Deontology

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  • certain actions are right and wrong in themselves and not in the consequence
    • Deontology
      • forms
        • rights
          • an action is morally right if it respects the rights that all humans have
            • e.g. do not murder
        • duty
          • an action is morally right if it is in line with a set of agreed duties and obligations
            • e.g. allowing free speech
        • contractualism
          • an action is morally right if it is in agreement with the rules that govern a social relationship or contract
            • e.g. drive on the left hand side of the road
        • divine command ethics
          • an action is morally right if it is in agreement with rules and duties established by God
            • e.g. do not commit adultery
        • monistic deontology
          • an action is morally right if it agrees with a single deontological principle which guides all other principles
            • e.g. killing is wrong
      • Immanuel Kant
        • reason for performing any action is that it is morally obligatory to do so
          • only correct motivation for an action
          • right duties and obligations are determined objectively and absolutely
        • following correct moral rules not enough
          • must also have correct motivation
            • only correct motivation for an action
        • all people possess reason and a conscience
          • all people can arrive at an understanding of moral truths independent of experience
        • morality is a priori
          • reason is universal and moral reason would lead to the same results
        • God's existence is a necessary requirement of a just universe and for balanced moral law
        • moral commands are categorical imperatives and ends in themselves
          • categorical imperative - things that should be done without conditions attached
            • express an absolute and unconditional duty to act in a certain way
            • of supreme importance
        • the categorical imperative that provides the fundamental moral groundwork for all actions is principle of universability
          • 'act in such a way that their actions might become a universal law'
            • if the rule governing our actions cannot be universalised, then it is not morally acceptable
            • if you cannot enforce that everyone follow the same rule, then it is not a moral rule
          • doesn't always work - any command could be universalised but that doesn't make it morally right
        • formula of kingdom ends
          • every action should be undertaken as if the individual were 'a law making member of a kingdom of ends'
            • every person should know the significance of the part they have to play in establishing moral guidelines and rules
        • formula of the end in itself
          • a moral act must ensure that human beings are valued as ends in themselves and not means to an ends
            • respect for others is paramount
            • 'greatest perfection of a human being'
              • doing your duty because it is your duty
                • naturalistic fallacy - turning an is into an ought (what is good to do is what we ought to do)
      • WD Ross
        • prima facie duties
          • actions that really matter, such as helping others
          • not possible to know in advance exactly which duty will be needed
            • element of judgement necessary
          • if all cases are subjective to evaluation then it is impossible to claim in some cases prima facie rights actually decided the issues
        • only way to come to moral knowledge is experience
      • strengths
        • motivation is more important than consequence
          • good motive us worthy of value in itself
        • it is a humanitarian principle in which all people are considered to be of equal value
        • justice is always an absolute and applicable to all equally
        • recognises the value of moral absolutes that do not change with time or culture
        • provides objective guidelines for moral decision making
      • weaknesses
        • moral obligations can be difficult to explain
          • except by reference to duty
        • in reality our decision making is influenced by many more factors
        • questionable whether duty is a good motive - what if it goes wrong?
        • Kant makes no allowances for compassion or sympathy to motivate our actions
    • actions right wrong because they are, without reference to the outcome

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