W DRoss

A Simple and Usable (Although Incomplete)
Ethical Theory Based on the Ethics of
W. D. Ross

By Dr. Jan Garrett

The purpose of this essay is to introduce a simple ethical theory and to give credit to the thinker who is the source of most of the ideas in it. This essay does not pretend to fully set forth W. D. Ross’s “moral intuitionist” theory, which is considerably more sophisticated than a brief discussion can show. Direct references below to Ross’s words refer to The Right and the Good (2002). For more on Ross, see the items by Ross, Regan, and Stout in the Bibliography.

The Prima Facie Duties or Moral Guidelines
Applying the Prima Facie Duties
When the Guidelines Conflict
Priority Rules
Importance of Avoiding Misuse
Moral Intuitionism
The Source of Moral Intuitions 

The Prima Facie Duties or Moral Guidelines

According to W. D. Ross (1877-1971), there are several prima facie duties that we can use to determine what, concretely, we ought to do. A prima facie duty is a duty that is binding (obligatory) other things equal, that is, unless it is overridden or trumped by another duty or duties. Another way of putting it is that where there is a prima facie duty to do something, there is at least a fairly strong presumption in favor of doing it. An example of a prima facie duty is the duty to keep promises. “Unless stronger moral considerations override, one ought to keep a promise made.”By contrast with prima facie duties, our actual or concrete duty is the duty we should perform in the particular situation of choice. Whatever one’s actual duty is, one is morally bound to perform it. Prima facie duties relate to actual duties as reasons do to conclusions of reasoning.

Note: The term “duty” in “prima facie duty” is slightly misleading. The prima facie duties are understood as guidelines, not rules without exception. If an action does not correspond to a specific guideline, one is not necessarily violating a rule that one ought to follow. However, not following the rule one ought to follow in a particular case is failing to do one’s (actual) duty. In such cases it makes sense to talk about violating a rule. The rule might be the same in words as a prima facie duty (minus the phrase “unless other moral considerations override”), but it would no longer be merely a guideline because it describes what one concretely should do.

The prima facie duties include

1. Fidelity. Duties of fidelity are duties to keep one’s promises and contracts and not to engage in deception. Ross describes them as “those resting on a promise or what may fairly be called an implicit promise, such as the implicit undertaking not to tell lies which seems to be implied in the act of entering into conversation . . . or of writing books that purport to be history and not fiction” (Ross, 21)

2. Reparation. This is a duty to make up for the injuries one has done to others. Ross describes this duty as “resting on a previous wrongful act” (Ross, ibid.)

3. Gratitude. The duty of gratitude is a duty to be grateful for benefactions done to oneself and if possible to show it by benefactions in return.

4. Non-injury. The duty of non-injury (also known as non-maleficence) is the duty not to harm others physically or psychologically: to avoid harming their health, security, intelligence, character, or happiness. (21-22)

Added August 2004: Jacques Thiroux (2001, 65) claims that Ross’ duty of non-injury includes a duty to prevent injury to others. This seems to be wrong regarding Ross, but it might be reasonable to add such a prima facie duty to the list. Non-injury in Ross’ strict sense is distinct from the prevention of harm to others. Non-injury instructs us generally to avoid intentionally, negligently, or ignorantly (when ignorance is avoidable) harming others. Harm-prevention instructs us generally to make a real effort to prevent harm to others from causes other than ourselves.See also the comment following the discussion of beneficence.

5. Harm-Prevention. Once again, this is the prima facie duty of a person to prevent harm to others from causes other than him- or herself.

6. Beneficence. The duty to do good to others: to foster their health, security, wisdom, moral goodness, or happiness. This duty, says Ross, “rests upon the fact that there are other beings in the world whose condition we can make better in respect of virtue, or of intelligence, or of pleasure” (Ross, 21-22).

Added August 2004: Beneficence and harm-prevention are clearly related. There is an obvious sense in which to prevent harm to persons is to do them good. But this is trivially true, normally not even worth saying (just as it’s normally not worth saying that there is at least one person in the room when we already know there are two persons in the room).How, if at all, can we distinguish between harm-prevention, on the one hand, and beneficence in the strict sense, on the other, that is, beneficence that is not primarily harm-prevention? And why should we bother? Let’s answer the second question first: We should bother because frequently harm-prevention is morally more demanding than beneficence. If the alternative is between preventing a toddler from wandering into a busy street and playing catch with her sister, it is clear what should take priority.

