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According to philosopher W.D. Ross, what are the defects with different types of...

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maureenr0328 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:55 AM via web

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According to philosopher W.D. Ross, what are the defects with different types of utilitarianism?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:06 AM (Answer #1)

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In The Right and the Good, Ross argues takes on two types of utilitarianism, which is essentially a ethical philosophy that defines right and wrong by the results they produce. The two types are hedonistic utilitarianism and ideal utilitarianism. 

He claims that a hedonistic utilitarianism approach, with its emphasis on pleasure as the ultimate good, needs a "revision." It is clear, Ross says, that "pleasure is not the only thing in life that we think good in itself." In other words, pleasure, defined by utilitarians of all stripes as the appropriate end of all human action, is only one of several "goods" that can serve as a motive. This is essentially his critique of hedonistic utilitarianism.

His argument against ideal utilitarianism takes a similar tack, as he suggests that it is also reductive in its view of human relations. He says that ideal utilitarians believe that the "only morally significant relation in which my neighbours stand to me is that of being possible beneficiaries of my action." This, Ross says, is simply not the case: one's relations are far more complex, including debtor-creditor, husband-wife, father-son, employer-employee, and so on. These relationships each imply a sort of "prima facie duty," by which Ross means they entail, by their very nature, certain obligations not defined by utilitarians as moral. 

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