Title page for ETD etd-05162009-222557

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Jackson, Vincent Patrick
Author's Email Address jackson.vincentp@gmail.com
URN etd-05162009-222557
Title Inescapable Wrongdoing and the Coherence of Morality: An Examination of Moral Dilemmas
Degree Master of Arts
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
FitzPatrick, William J. Committee Chair
Daskal, Steven J. Committee Member
May, Simon Committee Member
  • moral dilemmas
  • inescapable moral wrongdoing
  • moral distress
  • incommensurable values
Date of Defense 2009-05-04
Availability unrestricted
In this thesis, I propose an argument against the possibility of moral dilemmas, which I construe as situations in which moral wrongdoing is inescapable. The first chapter addresses some terminological matters and attempts to sort out the main issues of contention between proponents and opponents of moral dilemmas. The second chapter lays out my argument, which I dub the “Argument from Action-Guidingness,” against proponents of moral dilemmas. Negative moral judgments of the sort “X is wrong” typically carry with them the implication that X ought not to be done. If judgments of wrongness always have this action-guiding force, then moral dilemmas, which say that all courses of action available to the agent are morally wrong, threaten morality with incoherence. To avoid this problem, proponents of dilemmas will be forced to abandon the action-guiding implications of negative moral judgments when dilemmas arise. But this move is not without its own difficulties, which I elucidate. The final chapter identifies flaws in two prominent arguments in favor of dilemmas: the argument from moral distress and the argument from incommensurable values. The latter half of the chapter examines Sayre-McCord’s “fairness argument” against dilemmas, and contrasts it with the argument from action-guidingness.
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