Common Sense Morality - W. D. Ross
1. 20th century philosopher W. D. Ross perceived that there were fundamental problems with both deontology and utilitarianism. 2. He wrote that each of us feels intuitively that there are certain duties or obligations that should be honored, unless some other moral consideration stands in the way of our doing so. 3. He gave a list of examples of such duties, which he called prima facie duties , but it is not to be taken as a complete list. There may be others that did not occur to him. Fidelity (faithfulness): If we make a promise, we should keep the promise. Gratitude: If someone does something to assist us, we should repay them for their kindness. Reparation: If we injure someone, we should make up for the harm we did them. Justice: If we see that someone is being treated unfairly, we should do what is in our power to correct the injustice. Beneficence: We should improve the lives of others when we are able. Self-improvement: We should improve our own lives (morally, intellectually, physically) to the extent we are able. Non-maleficence: We should avoid harming others. 4. Ross says that moral dilemmas occur when we are faced with conflicts among these obligations. When situations occur when we must set aside one obligation to fulfill another, we must use our capacity for rational judgment to determine which obligation takes precedence in that situation. 5. Ross believed that this “common sense” theory incorporates the insight from deontology that we are rational being’s worthy of respect the insight from utilitarianism that we live our lives in context and so must be free to examine the situation in which we find ourselves in order to make our moral judgments. It avoids the “too rigid” objection against deontology and the “too flexible” objection against utilitarianism. Chapter 3: The Nature of Justice (some definitions) 1. Fairness Involves the fair treatment of members of groups of people or else looks backwards to the fair compensation of prior injuries. 2. Equality The burden of proof is on those who would endorse unequal treatment. Is there any good reason why A has more than B?