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Deontology: Categorical Moral Reasoning

Deontology focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves and whether
a situation is good or bad depends on whether the action that brought it about was right
or wrong. What makes a choice "right" is its conformity with a moral norm: Right
takes priority over Good.

For example, if someone proposed to kill everyone currently living on land that could not
support agriculture in order to bring about a world without starvation, a Deontologist would
argue that this world without starvation was a bad state of affairs because of the way in
which it was brought about. A Consequentialist would (or could) argue that the final state of
affairs justified the drastic action.
Deontology may sometimes be consistent with Moral Absolutism (the belief that some
actions are wrong no matter what consequences follow from them), but not necessarily.

For instance, Immanuel Kant famously argued that it is always wrong to lie, even if a
murderer is asking for the location of a potential victim. But others, such as W.D.
Ross (1877 - 1971), hold that the consequences of an action such as lying
may sometimes make lying the right thing to do.
It is sometimes described as "duty-based" or "obligation-based" ethics, because
Deontologists believe that ethical rules bind people to their duty.

Kant's Categorical Imperative
Modern deontological ethics was introduced by Immanuel Kant in the late 18th Century,
with his theory of the Categorical Imperative.

A categorical imperative would denote an absolute, unconditional requirement that
exerts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself.

He argued that the "highest good" must be both intrinsically good (good "in itself"), and
good without qualification (when the addition of that thing never makes a situation
ethically worse).

He concluded that there is only one thing that is truly good: a good will chosen out of a
feeling of moral duty and that must be obeyed in all situations and circumstances. He
considered it an unconditional obligation, regardless of our will or desires, and
regardless of any consequences which might arise from the action.

Kant developed his moral philosophy in three works and formulated it in three different
ways :
• Act only in such a way that you would want your actions to become a universal
law, applicable to everyone in a similar situation.
• Act in such a way that you always treat humanity (whether oneself or other), as
both the means of an action, but also as an end.
• Act as though you were a law-making member (and also the king) of a
hypothetical "kingdom of ends", and therefore only in such a way that
would harmonize with such a kingdom if those laws were binding on all others.

The New York Times reported: "[LeMay] declared that if the war is shortened by a single day. and to Virtue Ethics (which focuses on character. "instrumental". Utilitarianism can thus be described as a quantitativeand reductionistic approach to Ethics. the total utility of individuals which is important here. and that anything else has value only in its causing happiness or preventing suffering (i. This focus on happiness or pleasure as the ultimate end of moral decisions.the ends justify the means).e. Commenting on this decision he reportedly said it was his duty to end the war as quickly as possible. thereby sparing possible further loss of life. Utilitarianism starts from the basis that pleasure and happiness are intrinsically valuable. that pain and suffering are intrinsically disvaluable. It is. makes it a type of Hedonism (and it is sometimes known as Hedonistic Utilitarianism). or desirability of. after which the doctrine is named. at the end of World War II U. Utility. the attack will have served its purpose.000 civilians. A real life example of Utilitarianism happened when General Curtis LeMay. Utilitarians support equality by the equal consideration of interests. and any discrimination between individuals. the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. ordered the firebombing of Tokyo which resulted in the deaths of 100. and they reject any arbitrary distinctions as to who is worthy of concern and who is not. then. the consumption of goods. or as means to an end).S.Consequentialism/Utilitarianism: Results-Based Ethics Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility in maximizing happiness or pleasure as summed among all people." . when determining its moral worth). is a measure in economics of the relative satisfaction from. as opposed to Deontology (which disregards the consequences of performing an act. It is a form of Consequentialism (in that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome or consequence . rather than rules or consequences).

• Deontological ethics is more enforceable because there are clear violations of duty which will be punished by whoever has been wronged. however exceptional. confirming consequentialism. but they don't absolutely guarantee it. TEACHER’S REFERENCE Arguments For Consequentialism: • Individuals don't generally have to carry out difficult research before they can take action • Individuals can shortcut their moral decision-making and are more likely to make decisions in a quick and timely way • Consequentialism is flexible and can take account of any set of circumstances. and to know what's right overall you have to weigh them up against each other. which makes it very easy to live a normal life while still adhering to the philosophy. . • The instruction to create rules which should be universal is vague and subject to the potentially flawed opinion of anyone using it. not wrong because of any discomfort it causes. Arguments Against Consequentialism: • Future Consequences are difficult to predict • Measuring and Comparing the Goodness of something is very difficult • It is easy to bias in favour of particular groups • It ignores things we believe ethically relevant Arguments For Deontology or Categorical Reasoning: • Its laws are absolute and largely non-negotiable. Before doing philosophy. thus the best result in any action should bring more happiness upon the world. but they can conflict. or any badness it brings about. • Common sense is deontological. • There are several moral principles that make acts right or wrong. we think that promise-breaking is obviously wrong in itself. The principles tend to make acts right. Arguments Against Deontology or Categorical Reasoning: • Deontology is often criticized for its support of unbending obedience at the expense of the original intent of the rules. • Humans ought to make the world better.