dilemmas acknowledge that PC is quite basic. E.J. Lemmon, for example, notes that if PC does not hold in a system of deontic logic, then all that remains are truisms and paradoxes (Lemmon 1965, p. 51). And giving up PC also requires denying either OP or D, each of which also seems basic. There has been much debate about PD—in particular, questions generated by the Good Samaritan paradox—but still it seems basic. So those who want to argue against dilemmas purely on conceptual grounds are better off focusing on the first of the two arguments above. Some opponents of dilemmas also hold that the pertinent principles in the second argument—the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ and the agglomeration principle—are conceptually true. But foes of dilemmas need not say this. Even if they believe that a conceptual argument against dilemmas can be made by appealing to PC and PD, they have several options regarding the second argument. They may defend ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, but hold that it is a substantive normative principle, not a conceptual truth. Or they may even deny the truth of ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ or the agglomeration principle, though not because of moral dilemmas, of course. Defenders of dilemmas need not deny all of the pertinent principles. If one thinks that each of the principles at least has some initial plausibility, then one will be inclined to retain as many as possible. Among the earlier contributors to this debate, some took the existence of dilemmas as a counterexample to ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ (for example, Lemmon 1962 and Trigg 1971); others, as a refutation of the agglomeration principle (for example, Williams 1965 and van Fraassen 1973). A common response to the first argument is to deny PD. A more complicated response is to grant that the crucial deontic principles hold, but only in ideal worlds. In the real world, they have heuristic value, bidding agents in conflict cases to look for permissible options, though none may exist (Holbo 2002, especially sections 15–17). Friends and foes of dilemmas have a burden to bear in responding to the two arguments above. For there is at least a prima facie plausibility to the claim that there are moral dilemmas and to the claim that the relevant principles in the two arguments are true. Thus each side must at least give reasons for denying the pertinent claims in question. Opponents of dilemmas must say something in response to the positive arguments that are given for the reality of such conflicts. One reason in support of dilemmas, as noted above, is simply pointing to examples. The case of Sartre’s student and that from Sophie’s Choice are good ones; and clearly these can be multiplied indefinitely. It will tempting for supporters of dilemmas to say to opponents, “If this is not a real dilemma, then tell me what the agent ought to do and why?” It is obvious, however, that attempting to answer such questions is fruitless, and for at least two reasons. First, any answer given to the question is likely to be controversial, certainly not always convincing. And second, this is a game that will never end; example after example can be produced. The more appropriate response on the part of foes of dilemmas is to deny that they need to answer the question. Examples as such cannot establish the reality of dilemmas. Surely most will acknowledge that there are situations in which an agent does not know what he ought to do. This may be because of factual uncertainty, uncertainty about the consequences, uncertainty about what principles apply, or a host of other things. So for any given case, the mere fact that one does not know which of two (or more) conflicting obligations prevails does not show that none does. Another reason in support of dilemmas to which opponents must respond is the point about symmetry. As the cases from Plato and Sartre show, moral rules can conflict. But opponents of dilemmas can argue that in such cases one rule overrides the other. Most will grant this in the Platonic case, and opponents of dilemmas will try to extend this point to all cases. But the hardest case for opponents is the symmetrical one, where the same precept generates the conflicting requirements. The case from Sophie’s Choice is of this sort. It makes no sense to say that a rule or principle overrides itself. So what do opponents of dilemmas say here? They are apt to argue that the pertinent, all-things-considered requirement in such a case is disjunctive: Sophie should act to save one or the other of her children, since that is the best that she can do (for example, Zimmerman 1996, Chapter 7). Such a move need not be ad hoc, since in many cases it is quite natural. If an agent can afford to make a meaningful contribution to only one charity, the fact that there are several worthwhile candidates does not prompt many to say that the agent will fail morally no matter what he does. Nearly all of us think that he should give to one or the other of the worthy candidates. Similarly, if two people are drowning and an agent is situated so that she can save either of the two but only one, few say that she is doing wrong no matter which person she saves. Positing a disjunctive requirement in these cases seems perfectly natural, and so such a move is available to opponents of dilemmas as a response to symmetrical cases. Supporters of dilemmas have a burden to bear too. They need to cast doubt on the adequacy of the pertinent principles in the two arguments that generate inconsistencies. And most importantly, they need to provide independent reasons for doubting whichever of the principles they reject. If they have no reason other than cases of putative dilemmas for denying the principles in question, then we have a mere standoff. Of the principles in question, the most commonly questioned on independent grounds are the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ and PD. Among supporters of dilemmas, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Sinnott-Armstrong 1988, Chapters 4 and 5) has gone to the greatest lengths to provide independent reasons for questioning some of the relevant principles. 