Teaching Notes

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Moral Philosophers and Their Works

Due noon, Tuesday, Oct. 6: 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. Finally, in a third paragraph, identify and briefly explain the three steps of the Bok model.

Use the class handouts to help answer the question.

26 comments:

Adrienne W said...

Both Act and Rule Utilitarinism are rooted in the belief that what is ethical is what does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Rule Utilitarinism, proposed by John Stuart Mill, is the more general of the two, saying what is ethical is simply thing thing that does the most good for the most people. Act Utilitarinism, associated with Jeremy Bentham, takes into account specific situations and their immediate consequences to determine if the act is ethical; it states that each act should be judged on it's own. However, Act Utilitarinism also needs to illustrate a rule that creates the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

W.D. Ross is the philosopher who introduced prima facie and duty proper. Prima facie is described as a "conditional duty", something that seems right to do because of the nature of the act itself, something that seems right to do on the surface (ie. keep promise, fidelity). Duty proper however is the prima facie duty that takes the forefront and becomes more important when mulitiple prima facie duties conflict. This duty that you choose to follow is sometimes refered to as "actual duties".

The three steps of the Sissela Bok model are...
1- How do I feel about the action? (Part where you need to consult your own conscienc, is it right?)
2-Are there alternatives to the action that do not raise ethical questions? ( seek expert advice, from those living/dead; consult moral teachers, get moral guidance)
3- How will others react to the action? (conduct a public discussion of the people involved, but if you cannot, do it hypothetically. This steph uses empathy)

Howie Good said...

I'm confused as to the difference between act & rule utilitarianism from the descriptions so far. Which is the more ethically profound, act or rule, and why?

nekaiya trotman said...

Act Utilitarianism is a branch of Utilitarianism that states that the right action is the action that produces the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people. If the act that one does, in the end creates happiness for the majority of people then it is considered moral. Act Utilitarianism is associated with Jeremy Bentham.
Rule Utilitarianism on the other hand does not focus on the act to determine the best decision to make. It is the branch of Utilitarianism that holds the belief that all of society has a set of rules and those rules should always be followed when making a decision in order for the greatest amount of happiness to be achieved. Rule Utilitarianism is mostly associated with John Stuart Mill.

Prima facie duties and duty proper are elements of Ross’s Moral Theory developed by W.D Ross. A prima facie duty is morally significant and considered ethical by nature. A duty proper is when two duty facies collide and a choice must be made. It is the "moral obligation" that is chosen after careful consideration of which is most important.

The Bok Model consist of 3 questions:
1-How do you feel about the action?(consult you conscience/self reflection)
2-Are there alternatives to the action that does not raise sharp ethical questions?(consult moral principles and explore guidance from moral teachers)
3-How will others react to the action?(get the input of everyone involved in the situation)

GrobM said...

There are two types of Utilitarianism. Act Utilitarianism which was founded by Jeremy Bentham. It deals with short-term happiness. Even though it may hurt a subject in the end, it will bring happiness to others. Rule Utilitarianism was founded by John Stuart Mill. He thought, you can’t always think in a short-term mind set. Sometimes you have to think about long-term consequences of your actions. Will your act be the greatest good for the people down the road?

William David Ross came up with the terms Prima Facie Duties and Duty Proper. Prima Facie Duties are conditional duties. Which means you don’t always have to perform a duty if it is not morally significant. Duty Proper is known as a moral obligation. Making a promise and keeping it is an example. (This is a little confusing)

The Bok Model is used to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It first asks you how you feel about an action. You have to consult your conscience and find out whether or not the action disturbs you. Second, you have to decide whether or not there are other alternatives than the action that took place. You can do this by using principles like the Golden Mean or Utilitarianism etc. Third, how would others react to the action? This is where you have to show empathy and also ask people with differing opinions about the action that took place.

AndreaV said...

