Deontological Ethics Essay

This essay has a total of 1267 words and 6 pages.

Deontological Ethics

Deontological Theory of Ethics


When ethics is explored, and an inquiry into its origin and sources are explored to find
definition and clarity around ethics, one initial discovery will be that two main views on
ethical behavior emerge. One of those theories is the deontological theory of ethics.
Ethics and ethical decisions surround themselves around what is the goodness or badness of
any particular choice or decision. When exploring ethics, it is necessary to explore what
are the different thoughts surrounding what framework is used to weigh this goodness and
badness. Deontological Theory explores this very point.

Defining Deontological Theory

Deontological theories of ethics are almost synonymous with Kantianism, after a
philosopher, Immanual Kant. Although it must be noted that his views are simply one view
of deontological theory, which will be explored later in this paper, it is important to
note his powerful influences here. Deontologists base their evaluation of actions in and
of themselves. In other words, deontologists view actions without regard to consequences
or potential outcomes of any given choice or action. Ethical decisions are made simply by
viewing the intrinsic goodness or badness of the act itself. In a simple example, if lying
were deemed an intrinsically unethical act, deontologist would hold that lying would never
be ethical, regardless of the potential outcome of telling a lie. (Cline n.d.)

When viewing deontological thought, one of the first questions that will appear is what
framework or system is used to judge the inherent features within actions that determine
whether or not they are right. There are many different thoughts behind this question, but
for the purpose of an initial definition of the concept, the influences that guide
deontological thought come from various sources, such as "religion, biology, psychology,
metaphysics, culture, language, etc. Considering the source of the foundation for the
deontological thought an act's duty may be absolute (without exception), overridden by a
more important duty, or only hold under certain circumstances. The following sections will
explore the different types of thought and theories that drive the foundation of
deontological thought. The first explored will be the most influential, Kant's
Deontological Ethical System called the Categorical Imperative. (Frankena 1973)

Kant's Categorical Imperative

Immanual Kant is one of the main Deontological Theorists. Kant's theories state that
actions are only morally right when they are done out of duty. Kant describes these moral
duties as unchanging and views them as laws for human behavior and conduct. Kant also
holds that being a free being is essential to the ability to think rationally, which
allows for morality. Without freedom, there cannot be moral thought and the person cannot
be held responsible for acting ethically. (Action 1970)

Kant's Categorical Imperative is a command formulated to express a general requirement for
a moral law. It is this moral law that is used to judge the inherent morality of an
action. The Categorical Imperative has three main components that are required in order to
judge an act as morally right. The three requirements are: (1) all persons can be willed
to do it, (2) it enables us to treat others as the ends and not as means to our own
selfish ends, and (3) it allows us to see others as mutual law makers. (Action 1970)

Kant is one of the primary father's of deontological theorists. His theories are
considered to be rule based. In other words, by using the Categorical Imperative, it was
possible to create rules by which to guide human behavior. This would provide the ability
for an individual to apply thought to a moral choice, and come up with the correct
decision not by its outcome, but by applying the Categorical Imperative to determine the
moral duty. (Action 1970)

Other Types of Deontological Thought

Another type of Deontological Ethics to consider is called Divine Command. This is also
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