Article/Publication Details

The Problem with the Moral Problem: An Example of Lying

(Original title: The Problem with the Moral Problem: An Example of Lying)
Organon F, 2001, vol. 8, No 4, pp. 353-387.
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Abstract

The article examines the \'problem-resolution\' conception of moral philosophy. Parts I and II consider the underlying model of \'moral problem\'; III and IV exemplify its inadequacy through the \'traditional\' \'moral dilemma\' of lying. Part I criticises the assumed analogy between \'moral\' and a \'practical\' problem as something \'there\': a (brute) datum, and the connected view of moral effort as deliberation and decision seeking the problems resolution. I suggest that the very perception of something as problematic has epistemic and moral significance. Part II considers the \'problematic\' through the śerious\'. It argues that its inherent unclarity and instability makes it untenable to view philosophy as addressing the śerious\' ordinary concerns; more strongly, that reflection may undermine the seriousness of some concerns and reveal that of others. A moral problem is thus not \'there\' for anyone to see and address, but something the very (not) having of which reveals oneś moral character. Part III exemplifies this by suggesting that the órdinary\' would not just not recognise as serious the traditional philosophical dilemma of Lying, but would condemn on moral grounds one who seriously entertained it. I ask whether \'philosophy\' can reveal a seriousness missed by the órdinary\', and argue that, in its modern form, it does not. I suggest that if reflection on this issue is not to be fruitless, even corrupting, it must recognise that far from this being an órdinary\' moral problem, it could be only be one for an extraordinary man. Part IV questions the standard formulation of the dilemma partly to show that it begs moral questions, partly to show, through unpacking the ex hypothesi of its formulation, the philosophical and moral priority of examining the values recognised in having a moral problem over its resolution.

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