What Can We Learn from Moral Paradoxes?

Saul Smilansky, author of 10 Moral Paradoxes, over at Ethics Etc.:

While each of the questions of my four previous posts in this series could be answered fairly decisively, this question is naturally more open. So I will be able to give only some indication as to why moral paradoxes matter, and why investigating them further should be worthwhile. But there is another reason why it is difficult to speak here with confidence: moral paradoxes, in the strict sense (as we explicated their nature in the first post) have been almost completely neglected. To the best of my knowledge, my recent book 10 MORAL PARADOXES is only the third book ever on this topic, at least within analytic philosophy (the predecessors, in a broad sense, being Derek Parfit’s REASONS AND PERSONS which introduces various paradoxes, and the late Gregory Kavka’s MORAL PARADOXES OF NUCLEAR DETERRENCE; both of them from the 1980s).

The neglect of moral paradoxes is important, and seeing this will at once give us the first reply as to what moral paradoxes might be able to teach us. The importance of paradoxes in other areas of philosophy (epistemology, logic, metaphysics, philosophy of science and so on) is manifest, with hundreds of books and papers available and more coming out all the time. While there are many survey articles, special journal issues, and numerous collections of papers devoted to paradox in these areas, and indeed often to some individual paradoxes, there is nothing similar concerning moral paradoxes. So something very ODD is going on here: either moral paradoxes are just as important within morality as logical or epistemic paradoxes are to philosophical logic and epistemology – in which case, the neglect of moral paradoxes is outrageous.