6. Moral Residue and Dilemmas One well-known argument for the reality of moral dilemmas has not been discussed yet. This argument might be called “phenomenological.” It appeals to the emotions that agents facing conflicts experience and our assessment of those emotions. Return to the case of Sartre’s student. Suppose that he joins the Free French forces. It is likely that he will experience remorse or guilt for having abandoned his mother. And not only will he experience these emotions, this moral residue, but it is appropriate that he does. Yet, had he stayed with his mother and not joined the Free French forces, he also would have appropriately experienced remorse or guilt. But either remorse or guilt is appropriate only if the agent properly believes that he has done something wrong (or failed to do something that he was all-things-considered required to do). Since no matter what the agent does he will appropriately experience remorse or guilt, then no matter what he does he will have done something wrong. Thus, the agent faces a genuine moral dilemma. (The best known proponents of arguments for dilemmas that appeal to moral residue are Williams 1965 and Marcus 1980; for a more recent contribution, see Tessman 2015, especially Chapter 2.) Many cases of moral conflict are similar to Sartre’s example with regard to the agent’s reaction after acting. Certainly the case from Sophie’s Choice fits here. No matter which of her children Sophie saves, she will experience enormous guilt for the consequences of that choice. Indeed, if Sophie did not experience such guilt, we would think that there was something morally wrong with her. In these cases, proponents of the argument (for dilemmas) from moral residue must claim that four things are true: (1) when the agents acts, she experiences remorse or guilt; (2) that she experiences these emotions is appropriate and called for; (3) had the agent acted on the other of the conflicting requirements, she would also have experienced remorse or guilt; and (4) in the latter case these emotions would have been equally appropriate and called for (McConnell 1996, pp. 37–38). In these situations, then, remorse or guilt will be appropriate no matter what the agent does and these emotions are appropriate only when the agent has done something wrong. Therefore, these situations are genuinely dilemmatic and moral failure is inevitable for agents who face them. There is much to say about the moral emotions and situations of moral conflict; the positions are varied and intricate. Without pretending to resolve all of the issues here, it will be pointed out that opponents of dilemmas have raised two different objections to the argument from moral residue. The first objection, in effect, suggests that the argument is question-begging (McConnell 1978 and Conee 1982); the second objection challenges the assumption that remorse and guilt are appropriate only when the agent has done wrong. To explain the first objection, note that it is uncontroversial that some bad feeling or other is called for when an agent is in a situation like that of Sartre’s student or Sophie. But the negative moral emotions are not limited to remorse and guilt. Among these other emotions, consider regret. An agent can appropriately experience regret even when she does not believe that she has done something wrong. Consider a compelling example provided by Edmund Santurri (1987, 46). Under battlefield conditions, an army medic must perform a life-saving amputation of a soldier’s leg with insufficient anesthetic. She will surely feel intense regret because of the pain she has inflicted, but justifiably she will not feel that she has done wrong. Regret can even be appropriate when a person has no causal connection at all with the bad state of affairs. It is appropriate for me to regret the damage that a recent fire has caused to my neighbor’s house, the pain that severe birth defects cause in infants, and the suffering that a starving animal experiences in the wilderness. Not only is it appropriate that I experience regret in these cases, but I would probably be regarded as morally lacking if I did not. (For accounts of moral remainders as they relate specifically to Kantianism and virtue ethics, see, respectively, Hill 1996, 183–187 and Hursthouse 1999, 44–48 and 68–77.) With remorse or guilt, at least two components are present: the experiential component, namely, the negative feeling that the agent has; and the cognitive component, namely, the belief that the agent has done something wrong and takes responsibility for it. Although this same cognitive component is not part of regret, the