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Philippa Foot On Remainders Essay

1025 words - 5 pages

The problem of dilemma, as presented by Philippa Foot in her writing, “Moral Dilemmas Revisited”, is the problem of whether it is possible to be in a situation where you cannot avoid making a wrong choice. Foot argues that it is always possible to avoid making a wrong choice in a difficult situation. She presents the ideas of multiple philosophers and their defense of the thought that there are situations where you can and will make a wrong choice. Foot defends herself further in the explanation of her point. She is presented with many views that involve a person still feeling guilty after a decision has been made. In this paper I will show and defend Foots argument that it is always possible to avoid making a wrong choice in a difficult situation because feelings of guilt do not have to coincide with actual regret or symbolizing a bad decision.
To better understand Foots stance on regret, one must first understand the problem of dilemma in itself. A situation that was exemplified in her paper stated a story in which you have promised a friend you would meet them, but instead have to drive someone to the hospital causing you to break your promise. The idea here is that you are forced with the decision to break a promise you made to a friend, or to leave someone who needs a ride to the hospital to fend for themselves. Foot believes that, ‘obviously he or she ought, all things considered, to do the driving rather than the meeting.’ (Foot 3). This is an obvious response for Foot, because she believes that there is always a right choice in a situation, and that you should not feel guilt, sadness or regret about making your choice so long as you made the right one. Foot mentions multiple philosophical writers who agree that it is possible to make a wrong decision, thus leading to a negative emotion regarding the choice, including regret, guilt, or sadness. Foot refers to these emotions as ‘Remainders’, because they are the remaining emotions left after making a decision.
Ruth Marcus’ view that ‘it is possible to be in circumstances in which one will be guilty whatever one does.’ (Foot 1), Foot believes this means that ‘the feelings of guilt that people often have when they have had to made a difficult moral choice imply that they are guilty.’(Foot 1) This is much like the argument posed by Bernard Williams that feelings of guilt should be taken seriously, and that there are situations where you it is inevitable that you will make a bad choice. (Foot 2). Foot’s belief about remainders is presented in a case of a moral dilemma, which was the dilemma presented above, in which one choice is clearly a better option, while there is rationale behind either choice. Williams presented the idea of moral regret in relation to moral dilemma, where he believes that a person who ‘makes a difficult choice may regret, or feel guilt about, not having chosen differently, even if she...

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