But how can we distinguish harm-prevention from beneficence in the strict sense? Loosely, harm seems to be whatever significantly degrades, or risks degrading, our health or other capabilities for coping with and getting the most out of life. By contrast, benefit seems to be whatever enhances, or is likely to enhance, those same things.

7. Self-Improvement. The duty of self-improvement is to act so as to promote one’s own good, i.e., one’s own health, security, wisdom, moral goodness, and happiness. Ross himself mentions “virtue” or “intelligence” in this connection (21).8. Justice. The duty of justice requires that one act in such a way that one distributes benefits and burdens fairly. Ross himself emphasizes the negative aspect of this duty: he says that this type of duty “rests on the fact or possibility of a distribution of pleasure or happiness (or the means thereto) that is not in accord with the merit of the persons concerned; in such cases there arises a duty to upset or prevent such a distribution” (21). Thus the duty of justice includes the duty, insofar as possible, to prevent an unjust distribution of benefits or burdens.


Possible Additions to Ross’ List

To Ross’ list we might add three more. Ross might say that these are already implicit in his list, but it may be useful to make them explicit.9. Respect for freedom. So far as possible we should avoid coercion of others and, insofar as we are able, provide conditions of empowerment especially to those who radically lack them. (Ross might say that these duties are contained in non-injury and beneficence, respectively.)

Respect for freedom requires, negatively, that we not enslave or kidnap others or force them to participate in the activities of our particular religious group. It also requires, positively, that, if we are able, we support efforts to ensure basic health and educational opportunity for those unable to secure them for themselves.

10. Care. A second possible prima facie duty not mentioned by Ross is the duty to care, a duty reflecting concrete relationships such as occur within families or between close friends. Some moral philosophers favor adding Care to the list, while others warn that it will be misapplied if used too often to override other prima facie duties. According to one formulation, a duty to care can be stated in part thus:


We should exercise special care for [persons] with whom we are concretely related, attending to their own needs, values, etc. and responding positively to these needs, etc., especially of those most vulnerable (Velasquez 2002, chapter 2).

See, if you wish, Care Ethics, for a discussion of an entire ethical theory based on this idea.11. Non-parasitism. This is the principle of not being a “free rider.” This guideline asserts that, as a general rule, we should do our part to abide by the rules of an institution in which we willingly participate and from which we willingly accept benefits. This prima facie duty weighs against plagiarism and activities that violate laws.

Ross might say that this is included in his Principle of Justice.

Non-parasitism could support the more concrete duty not to steal the property of others. If I benefit from the respect that others have for my own property (they do not take it or use it without my consent), I am a beneficiary of the institution of respect for personal property. But if I myself steal from others, I am acting as a parasite on that institution.

Several of the prima facie duties listed above (or principles quite like them) have been proposed at various times to be the most basic insight or principle of ethics. Even if we agree with Ross that no single general duty is applicable in every situation that calls for moral choice, we can still learn from theories that have more fully explored the potential implications of each duty. See Correlating Prima Facie Duties with Ethical Theories.

Applying the Prima Facie Duties

How do we use this approach when faced with a situation of moral choice? In the simplest cases, if we have had a decent moral upbringing, we can simply see what moral rule is relevant and apply it.

If you are carrying a heavy load into a building and a passer by holds the door open for you, you can see immediately that an expression of gratitude is in order. (You are directly applying the relevant prima facie duty where it is applicable and discovering your actual duty in the circumstances.)

If you are an able-bodied passer-by not carrying anything yourself and you notice someone trying to carry a heavy load into a building, you mightsee immediately that you ought to hold the door open for him or her. (You would be directly applying the prima facie duty of beneficence.)

