Deontological ethics Deontological Ethics focuses on moral duties, obligations, intentions that guide our ethical decision-making NOT: goals, ends, objectives—those are of lesser concern to a Deontological Ethicist. Remember : “Deon” means “duty” or “obligation ” Those guided by ethical codes (such as the Nuremberg Code, the AMA codes, the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule) are Deontological Ethicists
Deontological ethics Here’s the big Three Ethical Theories: Deontological Ethics ( set out below) Teleological Ethicists focus on end goals & objectives (= consequences). They want to maximize benefits for the majority of the society or the particular group in question. Virtue Ethics focus is on moral character—with particular attention to virtues vs. vices.
DEONTOLOGICAL ETHICS; KANT Immanuel Kant is the most famous — the Super- Star of Deontological Ethics – He emphasized moral duty (not goals!) and obligations of competent adults (= moral agents) – Kant thought honesty was especially important. – He wanted us to strive to be role model – Universalize our ethical decision-making
Kant’s D eontological Approach The result was an ethical view that put the present— not the future or the past—at center stage. Kant held such moral traits as HONESTY to be of great importance—even if being honest causes pain or suffering. Honesty is the right thing to do. DUTY RULES! Moral obligations trump objectives and consequences
Duties rule MORAL DUTIES & OBLIGATIONS Kant focuses on what we ought to do, the moral duties that should guide our decision-making. Even if the consequences are undesirable— unpleasant or even horrific—moral duty rules. No exceptions! This bugs his critics! Many still use his ethical theory as a guide !
Moral Agency Kant, Aristotle, and John Stuart Mill all agree: RATIONALITY is of fundamental importance in Moral agency To be a moral agent you need to be (1 ) rational (so you know the difference between good and evil) and (2) have free will (so you are capable of acting on your own volition, and not under duress or otherwise compromised).
Kant on moral agents Kant emphasized rationality and moral agency. Kant claimed: Moral agents have equal moral status Not a moral agent? Too bad! Kant thought those who were not moral agents— children, the mentally impaired, any who are incompetent or their rationality is in doubt—do NOT have equal moral status.
The Big Question: What if everyone did it? Kant wanted to universalize moral decision- making. Before you act count to three and ask, “What if everyone did it? Would it then be right?” Ask yourself if you’d let everyone else do the same thing Think of the choice as a PRECEDENT = A RULE FOR ALL TO FOLLOW. Be a moral role models for others!
Kant’s Two principles Kant’s 2 principle are THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE & THE HUMANITARIAN PRINCIPLE The Categorical Imperative: Act in such a way that you would have it become a universal law.
The Categorical Imperative It is categorical in the sense that it should apply across the board—to everyone, not just a select few. It is an imperative in the sense that it is a moral command—something we ought to do.
The Humanitarian Principle Always treat others as an end in themselves, never merely as a means. Treat others with respect, with human dignity, See them as individuals and not expendable, not means to some goal. CONTRAST with the Utilitarians who prioritize the society over the individual. Kant sees individual rights as more important.
Pros and cons: Kantian ethics Pros: The Categorical Imperative offers a way to doing the right thing by asking, “What if everyone did it?” By universalizing moral reasoning, Kant thought we’d all do what’s best. The Humanitarian Principle underscored the importance of not just using others for our ends. Kant saw the individual more important than the society --he prioritizes human dignity.
Pros and cons: Kantian ethics Cons: By focusing on moral duty or obligation over end goals, we may end up with dreadful consequences. Being honest or keeping to your moral obligations without exception may result in others harmed or even killed—there are problems with blindly following duty. Kant’s system is brittle, inflexible, unbending. Some think it lacks the give-and-take needed for optimal moral reasoning.
Veracity vs. non-maleficence The Principle of Veracity: Always tell the truth, even if it hurts (you or others!). That was a view Kant subscribed to. The Principle of Non-Maleficence: Do no harm. This is on such moral codes as the Hippocratic Oath in medicine. Some ethicists—such as Sissela Bok— think Non-Maleficence should trump Veracity if great harm would result from following the Principle of Veracity. She would say: “Do no harm” rather than “always be honest”