moral dilemmas

moral dilemmas
Situations in which each possible course of action breaches some otherwise binding moral principle. Serious dilemmas make the stuff of many tragedies. The conflict can be described in different ways. One suggestion is that whichever action the subject undertakes, she or he does something wrong, or something she or he ought not to do. Another is that this is not so, for the dilemma means that in the circumstances what she or he did was right, or as right as any alternative. It is important to the phenomenology of these cases that action leaves a residue of guilt and remorse, although again (provided it was not the subject's fault that she or he got into the dilemma) the rationality of these emotions can be contested. Any morality with more than one fundamental principle seems capable of generating dilemmas, and dilemmas exist such as that of the novel Sophie's Choice where a mother must decide which of two children to sacrifice, even although no principles are pitted against each other (only children). If we accept that dilemmas of principle are real and important, this fact can then be used to attack theories such as utilitarianism, that recognize only one sovereign principle. Alternatively, regretting the existence of dilemmas and the unordered jumble of principles that creates many of them, a theorist may use their occurrence to argue for the desirability of locating and promoting a single sovereign principle.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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