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  1. 1. RS: A2: Ethics: Deontology Deontology Deontological ethics Teleological ethics Deontological theories of ethics are A teleological theory of ethics bases based on the view that there are its judgement on the outcomes of certain actions which are right or actions. wrong in themselves not in the consequences of the action.Deontology therefore identifies actions which are wrong even if they producepredicted or actual good consequences and are right simply because of thekind of actions that they are.Deontology can take several forms, for example: Rights: an action is morally right if it respects the rights which all humans have. This is known as Libertarianism, a political philosophy which claims that people should be free to act as they wish, as long as their actions do not infringe on the rights of others. Contractualism: an action is morally right if it is in agreement with the rules that rational moral agents would accept into a social relationship or contract. Divine command ethics: an action is morally right if it is in agreement with the rules and duties established by God. Monistic deontology: an action is morally right if it agrees with a single deontological principle which guides all other principles. Duty: an action is morally right if it coheres with a set of agreed duties and obligations.Further deontological constraints are actions which deontologists refrain fromas they are known to be wrong e.g. rules or laws. Obedience to theseconstraints is inflexible. A deontologist will believe that we are not permittedto break a rule even if serious harm will occur otherwise. Nothing is moreimportant than the preservation of our own virtue. E.g. a deontologist cannotlie even if the lie would prevent the loss of innocent lives. Therefore it is oftenassociated with moral absolutism (frequently religious morality) i.e. the belief
  2. 2. that moral standards are embedded and unchanging regardless of culture orsociety’s beliefs.Right and wrong actionsA deontologist is not required to consider the consequences of an act; they cansay in advance whether it is right or wrong. In many cases actions defined asdeontologically right are rooted in centuries of Judaeo-Christian tradition.Others take the requirement to treat others as rational beings as a basicdeontological principle. An action can be deontologically wrong if it issomething we must not do. However, all these methods of identifying actionsas right or wrong as in themselves flawed. Traditional Judaeo-Christianmorality is rejected by many as outdated and harsh, and with so much scopefor interpretation that we cannot possibly know by intuition or commonunderstanding what absolute morals are. In order for us to agree that an actionis inherently right or wrong it must derive from an unquestionable source ofauthority and there is no agreement as to what constitutes such a source. Wecannot identify unbreakable moral laws until we identify the law giver and ameans of settling disputes concerning them.Another problem with deontological morality is its focus on avoiding wrong-doing- the moral person is simply following a set of rules. This is very legalistic,although it is straightforward and simple. However, it is also limited in thatrefraining from breaking a law does not mean that we are obliged to doanything other than observe its letter and if there is a loophole in the law,there is no reason not to take advantage of it. Where is the moral value inrefraining from killing when for most people this is easy enough to do?True morality suggests going beyond the law. Jesus criticised the Pharisees fortheir obedience to deontological obligations (in this case tithing) whilst theyfailed to recognise what may be greater moral obligations: ‘Woe to youPharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kindsof garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should havepractised the latter without leaving the former undone’ (Luke 11:42). Letter ofthe law deontology reduces morality to a set of requirements we should fulfilor limits on our behaviour but puts little value on human membership of a
  3. 3. moral community- on promoting the well-being of others rather than justbearing the moral burden of avoiding causing them harm.