Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ross and Prima Facie Duties

**This is from guest blogger, Dylan.**

I ultimately completely agree with Ross on his view of prima facie duties. I think the most compelling part is that there is a non absolutist view to it. Morals are not simple enough that one code will work for every choice we have to make in life. There are times when feelings will be hurt by the choices we make, that is unavoidable I think Ross has a good system here to minimize the pain placed on people. There is no set in stone way to determine whether or not an action is immoral that I feel is illogical and Ross does a great job combating it. I completely agree with the idea that sometimes within different situations you have to have a guideline for how to make the best choice morally. This does not say this is how it will work every time just simply a way to help guide your decisions along and that is why I agree with him.

I think that an argument from the Utilitarians would focus on the fact that this is not an absolute argument. I feel the Utilitarians focus on there needing to be an absolute way to determine a moral decision. I think that Utilitarians would argue that their view is also for breaking promises if more good comes from it then harm, this in turn would still state to be a utilitarian view. They would contest that the duties that Ross speaks of should be broken if it means causing more ultimate good and that there has to be one simple way to make a moral decision. Like I have said I agree with Ross on his prima facie duties but I don't think he would convert any Utilitarians on the basis that its not an absolute view. anyone have any thoughts?


Chelsea R. said...

Ross was trying to preserve the sereneness of promise keeping. I think he was also trying to show that maybe promise-keeping is morally valuable, which would also refute utilitarianism.

J. P. H. Stephens said...

Right. If we agree (with Ross) that promise-keeping is virtuous, and that it is immoral to break a promise, then we have something with which to refute Utilitarianism. On the other hand, this initial agreement doesn't seem to be based on anything better than an agreement as to what we FEEL is right. Why should our feelings be correct? In the same manner, I can ask why the utilitarian's feeling that pleasure is the only intrinsic good is correct, and I'm certain that they would respond...so I'm more concerned with the method by which we determine prima facie duties.

If these prima facie duties come out of the intuitions of intelligent men (and women), followed by lengthy discourse by educated people, it seems as though they determine merit. This system really describes something similar to science...only without empirical evidence in the form of experiments (which is arguably impossible). Just as in science, we face a problem of induction. While this prohibits the prima facie duties from being PROVEN, I think that, just like the hard sciences, these prima facie duties can be universally agreed upon, or nearly universally agreed upon, and therefore useful in determining how one ought to act.