Teaching Notes

You must become the flame on the candle. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Media Ethics. 01 Duty Proper

Due Feb. 12: Please briefly explain the difference between act and rule utilitarianism. Identify the philosopher associated with each. In the same post but a separate paragraph, also explain the difference between prima facie duties and duty proper, and identify the philosopher who developed these ideas.

Use the class handouts to help answer the question.

29 comments:

Omari said...

The difference between act utilitarianism and rule ultilitarianism is that the act utilitarianism thinks more of the single act consequences being conducted at the time, while the rule ultilitarianism thinks of the long term consequences. Alot of people, like myself think with the act more than the rule because its more about "right now" rather than later on. As for the philosoper who came up with this, I do not have access to his information unless he is J.S. Mill. In that case, while reading about J.S. Mill, I realized I liked a certain excerpt that he expressed. He preferred quality rather than quantity, and I agree with that. A good example of that would be writing a paper, 1 paragraph of excellent work is looked at better than 2 pages of irrelevant information.
After numerous glances of the article, I was able to find out how duty proper and prima facie duty differ. Both are defined as promises, but duty proper is the duty we should perform in the particular situation. Prima facie duty is performing the duty unless it is against your morals. The philosopher W.D. Ross wrote all about moral theories, and had me confused with his wording of the two.

Marissa said...

The difference between rule and act utilitarianism is exactly that;in act utilitarianism a person acts without thinking of long term consequences. While rule utilitarianism thinks ahead to what is more important. It is like the example you gave the class: save your mother or save the doctor with the cure for cancer. Saving your mother is act utilitarianism, while saving the doctor is rule utilitarianism, because saving him provides more long term benefits to others. The philosopher associated with utilitarianism is J.S. Mill.
A prima facie duty is one that coincides with your morals. They almost seem common sense, such as reparation- duty to make up for wrongful acts previously done to others. Most people do this without thinking about it, such as when you get into a car accident and offer to pay for the damages caused. Duty proper is when duties conflict, and a person performs the duty that is more urgent. For instance, you are supposed to go to class because you have a test that day but instead you go home because one of your family members is in the hospital, the more urgent duty is to go to the hospital, therefore that is the duty proper. The philosopher associated with prima facie duties and duty proper is W.D. Ross.

Leah said...

Act Utilitarianism considers a single act without thinking about the long term effects. Rule Utilitarianism is more of a process followed while thinking about the sequence of events that will occur. Act Utilitarianism is more of an instinctual thing; a decision made without thinking deeply into it. J.S. Mill is the philosopher associated with the idea of utilitarianism.

The difference between prima facie duties and duty proper is that Duty proper is something that you are obligated to do. It is an expectation that you have to fulfill. For example there could be something that you promise to do for a friend but then it conflicts with helping your mother with something. Clearly in a situation like this you would help your mother over a friend. Prima facie duties support who you are as a person or your morals. If you believe in something you are going to perform acts that back that up. The philosopher who developed these ideas was named W.D. Ross.

Alison said...

The differences between act and rule utilitarianism is act utilitarianism means that first you must consider the consequences of the action you take and choose the action that leads to the majority's happiness, while rule utilitarianism chooses to follow an action only if the rule made for the action can be followed to create the most happiness. Often times act utilitarianism is preferred to rule utilitarianism because under certain circumstances the rule will not continue to make people happy, which is the opposite reaction the rule is supposed to do in the first place. The philosopher who came up with act and rule utilitarianism is John Stewart Mill.
A prima facie duty is a promise one makes to another to do something, like when I promise a friend I will meet them at Hasbrouck for lunch at noon, I am obligated to be there. A duty proper is a prima facie duty too, but when there is more then one prima facie duty to choose from, the one that is most appropriate to choose for the given situation is the duty proper. So if I was going to meet my friend at Hasbrouck for lunch, and then all of a sudden I have this really important meeting I have to go to or else I can't graduate, then the duty proper is going to the meeting instead of meeting my friend, because it is the more important duty at the time. Basically it is about choosing the right moral course of action in a given situation. The philosopher who came up with this theory of prima facie duty and duty proper is W.D. Ross.