negative feeling is. And the experiential component alone cannot serve as a gauge to distinguish regret from remorse, for regret can range from mild to intense, and so can remorse. In part, what distinguishes the two is the cognitive component. But now when we examine the case of an alleged dilemma, such as that of Sartre’s student, it is question-begging to assert that it is appropriate for him to experience remorse no matter what he does. No doubt, it is appropriate for him to experience some negative feeling. To say, however, that it is remorse that is called for is to assume that the agent appropriately believes that he has done something wrong. Since regret is warranted even in the absence of such a belief, to assume that remorse is appropriate is to assume, not argue, that the agent’s situation is genuinely dilemmatic. Opponents of dilemmas can say that one of the requirements overrides the other, or that the agent faces a disjunctive requirement, and that regret is appropriate because even when he does what he ought to do, some bad will ensue. Either side, then, can account for the appropriateness of some negative moral emotion. To get more specific, however, requires more than is warranted by the present argument. This appeal to moral residue, then, does not by itself establish the reality of moral dilemmas. Matters are even more complicated, though, as the second objection to the argument from moral residue shows. The residues contemplated by proponents of the argument are diverse, ranging from guilt or remorse to a belief that the agent ought to apologize or compensate persons who were negatively impacted by the fact that he did not satisfy one of the conflicting obligations. The argument assumes that experiencing remorse or guilt or believing that one ought to apologize or compensate another are appropriate responses only if the agent believes that he has done something wrong. But this assumption is debatable, for multiple reasons. First, even when one obligation clearly overrides another in a conflict case, it is often appropriate to apologize to or to explain oneself to any disadvantaged parties. Ross provides such a case (1930, 28): one who breaks a relatively trivial promise in order to assist someone in need should in some way make it up to the promisee. Even though the agent did no wrong, the additional actions promote important moral values (McConnell 1996, 42–44). Second, as Simon Blackburn argues, compensation or its like may be called for even when there was no moral conflict at all (Blackburn 1996, 135–136). If a coach rightly selected Agnes for the team rather than Belinda, she still is likely to talk to Belinda, encourage her efforts, and offer tips for improving. This kind of “making up” is just basic decency. Third, the consequences of what one has done may be so horrible as to make guilt inevitable. Consider the case of a middle-aged man, Bill, and a seven-year-old boy, Johnny. It is set in a midwestern village on a snowy December day. Johnny and several of his friends are riding their sleds down a narrow, seldom used street, one that intersects with a busier, although still not heavily traveled, street. Johnny, in his enthusiasm for sledding, is not being very careful. During his final ride he skidded under an automobile passing through the intersection and was killed instantly. The car was driven by Bill. Bill was driving safely, had the right of way, and was not exceeding the speed limit. Moreover, given the physical arrangement, it would have been impossible for Bill to have seen Johnny coming. Bill was not at fault, legally or morally, for Johnny’s death. Yet Bill experienced what can best be described as remorse or guilt about his role in this horrible event (McConnell 1996, 39). At one level, Bill’s feelings of remorse or guilt are not warranted. Bill did nothing wrong. Certainly Bill does not deserve to feel guilt (Dahl 1996, 95–96). A friend might even recommend that Bill seek therapy. But this is not all there is to say. Most of us understand Bill’s response. From Bill’s point of view, the response is not inappropriate, not irrational, not uncalled-for. To see this, imagine that Bill had had a very different response. Suppose that Bill had said, “I regret Johnny’s death. It is a terrible thing. But it certainly was not my fault. I have nothing to feel guilty about and I don’t owe his parents any apologies.” Even if Bill is correct intellectually, it is hard to imagine someone being able to achieve this sort of objectivity about his own behavior. When human beings have caused great harm, it is natural for them to wonder if they are at fault, even if to outsiders it is obvious that they bear no moral responsibility for the damage. Human beings are not so finely tuned emotionally that when they have been causally responsible for harm, they can easily turn guilt on or off depending on their degree of moral responsibility. (See Zimmerman 1988, 134–135.) Work in moral psychology can help to explain why self-directed moral emotions like guilt or remorse are natural when an agent has acted contrary to a moral norm, whether justifiably or not. Many moral psychologists describe dual processes in humans for arriving at moral judgments (see, for example, Greene 2013, especially Chapters 4–5, and Haidt 2012, especially Chapter 2). Moral emotions are automatic, the brain’s immediate response to a situation. Reason is more like the brain’s manual mode, employed when automatic settings are insufficient, such as when norms conflict. Moral emotions are likely the product of evolution, reinforcing conduct that promotes social harmony and disapproving actions that thwart that end. If this is correct, then negative moral emotions are apt to be experienced, to some extent, any time an agent’s actions are contrary to what is normally a moral requirement. So both supporters and opponents of moral dilemmas can give an account of why agents who face moral conflicts appropriately experience negative moral emotions. But there is a complex array of issues concerning the relationship between ethical conflicts and moral emotions, and only book-length discussions can do them justice. (See Greenspan 1995 and Tessman 2015.) 