Act Utilitarinism is associated with Jeremy Bentham and it is when an the ethical issues are based on a single act, restraining evil and creating the most good, but only for that one act that one time. It is a short term position and often reinforces exceptionalism. Rule Utilitarinism is associated with John Stewart Mill and states that an act should reflect a rule, it is always the same in all situations and is not based on individual circumstances, when deciding one should ask "as a rule how should people act?" That is the case all them time, not situational.

The prima facie and the duty proper are associated with W.D. Ross. A prima facie is the moral obligations that people have. To keep a promise or not cause harm. But it is an indivdual act based on the situation and deciding what is best for that situation. A duty proper is when you are faced with more than one prima facie and it is the duty that is considered to be the one that is in need of being fulfilled.

The three steps of the Bok model begin with consulting your own conscience. Figuring out how you feel about the situation and if you feel it is ethical. The second step is to consult experts, whether they are people you currently admire or philosophers, to figure out if there would be another way to to acheieve the same goal but through different ethical means. The final step is to conduct a public discussion, which may not actually happen, it could just be thinking about how other people that are affected by the situation would feel. The goal is to try to understand how the people who are going to be affected by the act are going to feel when it has been done.

Michelle V said...

1. Act Utilitarinism (Jeremy Bentham) is applied to each separate act. The proper ethical means can change depending on what is going on. Rule Utliltarinism (John Stuart Mills) is a universal idea of ethics, it what should always be done. Rule is more profound because it what is seen as always right and unchanging.
2. Prima Facie (W.D. Ross)is a group of ethical rules to always live by. They include fidelity, reparation, graditude, justice, beneficence, self improvement adn nonmaleficence. When two of these are conflicting then the one that is seen as more applicable or to the greater good of the situation then becomes the duty proper.
3. The 3 steps of the Bok model include:
1. Consult your conscience about the rightness of your act.
2. Seek the advice of an expert for alternatives than what is causing the conflict.
3. Conduct a public discussions with the parties involve.

Nick Miggs said...

Utilitarianism can be broken down into two different sections or beliefs of some sort. Rule Utilitarianism, which is most closely associated with the philosopher John Stuart Mill, is set in the belief that society has unwritten rules that must be followed by all when making a decision in order to create the most success for the people it affects. This goes for the people that it directly affects along with any people that it indirectly affects.
On the other hand, Act Utilitarianism is the principle that the correct decision is the decision that will make the majority of the people it affects happy. With this thinking a decision that makes most people happy is morally correct. This rule has always been associated with the English philosopher. Jeremy Bentham

The Scottish ethics philosopher W.D. Ross developed what is known as Ross’s Moral Theory. A prima face duty is something that carries some significant moral weight. When two of these collide it is known as a duty proper and a an outcome must be chosen.


The Bok Model raises 3 questions
1. How do you feel about the action? (consult you conscience/self reflection)

2. Are there alternative options to the action that does not raise tough ethical questions?(consult moral principles and explore guidance from moral teachers)

3. How will others react to the action?(get the input of everyone involved in the situation)

Vince said...

Utilitarianism consists of two subdivisions, act utilitarianism associated with Jeremy Bentham and rule utilitarianism associated with John Stuart Mills. Act utilitarianism is the idea that when faced with a choice, you must first consider the moral consequences of that single action, you must choose to do what you believe will generate the most pleasure in that individual instence. Similar to act utilitarianism is rule utilitarianism, rule utilitariamism is the idea that a moral act is one that leads to the greatest good. Rule utilitarianism folloows a constant moral code, indifferent to the situation.

Both prima facie and duty proper are associated with W. D Ross. Prima facie duties are acts that are considered moral by nature. Duty proper is the decision that is made when two prima facie duties conflict.

The Bok model consists of three steps. The first step is self reflection, inspect your conscience regarding the decision. Second, are there alternatives that don't raise any moral questions. Finally, third, consult others, how will this action affect them.

JulieMansmann said...