A normal ten-year-old may observe a neighbor child’s toy and be tempted to add it to her collection, but she sees that doing so, even if she could get away with it, would violate the principle of non- injury (it would in a way harm the neighbor child to make off with her toy), justice (it would improperly distribute benefits), and non-parasitism (it would be doing unto others as she would not want any other to do to her). She can perhapssee that these three prima facie duties dictate her not taking the neighbor child’s toy. Her actual duty is not to take the toy.

Every prima facie duty is general but has exceptions. In the simpler cases, prima facie duties directly guide us to choose our actual or concrete duty, what we should do here and now, in the particular case at hand.

When Prima Facie Duties Conflict

Suppose you observe an elderly neighbor collapse with what might be a heart attack. You are a block away from the nearest phone from which you could call for help. A child’s bike is close at hand and no one but you and the collapsed elderly person is around. One or more duties seem to say “take the bike and go call for help,” while others seems to say “taking the bike is wrong.”

On the “don’t take” side are justice and non-injury (it seems unjust to the owner of the bike and an injury to him or her). On the “take” side lies harm-prevention. It is widely known that people die from heart attacks that are not treated quickly. (Note that this seems to be a case of harm-prevention rather than beneficence in the strict sense.) The solution might be to recognize that in this circumstance, harm-prevention takes priority over what on the surface looks like injustice and injury. So the actual duty is probably to take the bike and get help. Besides, it should not be difficult to make up the temporary bike loss to its owner, that is, there might be an actual duty of reparation.

The point is that prima facie duties by themselves are often not enough to determine what we should do. We have to see which prima facie duties have priority in the situation we face, and which do not.

Priority Rules

Besides the basic prima facie duties, there are also priority rules that can give us guidance when the basic prima facie duties seem to give conflicting guidance. For example, other things equal, it is more important to avoid injury than to do positive good. In fact,

1) Non-injury normally overrides other prima facie duties.


2) Fidelity normally overrides Beneficence.

For example, keeping contracts (which falls under Fidelity) normally overrides random acts of kindness.

Beneficence, non-injury, harm-prevention, and self-improvement in relation to lasting positive qualities such as knowledge, moral character, and skill often override any conflicting prima facie duty we might think we have to give each other (or ourselves) short-term pleasure or avoid causing each other (or ourselves) short-term pain.

Thus, persons cannot be educated or mature without occasional discomfort or the pain that comes with admitting truths we might prefer to deny, yet we gain from such sometimes unpleasant experiences in our ability to cope with difficulty, in moral goodness, and in wisdom.

However, according to this view, not only is no prima facie duty is without exception, but also no priority rule is without exception.

You just have to see or recognize the exception when it occurs.

The Importance of Being Wary of Misuse

In ethics, as probably in everything else, there seem to be no good general ideas that cannot be perverted, i.e., that are immune to misuse. Ross was especially well aware of this. That is why his moral guidelines are prima facie, not exceptionless, rules.

The duty of self-improvement, especially in moral habits, is a more continuous actual duty than most of us realize. Moral improvement consists largely in growing awareness (based on experience) of what traps to avoid. Alas, there are many.

For instance, the prima facie duty of beneficence is misapplied when the desire to promote happiness (or to “save souls”) leads one to violate an actual duty to respect persons’ freedom or an actual duty not to physically or psychologically injure them.

The prima facie duty of beneficence is misapplied if we allow the intention to promote the pleasure of others to override an actual duty of non-injury, respect for freedom, or promotion of moral development and intelligence.

The prima facie duty of fidelity may be misapplied if one thinks one has a strongly binding moral obligation to keep a promise one has made under coercion. (But don’t count on exploitive people appreciating this point!)

The prima facie duty of care may be misapplied if it leads a person to cover up or excuse moral wrongs of others, say, wrongs by members of your family or friends involving injury to outsiders.

The prima facie duty of non-injury may be misapplied if one uses it to justify refraining from telling a person what she needs to know for the sake of her future moral development or long-term well-being because it may distress her or somebody else in the short run.

The prima facie duty of respect for freedom may be misapplied if one appeals to it to justify letting a child take risks that have a significant chance of permanently injuring her.

