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Ethics at the Cinema$
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Ward E. Jones and Samantha Vice

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320398

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320398.001.0001

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Sophie’s Choice

Sophie’s Choice

(p.231) 11 Sophie’s Choice
Ethics at the Cinema

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Oxford University Press

The film Sophie’s Choice has been seen to represent in a vivid manner how a human being in extreme circumstances is faced with a true moral dilemma. This interpretation is questioned in the present paper. It is argued that the best way of making philosophical sense of Sophie’s choice is to see it as a case of blameful right-doing, rather than a dilemma. By doing, in her situation, the right thing, or at least not clearly doing anything wrong, Sophie exhibits a trait of character we do not expect to find in a good mother. She was in a situation where a good parent is not supposed to be able to do the right thing, and yet she does this. Even if we cannot fully explain it, her choice to commit suicide, rather than becoming a parent once again, makes sense when viewed from her own subjective perspective and given her personality as we know it.

Keywords:   Sophie’s Choice, dilemmas, blameful right-doing, consequentialism, the Sanctity-of-Life Doctrine

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