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Lecture 5

Week 5 - Christopher Meyers.docx

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Philosophy 2730F/G
Ryan Robb

Meyers 11/13/2012 7:19:00 AM Christopher Meyers  The Point: o The justification of Ross’ ethical principles can be developed from a naturalized, evolutionary account of human moral development. Nine steps can be taken to help determine when a ‘prima facie’ duty becomes an ‘actual’ duty.  Summary of Ross’ position: o Ross’s position is characterized as Deontological Pluralism – there is a plurality of ultimate moral principles rather than just one o Each principle specifies a prima facie duty – we have that duty unless there exists a competing duty of greater weight  That any one prima facie duty could be outweighed by a different principle is a primary feature of his pluralism  Moral life is extremely complex and messy, so there cannot be one general rule that identifies all our moral duties  Instead, there is a set of prima facie (on their face) duties rather than actual duties  Duties that are prima facie hold in most situations, but can be overridden by alternate fundamental moral considerations in different circumstances o Ross provides a set of six prima facie duties:  1) Duties from prior actions – fidelity and reparation  2) Duties from services from others – gratitude  3) Duties concerned with the fair distribution of goods – distributive justice  4) Duties to help others – generosity  5) Duties to improve ourselves – self-improvement  6) Duties not to harm others – do no harm (non- maleficence)  These are self-evident to any rational moral agent, through a combination of experience and generalization  We take a moral risk when we act, and we’re lucky if we get it right o Moral reasoning is, in this sense inductive – we make educated guesses using our best judgment when the precise requirements of morality are unclear to us in particular situations o Many critics of Ross have said:  That the fundamental principles are not shared universally by all  That it is unclear how our prima facie duties become actual duties in concrete situations  What makes Ross’ view a Position Worth Defending o Meyers starts out by noting that he thinks Ross was right to say all morally mature individuals know the prima facie duties as a matter of intuition o The primary value of Ross’ work stems from his focus on the practical nature of ethical study – work in ethics ought to be geared toward real persons who experience real ethical problems o Meyers notes eight key insights Ross’ work provides:  1) The difference between abstract moral principles and the specific moral demands placed on individuals by those principles in particular circumstances  2) The power of humans to make immediate moral judgments  3) Relationships between persons are morally relevant  4) Consequences are morally relevant, some of our prima facie duties require that we act to bring about good consequences  5) Individual character is morally relevant, we have duties to become better people  6) Moral decision making is complex and fraught with uncertainty  7) When one of our prima facie duties overrides another, we experience regret at having had to violate the duty  8) We can be held responsible for doing what’s right, but we cannot be held responsible for a failure of bringing about the good  The Justification of the Six Prima Facie Duties o Saying the prima facie duties are ‘self-evident’ is saying that their truth depends on nothing other than the principles themselves o Meyers’s answer to why these duties operate in the world is evolution  Morality is a survival mechanism on par with humans’ physical needs, desires and sociality  Those who defend this answer begin by noting the significance of the ‘yuck’ f
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