Speaking in general terms, the principle of utility suggests that one should act in such a way to produce the “greatest good” for the greatest number of people. However, two different branches of this utilitarian model for making ethical/moral decisions developed: act and rule utilitarianism. According to the act utilitarian way of thinking, the value of the consequences of a particular act count when determining whether that course of action was ethically correct. However, critics of this theory most associated with Jeremy Bentham said his philosophy was “too permissive” and make it capable to justify any crime. Others have also said that act utilitarianism is unrealistic, since people rarely have the time or knowledge to foresee the consequences of an action, assess their value and go on to make comparisons with possible alternatives. The rule utilitarian way of thinking differs from Bentham’s method in that this method does not suggest examining the consequences of a particular act to determine it’s “rightness.” Rule utilitarianists first determine what they feel is the best rule of conduct by finding the value of consequences that follow a particular RULE. Then, this method suggests to act in accordance with the rule that has the best overall consequences. Basically, ethical decision making should be based on rules that bring about the supposed greatest good. One major proponent of this way of thinking was John Stuart Mill. Like act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism has received criticism as well. Crticis have pointed out that this theory assumes that everyone will follow the supposed best rule of conduct and that the assumed consequences will occur; of course if this does not happen, rule utilitarians have certainly hit a snag. In short, act utilitarianism focuses finding the best course of action to benefit the most people, while rule utilitarianism suggests taking a similar path, but WITHIN rules of conduct.

JulieMansmann said...

My post was too long, here are the next two parts of the question...

Having been dissatisfied with consequentialist moral theories, W.D. Ross developed an ethical model for decision making that he feels fits “the moral convictions of thoughtful and well-educated people.” Ross compiled a list of what he called prima facie or conditional duties. Prima facie duties are moral obligations that Ross suggests people consider when making an ethical decision. Examples include reparation (duty to make up for wrongful acts previously done to others), gratitude (duty to repay others for past favors), nonmaleficence (duty to not injure others) and more. However, these obligations differ from what Ross calls the duty proper or ultimate moral obligation. Basically, the duty proper is the obligation one chooses to fulfill when prima facie dutires are in conflict with one another. When deciding which is the duty proper, Ross says there are a few general “rules of thumb” that make certain prima facie duties more important than others. The example given in the class handout states that nonmaleficence (duty to not injure others) is generally more incumbent than beneficence (duty to improve the conditions of others with respect to virtue, intelligence or pleasure). Ross says one must examine the details of a particular situation when determining what the duty proper is.

Sissella Bok’s model for ethical decision making is a three step process. First, Bok suggests that people consult their own conscience and engage in some self reflection. They should be thinking about how they feel about a possible act. After this, Bok says to consult moral principles that you may have in order to explore alternative courses of action that may not be as ethically challenging. People seek out advice and guidance from moral guides/teachers. These “experts” should be people one has looked to for moral guidance and who have possible dealt with similar dilemmas. The third and final step suggests that people discuss the issue with everyone involved or tied to the situation at hand. This requires that people strongly consider who would be both directly and indirectly affected by the decision they will make. This would allow the person to gauge how others will react to their chosen course of action.

Kellie Nosh said...

Act utilitarianism, which was established by Jeremy Bentham, is the ethical theory stating that the "right" action is the particular action that yields the greatest good for the greatest number of people. On the other hand, rule utilitarianism was established by John Stuart Mill. As Professor Good said in his e-mail, rule utilitarianism is the particular form stating that the greatest good is yielded by certain moral actions that conform to rules that lead to it.

Prima facie duties and duty proper were both developed by the philosopher W.D. Ross. Prima facie duties are duties that pull rank first, or what seems the most ethical and "right" to do. Duty proper is the duty that is most ethically important when two prima facie duties collide. It's the duty that you choose to fulfill.

Finally, the steps of the Bok Model are as follows:
1. How do you feel about the particular action? This is where you consult your conscience to determine what is ethically sound.
2. Are there alternatives to the action that raise sharp ethical questions? This is where you consult your moral principles and try to find moral guidance.
and
3. How will others react to the action?

