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A) Clarify the key features of a deontological theory of ethics

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Karen Ingleby - Deontology A) Clarify the key features of a deontological theory of ethics The deontological theory of ethics I shall be looking at is the theory of Kantian deontology. Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in Kļæ½nigsberg where he spent the majority of his life lecturing on science and mathematics before expanding and teaching most areas of philosophy. Kant was dissatisfied with the Utilitarian stance on ethics and held that morality and happiness should be separated. He also disagreed with the use of consequences as a moral guide. He maintained that the correct motive of an action is duty - this fundamental difference is highlighted in the term deontology, deon being the Greek word for duty. This eliminates the motive of self interest in decision making and also rules out natural inclinations and makes Kantian deontology an absolute approach to ethics. In his book 'Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals' Kant argued if you act according to what is dutiful, according to Kant you would be exercising your good will which is the only intrinsic good, 'A good will is not good because of what it accomplishes...it is good through its willingness alone, Good will shines forth like a precious jewel.' Kant claimed that if you follow your duty, a good act in itself, then it would seem probable that good actions should follow. ...read more.


If you are willing to reject getting fitter then there is no moral necessity for you to carry out the exercise. Analyse and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of deontology To determine whether or not Kant's theory of deontology is effective and practical enough to use as an everyday working guide, I will assess the strengths and weaknesses and come to an educated conclusion. The first strength of Kantian deontology is that it rises above the most prominent flaw of relative theories; such as utilitarianism and situation ethics, it does not require a prediction of an actions consequence it determining its morality. As the theory is based upon the moral absolute of doing your duty it makes decision-making clearer and should lead everyone to the same conclusion without the need for lengthy calculations. One can even use their reason to decide their action ahead of time. However, there are those who will argue that there can never be moral absolutes. If the theory were to become universalised then different cultures and opinions will not be taken into account and new laws would be forced upon them, for example there are cultures where human sacrifice takes place. Kant would believe that to sacrifice human life would be to breach the duty of preserving life, but who are we to try and change the culture of those who have been living in the same way for thousands of years? ...read more.


As such 'never steal' is a prima facie duty, something you must not do unless it is outweighed by another prima facie duty, like your duty to preserve life. Ross separates duties into six categories such as 'do not harm others', 'to repay our benefactors' and 'to treat people as well as they deserve to be treated' but left them open to an individual's interpretation of importance, unfortunately this also leaves them open to manipulation and one can arrange the duties so that their preference is the action they take. To conclude deontology in principle seems to be a useful method of making moral decisions, its certainly manages to overcome a few of the criticisms of utilitarianism. However, deontology still carries its own flaws. Kant tells us to do our duty, always, just because it is our duty and this will not be enough to convince the majority to change the way they act. The lack of human emotion also plays a major factor in my dismissal of deontology as a practical working theory of ethics in everyday society. But perhaps the main reason that deontology fails in my opinion is that Kant offers no advice for how to act when duties collide. W.D Ross's contributions also fail to some degree; he does not outline what exactly is a prima facie duty nor places any value of importance on his unfinished list of duties so as mentioned above can be used to justify an action in the same way as the swine ethic in utilitarianism. ...read more.

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