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Deontological Ethical Theory

Deontological Ethical Theory

Deontological ethical theory is a normative ethics position that states that the morality of an individual's action depends upon his or her adherence to rules. Immanuel Kant was the major proponent of deontological ethics in his philosophy. Some proponents of deontological ethical theory are also moral absolutists, holding that certain actions are always right or wrong.

The main aspects of Kant's deontological ethical theory are:

  • In order to be morally correct, an action must be done out of duty
  • The motive of an individual is what makes an action either right or wrong

Deontological Ethical and Kant

Immanuel Kant argued that in order to act in a morally correct manner, people must act from duty. Kant also argued that it was not the consequences of a person's actions, but their motivations that were important. Kant held that the only moral absolute was a good will, although some later deontologist will hold that consequences are more important, such as lying to achieve a greater aim.

Religious deontologists believe in the divine command theory. This aspect of deontology holds that an action is right if God decrees it to be so. Rene Descartes was a firm believer in the divine command theory. However, the rightness of an action must depend upon people following God's decrees out of duty. Modern deontological ethical theories, largely divorced from religion, are akin to Frances Kamm's Principle of Permissible Harm, which states that one can cause harm in the effort to save more and is an aspect of the greater good. The major scenario is diverting a runaway train from killing five innocent people to a track where only one person will be killed.

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Deontological Ethical Theory research papers discuss the normative ethics position that states that the morality of an individual’s action depends upon his or her adherence to rules.

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