The prima facie duty of self-improvement may be misapplied if one prefers pleasure to other benefits to oneself (health, moral improvement, intellectual improvement) or allows the prima facie duty of self-improvement in areas other than moral character to override a high presumption of duties relating to fidelity, non-injury, justice, or respect for freedom, i.e., high-priority prima facie duties directly involving others.

Moral Intuitionism

Moral intuition or perception has three functions in this approach:

1) It tells us when one prima facie rule, which at first seems to apply, does not apply because another overrides it. In other words, moral insight tells us when we have exceptions to specific guidelines. This type of moral intuition requires sensitivity to the morally significant aspects of the situation in which the chooser is located.

The other two functions are related not to the situation directly but to the general rules.

2) Moral intuition tells us what the prima facie duties themselves are. We just see, by moral intuition, that generally, non-injury is a good rule to follow.

3) Moral intuition tells us what the priority rules are. We just see, by moral intuition, that generally non-injury takes precedence over beneficence.

Note that the moral intuition or perception about which we are talking is not the same as perceiving a color, a sound, a taste, a texture, or a smell; nor is it the same as perceiving physical thing. It is a grasping of a truth. When it picks out morally relevant parts of a sitution, it makes use of perceptions of the nonmoral kind, but it goes beyond them to certain features as morally relevant, features that call for applying a prima facie duty to the situation. When moral intuition grasps the prima facie duties themselves, it is a grasping of a moral general truth.

The Source of Moral Intuitions

The simple theory explained above leaves unanswered the basic question about where these moral intuitions come from. This question can be answered in part by the theory of Virtue Ethics, which we will discuss later in the course. Our abilities to have correct moral perceptions depend upon our moral upbringing, the moral habits we have formed. Have we formed virtues or vices?

Moral perception can be corrupted or distorted. We can imagine people who always follow a distorted version of the duty of self-improvement and ignore the other principles; for instance, they promote their own pleasure (taking that to be the essence of happiness) and do not care whether they injure others or are unjust in their dealings with others. One might plausibly say that these people have formed defective moral habits, vices.

We can also imagine people who technically adhere very well to the duty of non-injury but never make positive contributions to the well-being of others and do nothing else to promote justice in their community. One who follows a theory of the sort being outlined here could say that such people also have defective moral habits and perceptions.


An Incompleteness in the Simple Theory

Students find that their application of this theory works quite well for many moral problems and that it allows them to reach a remarkable degree of agreement with other people. But it does not yield such a satisfying result in some discussions. For example, when people discuss abortion, some will dig in their heels and insist that non-injury (in relationship to the fetus) applies in almost all cases and overrides any other consideration, while others will say that respect for freedom (of the mother) should almost always override non-injury to the fetus, at least in the first months of pregnancy. This debate reveals that when people place different degrees of value upon fetal life and adult freedom (and ignore less obvious considerations such as the long-term effects of reproductive choices), the approach outlined here will be inconclusive.

Similar inconclusive results may occur if we attempt to use the approach outlined here to resolve debates between persons who are vegetarians out of respect for animal rights and those who wish to defend their meat-eating habits.



Regan, Tom, 1992. “W. D. Ross.” In Encyclopedia of Ethics. Eds. L. C. and C. B. Becker. New York: Garland Publishers. Page 1111.

Ross, W. D., 2002. The Right and the Good. Edited, with an Introduction, by Philip Stratton-Lake. New York: Oxford University Press; rpt. of original 1930 edition.

Stout, A. K., 1967. “William David Ross.” In Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Paul Edwards. New York: MacMillan. Vol. 7: 216-217.

Thiroux, Jacques, 2001. Ethics: Theory and Practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Velasquez, Manuel G., 2002. Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Ted Lockhart’s academic web page on W. D. Ross


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Kant and Moral Theory



For Kant, the outcome of an action is not relevant to whether or not it is ethical. This can easily be demonstrated – sometimes evil actions lead to unintended good consequences. He also disagreed with making moral choices out of compassion, kindness etc. It is also easy to give an example of where kindness leads to doing the wrong thing (the road to hell is paved with good intentions). The only right thing is to do what reason dictates.

When considering euthanasia, then, Kant will not be interested in the level of suffering of the patient or relatives. He would not agree that we should do the loving thing. He would work out what the right thing to do was.

