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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Fred Feldman

Second Advisor

Peter Graham

Third Advisor

Ernesto Garcia

Fourth Advisor

Lyn Frazier

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Philosophy


In this dissertation, I develop and defend some of W. D. Ross’s moral views. Ross’s views, I argue, are often highly plausible, though it is also often the case that variations on (or modifications to) his views are needed in order to remain philosophically tenable. In my dissertation, I explain why these variations are necessary and what they should look like. In chapter 1, I discuss Ross’s theory of moral rightness in his most important work, The Right and the Good. In chapters 2 and 3, I correct various misunderstandings about Ross’s position: I argue that he is no more a particularist about absolute duty than a utilitarian or a Kantian is, and on many definitions of “pluralism” present in the literature, he is not in fact a pluralist, as he is typically assumed to be. In chapter 4, I discuss several objections that Ross later comes to make to his own theory of rightness; I argue, however, that none of them are any good. In chapter 5, I argue against Ned Markosian’s recent claim that “Rossian Minimalism” is the best theory of rightness that makes use of the concept of a prima facie duty: Ross’s own theory (or, at least, a “world” version of it) is, I maintain, superior to Rossian Minimalism. In chapter 6, I address some objections to Ross’s theory suggested by Michael Stocker and Michael Slote and demonstrate that the best way of responding to them is by transforming Ross’s theory into a “dual-ranking” one. In chapter 7, I discuss Ross’s theory of the subjective sense of “right” (chapters 1-6 are primarily concerned with Ross’s theory of the objective sense of the term). I show that Ross’s theory is problematic, and I offer a better theory in its place. In chapter 8, I turn to Ross’s theory of moral goodness. I argue that his theory is more plausible than other theories suggested in the literature, but it suffers from the “nepotism problem.” I show that Ross’s solution to this problem is unsatisfactory and suggest a better way forward.