Colin V. said...

act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism both focus on whether the ethical situation in question will bring about the most good. act utilitarianism, which is associated with jeremy benthem, focuses more upon the ethical act in question. if the act brings about the most good, it is considered ethical. rule utilitarianism, which is associated with john stuart mill, focuses on the ethics of a rule in question. what is looked for is whether or not that rule, when followed correctly, will bring the most good to society. mill felt that this was important in democratic societies where the society is governed by a set of rules.

i feel that act utilitarianism is more ethically profound because i feel it is more subjective than rule. rule "plans for the future" (which is the basis of all utilitarianism) there are so many arguments against utilitarianism for the reason that humans and people can never predict what the future holds. i feel that the best we can do is plan for the short term and act utilitarianism handles that in the best way. rules constantly change to fit the society they govern, and that can be a messy process in which way more harm than good is done, which goes against all utilitarian principles. while act is not as extensive as rule, i feel it is the better of the two for making short term ethical judgments.

prima facie duties and duty proper were developed by W.D. Ross, and focused on competing ethical claims. prima facie duties are acts that are naturally ethical. duty proper, are duties that become the most ethical choice for you when faced with and ethical decision. arriving at a duty proper isnt always an easy task, especially confronted with very important prima facie duties. whichever prima facie you choose really defines your moral standpoints.

the bok model has three questions for deciding whether or not a decision was ethical:

1. how do you feel about the action? examine how you feel about the act: will you be ashamed of what you have done? or will you be able to talk to people about it "at a bbq"?

2. are there alternatives to the action that do not raise ethical questions? consult your moral teachers, seek advice or expert help to try and find alternatives to this action

3. how will others react to this action? will my action benefit people as a whole? or will it cause a lot of harm? if you were one of the audiences that were to be affected, what would you do?

Brian Coleman said...

The greatest good for the greatest number of people, is the basis of both rule and act utilitarianism. The main difference between the two however, is the generalization of the situation. Rule utilitarianism, which was proposed by John Stuart Mill, says that actions are based on a common rule, which goes for all actions. There are no other factors and circumstances. Act utilitarianism, proposed by Jeremy Bentham, says that an action is based on a general rule, which can change for the happiness of the majority of people.

W.D Ross adapted his own theories to explain ethical actions. Prima facie duties are the ones that are considered right because of the act itself. The example in the handout laid it out pretty well, demonstrating that you can break a promise, if it is a minor one and the other action helped the greater good. Duty proper is based on actual circumstances, and is the "promise" you choose.

The Bok Model is a three step process to determine ethical actions. The first step is to consult your conscious. How does the action make you feel? The second step is to check your own moral reasoning, and determine if there are other alternatives to your action. Finally, the third step is to see how the action effects others. Is it good for the greater good?

Patrick Mattei said...

Utilitarianism is the belief that the most ethically sound option is the one that produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This concept can then be broken down further- into Act and Rule utilitarianism.

Act Utilitarianism focuses on the results and direct consequences of an act. Things that are ethical in terms of Act Utilitarianism are not static- they are situational.It is associated with philosopher Jeremy Bentham.
Rule Utilitarianism is less situational than Act. It is concerned with doing the most good for the most amount of people while adhering to some moral or rule held by the person. This is associated with philosopher John Stuart Mill.

mika said...

Act utilitarism is an theory that was founded by Jeremy Bentham, and rule utiliratism was an theory that was founded by John Stuart Mill. Bentham said,"The greatest good for the greatest number of people." It means the happiness for the majority of people is more important than the hapiness for less person. It is because he thought happiness is countable.
And if the reasons of every actions that people take are for avoiding the suffer and for pursuing the happiness, he considered those action are morally correct.
However, it makes people to think we can ignore the right of a person to protect the majority's rights because we only need to think about the consequences in this theory.
On the other hand, Mill thought we can't count the happiness because the quality of the happiness are different from each perople and there's no criteria for that.
In short, it is the idea that applies the Utilitarinism to the rule.
He thought the important thing is to find rules that we should obey for getting able to produce the largeest amount of happiness, and decide these rules as morally basic in advance.
And so,we can tell whether our act is morally correct or not by usuing those rules as criteria.

