• Created by: Liv1996
  • Created on: 13-04-14 10:30


Deotological theories are broadly considered to stand in opposition to consequentialist approaches, for deontologists there are actions which are right or wrong in themselves and do not rely on the consequences of the action. Deontology may take many forms, for example:

  • Rights; An action is morally right if it respects the rights which all humans have. this is known as Libertarianism, a political philosophy which claims that people should be free to act as they wish, as long as their actions do not infringe the rights of others.
  • Contractualism: An action is morally right if it is in agreement with the rules that rational moral agents would accept into a social relationship or contract.
  • Divine command ethics: An action is morally right if it is in agreement with the rules and duties established by God.
  • Monistic deontology: An action is morally right if it agrees with a single deontological principle which guides all other principles.
  • Duty: An action is morally right if it coheres with a set of agreed duties and obligations.

The deontologist is not simply obliged to perform actionns which are good in themselves, they must also refrain from performing those actions which are known to be wrong. These are known as deontological constraints, or what we more commonly call rules.

Deontology is frequently associated with moral absolutism, which adopts the position that there are absolute standards against which questions of morality and moral decision making can be judged. These moral standards are embedded in some fundamental source of morality, be it human nature, reason, the universe, or a divine lawgiver, and remain unchanging irrespective of the culture or beliefs of society.

Right and wrong actions

Intuition alone may serve to identify the moral value of an action, including, Thomas nagel suggests, limits on how to treeat people, the obligations incurred by making promises and agreements, rights not to be mistreated or to suffer betrayal as well as to expect fair and equal treatment. However, this list alone does not tell us why, for a deontologist, these actions are right. some of the actions that are considered right are rooted in centuries of Judeo-Christian tradition, others take as a fundamental deontological principle the requirement to treart others as rational beings. Maybe common understanding may help identify these universal prohibitions.

However, all these methods of identifying actions which are right or wrong are in themselves flawed. Judeo-Christian morality is rejected by many as outdated and harsh, and with so much scope for interpretation that we cannot know by intuition or common understanding what absolute morals are. These morals must be derived from an unquestionable source of authority- and there can never be sufficent agreement as to what constitutes such a source.

By placing all of the focus on avoiding wrong-doing- the moral person is simply complying with a set of rules. This is very legalistic, although it is straightforward and simple. Plus if there is a loophole in the law, there is no reason not to take advantage…


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