Your essay should be 1800 words – please put a word count on the front of your essay. Also note that the appropriate lecture notes may also be relevant to your topic.
1. What are the main features of Ross’s pluralist theory of the right, that is, his theory with not just one basic duty, as in utilitarianism, but several distinct duties such as fidelity (i.e. promise-keeping), beneficence, non-maleficence, etc.? What are the mains strengths of this theory, and are there also significant weaknesses? (Ross (“What Makes Right Acts Right?”),Hare, Williams, Foot)
2. What does Ross mean by a “prima facie duty,” and how does it differ from what he calls a “duty proper”? What role does the concept of prima facie duty play in his overall moral theory? What (if any) are its advantages, and what (if any) are its disadvantages? How plausible are Ross’ claims about what we can know about our prima facie duties and about our duties proper, and about how we know it? (Ross (“What Makes Right Acts Right?”, “What Things Are Good?” (the latter for comparisons with what he says about our knowledge about what is good))
3. Is pleasure the only intrinsic good and pain the only intrinsic evil? Why or why not? If they’re not the only good and evil, what other things are good and evil and what arguments show that they are? (Bentham, Nozick, Ross (“What Things Are Good?”, also “Degrees of Goodness,”e.g. pp. 149-50)
4. Discuss Ross’s pluralist theory of the good, which values not just pleasure but also virtue, knowledge, and distribution in accordance with desert. Is Ross right that these are all good, and also right in his claims about their degrees of goodness? Are there important goods that his theory leaves out? (Ross, “What Things Are Good” and “Degrees of Goodness” – these are Chapters 5 and 6 of his The Right and the Good, in the Library Course Reserves)
5. How much do we owe to the victims of famine in faraway countries, i.e. how strong a duty do we have to share our money and other resources with them? What explains why we have this duty? (Singer, Arthur, Foot)
6. Is active euthanasia or assisted death morally permissible, so other things equal it should be permitted by law? How persuasive are Rachels’s arguments that there is no moral difference between active euthanasia and what he calls passive euthanasia? And how persuasive are the arguments on the other side, those saying all forms of euthanasia are morally wrong?
(Rachels (“Active and Passive Euthanasia”), Steinbock, Rodriguez decision, pp. 426-7, 433-4)
N.B. These questions just indicate general topic areas. It’s permissible, and can even be a good idea, to focus on just one aspect of a question. For example, for question 4 you can give a general survey of Ross’s theory of the good, but you can also discuss, e.g., just his views about how the values of the different goods compare with each other, but go into those views in more depth.