What Makes Right Acts Right?

W. D. Ross

in The Right and the Good

Published in print August 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252657
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598333 | DOI:

Series: British Moral Philosophers

What Makes Right Acts Right?

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This second chapter continues the inquiry into right started in the first, asking what makes right acts right. Historical attempts to state a single characteristic of all right actions that is the foundation of their rightness have been based on egoism and (hedonistic) utilitarianism; these are not discussed except in so far as they are contrasted with the other theory put forward, which is G. E. Moore's theory suggesting that what makes actions right is that they are productive of good. The main aspect of this addressed is that of duty (prima facie duty), and the consideration leads to a rejection of the definition of right as just productive of the best possible consequences (or optimific). The connection between the attributes of right and optimific is discussed, and the nature of acts that are right (including individual right acts) is explored in more detail. Two appendices follow Chapter II: the first discusses rights (as opposed to right); the second discusses punishment (in connection with the preceding discussion on rights).

Keywords: duty; egoism; hedonistic utilitarianism; optimific; prima facie duty; productive of good; punishment; right; right acts; rightness; rights; utilitarianism

Chapter.  20855 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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