7. Types of Moral Dilemmas In the literature on moral dilemmas, it is common to draw distinctions among various types of dilemmas. Only some of these distinctions will be mentioned here. It is worth noting that both supporters and opponents of dilemmas tend to draw some, if not all, of these distinctions. And in most cases the motivation for doing so is clear. Supporters of dilemmas may draw a distinction between dilemmas of type \(V\) and \(W\). The upshot is typically a message to opponents of dilemmas: “You think that all moral conflicts are resolvable. And that is understandable, because conflicts of type \(V\) are resolvable. But conflicts of type \(W\) are not resolvable. Thus, contrary to your view, there are some genuine moral dilemmas.” By the same token, opponents of dilemmas may draw a distinction between dilemmas of type \(X\) and \(Y\). And their message to supporters of dilemmas is this: “You think that there are genuine moral dilemmas, and given certain facts, it is understandable why this appears to be the case. But if you draw a distinction between conflicts of types \(X\) and \(Y\), you can see that appearances can be explained by the existence of type \(X\) alone, and type \(X\) conflicts are not genuine dilemmas.” With this in mind, let us note a few of the distinctions. One distinction is between epistemic conflicts and ontological conflicts. (For different terminology, see Blackburn 1996, 127–128.) The former involve conflicts between two (or more) moral requirements and the agent does not know which of the conflicting requirements takes precedence in her situation. Everyone concedes that there can be situations where one requirement does take priority over the other with which it conflicts, though at the time action is called for it is difficult for the agent to tell which requirement prevails. The latter are conflicts between two (or more) moral requirements, and neither is overridden. This is not simply because the agent does not know which requirement is stronger; neither is. Genuine moral dilemmas, if there are any, are ontological. Both opponents and supporters of dilemmas acknowledge that there are epistemic conflicts. There can be genuine moral dilemmas only if neither of the conflicting requirements is overridden. Ross (1930, Chapter 2) held that all moral precepts can be overridden in particular circumstances. This provides an inviting framework for opponents of dilemmas to adopt. But if some moral requirements cannot be overridden—if they hold absolutely—then it will be easier for supporters of dilemmas to make their case. Lisa Tessman has distinguished between negotiable and non-negotiable moral requirements (Tessman 2015, especially Chapters 1 and 3). The former, if not satisfied, can be adequately compensated or counterbalanced by some other good. Non-negotiable moral requirements, however, if violated produce a cost that no one should have to bear; such a violation cannot be counterbalanced by any benefits. If non-negotiable moral requirements can conflict—and Tessman argues that they can—then those situations will be genuine dilemmas and agents facing them will inevitably fail morally. It might seem that if there is more than one moral precept that holds absolutely, then moral dilemmas must be possible. Alan Donagan, however, argues against this. He maintains that moral rules hold absolutely, and apparent exceptions are accounted for because tacit conditions are built in to each moral rule (Donagan 1977, Chapters 3 and 6, especially 92–93). So even if some moral requirements cannot be overridden, the existence of dilemmas may still be an open question. Another distinction is between self-imposed moral dilemmas and dilemmas imposed on an agent by the world, as it were. Conflicts of the former sort arise because of the agent’s own wrongdoing (Aquinas; Donagan 1977, 1984; and McConnell 1978). If an agent made two promises that he knew conflicted, then through his own actions he created a situation in which it is not possible for him to discharge both of his requirements. Dilemmas imposed on the agent by the world (or other agents), by contrast, do not arise because of the agent’s wrongdoing. The case of Sartre’s student is an example, as is the case from Sophie’s Choice. For supporters of dilemmas, this distinction is not all that important. But among opponents of dilemmas, there is a disagreement about whether the

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    Moral dilemmas are cases where agents are bound by conflicting moral claims and cannot resolve the conflict by further deliberation. Jean-Paul Sartre relates the dilemma of a student torn between joi...

