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Deontology - looking for an objective basis to ground all moral action.

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Introduction

Deontology The deontologist, like the utilitarian is looking for an objective basis to ground all moral actions. Unlike a utilitarian, though, a deontologist would completely reject the idea that the goodness or badness of an act can be determined by its consequences. For the deontologist there must be something intrinsic to the act itself that determines its moral status. Wrong actions are wrong per se and actions which are right are not necessarily those which maximise the good. Deontology identifies those actions which are wrong even if they produce predicted or actual consequences, and are right simply because of the kind of actions that they are. Deontology takes several forms, these include: 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 impact on the rights of others. ...read more.

Middle

First, Kant argues that to act in the morally right way, people must act according to duty. Second, Kant argued that it was not the consequences of actions that make them right or wrong but the motives of the person who carries out the action. Kant's argument that to act in the morally right way, one must act from duty, begins with an argument that the highest good must be both good in itself, and good without qualification. Something is 'good in itself' when it is essentially good, and 'good without qualification' when the addition of that thing never makes a situation ethically worse. Kant then argues that those things that are usually thought to be good, such as intelligence, perseverance and pleasure, fail to be either essentially good or good without qualification. Pleasure, for example, appears to not be good without qualification, because when people take pleasure in watching someone suffering, this seems to make the situation ethically worse. ...read more.

Conclusion

There must surely be some things beyond fad or fashion. Finally, deontology provides objective guidelines for making moral decisions, without the need for lengthy calculation of possible outcomes. However, the weaknesses of the theory are that moral obligations appear arbitrary or inexplicable except by reference to duty. In reality, our decision- making is influence by many more factors, and it is indeed questionable whether duty is as good a motive as Kant suggested. Also how far can a good will or motive mitigate a disastrous outcome? Are we really only concerned to know the 'form' of moral behaviour (duty, for example) or do we want to know more about its content? Are we satisfied with being told 'Do your duty' without understanding why? Kant argues that what is good to do is what we ought to do and that what is inherently good and essentially right is the way in which we ought to behave for the mutual good of all, irrespective of consequences. In this respect, critics of Kant have accused him of committing the Naturalistic Fallacy - of turning 'is' into 'ought'. ...read more.

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