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Sorin Sabou

Letter to the Romans, Nicomachean Ethics, and more

Ross on Duties

This is a summary on W. D. Ross' theory of prima facie duties.
When we try to determine what we ought to do there are several prima facie duties. A prima facie duty is a duty that is binding; you have to do it. The prima facie duties are fidelity (keeping promises and contracts), reparation (making up for injuries done to others), gratitude (being grateful for benefactions), non-injury (not to harm others), harm-prevention (to prevent harm to others), beneficence (doing good to others), self-improvement (to promote one's own good), and justice (distributing benefits and burdens fairly).
There are priority rules to guide us how and when to apply the duties. Non-injury normally overrides other prima facie duties, and fidelity normally overrides beneficence. Moral insight tells us when we have exceptions to specific guidelines. Sensitivity to the morally significant aspects of the situation helps us to follow specific guidelines.
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