Sean H. said...

The difference between act and rule utilitarianism is that act utilitarianism is concerned with what will bring the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. However rule utilitarian is instant gratification in the sense that it provides the most happiness for the time being. Rule utilitarianism is usually more involved with our basic impulses as humans, which may not always be the most sensible, while act utilitarianism is the more reasonable choice and if well thought out will most likely be the more logical decision. John Stuart Mill is the philosopher who is involved with utilitarianism.

The difference between prima facie duty and duty proper is obligation. Duty proper is something that one is morally obligated to and there is no elasticity. It has to be done and there is no way to get around it. However prima facie duty is conditional and can change with the situation and with ones own moral stance. W.D. Ross is the philosopher who developed both ideas.

Lyndsey said...

Act utilitarianism is determining what the consequences will be like of the action that you take. The better the consequence, the better that act is. According to www.utilitarianism.com, Jeremy Bentham is the philosopher associated with the idea of act-utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism does not look at the consequences of a particular act, but instead looks for the best rule of conduct. Then the consequences of a particular rule are analyzed, and the rule that has the best consequence is considered the best rule to follow. Philosophers John Austin and John Stuart Mill were strong believers in rule utilitarianism.

Prima facie duties are conditional duties, ones that may depend on the situation. The list of duties includes fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, and nonmaleficence. A duty proper is a moral obligation. W.D. Ross is the philosopher associated with these ideas.

Daniel said...
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bexis said...

Act utilitarianism is a moral doctrine which states that one should do what the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The person acts in a way that the consequences are a short term. While rule utilitarianism is concern with and the process of thinking ahead to what is most significant. Also, one should keep in mind the long term consequences of one’s actions. The philosopher associated with these principles is J.S. Mill.
Prima facie says that on the surface there are acts that are good. For example, honoring your parents is naturally good. You should only do duties that are allowed by your moral character. Duty proper is when there are two things in conflict and one must choose the duty proper one or the one which is most important. An example of this is when you have promised a friend you would go see them and on your way there you find someone who needs your immediate help; what should you do? The duty proper thing to do is to help the person who has the immediate need and later go to see your friend. It is our duty to do what is most crucial given the situation, even if that means breaking a promise. The philosopher associated with these principles W.D. Ross.

John said...

Act Utilitarianism refers to the consequences of a persons action in the short term while rule utilitarianism refers to person concerned with the long term effects of his or actions. This philosophy was developed by J.S. Mills.

Prima facie duties are acts that would be duty propers if they were not taking place at the same time as another act that is morally significant. A duty proper is a moral obligation. These ideas were developed by W.D. Ross.

Raizza said...

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham is for the act utilitarism and John Stuart Mill is for rule utilitarianism.
Bentham - Act - (quantity) a system of actions that is likely to produce the greatest amount of happiness.
Mill- Rule - (quality) "justice and utility must be underlined in terms of rules" and learn virtue before applying the rules of utility.
The act utilitarian considers only the results or consequences of the single act while the rule utilitarian considers the consequences that result of following a rule of conduct or the long term consequences.
One example is in a situation when a doctor has an option to tell a patient that he or she has an incurable disease and there's a 15 percent chance of survival rate or to lie to the patient.
The doctor should consider what would be good to tell the person. The family will be sadden or upset by the news so the act utilitarian would be is to lie. Rule utilitarian would be is to consider the long term consequences of the act - if the doctor would lie, then doctors will may in fact lose their credibility. Rule utilitarianism is that there are more harm in lying, so the doctor should consider to tell the truth.

Prima Facie duties are a set of duties focusing on the elements of Ross's Moral Theories. Ross is against consequentialism. Prima Facie duty or conditional duty is a moral duty that, in the absence of conflicting duties, would be our actual moral obligation like that of this example, when I have a prima facie obligation to keep a promise or agreement to someone, but this may yield to a more pressing duty. We should always act in accordance with the most stringent prima facie duties in a given situation and relationship (e.g., promiser-promisee, creditor-debtor, wife-husband, potential benefactor-potential beneficiary, etc). Duty proper is our moral obligation or all things considered that we ought to do or act. One's moral duty is to perform the action that would fulfill the promise.

