Moral Conflicts, the 'Ought'-Implies-'Can' Principle, and Moral Demandingness

33 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2014

See all articles by Matthew H. Kramer

Matthew H. Kramer

University of Cambridge; University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2014

Abstract

Among the complaints often voiced by philosophers who doubt the possibility or actuality of moral conflicts is that any such conflict would violate the “ought”-implies-“can” principle or would in some other respect be objectionably burdensome. The present essay seeks to rebut or defuse the concerns that impel such complaints. It accepts (at least arguendo) that moral conflicts are at odds with the “ought”-implies-“can” precept, but it maintains that the proper conclusion to be drawn is that that precept in any universally quantified form is false. As for the concern about excessive burdensomeness, I allow that such a worry is genuine but contend that it does not provide any ground for denying that moral conflicts are possible and quite frequently actual.

Keywords: moral conflicts, moral duties, "ought"-implies-"can" principle, deontic logic, Bernard Williams, Philippa Foot

JEL Classification: K4, K49

Suggested Citation

Kramer, Matthew H., Moral Conflicts, the 'Ought'-Implies-'Can' Principle, and Moral Demandingness (December 1, 2014). University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 67/2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2539130 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2539130

Matthew H. Kramer (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom
44-1223-336231 (Phone)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

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