W.D.Ross is the founder of the theory of "Prima facie" and duty proper.
Prima faciter(conditional duty)is something that we think correct from nature. It seems morally correcy for us even without thinking about it deeply. And duty proper is a kind of decision that we have to make when two prima facies conflict.

The Bok model is the theory founded by Sisella Bok. and it can be divided into three parts.The first one is to make sure how do we feel about our action. We need to make sure our conscience that relate to our decision.
Second, we need to try to find something alternatives that aren't produce any problem that is morally incorrect.Third, we need to think about the affection of our action to other people and then finally we can find out decisions.

Patrick Mattei said...

Utilitarianism is the belief that the most ethically sound option is the one that produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This concept can then be broken down further- into Act and Rule utilitarianism.

Act Utilitarianism focuses on the results and direct consequences of an act. Things that are ethical in terms of Act Utilitarianism are not static- they are situational.It is associated with philosopher Jeremy Bentham.
Rule Utilitarianism is less situational than Act. It is concerned with doing the most good for the most amount of people while adhering to some moral or rule held by the person. This is associated with philosopher John Stuart Mill.

W.D. Ross's moral theories included prima facies and duty proper. Prima facies duties are essentially duties that we consider to be morally right. Things like keeping promises, being grateful, etc. are always considered good and the "right" thing to do. The duty proper is when two of these prima facies conflict with one another. We must decide which is the more important one and which one we are more obligated to complete.

The Bok Model
1. How do you feel about the action?
Consult your own conscience first.
2. Are there alternatives to the action that don't raise sharp ethical questions?
It's better to follow your conscience than take an easy way out.
3. How will other react to the action?
Much of our conscience is shaped by the world around us- therefore it's important to think of what other people will think of your actions, even if you can justify them to yourself.

Lindsey Claro said...

Act utilitarianism is a theory that states that the right action to choose is the one which will provide the greatest amount of good or happiness for the greatest amount of people. This theory is opposed to rule utilitarianism which states that our duty is not to aim for the action that which will provide the greatest consequence, but to follow the rule which would have the greatest consequences if generally followed. Act utilitarianism, associated with philosopher Jeremy Bentham, is more specific, whereas rule utilitarianism, associated with philosopher John Stuart Mill, is more general.

W.D. Ross developed a concept of multiple duties for ethical decision making. He divided his duties into two kinds, prima facie duties and duty proper, which are also known as actual duties. Prima facie duties are those duties that seem to be right because of the nature of the act itself, such as keeping a promise, etc. When you are faced with more than one conflicting prima facie duties and the one that you must decide is the more ethically significant, this is a duty proper, otherwise known as actual duties.

According to Bok, any ethical question should be analyzed in three steps. The first step requires you to consult your conscience and ask how you feel about the action. The second step requires you to ask expert advice for other options. You are to find out if there is another way to achieve the same goal without raising ethical issues. And finally, the third step, if at all possible, is to have a public discussion with the involved parties and find out how others will respond to the proposed act.

Pamela A. said...

The philosopher John Stuart Mill is associated with Utilitarianism.
Act utilitarianism states that when one is faced with a decision we must examine the consequences of our actions. We have to choose what we believe will generate the most pleasure or happiness. This is based on a guideline of what is usually right, however, not always; such as keeping our promises and not lying.
Rule utilitarianism, on the other hand, states that we focus on the rules of conduct. In other words, think about the consequences if you took that course of action at all times. If breaking of a rule produces happiness, then the act itself is considered good. For example, there is a universal rule about killing but, if you only killed in self-defense then breaking the rule should be forgiven.

W.D. Ross developed the ideas of Prima facie duties and duty proper. Duty proper is basically an obligation to do the right things at all times. Prima facie states that we should judge each situation differently. Its a conditional moral; our obligation depends on the situation. For example, you promised your friend you would keep his secret and not tell anyone; keeping a secret is considered a moral duty. However, when your friend tells you he wants to kill another one of your friends one duty has to weight over the other.