William said...

J.S. Mill created rule utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism is a philosophy where one should find the best rule by considered the consequences of this rule. The rule with the best consequences should be followed. Act utilitarianism created by Jeremy Bentham, is a philosophy where the value of the consequences of an act are the determining factor to as whether a rule is moral.
Prima facie duties and duty proper are related but different in certain situations. A duty proper is a moral obligation. Prima facie duties would be duty proper if there were no other conflicting duties. Meaning that when one is confronted by the world they deal with several different moral issues at the same time and prima facie are all these moral issues. If one was confronted with just one moral issue there would be a duty proper because there does not have to be any debate about which to do. W.D. Ross is the philosopher who created the prima facie duties and duty proper.

AllisonC said...

Utilitarianism in morality is the idea that the end result should create a balance of benefits over harms for the people it affects. The philosopher J.S. Mill came up with rule utilitarianism which means that the process that follows the rules and doesn't make exceptions that will interfere with the greater good. Act utilitarianism is the idea doesn't take rules into consideration but instead focuses on the idea that the best process is the one that results in the most happiness for the largest amount of people.


W.D. Ross is the philosopher known for his ideas about a person's duties and decisions we as people face. The idea of duty proper is based on the decisions we are obligated to make because they take a precedence over the any other result. On the other hand, a prima facie duty is considered conditional and focuses on the situation in which a person is faced with.

steven said...
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Emilyrical said...
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Samm said...

The philosopher associated with act and rule utilitarianism is J.S Mill. Rule utilitarianism is when a person thinks about the consequences of their actions before they act. Act utilitarianism is when a person acts on their first instinct without thinking through the consequences of their actions.

The philosopher associated with prima facie and duty proper is W.D Ross. A prima facie duty is one that is heldin more importance than other duties. The duty to choose above all others is the prima facie duty. The duty proper is an obligation that you are expected to fulfill.

Emily said...

Act utilitarianism deals with the consequences of potential actions, whereas rule utilitarianism deals with the correctness of a rule in relation to the good it brings about when followed. J.S. Mill originated the idea of rule-utilitarianism, whereas Jeremy Bentham, is more associated with act utilitarianism.

W.D. Ross is the philosopher associated with duty proper and prima facie. Duty proper is obligatory, because it is the most urgent and necessary action. Prima facie deals not with what you must do, but what you morals guide you to do. So, prima facie differs from duty proper because it is flexible and the right answer depends on your morals.

steven said...

Act utilitarianism holds that when one has a choice to make, all the consequences must be looked at and the choice made must be done in order to produce the most happiness. Rule utilitarianism focuses on the rules of a possible action. If the rule will consistently produce the greatest good, then is should always be followed. The difference is that act utilitarianism is situation-specific, while rule utilitarianism is not. There are various philosophers associated with utilitarianism, including J.S. Mill (mainly focused on rule), George Berkeley and Sidgwick (mainly focused on act).

Prima facie, which means “on its first appearance” in the Latin, holds that a situation should appear self-evident based on the facts at hand. Duty proper holds that if obligations conflict, the most vital obligations, or scenarios, must be taken care of first. The difference is that prima facie deals with morals, whereas duty proper deals with a level of urgency, or importance. W.D. Ross is associated with these philosophies.

joe said...

Act utilitarianism considers only the consequences from one's action, whereas rule utilitarianism takes into account all the consequences that would show in the future if the act were to be repeated again and again. J.S. Mill is the philosopher associated with utilitarianism.

The difference between prima facie duties and duty proper is that prima facie duties are one's social obligations, such as fulfilling a promise. Duty proper, however, is one's moral obligation, which takes precedence over the prima facie duties. W.D. Ross developed both of these ideas.

jcaputo12 said...

