How do philosophers or even lay people deal with conflicts or direct contradictions in their beliefs and values?
For example I would be against the principle of torture, yet I feel there is a conflict as in some cases it could be possible to save more lives by torturing an individual. Hypothetically, if intelligence led to the capture of one of the perpetrators of the London Bombings before they had occurred, would people condone the use of torture if it meant we could get information as to where the other bombers were and thus potentially save lives?
Is there any moral or ethical stance that doesn’t in some way have a “difficult” side with the potential for conflict/contradiction of beliefs? Again as an example is it possible to justify a vegetarian belief, yet be pro-choice and in favour of allowing abortions?
The types of dilemma you mention are good starting points for a positive moral theory. Our pre-reflective moral practice contains elements (rules of thumb, behavioral inclinations, moral intuitions and so on) that pull us in different directions in such cases; and a considered moral theory must somehow resolve such tensions if it is to be consistent. But what type of resolution is required? Suppose that we've arrived at a theoretical resolution to one of your dilemmas. For example, we decide that, on reflection, it is impermissible to inflict unnecessary suffering on sentient beings. (A full moral theory will have to contain much more than just this one principle; and I'm not, in any case, advocating this one (though it seems right to me).) This principle would rule out the eating of factory farmed animals, but not all abortions--for example, the many abortions that (a) do not involve a sentient being (as opposed to a potentiallly sentient being) or (b) might greatly decrease overall suffering (on the...