Universalising the maxim “I should help [George] to die” would give a universal law that everyone should be helped to die – a self-contradiction. If you took the maxim “I should help George, who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and desparate to die, to die” you might create a more acceptable universal rule such as “Anyone who is terminally and incurably ill, suffering greatly and has freely chosen to die, should be helped to die”.

You get closer to what Kant would have said himself if you consider another statement of the Categorical Imperative – that we should act according to maxims that we would make into laws of nature. Here, it seems irrelevant what a person chooses. If we decide that a person in a particular physical state should, naturally, die, they would die regardless of their wishes. We could not will this – it is a contradiction of the will as the person has not chosen to die.

Some Kantians may disagree. They could argue that you can include what a person chooses in a law of nature. Some people believe that people can die when they lose the ‘will to live’. It may not be too hard to imagine someone wanting to die being a factor in their death according to laws of nature.

The last statement of the Categorical Imperative says we should not use people merely as a means to an end. Kant may have said that killing someone to end their pain was using them to another end. Other Kantians might argue the opposite – that a person’s ends are best served by ending their misery.

Kant himself was strongly against any form of suicide, and would have argued against euthanasia. However, modern Kantians may well disagree.


Evaluate the argument that Kant’s moral theory could not support the idea of voluntary euthanasia.

Kant’s theory says that there are moral absolutes which we ought to follow, which can be worked out by reason.  They are categorical imperatives.  To work out where an action is right or wrong, you need to universalise the maxim and see if it is self contradictory or a contradiction of the will.

For example, Thomas Hyde had ALS, a disease that attacked his body while leaving his mind active.  He asked Dr Jack Kevorkian to help him to die.  If we universalise the maxim “Anyone with ALS should be helped to die”, we get a contradiction of the will – we couldn’t want to live in a society where people were killed because they were disabled.  This does show up a weakness of Kant’s theory, however, as someone like Thomas Hyde might claim that he would want to live in such a society as he would not want to carry on living if he had this condition.

Another statement of the Categorical Imperative says that we should act in such a way that our maxims become universal laws of nature.  This is more helpful – how would it be if people with ALS just died?  We would be deprived of Stephen Hawking’s brilliance, among others.  Thomas Hyde would not have wanted to condemn everyone with ALS to death – he was merely asking for it in his circumstances.  Kant’s theory doesn’t allow us to consider the individual’s situation, however.  This may be seen as a criticism of Kant, because the suffering of an individual seems morally relevant.  Kant would also argue against a compassionate response, as he believed it was possible to do the wrong thing if led by our emotions.

To conclude, Kant’s theory seems to be against voluntary euthanasia, although there are many criticisms of his theory.

Kant’s theory could be used to argue against voluntary euthanasia.  Firstly, Kant would dismiss arguments concerning the suffering of the patient or the cost of treatment – these are not morally relevant factors for Kant.  He is concerned with the act itself, not the consequences.  Most justifications for voluntary euthanasia can therefore be dismissed.

Kant would consider the maxim “It is right to kill Dianne Pretty, suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, who has asked to die”.  He would then universalise it, forming a Categorical Imperative:  “It is always right to kill people suffering from Motor Neurone Disease”.  Kant would ask “Is this a self contradiction?”  It doesn’t appear to be.  “Is it a contradiction of the will?”  The answer seems to be “Yes!”  We couldn’t want to make a rule that meant everyone with MND had to be killed.  For Kant, the universal rule is important, and individual circumstances should not be taken into consideration.

However, Kantians can put more thought into their Categorical Imperatives, and might easily form a different universal rule.  For example, we might be more comfortable making a rule that said “Anyone suffering from MND who has lost the will to live, and has asked to die, should be Killed.”  Put another way, we might accept a law of nature that ended life when pain became unbearable.

Kant’s theory says that people should never be merely a means to an end.  You should never kill someone in order to reduce suffering, or save money.  However, Kant held ‘respect for persons’ in such high esteem that allowing someone to suffer and die without dignity may seem to go against his theory.  The concept of human rights does not contradict Kant’s theory, which could be used to argue for the right to die with dignity.


