Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Friday, June 14, 2024

What is Deontology?


Deontology is a normative ethics theory that suggests an individual should act based on what they believe to be morally right, regardless of the consequences. 

De·on·tol·o·gy - - /dēˌänˈtäləjē/ -- "DUTY (Greek deon) + SCIENCE (Greek logos)" - Derived from the Greek terms for “duty” and “science,” deontology is a philosophical concept that emphasizes adhering to an immutable moral law.
Noun/Meaning - Deontology is an ethical theory that uses rules to distinguish right from wrong. Deontology is often associated with philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant believed that ethical actions follow universal moral laws, such as “Don't lie.
Deontology Philosophy - the study of the nature of duty and obligation.
Deontology Ethics - This notion is based on the belief that certain behaviors – like lying or stealing – are inherently wrong no matter what context they occur in.
A very simple and easy example of deontology in action is the fact that it is wrong to kill. Murder breaks both act deontology and rule deontology, as it is against the law (and religious laws) and is also simply an immoral act when viewed in a particular situation.

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In moral philosophydeontological ethics or deontology (from Greekδέον, 'obligation, duty' + λόγος, 'study') is the normative ethical theory that the morality of an action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong under a series of rules and principles, rather than based on the consequences of the action.[1] It is sometimes described as duty-, obligation-, or rule-based ethics.[2][3] Deontological ethics is commonly contrasted to consequentialism,[4] utilitarianism,[5] virtue ethics,[6] and pragmatic ethics.[7] In this terminology, action is more important than the consequences.

The term deontological was first used to describe the current, specialised definition by C. D. Broad in his 1930 book, Five Types of Ethical Theory.[8] Older usage of the term goes back to Jeremy Bentham, who coined it prior to 1816 as a synonym of dicastic or censorial ethics (i.e., ethics based on judgement).[9][10] The more general sense of the word is retained in French, especially in the term code de déontologie (ethical code), in the context of professional ethics.

Depending on the system of deontological ethics under consideration, a moral obligation may arise from an external or internal source, such as a set of rules inherent to the universe (ethical naturalism), religious law, or a set of personal or cultural values (any of which may be in conflict with personal desires).

Deontological philosophies

There are numerous formulations of deontological ethics.


Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant's theory of ethics is considered deontological for several different reasons.[11][12] First, Kant argues that in order to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty (Pflicht).[13] Second, Kant argued that it was not the consequences of actions that make them right or wrong, but the motives of the person who carries out the action.

Kant's first argument begins with the premise that the highest good must be both good in itself and good without qualification.[14] Something is "good in itself" when it is intrinsically good; and is "good without qualification" when the addition of that thing never makes a situation ethically worse. Kant then argues that those things that are usually thought to be good, such as intelligenceperseverance, and pleasure, fail to be either intrinsically good or good without qualification. Pleasure, for example, appears not to be good without qualification, because when people take pleasure in watching someone suffer, this seems to make the situation ethically worse. He concludes that there is only one thing that is truly good:

Nothing in the world—indeed nothing even beyond the world—can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will.[14]

Kant then argues that the consequences of an act of willing cannot be used to determine that the person has a good will; good consequences could arise by accident from an action that was motivated by a desire to cause harm to an innocent person, and bad consequences could arise from an action that was well-motivated. Instead, he claims, a person has a good will when he "acts out of respect for the moral law."[14] People "act out of respect for the moral law" when they act in some way because they have a duty to do so. Thus, the only thing that is truly good in itself is a good will, and a good will is only good when the willer chooses to do something because it is that person's duty; i.e., out of respect for the law. He defines respect as "the concept of a worth which thwarts my self-love."[15]

Kant's three significant formulations of the categorical imperative are:

  • Act only according to that maxim by which you can also will that it would become a universal law;
  • Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end; and
  • Every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in a universal kingdom of ends.

Kant argued that the only absolutely good thing is a good will, and so the single determining factor of whether an action is morally right is the will, or motive of the person doing it. If they are acting on a bad maxim — e.g., 'I will lie' — then their action is wrong, even if some good consequences come of it.

