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Ethical Theories…read more

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· The term `deontological' is derived from the Greek word deon, meaning `duty'. So,
deontological systems are concerned with describing our moral duties.
· Absolute- legalistic, unbending which means that the rules may never be broken.
· A theory of ethics which is based on the claim that an act's claim to bring right or
wrong is independent of the consequences of that action.
· No-one can be favoured, we should never use a person as a means to an end but
always as an end in themselves.
· Nancy-Ann Davis- Deontological statements tend to be negatively formulated- do
not- narrowly framed- they refer to very specific actions e.g. do not lie and narrowly
directed- they are directed at the agent's actions, rather than at the consequences of
that action- `...the preservation of our own virtue outweighs not only the
preservation of others' lives, it also outweighs the preservation of others' virtue. We
may not save a life with a lie even when the lie would prevent the loss of life by
deceiving an evil agent who credibly intends to kill several innocent victims.'
· Deontologists are not just to do the right thing but are also to retain from doing bad
· A deontologist is someone who believes that there are certain types of acts that are
wrong in themselves and that we have a duty not to do those types of acts.…read more

Slide 3

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· Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing
admiration and awe ... the starry heavens above me and the
moral law within me."
· Assumes God's existence
· Moral law is objective so it is true for everyone and is expressed
as `synthetic a priori' meaning that it may be true or false, but it is
not directly known from our experiences.
· Moral statements are `categorical imperatives' which means they
are binding for their own sake and are commands without
· For a maxim to be true, you must be able to allow that it could be
law for everyone, so lying is always wrong, there is no way that
lying could stand up to the universal maxim test. Never treat a
person as a means to an end and live as in a kingdom of ends,
assuming that everyone else will follow natural law.
· Duty for duty's sake- do a task because we are morally obliged to
do so, which is the only correct motivation for an act.…read more

Slide 4

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· Correct to distinguish between morality and
inclination- what is right is not always what we
· Safeguards the rights individuals because it
treats everyone as an end in themselves.
· Values the action and not the consequence.
· Nagel- In daily life we generally assume that
there are some fixed duties and expect others
to simply comply with them.…read more

Slide 5

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· Ignoring the consequences seems perverse and unnatural, how far can
good motivation mitigate a disastrous outcome. Most people would see
the consideration of the outcome of an action as being an important part
of any moral deliberation. Cannot help feeling guilty.
· Deontology leaves the individual with no flexibility and no chance to
consider individual circumstances. Intuitively, we seem to accept that
certain rules must have sensible exceptions. For instance, sometimes we
might need to lie to protect others.
· Singer- humans `duty for duty's sake' leads to a closed system- don't
inquire into reason for our actions and can lead to moral fanaticism.
· Removing emotion and sympathy from ethics.
· The other criticism of deontology, is that it reduces morality to the simple
avoidance of bad actions, rather than making an effort to develop a moral
character like Virtue Ethics. Surely, it is better for somebody to choose to
perform a good action, rather than act to avoid certain things they believe
to be bad?…read more

Slide 6

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· Deontologist
· He argues that we follow a particular duty unless a conflicting
duty appears to make a greater claim.
· W.D. Ross holds that one may in exceptional circumstances break
deontological constraints. Ross distinguishes between prima facie
duties and what he calls duties proper. The concept of a prima
facie duty is the concept of a duty, which though it is a significant
reason for not doing something, is not absolute, but must be
weighed up against other duties.
· Sometimes it is right to lie- ie if it will save someone's life
· Ross's theory is an example of a moderate deontology, that is,
deontology without absolutism.
· We cannot choose why we act, we can only choose how we will
· Middle way between consequentialism and absolutism.…read more

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