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WD Ross's Prima Facie Duties.pdf

Course Code
PHL 302
Stephen Phillips

of 1
A Pluralist ("Best Lights") View of Ethical Reasoning
W. D. Ross's list of prima facie duties, deriving from:
1. Duties of fidelity, e.g., promise-keeping, and duties of reparation (deriving from
previous acts of my own)
2. Duties of gratitude (deriving from previous acts of others)
3. Duties of justice (deriving from possibilities of distribution of pleasure or happiness)
4. Teleological duties: maximize the good (Ross calls these "duties of beneficence")
5. Duties of self-improvement (not only of moral self-improvement, but in development as
a musician, carpenter, etc.)
6. Duties to respect the rights of others and to refrain from injuring them (Ross says contra
J. S. Mill this is needed in addition to #4).
The individual resolves conflicts of "moral pull" by weighing duties and acting by her/his
"best lights."