Deontological Ethics

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 549
  • Published : June 7, 2006
Open Document
Text Preview
DEONTOLOGICAL ETHICS. No single idea captures all of the features in virtue of which an ethical theory may deserve to be called a deontology. In one sense, a deontology is simply theory of our duties, something most ethical theories have. But philosophers mean to convey more by calling a theory deontological. Roughly, a deontological theory denies in some way that the good or what is of value, always takes priority over the right or duty. What this denial comes to, however, depends on whether it is meant in a normative or in a metaethical sense. Taken in a normative sense, deontologies deny that we always ought to rank the overall value of the states of affairs produced by alternative actions, and on the basis of this decide how we ought to act. At least sometimes, deontologists hold, it would be wrong to bring about the best overall states of affairs according to such prior rankings. Theories holding that there are absolute rights for instance, are deontological in this sense, since they hold that some rights must not be violated even if it would produce the most overall good. Many philosophers therefore hold that what is essential to deontologies is that they contain agent relative, as opposed to agent-neutral, moral constraints. These differ from agent-neutrual constraints in making an essential reference to the agent's performing certain actions. Consequently, an agent-relative constraint may require a person to fulfill some duty even if by violating it she would prevent many more violations of the very same duty by others. For instance, suppose that by lying you could prevent twenty lies by others. A deontologist might argue that, nonetheless, your duty is to ensure that you do not lie. A theory which regarded the prohibition of lying as agent-neutral, however, would object that surely if one lie is bad, twenty would be much worse. Since you could minimize overall badness by allowing one lie, you ought to lie regardless of the fact that it is you who are...
tracking img