David Ross Ethical Moralism Analysis

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What makes right actions right? There are many theories out there, exploring what moral principle we should live by. For a while, the idea was that our one principle of moral rightness must be two things: absolute, in that the moral status it attributes to an action is conclusive, un-revisable; and fundamental, in that its justification does not depend on any more general or more basic moral principle. But in David Ross’s revolutionary new view, Ethical Pluralism, he contends that there are at least two, and likely more, principles of rightness by which we should live our lives. One might think that this is absurd, that having multiple moral principles could surely never work, as they would often conflict with each other and create frequent…show more content…
Pluralism “I would contend that in principle there is no reason to anticipate that every act that is our duty is so for one and the same reason.” Ross argues that there is not one sole rule for what makes right actions right—such as maximizing hedonistic value, for utilitarians—but that there are several rules, none of them absolute, that play a role in determining what a person ought to do in any given case. He calls these “prima facie” duties, or obligations, and while promoting happiness is one, there are many other obligations, some of which he lists as examples. Fidelity is one such duty, stemming from our explicit and implicit promises. There is beneficence, which is the duty to try to bring about the happiness of other people. There is gratitude: the duty to repay favors or simply thank others for their kindness towards us. Then there is reparation, the duties stemming from our past wrong-doings towards others. Another is non-maleficence: these are duties not to hurt, harm or sadden other people—this is Ross’s one negative, “don’t do this” principle, as opposed to the rest of the duties, which are positive. There is also justice, which involves the duty to distribute goods and services in a fair and equal manner: for example, if the government had a good financial year and has extra money left over, it should give tax returns to all people, not merely some. Lastly, Ross lists self-improvement. This is the duty to make the best of ourselves, and to make our lives…show more content…
Ross may give us guidelines on what is right and wrong, with these prima facie duties, but in these dilemma-like situations, it is not always entirely clear as to what action we must choose. How are we supposed to know which prima facie obligation is the strongest in a given case? As mentioned before, all Ross has for us, in terms of an answer, is intuition. He believes that just by sincerely contemplating the situation, we can know which duty is our absolute. While I don’t disagree with Ross—I do understand this idea, and have been in situations like this, where only intuition will answer my predicament—this does not help, much, in terms of determining a definite moral code. Ross essentially leaves the decision of which duty to preference up to our personal decision-making skill. He trusts our logic
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