In his essay, "On a Supposed Right to Lie Because of Philanthropic Concerns", arguing against the position of Benjamin ConstantDes réactions politiques, Kant states that:[16]

Hence a lie defined merely as an intentionally untruthful declaration to another man does not require the additional condition that it must do harm to another, as jurists require in their definition (mendacium est falsiloquium in praeiudicium alterius). For a lie always harms another; if not some human being, then it nevertheless does harm to humanity in general, inasmuch as it vitiates the very source of right [Rechtsquelle].… All practical principles of right must contain rigorous truth.… This is because such exceptions would destroy the universality on account of which alone they bear the name of principles.

Divine command theory

Although not all deontologists are religious, some believe in the divine command theory, which is actually a cluster of related theories that essentially state that an action is right if God has decreed that it is right.[17] According to English philosopher Ralph CudworthWilliam of OckhamRené Descartes, and 18th-century Calvinists all accepted various versions of this moral theory, as they all held that moral obligations arise from God's commands.[18]

The divine command theory is a form of deontology because, according to it, the rightness of any action depends upon that action being performed because it is a duty, not because of any good consequences arising from that action. If God commands people not to work on Sabbath, then people act rightly if they do not work on Sabbath because God has commanded that they do not do so. If they do not work on Sabbath because they are lazy, then their action is not, truly speaking, "right" even though the actual physical action performed is the same. If God commands not to covet a neighbour's goods, this theory holds that it would be immoral to do so, even if coveting provides the beneficial outcome of a drive to succeed or do well.

One thing that clearly distinguishes Kantian deontologism from divine command deontology is that Kantianism maintains that man, as a rational being, makes the moral law universal, whereas divine command maintains that God makes the moral law universal.

Ross's deontological pluralism

W. D. Ross objects to Kant's monistic deontology, which bases ethics in only one foundational principle, the categorical imperative. He contends that there is a plurality of prima facie duties determining what is right.[19][20]: xii  Some duties originate from our own previous actions, like the duty of fidelity (to keep promises and to tell the truth), and the duty of reparation (to make amends for wrongful acts). The duty of gratitude (to return kindnesses received) arises from the actions of others. Other duties include the duty of non-injury (not to hurt others), the duty of beneficence (to promote the maximum of aggregate good), the duty of self-improvement (to improve one's own condition) and the duty of justice (to distribute benefits and burdens equably).[20]: 21–5 [21] One problem the deontological pluralist has to face is that cases can arise where the demands of one duty violate another duty, so-called moral dilemmas.[22] For example, there are cases where it is necessary to break a promise in order to relieve someone's distress.[20]: 28  Ross makes use of the distinction between prima facie duties and absolute duty to solve this problem.[20]: 28  The duties listed above are prima facie duties; they are general principles whose validity is self-evident to morally mature persons. They are factors that do not take all considerations into account. Absolute duty, on the other hand, is particular to one specific situation, taking everything into account, and has to be judged on a case-by-case basis.[19][23] It is absolute duty that determines which acts are right or wrong.[19]

Contemporary deontology

Contemporary deontologists (i.e., scholars born in the first half of the 20th century) include Józef Maria BocheńskiThomas NagelT. M. Scanlon, and Roger Scruton.

Bocheński (1965) makes a distinction between deontic and epistemic authority:[24]

  • A typical example of epistemic authority in Bocheński's usage would be "the relation of a teacher to her students." A teacher has epistemic authority when making declarative sentences that the student presumes is reliable knowledge and appropriate but feels no obligation to accept or obey.[25]
  • An example of deontic authority would be "the relation between an employer and her employee." An employer has deontic authority in the act of issuing an order that the employee is obliged to accept and obey regardless of its reliability or appropriateness.[25]

Scruton (2017), in his book On Human Nature, is critical of consequentialism and similar ethical theories, such as hedonism and utilitarianism, instead proposing a deontological ethical approach.[26] He implies that proportional duty and obligation are essential components of the ways in which we decide to act, and he defends natural law against opposing theories. He also expresses admiration for virtue ethics, and believes that the two ethical theories are not, as is frequently portrayed, mutually exclusive.[26]

