David McNaughton and Piers Rawling

in The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780195325911
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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This article aims to defend a “Rossian” deontology of the kind that was first articulated by David Ross (1930). Rossian deontology postulates a plurality of basic moral principles, such as the principle not to harm people and the principle of promise keeping. The duties postulated by these principles are prima facie, in that they can conflict with one another, and when they do, the relative importance of the conflicting duties must be weighed in order to determine what to do, all things considered. A Rossian principle may seem to imply that a relevant corresponding property of actions is always right-making or wrong-making. Deontology has been bedeviled for thirty years by a line of argument according to which deontological constraints are paradoxical. This article does not draw the consequentialist conclusion, but it finds the argument against deontological constraints to be successful.

Keywords: Rossian deontology; moral principles; Rossian principle; conflicting duties; deontological constraints

Article.  16583 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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