Ross, Sir William David

Ross, Sir William David

biographical name

(born April 15, 1877, Thurso, Caithness, Scot.—died May 5, 1971, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Eng.) Scottish moral philosopher. He served many years as provost at Oriel College, University of Oxford (1902–47), and later as Oxford's vice chancellor. A critic of utilitarianism, he maintained a form of ethical intuitionism. He held that the terms “good” (which pertains to motives) and “right” (which pertains to acts) are indefinable and irreducible (see naturalistic fallacy) and that certain commonsensical moral principles (e.g., those requiring promise-keeping, truth-telling, and justice) are knowable by mature reflection. His writings include Aristotle (1923), The Right and the Good (1930), Foundations of Ethics (1939), Plato's Theory of Ideas (1951), and Kant's Ethical Theory (1954).

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