The Bok Model, named after the Swedish-born philosopher Sissela Bok, names three steps for ethical decision making. First, you must look within yourself. How will this action make you feel? Second, ask for advice. Other might have gone through the same dilemma; always think of different people that can help.
Third, consider who will be affected by this action. Will others be impacted positively or negatively?

Sam Speer said...

Both act and rule utilitarianism involves the notion of, the consequences of actions are important in deciding whether they are ethical. The approach is the ethical guidelines for investigative reporting, with the goal of providing a greater societal good. Utilitarianism is the ethical philosophy of the greatest good for the greatest number. Jeremy Bentham, a 19th- century British philosopher, is associated with act utilitarianism. Act Utilitarianism is when the methods of obtaining information are ethical, investigative journalism is justified because it contributes more to human happiness, rather then hurting or causing pain to some individuals. Overall, act utilitarianism is more situational, than rule utilitarianism. As Patrick said, act Utilitarianism focuses on the results and direct consequences of an action. On the flip side, Rule Utilitarianism, is far less situational, and is when ethical decisions are based on a common rule, or code that leads to the greatest good, while adhering to certain ethical guidelines. This rule isn’t based on specific circumstances, as apparent in act utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism is most closely associated with the English philosopher John Stewart Mill.

Prima facie duties are the duties that seem right because of the nature of the act itself, or based on ones conscience, intuition or morals. When two prima facie duties conflict, duty proper or “actual duties” are the duties that are given in specific circumstances. The example the book used about breaking promises was beneficial because it showed that promises can be broke if it will benefit the common good. The philosopher William David Ross who developed these ideas said, “It helps us explain why even the good consequences that might come from a failure to tell the truth or keep a promise do not always seem to us to justify the lie or breach of confidence.” This helps us understand why people feel uneasy about breaking a promise, even if they have justifiable reasoning.

The Bok Model has three questions that are asked:

1) How do you feel about the action? Is it illegal, is credibility questioned, consult your conscience in order to formulate the best ethical decision possible.

2) Are there alternatives to the action that don’t raise ethical questions? Use an ethical principle in order to find an alternative approach. Seek moral guidance or advice from moral teachers.

3) How will others react to the action? Consider who is being affected, all the possible extremes, will there be a big opposition?

Jaime Prisco said...

There is a great difference between act and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism, which is most associated with 19th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, states that ethicality is what does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This brings up many of the case studies we explored especially with the bang- bang club. Do the photographers take the pictures and not help the suffering people. Bentham would say that taking the picture brings awareness to more people and by helping them, only one person would be affected. By capturing the horror, they used act utilitarianism because now the world got to see the distress of South Africa. This idea also take consequences into account. The severity of consequences judge hpw ethical a decision is.Rule utilitarianism is mostly associted with John Stuart Mill. This differs from act utilitarianism because consequences dont come into play.Rules are more structured and moral actions that lead to the greatest good are considered ethical. It focuses more on right and wrong. The biggest difference is the rule aspect. Act focues on the goodness of the consequences without taking right and wrong rules into account.

W.D. Ross is the creator of prima facie duties and duty proper. Prima facie duties are moral obligations that people feel they must live up too. These duties are thought of as naturally ethical, things that should be done because they are the right things to do. Duty proper is an act chosen to be done when it is directly conflicting with someones prima facie duty. Duty proper is the choice you make between these two conflicting ethical decisions.

The Bok model was developed by Sissela Bok which concisely seperates ethical decision making into 3 steps. The first step involves consulting youe conscience. It is how you feel about the action at hand. If it is something that make you ashamed or feel bad, then it probably wasnt ethcial. The second step is seeing if their are alternitives to the action. In this step, a person must try to find a way or consult someone who knows a way if they are having trouble with the sitation at hand.This person is usually an expert or moral example.By trying to find an alternative, they are are approaching the situation ethically instead od resorting to the sometimes easier and more tempting aspects of being unethical. The last step is determining how others will react to the action. By doing this, one can gauge how other people will be affected by this one action being done.You could do this by consulting other people and talking to them about the action.

