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Analyse the important features of Deontology.

(18)
Deontological ethics are duty-based ethics. Perhaps the most important feature
of deontological theories of ethics- which also allows for clear distinction from
other ethical theories- is that it is a non-consequentialist theory; it is not the
consequences that determine the rightness or wrongness of an act (which are
what consequentialist theories are concerned with), but certain intrinsic features
of the act itself. The end never justifies the means
Whilst deontologists have a duty to do what is right as an action, they also have
the duty to refrain from doing what is known to be a wrong action. This highlights
another important feature of the deontology, that of constraints. Deontologists
would hold the view that we cannot harm people in various ways. For example, a
deontologist would argue that there is always something wrong about lying even
if this action was to bring about good consequences. We cannot act unjustly,
even if this was to maximise happiness (or any other criteria of utility) and so we
are constrained by these prohibitions in what we may do. Kant proposed these
constraints to be absolute and even argued that it would be wrong to lie, even to
prevent murder.
Kant had believed morality to be developed by means of practical rationality.
One particular important feature about the Kantian approach to deontology is
Kants description of good, or morality. Kant talked about morality being
necessary, absolute, universal truth. Moralitys value is something that is not
based on the fact that it has instrumental value; it is valuable in its own right.
Kant mentions it is impossible to conceive of anything at all in the world, or
even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good
will. Intrinsic goods, such as happiness can, as Kant argued, are not a reliable
guide to what is morally right.
This then leads us to one of the most important features of the Kantian approach
to deontology, the principle moral rule which his ethical theory is founded upon,
the categorical imperative- essentially meaning absolute command. Firstly,
Kant distinguishes between two kinds of imperatives: hypothetical and
categorical. The hypothetical imperative is concerned with achieving a particular
end; these are not the kind of imperatives that characterise moral actions.
Categorical imperatives are unqualified, and are an end in itself; these are the
kind of imperatives that are of the right kind as they show our unconditional
recognition of moral obligations. All rational agents, Kant argued, are able to use
the virtue of their rationality to recognise and understand these imperatives;
moral law is synthetic a priori truth- which may be true or false, knowable my
reason. This is an important feature of the Kantian approach to deontology.
The Categorical Imperative can then be used to determine the morality of any
course of action. Any actions that fail this test would be wrong. The most
important feature of this test is perhaps the notion of the maxim- these are
general aims/rule. The second step of the Categorical Imperative test would be
to make sure that this maxim could be willed to be part of universal law, as Kant
said Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will

that it would become universal law. If this maxim could be universalised, we will
accept the maxim. However, if the max cannot be universalised, we must reject
it. This is Kants first and most important formulation of the one categorical
imperative and goes by as the Principle of the law of nature. The other two
include: Principle of ends- So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own
person or in that of any other, in every case as an end and never as merely a
means. Principle of autonomy: Every rational being must so act as if he were
through his maxims always a law-making member in the universal kingdom of
ends. There is a common theme of universalisability in all of these formulations
and so this is a very important feature of the Kantian approach to deontology.
To what extent is Deontology persuasive? (12)
There are many reasons to suggest that deontology; specifically the Kantian
approach to deontology is a persuasive ethical theory. There is a very major
humanitarian tone to the Kantian approach. The principle of ends is something
that acknowledges human rights (something which Utilitarianism overlooks). The
interests of a larger group are eradicated to regard the interest of a single
person. All humans are treated equally. This is something that is very relevant
important in everyday society given the rising levels of inequality.
Also, with Kant, some acts (such as not to lie) are wrong on absolute levels, this
means that they will not change with time or culture. This is something which
allows deontology to be more persuasive. It provides clear and unequivocal
moral guidance; any errors of moral judgement simply cannot be made. This
seems to be persuasive, but what about the ability not to lie, even to save a live?
This runs counter to most peoples moral intuitions and is a grave criticism of
deontological approaches- for example, we may want to tell a lie, perhaps to
save a life, and this is universalisable but only goes against the principle of being
a duty not to tell a lie. As long as we only tell lies in a similar circumstance, the
institution of not telling lies would not break down.
Kants principle of ends is something which tries to answer such criticisms.
There is the respect for other humans as reasoning, rational beings who are
capable of being appealed and understood through reasoning. Kant appreciates
that in practical terms, humans have the capacity to act in accordance to the
Categorical Imperative and that this is a thing of value. A good motive is worthy
of value in itself. The virtue of reason is something that Kant also argues is
objective and universal, something we can all do to establish a solid ground of
ethics. This makes deontology slightly more persuasive.
However, I believe that in reality there is a lack of practical guidance. As is only
one good will, in situations where they may be a conflict in duties, this
underlying good will certainly not be able sort out what one should do. We may
not be able to trust our motives, but we are also not able to use the
consequences of our actions as part of the reasoning process. So what do we do?
This is system therefore really seems to be impractical. While- deontologists may
argue that consequentialist ethical theories bring uncertainty to the process of
ethical-decision making, as we cannot be fully certain on the consequences

arising as a result of our actions- it is still not wrong in saying that in most such
situations where there is a conflict between duties, it helps to consider the
outcome the actions n and then judging which outcome is the more preferable.
I think that due to the rigidness and impracticality of deontological ethical
theories, they are not persuasive to the extent of being applicable to the real
world. However, there are some good elements of deontology, such as the
championing of human reason and motives that are, and should, be important in
helping make an ethical-decision process.