The difference between act and rule utilitarianism is that act utilitarianism is happening in the moment, when one makes a decision without thinking about the consequences. Rule utilitarianism thinks about the long term consequences. I think that in most panic situations, people use act utilitarianism, like the example we discussed in class about choosing the mom or the doctor. This concept was introduced by J.S. Mill.
W.D. Ross's theory of Prima facie duty is when one performs the duty unless it is against one's morals.
Duty proper would be the duty one performs in a certain situation. Both are actions that one should take, but what makes them different is when one should act on them.

Kim A said...

Utilitarianism, a term associated with philosopher, John Stewart Mill, is the act of weighing your decisions depending on the amount of good or harm it will do to the greater population.
Mill and Bentham had different views on utilitariansim. For instance, Mill believed more in rule utilitariansim which is the notion that one should think about the long term consequences of one's actions. Rule is the most practical but the most time consuming because it requires a thought process. Mill believes more in quality than quantity. On the contrary Bentham believed more in act utilitarianism which is acting quickly and instinctively which produces instant gratification.

W.D. Ross discusses moral theories such as prima facie duties and duty proper. Prima facie duties are moral obligations which are conditional. This means that they are subject to change depending on the situation.
Duty proper suggests that this is a moral obligation that takes precedence over all other obligations. Duty proper is more of a priority than prima facie duties.

Alyssa said...

Act utilitarianism deals with a moral decision based on how many people it will affect and have consequence for, where as rule utilitarianism deals with what good things will come after it. Act doesnt think about the consequences while rule thinks of what will come in the longterm. J.S. Mill is the philosopher associated with the concept of utilitarianism.

Prima facie duties are duties which are within your morals. They are things that I personally think come naturally to a majority of people, such as taking responsibility for your wrongdoings. Duty proper is when there is a situation where the duties conflict and you must do the one that is more important or pending at the moment. W.D. Ross discussed moral theories or duties.

chloe said...

Utilitarianism was developed by philosopher J.S. Mills. Variations of Utilitarianism include act utilitarianism, a way in which some base ethical decisions on a specific situation and its consequences specific to the situation. Rule Utilitarianism includes an observation of the long term consequences that are not specifically related to the ethical situation at hand.
Prima facie duty, according to W. D. Ross, refers to a “conditional duty”, while the duty proper refers to a real “moral obligation”. The difference seems to be that prima facie is a process of deciding one’s ethical duty based on the situation(s) at hand, while duty proper involves one’s own morals in making an ethical decision.(honestly, I don't really get it.)

michelle said...

The difference between rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism is the way in which a person decides on an outcome. Act utilitarianism is the way a person reacts most quickly out of common sense to a situation with little concern for the long term affects. Rule utilitarianism is the recognition of good in other ways than personal pleasure, therefore choosing the out come that would affect greatest amount of people. The philosopher associated with utilitarianism is J.S. Mill.
The difference between Prima facie duties and duty proper is that prima facie duties are determined based on a pervious action, for example, fidelity, reparation, gratitude are just a few. Duty proper is the process of choosing an act which although might fit more than one duty, hold a more urgent obligation to it. The philosopher W.D. Ross is responsible for the ideas of prima facie duties and duty proper.

Ruben said...

Act utilitarianism is based on the idea of considering the consequences of every action and when acting, one acts in the good that generates the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people. Rule utilitarianism is based on abiding by protocol and considering the repercussions of following the rules constantly. If abiding by the rules generates more happiness than disobeying it then it is found to be just.

Duty proper is the concept that when two duties or obligations conflict with each other, the duty chosen to carry out is the duty proper. Prima facie duty entails that when faced with two obligations, the more extreme situation that needs immediate attention would be the duty that is more morally bound according to W.D. Ross.

Cisca said...

These concepts pretty much went over my head. What I understood was that utilitarianism deals with the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. J.S. Mill is associated with rule utilitarianism and Jeremy Bentham is associated with act utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism deals finding the rightness not by the consequences but by finding the value of following a particular rule. Act utilitarianism deals with taking into account consequences of action to determine whether they were right.
W.D. Ross is the philosopher who is associated with prima facie duties and duty proper. Duty proper is obligatory; they take precedence over the any other result. Prima facie duties deal with “obligations to society that require action, or at least a response on your part”….moral obligations. Fidelity, reparation,etc.