Alyssa said...

Act of Utilitarinism proposed by Jeremy Bebthan produces the greatest amount of action. Rule of Utilitarinism is the belief that society has a set of rules to follow that are used to get the greates happiness,proposed by John Stuart Mill.
W.D Ross responsible for Prima facle and duty proper.These methodes have been been effective because of example.
The Sissek Bok model asks
1.How do you feel about the action?
2. Are there alternatives to the action? and
3.How will others react to the action.

Kevin Harvey said...

Act Utilitarianism is a theory in ethics which explains that the right action is the action that produces the most satisfaction and happiness for the greatest number of people without referring to a specific principle and is situational. Act Utilitarianism was developed by Jeremy Bentham. Rule Utilitarianism is a theory in ethics which also explains that the right action is the one that produces the most good and the correctness of it that is determined by the amount of good it brings when followed, while adhering to a standard principle. Rule Utilitarianism was developed by John Stuart Mill.

Prima facie duties was developed by W. D. Ross and is an obligation to what’s first and most evident but may be overrode by a more pressing duty. Duty proper was also developed by W.D. Ross and is the duty that overrides and becomes the more important duty when multiple prima facie duties conflict.

The Bok model has three steps in which an action is applied to the model to decide whether it is ethical. They consist of three questions. How do I feel about the action? (Consult your conscience). Are there alternatives to the action that don’t raise ethical questions? And how will others react to the action?

Anonymous said...

Both act and rule utilitarianism developed through the belief of utility, which is the greatest good for the greatest number. However, act and rule differ in their specifications. Act utilitarianism, developed by Jeremy Bentham, states that being ethical is what does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Rule utilitarianism was developed by John Stuart Mill. This differs from act utilitarianism because consequences don't matter. It focuses on right and wrong rather than good or bad.


W.D. Ross's moral theories are known as prima facies and duty proper. Prima facies duties are duties that are considered to be morally right. For example, keeping promises are always considered good and the ethical/loyal thing to do. The duty proper is when two of these prima facies conflict with one another in a given circumstance. It is up to us to decide which is more important snd which one we are more obligated to complete at that given moment.

The three steps of the Sissela Bok model are:
1. How do I feel about the action? (Part where you need to consult your own conscienc, is it right?)
2. Are there alternatives to the action that do not raise ethical questions? ( seek expert advice, from those living/dead, consult moral teachers)
3. How will others react to the action? (conduct a public discussion of the people involved, but if you cannot, do it hypothetically. This step uses empathy)

Kevin Harvey said...

Know one seems to realize it, but it's said Act utilitarianism is in opposition of Rule utilitarianism but it seems the theory of Act was developed before the development of the idea of Rule utilitarianism. It should have developed the other way around. First with Rule and then with Act. Act is therefore by far more ethically profound and Jeremy Bentham should be given a lot of credit for thinking ahead of his time.

Lisa E. said...

Rule Utilitarianism says the act itself has to be moral. No such thing as a "white lie." The philosopher associated with this is John Stuart Mill.
Act Utilitarianism is based on the outcome of the act. If the results were good then that justifies that act. The philosopher associated with this is Jeremy Bentham.

Ross's Prima Facie is what is ethical according to a situation. Duty Proper is a moral obligation.

The Bok Model asks three questions:

How do you feel about the action? You have to consult your conscience.

What are alternatives to the action that do not raise ethical questions

How will others react to the action?

Howie Good said...

Act utilitarianism did indeed precede rule utilitarianism, as Kevin points out. It was also, as he notes, a radical innovation in moral philosophy. But that doesn't mean that Mills' theory isn't more profound in the sense that it reflects a more nuanced understanding of the consequences of acting on a case-by-case basis.

Bentham's closest modern descendants are probably the ethicists who follow the philosophy of moral particularism. These don't put much stock in abstract ethical principles or even ethical precedents, but focus on the particulars of the immediate situation.

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.