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Evaluating Parental PowerAn Exercise in Pluralist Political Theory$
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Allyn Fives

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784994327

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784994327.001.0001

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Moral dilemmas

Moral dilemmas

(p.55) 3 Moral dilemmas
Evaluating Parental Power

Allyn Fives

Manchester University Press

The argument of this chapter is that we can be faced with genuine, real moral dilemmas, that is, moral conflicts for which there is no general rule for their resolution and conflicts that leave us with moral regret at the item not acted upon. For example, there is a moral conflict involved in every act of parental paternalism. When I, as a parent, act paternalistically, in attempting to do what is best for my child I violate a moral rule in regard to my child. In making this argument, I reject Philippa Foot’s counter arguments claiming to show the moral dilemmas are a logical contradiction. If we cannot identify a general rule for their resolution, how can we resolve moral conflicts? In this chapter I try to show that we can do so through practical reasoning and practical judgement. In doing so, I will borrow from John Rawls and his account of reasonableness and Thomas Nagel’s account of public justification in a context of actual disagreement. However, we must be cognisant of a number of possible dangers here. In particular, we must ensure that we do not impose a ‘liberal’ political solution on moral conflicts and in that way ourselves become guilty of the moral simplification we have been critical of in others.

Keywords:   Philippa Foot, moral dilemmas, practical judgement, Bernard Williams

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