- Term Papers and Free Essays

Deontological Moral Theory

Essay by   •  August 31, 2010  •  1,232 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,573 Views

Essay Preview: Deontological Moral Theory

Report this essay
Page 1 of 5

Deontological moral theory is a Non-Consequentialist moral theory. While consequentialists believe the ends always justify the means, deontologists assert that the rightness of an action is not simply dependent on maximizing the good, if that action goes against what is considered moral. It is the inherent nature of the act alone that determines its ethical standing. For example, imagine a situation where there are four critical condition patients in a hospital who each need a different organ in order to survive. Then, a healthy man comes to the doctor's office for a routine check-up. According to consequentialism, not deontology, the doctor should and must sacrifice that one man in order to save for others. Thus, maximizing the good. However, deontological thought contests this way of thinking by contending that it is immoral to kill the innocent despite the fact one would be maximizing the good. Deontologists create concrete distinctions between what is moral right and wrong and use their morals as a guide when making choices. Deontologists generate restrictions against maximizing the good when it interferes with moral standards. Also, since deontologists place a high value on the individual, in some instances it is permissible not to maximize the good when it is detrimental to yourself. For example, one does not need to impoverish oneself to the point of worthlessness simply to satisfy one's moral obligations. Deontology can be looked at as a generally flexible moral theory that allows for self-interpretation but like all others theories studied thus far, there are arguments one can make against its reasoning.

One objection to deontological moral theory is that the theory yields only absolutes and cannot always justify its standpoints. Actions are either classified as right or wrong with no allowance for a gray area. Furthermore, the strict guidelines tend to conflict with commonly accepted actions. For example, lying is always considered morally wrong--even a "white lie." Therefore, one must not lie even if it does more good. In our society although individuals accept lying as being morally wrong, "white lies" have become an exception. Only having absolutes creates a theory that is extremely hard only to abide by, especially when deontological though permits you from making a choice when that choice would clearly be optimal. One might even say deontological though is counter intuitive. You are more responsible for making sure you don't commit violations than making sure others do not. So, in the case that you planted a bomb and then later decide it was wrong, you are not allowed to sacrifice one more life to eventually save many since that would result in another violation. In short, deontologists overlook what might do the most good if it interferes with even one of their moral limitations. In addition, because everything is always absolute there are no priorities. Every moral is looked at as just the same as the other. This creates moral dilemmas. Each action is looked at as equally good and therefore, not committing any act is morally wrong. Thus, the theory can create situations where one feels confused and unguided by their morals due to the lack of priorities.

However, if deontologists did not have these moral constraints the theory would be the same as consequentialism. Consequentialism is too permissive and does not give the individual proper rights. The moral theory overlooks our natural moral instincts such as killing the innocent. Although those who follow the theory are seemingly always maximizing the good, one might argue that in the end consequentialism is destructive because it disregards all morals. Consequentialism requires great sacrifice, even death, if maximizing the good is involved. Thus, it takes no self-interest into account and does not look enough at each individual. It is natural to look at the action one must take in order to produce the result rather than simply looking at the end result.

Although deontology at times appears to be counter intuitive, the theory holds the fewest flaws of any of the utilitarian theories. When one makes a decision it is clear that the decision is not made impersonally. One puts great weight and emphasis on their own self worth and personal capital. Although logically one would like to maximize the good, most are not ready to kill an innocent being in order to do so. Therefore, morals and the means of achieving the end result must be taken



Download as:   txt (7.3 Kb)   pdf (90.3 Kb)   docx (11 Kb)  
Continue for 4 more pages »
Only available on