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Examine the distinguishing features of a deontological ethical theory.

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Introduction

Examine the distinguishing features of a deontological ethical theory. (8) The most influential of all theories of deontological ethics is the theory of Immanuel Kant. Kant explains that rules are not held because they promote the good but because they are good, because they provide the standard of what is right and wrong for example rules such as 'Never harm anyone' or 'Never break your promises'. If a certain act is deemed wrong, then it is deemed wrong in all circumstances, irrespective of the consequences. This is why deontological ethics is in opposition to teleological ethical theories for example Utilitarianism. Kant starts his ethical theory at the point that man had the ability to reason and the fact that a human being is essentially a rational being. Kant explains that it is this rationality which holds us all together and is the innate intellectual power which exists more or less equally in all men. Kant explains that it is this innate intellectual power existing, more or less equally, in all humans which enables us to reconcile problems in such a way which is acceptable to everyone. Kant is expressing the point that if one person logically concludes something in a certain situation, any other person reasoning logically will come to the same conclusion. 'Here, reason dictates that their answers are the same.' ...read more.

Middle

This is commonly referred to as universalizability. Treat humans as ends in themselves is Kant's way of expressing the view that you cannot use humans as a means to an end or use human being for another purpose. Kant says: 'So act that you treat humanity, both in your own person and in the person of every other human being, never merely as a means, but always as the same time as an end.' Kant puts a very high moral worth on human life and would never allow the death of one, or a number of humans, to save many more lives in the future. Act as if you live in a kingdom of ends is the third and final principle of Kant's categorical imperative. Kant says: 'So act as if you were through your maxim a law-making member of a kingdom of ends.' Here Kant is explaining that he requires moral statements to be such that you act as if you and everyone else, were treating each other as ends. Assess critically the value of this approach to ethics. (12) Many find fault with Kant's theory mainly due to his claim that moral people are those who must conduct their lives solely in obedience to the rules generated by the categorical imperative. People have problems with this because this means that people have to follow moral laws which include ones which they have no moral obligation to. ...read more.

Conclusion

This imposes duties on us all, equally and alike. Following from this there is the great benefit that there is no reliance on the unknown consequences of an action. Kant has a very high worth for human beings which he holds almost above anything else. He explains how each man's dignity as a rational creature, as the highpoint of creation should not be exploited for the happiness of others. This is shown in his death where he explains 'The feeling for humanity.' he explained, 'has not left me'. Praise is also given to Kant for his strong distinction between duty and inclination as it prevents individuals from assuming that what is good for them is morally right and good for everyone. People of good will obey a law which is the same for all, and only thus do they subordinate their own natural inclinations, however generous they may be. This is seen as the great strength of universalizability. Kant's theory leads back strongly to Christianity following the golden rule of 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Although saying this one of the strengths of Kant's theory is that it can also be taken as a secular approach to ethics. Although Kant's theory does have many weakness the strengths of it are more overwhelming and stronger. Kant's approach is adopted by many, some from a religious nature but also many take it as a secular approach. The way it works for both is what is appealing to many people. Words = 1778 ...read more.

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