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The Pope speaks out on the issue of condoms…



The Vatican has moved to clarify remarks made by the pope on the use of condoms, insisting he had “not reformed or changed the [Roman Catholic] church’s teaching”.

But the statement made clear that Pope Benedict XVI was prepared to consider the use of condoms in certain, limited circumstances.

The statement, and the pope’s interview reported in a book to be published this week, suggested that, notwithstanding the interpretation of remarks he made last year on his visit to Africa, Benedict accepted that condoms reduced the risk of infection from Aids.

His spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the pontiff’s view was that “Aids cannot be solved only by the distribution of condoms”.

But, he added: “At the same time, the pope considered an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real risk to the lives of others. In this case, the pope does not morally justify the exercise of disordered sexuality, but believes that the use of condoms to reduce the risk of infection is a ‘first step on the road to a more human sexuality’, rather than not to use it and risking the lives of others.”

Benedict caused surprise by taking as his example a male prostitute who used a condom to protect his client. But in so doing he avoided breaching his church’s opposition to artificial contraception: birth control not being an issue in male homosexual relations.

What remained unclear, however, was whether the pope was subtly edging open the door to the use of condoms in heterosexual relations, if only by couples in which one partner was HIV-positive.

The Vatican’s statement was issued as Catholics struggled to get to grips with the pope’s characteristically scholarly phrasing in the interviews, to be published on Wednesday.

In the book, the pope also said that the wartime pontiff Pius XII – accused of not speaking out against the mass deportation and killing of Jews by the Nazi regime – was a “great righteous” man who saved more Jews than anyone else.

Benedict’s “comments fill us with pain and sadness and cast a menacing shadow on Vatican-Jewish relations”, said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, in an emailed statement to Associated Press at the weekend.

Several theologians have argued that the pope’s remarks on condoms did not represent a change of position, let alone of doctrine. But many ordinary Catholics took them as a green light for “safe sex” and they were welcomed by Aids campaigners. A spokesman for the United Nations’ joint programme on HIV/Aids called the comments “a significant and positive step forward”. He added “This move recognises that responsible sexual behaviour and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention”.

In Zimbabwe, a Catholic priest interviewed by the Associated Press had no doubt about the import. “Now the message has come out that [men and women] can go ahead and do safe sex, it’s much better for everyone,” said Father Peter Makome.

But, as the Vatican noted in a longer, Italian version of its statement, the pope’s remarks were made in a “colloquial and not magisterial” form. In other words, they represented his private opinions rather than official teaching.

Writing for the Catholic World Report website, US academic Janet Smith, argued: “The Holy Father is simply observing that for some homosexual prostitutes the use of a condom may indicate an awakening of a moral sense.”

Spanish theologist Juan José Tamayo agreed. “I don’t detect any change in the words of the pope,” he told the Cadena SER radio network. “They ratify traditional doctrine, opposed to the use of condoms, and even confirm the irresponsible remarks he made in Africa about Aids.”

In 2009, Benedict prompted international uproar when he told journalists condoms should not be used because they could increase the spread of Aids. In the book, he stands by his remark, but in more nuanced terms.

He argues “condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen.” And in the key passage, he says: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanisation of sexuality.”

Asked by the interviewer if the Catholic church was not opposed in principle to the use of condoms, the pope replied: “She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

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In our time, Melvyn again:

Melvyn Bragg discusses the life, works and enduring influence of the medieval philosopher and theologian St Thomas Aquinas with Martin Palmer, John Haldane and Annabel Brett.

St Thomas Aquinas’ ideas remain at the heart of the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church today and inform philosophical debates on human rights, natural law and what constitutes a ‘just war’.

Martin Palmer is Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture; John Haldane is Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews; Annabel Brett is Lecturer in History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.


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Please learn this quote from Cicero…



‘True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to to [sic] alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly considered punishment.’


MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO, De Re Publica , book 3, paragraph 22.De Re Publica, De  Legibus, trans. Clinton W. Keyes

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Reflection of Buddha


‘Be a lamp unto yourself and seek your own liberation with diligence.’


Last words.

What would be your obituary? Imagined or otherwise….

