Sentimentalism and Moral Dilemmas

Dialectica 69 (1):1-22 (2015)
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It is sometimes said that certain hard moral choices constitute tragic moral dilemmas in which no available course of action is justifiable, and so the agent is blameworthy whatever she chooses. This paper criticizes a certain approach to the debate about moral dilemmas and considers the metaethical implications of the criticisms. The approach in question has been taken by many advocates as well as opponents of moral dilemmas who believe that analysing the emotional response of the agent is the key to the debate about moral dilemmas. The metaethical position this approach is most naturally associated with is sentimentalism. Sentimentalists claim that evaluation, and in particular moral evaluation, crucially depends on human sentiment. This paper is not concerned with the question whether moral dilemmas exist, but rather with emotion-based arguments used on both sides of the debate. The first aim of the paper is to show that emotion-based arguments by friends or foes of moral dilemmas cannot garner support from sentimentalism. The second aim is to show that this constitutes a serious problem for sentimentalism
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