Prima facie and seeming duties

Studia Logica 57 (1):47 - 71 (1996)
Sir David Ross introduced prima facie duties, or acts with a tendency to be duties proper. He also spoke of general prima facie principles, wwhich attribute to acts having some feature the tendency to be a duty proper. Like Utilitarians from Mill to Hare, he saw a role for such principles in the epistemology of duty: in the process by means of which, in any given situation, a moral code can help us to find out what we ought to do.After formalizing general prima facie principles as universally quantified conditionals I will show how seeming duties can be detached from them. There will be examples involving lies, burnt offerings and the question of whether to have a napkin on your lap while eating asparagus. They will illustrate the defeasibility of this detachment, how it can lead into dilemmas, and how general prima facie principles are overridden by more specific ones.
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DOI 10.1007/BF00370669
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