British philosopher, W.D. Ross, argued for the theory called prima facie obligation. This theory considers the complexities of our moral lives and how they can affect our moral obligations. Moreover, Ross says that promises must be kept, unless a more important obligation arises (Shaw, 2017). I was on my way to school about three years ago when I witnessed a car-pedestrian accident. I was coming off the bridge turning left, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a vehicle quickly stop on top of the pedestrian island for which two pedestrians stood. As I continued to make my turn, I saw one pedestrian in agony holding her leg and the driver of the car rushing out to help. Once I completed my turn, I stopped, looking to see if someone was taking action. I was the last vehicle out of the green interval and the cars from the other direction were soon going to head my way. I went around the block and parked at the gas station at the far corner of the intersection. By then, the injured pedestrian was getting help and the ambulance was soon to arrive. The traffic was pretty busy by then and there wasn’t any point to overcrowd the group.
I identified this situation as an example of prima facie obligation, because I skipped out on a promise to make sure the pedestrians were okay. At an early age, I made a promise to my parents that I would arrive to school on time and not divert from my path. This may not be a strong ethical duty all follow, but this was a promise I made and was entrusted by my parents for my own safety. As Ross would say, different circumstances create specific obligations, unique to the the people involved. And so, I diverted from this path as I saw that someone was in distress. I decided that it was my moral obligation to break that promise and help the people. No one could have predicted that I would witness an accident, but those who believe in prima facie obligation, would understand my actions from a moral viewpoint.
When reading the chapter, I identified with this theory the most. This specific kind of situation described above may have happened once or twice in my life time, but I still believe that there are so many variables in our lives that can alter our moral decisions. Certain situations, relationships, and conditions can alter what we perceive is right and wrong and what our moral obligations are to them.
Citation: Shaw, William H. Business Ethics. 9th ed, Cengage Learning, 2017