Deontology Part ii

  • Created by: lgs08130
  • Created on: 30-03-15 11:12

Deontology Part ii


  • Fits with Human intuition- one of the greatest strengths of deontology is that it fits with the intuitive knowledge of right and wrong that we all have.
  • Louis Pojman- gives the example of torturing innocent children; we just know that this is wrong. A society that is based upon such deontological rules would be able to absolutely outlaw certain immoral actions.
  • Avoids the problem of consequentialism- deontologists are not hindered by trying to predict the consequences of their actions.
  • Avoids the 'no rest' objection- i.e that utilitarians are always having to consider how much pleasure their actions promote. A deontologist has no such problem: so long as their actions do not violate a prohibition, they can do what they like.
  • Nancy-Ann Davis described this as having 'moral breathing room'.


  • conflicting moral duties- if one finds oneself in a situation where two or more moral duties come into conflict, how does one decide between the two? One solution is W.D Ross' Prima Facie duties, which is similar to Bernard Hoose's proportionalism- choose the more pressing duty and follow that one.
  • reduces morality to the simple avoidance of bad actions- thereby not making an effort to develop a moral character like Virtue Ethics. Surely we should set out to do good actions rather than just avoid the bad ones?
  • Nancy Davis- did not like the 'narrow deontological restraints', and said morality should be about 'people's active interest in promoting others' well-being'.
  • Peter Singer- says Kant has removed sympathy and emotion from ethics, removing any moral worth. He argues that the idea of 'duty for its own sake' leads to a 'closed system' in which people do not inquire into the reasons for their actions. Deontology can lead to 'moral fanaticism'- the elevation of a perceived duty above all consideration of humanity.
  • Problems with W.D Ross- how do we know what Prima Facie duties are? How can we rank them?


Virtue ethics compared with Deontology: Virtue ethics is Secular, older, and person rather than action centred. The emphasis in Deontology is 'doing' rather than 'being', and Virtue ethics is the other way around. Neither are Consequentialist, but promote an action because the idividual recognises it's intrinsic value and worth. VE is more adaptable and accessible, because it is not reliant on objective rules but rather on personal goals and a more fluid notion of virtue than moral absolutism would allow. Whilst Deonotology is time-consuming and complex, Virtue ethics is relatively easy to apply. Elizabeth Anscombe argued that Virtue ethics is more appropriate to a society that has essentially abandoned Divine Command theory, as Virtue ethics allows us to learn from others. Realistically there is more likelihood of a person doing the right thing as a Virtue ethicist, because conflicts of moral duty may be difficult to solve, whereas cultivating a virtuous character is less ambiguous. However Susan Wolf suggests that conspicuous moral virtues are not necessarily an attractive character trait BUT the strict deontologist is not the most attractive character either.  


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