Deontological Ethics

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  • Deontological ethics
    • the morality of an action should be based on whether it is right or wrong under a series of rules
      • morality of an action should not be based upon the result of the action
        • e.g. killing someone is inherently bad, not  because of the subsequent grief that the family will feel
    • Kant- most prominent form of deontological ethics
      • Human beings have the unique capacity for rationality
        • should, therefore, act in accordance with moral law/duty
      • human inclinations, emotions, and consequences should play no role in moral action
      • morality should provide people with a framework of rational rules that guide/ prevent certain actions and are independent of personal intentions and desires
      • moral worth of an action determined by human will: the only thing in the world that can be considered good without qualification
      • moral law consists of a set of maxims (rules/ principles) which are categorical in nature
      • human nature is not linked to morality because human beings are rational enough to make case-by-case decisions
    • e.g. theft
      • utilitarianism (branch of consequentialism- greatest good for greatest number, looks at outcome)
        • theft is bad because it deprives people of their property and makes them feel anxious about their security
      • whereas Kant would say- some actions are still morally wrong even if the outcome is good
        • a deontologist would say theft is wrong  because it violates property rights which people have a duty to observe
        • utilitarianism vs kant's deontology
    • pros and cons
      • may be disagreement about the principles involved in the decision
      • possibility of a conflict in duties
      • possibility of making a 'right' choice with a bad consequence
      • strongest model for applied public relations ethics
  • branch of ethics concerned with actions. We should follow independent moral rules or duties. When we follow our duty, we are behaving morally. When we fail to follow our duty, we are behaving immorally. E.g. Kantian ethics, Natural Moral Law


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