Moral Dilemmas


Moral dilemmas – situations where people find it difficult to make the morally right decision about what to do – are sometimes hard to avoid. Why have many philosophers, including Immanuel Kant, insisted that genuine moral dilemmas do not even exist? What do moral conflicts tell us about our moral sentiments, values, and about the world we live in? And what does the phenomena of moral dilemmas tell us about ethical theories and their action-guiding force?

This day school will introduce the participants to the main philosophical views and arguments, old and new, about the nature of moral dilemmas, inquiring also about the structure and significance of certain thought experiments, including so-called trolley cases that philosophers have constructed in order to isolate the features that make a moral difference. Do such thought experiments reveal that our deontological, unlike consequentialist, intuitions are unreliable, as some philosophers have recently argued? Or are these hypothetical case scenarios far removed from any ordinary moral choices? Can we not learn comparatively more by reflecting on more realistic examples, such as Sartre’s youth caught between his duty to his mother and to the cause of freedom?

From some classic moral dilemmas that involve principles like promises, to those brought by advancements in science and medicine, to anticipated future moral dilemmas including the question of rights and responsibilities of artificial beings, we will also be engaging in a discussion and testing our intuitions about modern-day moral dilemmas and how they can be solved.

Programme details

9.00am: Registration

9.30am: Introduction to moral dilemmas in the philosophical literature

10.30am: Coffee/tea

10.45am: Are there any genuine moral dilemmas – Kantian perspective

11.45am: Break

12.00am: Bernard Williams and Philippa Foot on the implications of moral conflicts

1.00pm: Lunch

2.15pm: Who is afraid of Trolleys? (Antti Kauppinen’s defense of philosophical thought experiments)

3.15pm: Coffee/tea

3.30pm: Resolving modern-day moral dilemmas

4.30pm: Discussion

5.00pm: Course ends


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance £80.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £80.00
Baguette £5.50
Hot Lunch (3 courses) £15.50


If you are in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Amna Whiston


I am a philosophy tutor in Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. My primary research areas are in moral philosophy and philosophy of mind and my published work considers questions in meta-ethics and normative ethics, and the rationality of emotions.

Dr Doug Bamford


Tutor in Philosophy and Political Economy, OUDCE


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

You can opt to attend this hybrid teaching event either online (via a livestream) or in person at Rewley House, Oxford. You will be given the option of how you wish to attend during the enrolment process. You can only pick one option. If your preferred attendance format is fully booked, you can email us to be put on the waiting list.

For those joining us online

The University of Oxford uses Microsoft Teams for our learning environment. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Teams interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

If you have not used the Microsoft Teams app before, once you click the joining link you will be invited to download it (this is free). Once you have downloaded the app, please test before the start of your course. If you are using a laptop or desktop computer, you will also be offered the option of connecting using a web browser. If you connect via a web browser, Chrome is recommended.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.