Ethical Theories of Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Ross' Prima Facie Duties

So far in the class, we have covered the ethical theories of utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Ross’s prima facie duties.

Utilitarianism, which is a form of consequentialism, is the view that an action is morally required just because it does more to improve overall well-being than other actions that could have been done in the circumstance. In other words, an act is right if it maximizes the overall amount of well-being in the world. Kantianism, a form of non-consequentialism. is the view that the morality of our actions depends not on the results, like what the consequentialists believe, but the maxims.

This means that the morality of our actions depends not on their results, but the intentions Finally, there is Ross’ prima facie duties, which is a pluralistic theory, that allows for any of his identified prima facie duties to override each other depending on the situation, Out of these ethical theories, I am in favor of Ross’ prima facie duties.

The advantages of this theory over Kantianism is that the prima facie duties reject the idea of monism and absolutism. In this theory, it endorses the existence of at least two fundamental moral laws and each of these rules are non-absolute. This allows for cases of it being morally acceptable to break one of the moral rules. However, in Kantianism, the moral laws are absolute. This is flawed as one cannot break any of the absolute moral duties, no matter what the intentions were. For example, individual A wants to kill individual C, who lives with individual B.

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Individual A knows individual C lives with individual B and is friends with individual B. Individual A calls individual B and pleads for help. Individual B promises to help, and individual A confronts individual B and states that he wants to kill individual C, Individual B can lie to individual A about individual C not being home to save individual C’s life, but according to Kant, that would go against morality and morality demands for individual B to tell the truth or say nothing.

As a result, Kantianism doesn’t solve the conflict of two or more moral duties. This is flawed because there is a high chance that individual A will kill individual C since individual B is not allowed to break the absolute law of lying, While the advantage of Kantianism is that it provides a decent guideline on what is moral and what is not, it is also a disadvantage. This is because no matter what the maxim is, in the previous case of lying to save a life, it does not allow for flexibility or rule bending. According to Kant, his moral duties are absolute and must always be obeyed under all circumstances. There is still the option of not saying anything, but most likely. individual A will take it as a sign of hiding information and will still try to kill individual C. In Kantianism, if individual B told the truth or said nothing, and individual C ended up dying, it would only be individual A’s fault. However. the death of individual C could have been prevented if prima facie was applied instead.

In that situation, preventing harm and keeping promises are two of the seven prima facie duties. In this case, individual B is morally encouraged to break the promise to save individual C‘s life. Even though preventing harm was taken priority over breaking the promise, it does not necessarily remove the weight of breaking the promise. The prima facie duties handle this with moral regret. When moral claims conflict, we think that it is right to feel regret at having to give up something important. This is significant because regret is evidence that something of value has been sacrificed. This helps an individual know what his or her prima facie duties are, thus giving out a general guide on how to act depending on the situation, in contrast to Kantianism, which gives a guideline on how to always act. In conclusion, Kantianism has some advantages, but it is flawed in the fact that it does not solve moral conflict and is absolute, Ross’ prima facia duties solves these issues by rejecting both of them and allowing flexibility.

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Ethical Theories of Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Ross' Prima Facie Duties. (2022, Dec 21). Retrieved from

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