Deontology and consequentialism

Principle of permissible harm

Frances Kamm's "Principle of Permissible Harm" (1996) is an effort to derive a deontological constraint that coheres with our considered case judgments while also relying heavily on Kant's categorical imperative.[27] The principle states that one may harm in order to save more if and only if the harm is an effect or an aspect of the greater good itself. This principle is meant to address what Kamm feels are most people's considered case judgments, many of which involve deontological intuitions. For instance, Kamm argues that we believe it would be impermissible to kill one person to harvest his organs in order to save the lives of five others. Yet, we think it is morally permissible to divert a runaway trolley that would otherwise kill five innocent, immobile people, onto a sidetrack where only one innocent and immobile person will be killed. Kamm believes the Principle of Permissible Harm explains the moral difference between these and other cases, and more importantly expresses a constraint telling us exactly when we may not act to bring about good ends—such as in the organ harvesting case.

In 2007, Kamm published Intricate Ethics, a book that presents a new theory, the "Doctrine of Productive Purity", that incorporates aspects of her "Principle of Permissible Harm".[28] Like the "Principle", the "Doctrine of Productive Purity" is an attempt to provide a deontological prescription for determining the circumstances in which people are permitted to act in a way that harms others.[29]

Reconciling deontology with consequentialism

Various attempts have been made to reconcile deontology with consequentialism. Threshold deontology holds that rules ought to govern up to a point despite adverse consequences; but when the consequences become so dire that they cross a stipulated threshold, consequentialism takes over.[30] Theories put forth by Thomas Nagel and Michael S. Moore attempt to reconcile deontology with consequentialism by assigning each a jurisdiction.[30] Iain King's 2008 book How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time uses quasi-realism and a modified form of utilitarianism to develop deontological principles that are compatible with ethics based on virtues and consequences. King develops a hierarchy of principles to link his meta-ethics, which is more inclined towards consequentialism, with the deontological conclusions he presents in his book.[31]

Secular deontology

Intuition-based deontology is a concept within secular ethics. A classical example of literature on secular ethics is the Kural text, authored by the ancient Tamil Indian philosopher Valluvar. It can be argued that some concepts from deontological ethics date back to this text. Concerning ethical intuitionism, 20th century philosopher C.D. Broad coined the term "deontological ethics" to refer to the normative doctrines associated with intuitionism, leaving the phrase "ethical intuitionism" free to refer to the epistemological doctrines.[32]