Ben said...

Act and rule Utilitarianism are both based on the making the choice that does the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Act utilitarianism is making a choice by weighing the pro's and con's of the situation and basing your decision on the situation. Rule utilitarianism is based on sticking to a fundamental rule that was designed for the greater good, and is always valid. J.S. Mills is associated with utilitarianism.

W.D Ross developed prima facie duties are naturally good deeds that one would fulfill as an obligation to ones self, peers, authority, or any promise. Duty proper is weighing the pro's and con's of which promise too keep, asking which is more valuable. What is the proper duty to commit.

Ben said...

Act and rule Utilitarianism are both based on the making the choice that does the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Act utilitarianism is making a choice by weighing the pro's and con's of the situation and basing your decision on the situation. Rule utilitarianism is based on sticking to a fundamental rule that was designed for the greater good, and is always valid. J.S. Mills is associated with utilitarianism.

W.D Ross developed prima facie duties are naturally good deeds that one would fulfill as an obligation to ones self, peers, authority, or any promise. Duty proper is weighing the pro's and con's of which promise too keep, asking which is more valuable. What is the proper duty to commit.

Ben said...

Act and rule Utilitarianism are both based on the making the choice that does the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Act utilitarianism is making a choice by weighing the pro's and con's of the situation and basing your decision on the situation. Rule utilitarianism is based on sticking to a fundamental rule that was designed for the greater good, and is always valid. J.S. Mills is associated with utilitarianism.

W.D Ross developed prima facie duties are naturally good deeds that one would fulfill as an obligation to ones self, peers, authority, or any promise. Duty proper is weighing the pro's and con's of which promise too keep, asking which is more valuable. What is the proper duty to commit.

Maria said...

Act utilitarianism is the concept of acting on impulse with no regard to any effects, whereas rule utilitarianism is when someone's actions are based off of long term effects. The difference is that with act the person does just that, act on impulse. Rule utilitarianism is more of a responsible way of acting, thinking things through first. The concept of utilitarianism comes to us from J.S. Mill.
The difference between prima facie duty and a duty proper is that duty proper is obligational whereas prima facie is situational. Duty proper is something that you are morally obligated to do and prima facie can chance based upon the components of the situation at hand. we get the concepts of prima facie and duty proper from philosopher W.D. Ross.

Is Media Ethics Education DOA?

It sounds like a joke Jay Leno would tell during his opening monologue on The Tonight Show. Hear about the graduate students at the prestigious journalism school? They got caught cheating on an ethics exam. Ha ha ha. Except that’s actually what happened at Columbia University in late 2006.

Students had been given 48 hours to sign onto a Columbia Web site to take the final exam in a required course called “Critical Issues in Journalism.” They then had 90 minutes to answer two essay questions.

The students were warned to not discuss the questions with each other, but apparently they did. As the headline over a story reporting the scandal put it, “Ivy J-Schoolers Fail Ethics, Ace Irony.”

No one admitted cheating despite pressure from the school’s administrators and pleas from classmates, who feared the scandal would damage the market value of their degrees. Meanwhile, the teacher of the course, New York Times columnist Samuel G. Freedman, refused to comment. But if the disgruntled posts on RateMyProfessors.com are any indication, his students hadn’t exactly been soaking up knowledge. “Maybe he could e-mail his ‘speeches’ to the students instead of making everyone suffer through the most wasted class in j-school. . . ,” one read.

There’s an old cowboy saying that goes, “When your horse dies, get off.” Journalism ethics education is a dead horse. Or else those aren’t vultures circling in the sky.

A Question for Socrates


The question of how ethics is learned, or even if it can be, is as old as Western philosophy. In Plato’s dialog Meno the title character asks, “Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?” Of course, Socrates, being Socrates, resists giving a definite answer. But we can’t. The sad fact is, students had better get an effective ethics education now or they may never.


Last summer I conducted an ethics workshop for some reporters and editors at the Poughkeepsie Journal, a small daily in upstate
New York owned by Gannett Co., Inc. The woman in charge of organizing the workshop had supplied us with several case studies to examine. I remember one dealt with a classic conflict of interest, a copy editor who moonlighted at a local radio station.

