Moral Conflicts, the 'Ought'-Implies-'Can' Principle, and Moral Demandingness
33 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2014
Date Written: December 1, 2014
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: Suggested Citation