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    Would you sacrifice one person to save five?

    View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/would-you-sacrifice-one-person-to-save-five-eleanor-nelsen Imagine you’re watching a runaway trolley barreling down the tracks, straight towards five workers. You happen to be standing next to a switch that will divert the trolley onto a second track. Here’s the problem: that track has a worker on it, too — but just one. What do you do? Do you sacrifice one person to save five? Eleanor Nelsen details the ethical dilemma that is the trolley problem. Lesson by Eleanor Nelsen, animation by Eoin Duffy.

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    GET LEIS MISERANDO ATQUE ELIGENDO POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION AMORIS LÆTITIA OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO BISHOPS, PRIESTS AND DEACONS CONSECRATED PERSONS CHRISTIAN MARRIED COUPLES AND ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL ON LOVE IN THE FAMILY T HE JOY OF LOVE experienced by families is also the joy of the Church. As the Synod Fathers noted, for all the many signs of crisis in the institution of marriage, "the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people, and this is an inspiration to the Church". As a response to that desire, "the Christian proclamation on the family is good news indeed".2 1. 2. The Synod process allowed for an exam- ination of the situation of families in today's world, and thus for a broader vision and a re- newed awareness of the importance of marriage and the family. The complexity of the issues that arose revealed the need for continued open discussion of a number of doctrinal, moral, spiritual, and pastoral questions. The thinking of pastors and theologians, if faithful to the Church, honest, realistic and creative, will help us to achieve greater clarity. The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church's ministers, range from an 1 THIRD EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS, Relatio Synodi (18 October 2014), 2. 2 FOURTEENTH ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS, Relatio Finalis (24 October 2015), 3. 3 immoderate desire for total change without suf- ficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations. 3. Since "time is greater than space", I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For "cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied".³ 3 Concluding Address of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (24 October 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 26-27 October 2015, p. 13; cf. PONTIFICAL BIBLICAL COMMISSION, Fede e cultura alla luce della Bibbia. Atti della sessione plenaria 1979 della Pontificia Commissione Biblica, Turin, 1981; SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 44; JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio (7 December 1990), 52: AAS 83 (1991), 300; Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 69, 117: AAS 105 (2013), 1049, 1068-69. 4 4. I must also say that the Synod process proved both impressive and illuminating. I am grateful for the many contributions that helped me to appreciate more fully the problems faced by families throughout the world. The various interventions of the Synod Fathers, to which I paid close heed, made up, as it were, a multifacet- ed gem reflecting many legitimate concerns and honest questions. For this reason, I thought it appropriate to prepare a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation to gather the contributions of the two recent Synods on the family, while adding other considerations as an aid to reflection, di- alogue and pastoral practice, and as a help and encouragement to families in their daily commit- ments and challenges. 5. This Exhortation is especially timely in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. First, because it represents an invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience. Second, be- cause it seeks to encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life re- mains imperfect or lacks peace and joy. 6. I will begin with an opening chapter inspired by the Scriptures, to set a proper tone. I will then examine the actual situation of families, in order to keep firmly grounded in reality. I will go on to recall some essential aspects of the Church's teaching on marriage and the family, thus paving LO 5