See also


  1. ^ "Deontology dictionary definition | deontology defined".
  2. ^ Waller, Bruce N. (2005). Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues. London, England: Pearson Longman. p. 23. ISBN 978-0205017737.
  3. ^ "Deontology"Ethics Unwrapped. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  4. ^ Flew, Antony (1979). "Consequentialism". A Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd ed.). New York City: St. Martin's Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0312209230.
  5. ^ "Next Stop: 'Trolley Problem'"Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  6. ^ Carr, David; Steutel, Jan, eds. (1999). Virtue Ethics and Moral Education. Routledge. p. 22. ISBN 9780415170734.
  7. ^ LaFollette, Hugh (2000). "Pragmatic ethics". In LaFollette, Hugh (ed.). The Blackwell guide to ethical theory. Blackwell philosophy guides. Oxford, UK; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 400–419. ISBN 9780631201182OCLC 41645965.
  8. ^ Beauchamp, Tom L. (1991). Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy. New York City: McGraw Hill. p. 171. ISBN 978-0070042568.
  9. ^ Bentham, Jeremy. 1816. Chrestomathia. London. p. 213–14: "For a synonym, Dicastic Ethics may have the single-worded appellative Deontology.*Corresponding footnote: "*[Deontology.] From two Greek words, the first of which signifies fit, fitting, right, becoming, proper. Deontology—an account or indication of that which, on the occasion in question, whatsoever it be, is—(i.e. by him who speaks or writes, is regarded as being)—fit, fitting, becoming, proper. It is in sound only, and not in signification, that it has any connexion with the word [ontology], employed above. Applied to every branch of Ethics, taken in the largest sense of the word Ethics, the use of such a word as Deontology affords a promise of being attended with considerable convenience. It will accord equally well with every system which ever has been, or ever can be, devised, in relation to the foundation of moral obligation :—in the use of it, no such incongruity and presumption is involved, as that which is called petitio principii—i.e. a begging of the question—an assumption of the matter in dispute."
  10. ^ Bentham, Jeremy. 1834. Deontology or, The Science of Morality, edited by J. Bowring. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Browne, Green, and Longman. p. 21: "Deontology is derived from the Greek words, το δεον (that which is proper) and Λογια, knowledge – meaning the knowledge of what is right and proper; and it is here specially applied to the subject of morals, or that part of the field of action which is not the object of public legislation. As an art, it is the doing what is fit to be done; as a science, the knowing what is fit to be done on every occasion."
  11. ^ Orend, Brian. 2000. War and International Justice: A Kantian Perspective. West Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. p. 19.
  12. ^ Kelly, Eugene. 2006. The Basics of Western Philosophy. Greenwood Press. p. 160.
  13. ^ Abbott, Thomas Kingsmill, trans. 1889. The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics. [Preface and Introduction to Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Tugendlehre, 1797]. Abbott's deontology translates Kant's Pflichtenlehre.
  14. Jump up to:a b c Kant, Immanuel. 1785. "Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morals to the Philosophical." § 1 in Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.
  15. ^ Kant, Immanuel. 1785. Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals (10th ed.), translated by T. K. AbbottProject Gutenberg. p. 23.
  16. ^ "Über ein vermeintes Recht aus Menschenliebe zu lügen", Berlinische Blätter 1 (1797), 301–314; edited in: Werke in zwölf Bänden, vol. 8, Frankfurt am Main (1977), zeno.org/nid/20009192123.
  17. ^ Wierenga, Edward. 1983. "A Defensible Divine Command Theory." Noûs 17(3):387–407.
  18. ^ Cudworth, Ralph. [1731] 1996. A Treatise Concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality, edited by S. Hutton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  19. Jump up to:a b c Skelton, Anthony (2012). "William David Ross"The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  20. Jump up to:a b c d Ross, W. D. (2002) [1930]. The Right and the Good. Clarendon Press.
  21. ^ Simpson, David L. "William David Ross"Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  22. ^ Borchert, Donald (2006). "Ross, William David". Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd Edition. Macmillan.
  23. ^ Burgh, W. G. de (1931). "The Right and the Good. By W. D. Ross M.A., LL.D., Provost of Oriel College, Oxford. (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press. 1930. Pp. Vi + 176. Price 10s. 6d.)"Philosophy6 (22): 236–40. doi:10.1017/S0031819100045265S2CID 170734138.
  24. ^ Bocheński, Józef. 1965. "Analysis of authority." Pp. 162–73 in The Logic of Religion. New York: New York University PressISBN 978-0814700501.
  25. Jump up to:a b Brożek, Anna. 2013. "Bocheński on authority." Studies in East European Thought 65(1):115–33. doi:10.1007/s11212-013-9175-9.
  26. Jump up to:a b Scruton, Roger (2017). On Human Nature (1st ed.). Princeton. pp. 79–112. ISBN 978-0-691-18303-9.
  27. ^ Kamm, Frances M. 1996. Morality, Mortality Vol. II: Rights, Duties, and Status. New York: Oxford University Press.
  28. ^ Kamm, Frances M. 2007. "Toward the Essence of Nonconsequentialist Constraints on Harming." Ch. 5 in Intricate Ethics: Rights, Responsibilities, and Permissible Harm. Oxford: Oxford University PressISBN 978-0-19-518969-8.
  29. ^ Waugh, Laurence Francis Hogan. 2015. "Harming the innocent to save lives A critique of the Doctrine of Productive Purity" (Masters Research thesis). School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - ThesesUniversity of Melbournehdl:11343/52416.
  30. Jump up to:a b Alexander, Larry; Moore, Michael (21 November 2007). "Deontological Ethics"Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2020 Edition. Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  31. ^ King, Iain (2008). How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time. Continuum. p. 245. ISBN 978-1-84706-347-2. Page 220 of this book lists 14 deontological principles, which King describes as "The first fourteen principles of right and wrong."
  32. ^ Louden, Robert B (1996). "Toward a Genealogy of 'Deontology'". Journal of the History of Philosophy 34:4. Johns Hopkins University Press., p. 587


External links

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