But what I remember most is the air of defeat that clung to the staff as we sat on hard plastic chairs in the break room discussing the cases. I could hear in their voices the bitterness and cynicism of employees forced to follow corporate policies they despised. Recently, for example, the paper had started running display ads on the front page and section fronts, a much more grievous ethical lapse, their mumbled asides suggested, than anything the case studies might have to offer.

I don’t want my students to ever wear the gray, defeated expression I saw that day on the faces at the Journal. But given the downward direction in which the media are moving, and fast, how in the world can I prevent it from happening?

Teaching Media Ethics by Telling Stories

A friend of mine who teaches at a big Midwestern university recounts in class the events of her first week as a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. She was sent to Duluth to cover Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey on the campaign trail. When they were introduced, Humphrey vigorously shook her hand. “Oh yes, Susan,” he said, “I read your stuff all the time.” He couldn’t have read her stuff, though; she hadn’t written anything yet. “Just a few words,” she explains to her students, “but words that taught this fledging reporter a great lesson about pols and the little lies they tell.”

I usually find occasion during the semester to quote I. F. Stone’s dictum, “Every government is run by liars and thieves, and nothing they say should be believed,” to make the same point. But Susan’s story makes the point better. That’s because it has existential force. Her story vividly captures in a way a secondhand quote can’t the realities of a reporter’s life.

Some might think telling “war stories” is a waste of precious class time. I’ve a colleague who didn’t want to fall into the “trap” of regaling students with stories ad nauseam (“which, let’s face it, is easier than teaching or grading,” he said). So one semester he kept track. When he toted it all up at the end, he was surprised that he’d used less than an hour - out of 45 – talking about his newspaper experiences. And yet, he admitted, it was his stories that students seemed to remember most.

“Stories teach us how to live,” Daniel Taylor said in his essay, “The Ethical Implications of Storytelling.” What he meant was that stories preserve our experience for contemplation and evaluation. Although not all stories carry a heavy message, there’s an entire category of stories, so-called “exemplary tales,” that are told to convey a moral.

Our war stories are potentially just such tales. They can provide evidence, in ethicist John Barton’s words, of “how real human beings live through various crises and trials and remain human.” My colleague who kept tabs on his storytelling has described his stories as cautionary. Most, he said, deal with “screwups I learned from.”

But sometimes the storyteller and the audience can’t agree on what exactly the moral of a story is.

When Susan was a cub reporter on the Tribune, she interviewed the Beatles, who were on their second tour of the States. She got into their hotel room by dressing up as a waitress in an ugly, mustard-colored uniform and accompanying an actual room service waiter upstairs. Ringo took one look at her little plastic name tag – it read “Donna Brown” – and snorted, “What kind of name is that?” The waiter nudged her in the side. “Tell them what you real name is,” he urged. She did, as well as her reason for being there. Rather than throw her out, the Beatles politely answered her questions. They even let her phone for a photographer. The next day her story ran on the front page, with a photo of John sitting at a table and looking up at her and laughing as she poured coffee in his cup. She still has a glossy print of that photo somewhere.

Many of Susan’s students think she’s nuts for not having the photo hanging up in her office. They also think she’s nuts for saying she’d never participate in the same kind of stunt today. To her celebrity-struck students, disguising herself as a hotel waitress to get an interview with the Beatles seems soooo cool. They lose all sight of the fact that it wasn’t a story of vital public interest that demanded undercover methods.

Susan intends one lesson when she talks about her hard day’s night, but her students, living in a paparazzi-saturated culture, draw another. “It may be a lost cause,” she remarked to me.

Or maybe not. Negotiations over what the point of a story is can be part of the point of the story. In the process of negotiating, we test different interpretations, try out different themes. This is helpful. This is educational. Lawrence Kohlberg, the Harvard psychologist famous for his research on the stages of moral development, contended that “the teaching of virtue is the asking of questions. . . not the giving of answers.” Stories don’t necessarily have to yield clear moral rules to be of value. It’s enough sometimes if they just give us something to think about.