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Philippa Foot and her moral questions – to kill, or to let die?


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Melvyn Bragg and Aristotle

Aristotle and Bragg – What more could a girl ask for?

The context of Aristotle in the city, and the ideas behind his Politics:

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most important works of political philosophy ever written – Aristotle’s ‘Politics’. Looking out across the city states of 4th century Greece Aristotle asked what made a society good and developed a language of ‘oligarchies’, ‘democracies’ and ‘monarchies’ that we still use today.


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Contraception and Natural Moral Law


In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Latin, “Human Life”), which reemphasized the Church’s constant teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence.

Contraception is “any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” (Humanae Vitae 14). This includes sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal method), the Pill, and all other such methods.

The Historic Christian Teaching

Few realize that up until 1930, all Protestant denominations agreed with the Catholic Church’s teaching condemning contraception as sinful. At its 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican church, swayed by growing social pressure, announced that contraception would be allowed in some circumstances. Soon the Anglican church completely caved in, allowing contraception across the board. Since then, all other Protestant denominations have followed suit. Today, the Catholic Church alone proclaims the historic Christian position on contraception.

Evidence that contraception is in conflict with God’s laws comes from a variety of sources that will be examined in this tract.


Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as “natural law.” The natural law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children.

But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy, must not be abused by deliberately frustrating its natural end—procreation.

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Fired for teaching Natural Moral Law…

Professor Fired For Teaching Catholic Doctrine On Homosexuality Is Reinstated

Professor Kenneth Howell was fired from his job as instructor of “Introduction to Catholicism.” Howell taught his students the principle of “Natural Moral Law,” which reveals sexual acts with same sex persons is against nature – and thus wrong.

A university professor who was fired over a complaint that he engaged in hate speech in his explanation of Catholic church doctrine on homosexuality, will now be reinstated to his position.

Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign who taught, “Introduction to Catholicism”, was dismissed earlier this month after teaching his students that, according to “Natural Moral Law,” acts of sexual intimacy between persons of the same sex is wrong.

The firing of the professor, who had been teaching at the university since 2001, was a result of a complaint made by a student who was not in professor Howell’s class. In the complaint, the student said, “The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one’s worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation.”

The complaint followed an email that Howell sent to his students in which he discussed “natural moral law” and homosexuality.

“Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY,” wrote Dr, Howell, according to the News-Gazette. “In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same.”

The student’s email sent to an official with the university complained that Howell’s comments were unfounded and should be silenced.

“Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing,” read the email. “Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one’s worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation.”

Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal defense group which is representing Howell said the university had no right to restrict the professor’s speech simply because a student disagreed with his position.

“A university cannot censor professors’ speech–including classroom speech related to the topic of the class–merely because some students find that speech ’offensive,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French. “Professors have the freedom to challenge students and to educate them by exposing them to different views.”

ADF attorneys sent a letter to university officials on July 12 explaining that the university’s actions violated their client’s First Amendment protected rights and asked that he be immediately reinstated.

response letter from the university admits no wrongdoing on the part of the institution but states:

“The School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics will be contacting Dr. Howell to offer him the opportunity to teach Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism, on a visiting instructional appointment at the University of Illinois, for the fall 2010 semester. Dr. Howell will be appointed and paid by the University for this adjunct teaching assignment.”

The letter then adds that a university committee will continue its investigation of Howell’s situation.

ADF says that they are pleased with the decision to reinstate Dr. Howell, but noted they want to ensure the university is committed to the principle of academic freedom and Constitutional rights.

“We greatly appreciate the university’s move to put Professor Howell back in the classroom,” said French, “but we will be watching carefully to make sure that his academic freedom is protected throughout the university’s ongoing process.”

Related posts:

  1. UCLA Professor Prohibits Student from Thanking ‘Jesus’ in Graduation Speech
  2. Universities Demand Christian Students To Accept Homosexuality
  3. Justice Scalia: Supreme Court Should Abandon ‘Living Constitution’ Doctrine
  4. N.C. Pastor Fired For “Jesus” Prayer At State Capitol
  5. High Court Rules Against Christian Student Group


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