Philosophy 171 - 9.3 Deontology

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify the meaning and purpose of the deontological approach.
  • Articulate the role of duty and obligation within deontological reasoning.
  • Compare and contrast the Kantian and pluralist interpretation of deontology.

The word deontology derives from the Greek words deon, meaning duty, and logos, meaning the study or science of, so that deontology literally means “the study or science of duty.” Unlike consequentialists, deontologists do not evaluate the moral rightness of an action based solely on its consequences. Rightness in deontological theories is established by conformity to moral norms or rules that we have a duty to follow (Alexander 2020). Deontologists attempt to establish our moral duties, the set of rules that are morally binding, and using these we can guide our behavior and choices.

Later deontologists—for instance, W. D. Ross (1877–1971)—argue that consequences are morally relevant when considered in light of our moral duties. Ross believed that a moral theory that ignored duty or a moral theory that ignored consequences “over-simplifies the moral life” (Ross 1939, 189).

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax