Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma

Philippa Foot

in Moral Dilemmas

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252848
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597411 | DOI:
Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma

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Argues against two articles of Bernard Williams in which he attacks moral realism. In the first (Ethical Consistency), Williams finds a disanalogy between judgements of matters of fact and moral judgements in that when two beliefs are irreconcilable one must simply cede: whereas an obligation that overrides another obligation does so only with ‘remainder.’ Foot argues that although the notion of obligation when understood in one way does indeed allow coexisting irreconcilable obligations, this no more supports anti‐realism here than the possibility of clashing social engagements supports an anti‐realistic account of judgements about them. In the second article (Consistency and Realism) Williams argues from the special case of irresolvable moral conflict, where there are as good reasons for doing a as for doing not a, suggesting that there cannot similarly be as good reasons for believing and disbelieving a proposition. Foot denies that this implies anti‐realism for propositions about reasons, suggesting an analogy in the case of propositions that are equally assertable or deniable relative to different grounds.

Keywords: anti‐realism; moral conflict; moral dilemmas; moral realism; moral relativism; Bernard Williams

Chapter.  9386 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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