Ethics 11 - Nonconsequentialism

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Nonconsequentialism says that some kinds of action (such as breaking promises or killing the innocent) are wrong in themselves, and not just wrong because they have bad consequences. Such things may be exceptionlessly wrong, or may just have some independent moral weight against them.

These questions are about Chapter 11 of Harry Gensler's Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge: 2011).

Ross's prima facie view

Ross's prima facie view is a popular form of nonconsequentialism. It tries to avoid the extreme implications of the "exceptionless duties" view and utilitarianism.

Ross focuses on our duty to keep promises. This duty doesn't hold in an exceptionless way, since it can be overridden by other duties. And yet it isn't just a rule of thumb that we can break whenever it has good consequences to do so. Instead, the duty to keep promises is an independent duty. It binds us, other things being equal, but may sometimes have to yield to other duties.

Our basic duties

Ross's basic moral principles say that we ought, other things being equal, to do or not to do certain kinds of things. There are duties of fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, and nonmaleficence. When these duties conflict, we have to weigh one duty against another and see which is stronger in the situation.

Nonmaleficence is stronger than beneficence; in general, it's not right to harm one person to help another or to promote social usefulness. Many of our duties are relational; we have a specific duty to a person X because of how X is related to us (as, for example, someone to whom we've made a promise).

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This set has 61 problems.