phil 440

phil 440 - What W.D. Ross Says Makes Right Acts Right By:...

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What W.D. Ross Says Makes Right Acts Right By: John Pandol Professor Dreher Phil 440 December 1, 2006
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What W.D. Ross Says Makes Right Acts Right In 1930 W.D. Ross’s “What Makes Right Acts Right” is appealing to students studying ethics. People tend to relate with his belief in ethical intuitionism, the idea that humans have intuitive knowledge of the rightness and wrongness of acts. It seems to describe the human experience of making moral decisions better than theories such as Kantianism and Utilitarianism. Though those theories are more complete and precise, their mechanical nature seems too cold to be the essence of what is good. Ross points out where these theories fall short and his thoery seems to hold. Ross created an elegant list of what he called prima facie duties that represent the underlying general characteristics of what makes right acts right: Duties of Fidelity: those which rest upon previous acts of my own (promising and reparation); Duties of Gratitude: those which rest upon previous good acts of others on you; Duties of Justice: those which rest on the fact or possibility of a distribution of pleasure or happiness that is in accordance with merit; Duties of Beneficence: those which rest on the fact that there are others whose condition we may make better (utilitarianism seems to rely heavily on this duty); Duties of Self-Improvement: those which rest on the fact that we may make ourselves better; Duties of Non-Maleficence: those which rest on our obligation to not injure others (non-maleficence). Ross’s paper begins by going through the theory presented by G.E. Moore: that the right action is the one that produces the most good out of the all possible actions available to you. Ross calls Moore’s theory “ideal utilitarianism.” He thinks this theory is based on a history of attempts to base rightness on the
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results and consequences of actions. The first form was egoism, which claims that the right action is the one that results in the maximum pleasure for oneself. This theory equates what is good to what is pleasurable. But this theory only considers the pleasure incurred by the actor. This is difficult to accept since it is apparent that what is moral very often involves the respecting and helping others. It raises the question: Even if we accept that pleasure is what is good, why is the right action to produce pleasure for oneself over producing the same or greater amount of pleasure for one’s neighbor? This theory is completely selfish, a characteristic that if possessed is typically deemed to make a person or an action morally deficient. Hedonistic theory improves on egoism by modifying it to say that the action which is right is the action that produces the most pleasure for the most people. This takes away the selfish aspect of the theory, since it provides that one consider the possible harm or benefit to others, as well as one’s self. So the argument stands as below P1 Good is pleasure P2 Good is right ______ _
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phil 440 - What W.D. Ross Says Makes Right Acts Right By:...

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