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Moral Dilemmasand Other Topics in Moral Philosophy$
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Philippa Foot

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199252848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019925284X.001.0001

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Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma

Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma

(p.37) 3 Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma
Moral Dilemmas

Philippa Foot

Oxford University Press

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

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