Philosophy of Moral Dilemmas

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It is largely assumed that painful self-assessing emotions, such as guilt, are appropriate responses to acting in a moral dilemma for a variety of reasons: these emotions we are committed to moral ends not reflected by our action, they are understandable byproducts of a healthy moral education, and they reflect our making a connection to the wrongness of our dilemmatic act. This study challenges these rationales and argues that a truly admirable agent would not feel such emotions because he would apprehend his moral role, if not his causal role, as marginal. The author contends that ethical theorists should stop endorsing such emotional responses, and offers suggestions to moral educators which dissuade inculcating characters which do not feel emotions in line with actions. This study will appeal to scholars interested in virtue ethics, the philosophy of emotions, and philosophical psychology.


“... this philosophical exploration of the structure of dilemmas and their kinds and the analysis of the emotions that reasonably should follow from dilemmatic action, pave the way for serious reassessment of the structure of some accepted ideas about the painful psychological aftermath of those difficult moral situations. Dr. Swedene’s methodical and persuasive arguments should occasion much reflection. It is to be hoped that they further prompt revised thinking about moral education and the scope of emotions relevant to acting from dilemmas.” - Professor Carolyn Korsmeyer, Department of Philosophy, University at Buffalo

“Dr. Swedene has produced an important work of moral philosophy, one that is rigorously argued, supplied with many helpful literary and dramatic examples, and which makes a bold and original contribution to the field of moral philosophy. It is written with clarity, well-structured, and will command the attention of others concerned with fundamental issues in moral philosophy.” - Dr. Jonathan J. Sanford, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Franciscan University of Steubenville

“The work as a whole plows new ground in the area of moral dilemmas and the agents’ emotional responses to them ... The imagery is colorful and illustrative, and will engage the interest of the reader. It is reasoned, logical, and provocative.” - Dr. Daniel T. Dorrity, Dean of Arts and Letters, Lake Superior State University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Carolyn Korsmeyer
1 Understanding Moral Dilemmas
2 Moral Emotions and Normative Ethics
3 Why Endorse Dilemmatic Self-Assessing Emotion?
4 How One Shouldn’t Feel: The Case Against Dilemmatic Self-Assessing Emotions
5 The Possibility and Desirability of Preventing Dilemmatic Self-Assessing Emotions
Alphabetical Index

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