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Kantian Deontology. Major Criticisms of Utilitarianism. Should we Be Equally concerned for everyone? What about friends What about family? What about lovers and spouses? Are consequences all that really matter in our ethical decision making? What about: Justice? Basic Human Rights?

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major criticisms of utilitarianism
Major Criticisms of Utilitarianism
  • Should we Be Equally concerned for everyone?
    • What about friends
    • What about family?
    • What about lovers and spouses?
  • Are consequences all that really matter in our ethical decision making? What about:
    • Justice?
    • Basic Human Rights?
    • Promises (and other “backward-looking” reasons)?
major response of utilitarians
Major Response of Utilitarians
  • Rule Utilitarianism: The Principle of Utility is a guide for choosing rules, not acts
  • This new version of Utilitarianism modifies the theory so that individual actions are no longer judged by the Principle of Utility (i.e. it abandons consequentialism, and becomes more like a traditional rule-based ethical outlook)
  • A rule like “you should bear false witness against an innocent man if you think many lives can be benefitted” would never generally be a good rule to follow as it would lead to all kinds of distrust and chaos in society
deontology
Deontology
  • “Deontology” = Greek term meaning “the study of duty”
  • Kant’s theory of ethics concerns itself with understanding the nature of our sense of “ought” or duty
  • Where does this sense come from?
  • For Kant it emerges from our sense of rationality and understanding of what it means to be a “rational actor”
  • When we feel that we have failed morally, such a sense is just our awareness that we are not being consistent in the way we act and think
deontology5
Deontology
  • What do I owe others?
    • Act only according to that maxim (rule) by which you can will at the same time that it should become a universal law
  • In what consists my own dignity?
    • Being reasonable (logically consistent) and free (making choices based on your own reasonable consideration)
  • Why be moral?
    • You want to be free and reasonable (a rational agent) don’t you?
two forms of the categorical imperative
Two forms of “The Categorical Imperative”

Form 1

Form 2

Always act so as to treat other people as ends (rational actors like yourself) and never only as means

i.e. people may never be simply used for our purposes but must be treated in ways we ourselves would wish to be treated

  • Act only according to that maxim (rule) by which you can will at the same time that it should become a universal law
  • i.e. For any action imagine a general rule describing your choice egs. if you’re stealing something the rule would be “It’s ok to steal.” If you’re taking a job as a carpenter: “It’s ok to become a carpenter”) If you kan’t see everyone living by this rule, the act should never ever be done by anyone
main arguments for kantian deontology
Main Arguments for Kantian Deontology
  • Secular ethic (avoids problematic metaphysical claims)—bases ethics on a straightforward understanding of reasonableness (it’s about avoiding logical inconsistency in one’s beliefs)
  • Makes sense of (and provided the first major philosophical defense of) a sense of what have come to be called “Universal Human Rights” (absolute obligations we have towards others without exceptions)
main objections deontology
Main Objections Deontology
  • Conflicts Between Rules? Can we ever be faced with situations where we might conclude that we are bound by two logically inconsistent ethical imperatives? Eg. The Inquiring Murderer or the Inquiring Nazis (and the Dutch Resistance), obligations to protect our communities by overriding the “rights” of individuals? Would you allow a man to be tortured if you believed it would prevent a terrorist from destroying a city with nuclear bomb? Was using the a-bomb on Japan justified?
responses to the criticisms
Responses to the Criticisms
  • Most of the most challenging cases of supposedly conflicting absolute moral rules focus on variations of Kant’s excessive defense of the rule “We should never lie.”
  • Many commentators suggest that his position about lying was more a result of his pietistic upbringing, than his own moral theory
  • More subtle ways of describing our actions involving deception