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Advantages and Disadvantages of Deontology: Analytical Essay

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Outline of Deontological Ethics

The term deontology comes from the Greek word deon, “duty”, and logos, “science”. In Deontological ethics, an action is considered morally good based on the action itself. It’s not based on the product of the action. “Deontology ethics holds that at least some acts are morally obligatory regardless of their consequences for human welfare”. (Britannica, 2019)

The most common form of Deontology holds that some actions cannot be justified by their effects and that no matter how beneficial the consequences are, some choices are morally forbidden. It means disregarding the possible consequences of our actions when determining what is right and what is wrong. If an act is not seen as being in the right, it may not be undertaken, no matter the good that it may produce. (Alexander et al, 2016)

A typical thought: there are some things one should never do, no matter what. These things include intentionally killing the innocent, raping them, and torturing them. Even in the scenario in which more happiness was created by doing any of these, one simply ought not to do them as it is morally wrong. (Russ, 2013)

Immanuel Kant

The first philosopher to describe deontological principles was Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804). Kant believed that nothing is good without qualification except goodwill, goodwill is only one that acts in concurrence with the moral law, and out of respect for that law against our instincts. Kant believed that it was plausible to create a consistent moral system by using reason. (Britannica, 2019).

Furthermore, Kant believed that goodwill alone must be good in whatever context it may be found. He conclude that “goodwill” was the right action, Regardless of the consequences. Kant’s version of duty-based ethics was based on supreme moral principles he characterized as the “categorical Imperative”(CI) which he intended to be the basis of all other rules. An ethical rule is only a valid moral rule if you claim it can be applied to everyone. (BBC, 2014)

Advantages of Deontology

Deontological ethics create a baseline for human conduct. The “golden rule” is found throughout the history of human societies. Summarised in the phrase: “do you want to others as you would have them do unto you”. (Natalie, 2019)

The main advantage of Deontology is the importance in the value of every human. Duty-based systems focus on providing equal respect to all human beings, no what their nationality or background. This set of ethics provides a foundation for all human rights. (Natalie, 2019)

Deontological theories have the potential for explaining why certain people have the moral standing to complain about and hold those accountable for breaching moral duties. (Alexander et al, 2016)

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Disadvantages of Deontology

Deontological ethics creates a paradox. Deontologists need their own, non-consequentialist model of rationality, one that is a viable alternative to the intuitively plausible “act-to-produce-the-best-consequences” model of rationality that motivates consequentialist theories. Hence, deontology will always be paradoxical. (Alexander et al, 2016)

There are situations where obedience to deontological norms will bring about disastrous consequences. For example, If A violates the deontological duty not to torture an innocent person (B), thousands of other innocent people will die due to a bomb. If A is forbidden by deontological morality from torturing B, many would regard that as a reduction ad absurdum of deontology. (Alexander et al, 2016)

Deontological ethics become useful as obscure excuses, One of the biggest contradictions to Kant’s interpretation of deontology, is a person’s actions may have moral worth, even if the action is wrong, as long as it meets these four criteria: a person must believe their moral principal requires the action, the person believes that the action is morally required must be enough of an incentive to carry the action out, the person must do their very best to achieve the goal of the action, finally, they must have a genuine effort to determine what their duty is. This can be compared to WW2, that an “odious action” of a Nazi would have moral worth by this criterion. The Nazi’s actions would have more moral worth than the action of a person who does the right thing based on inclination rather than duty. (Kerstein, 2002).

Brief Outline of Consequentialism

Consequentialism illustrates that actions should be judged right or wrong based on their consequences. The most basic form of consequentialism is classical utilitarianism, which argues that an action is right or wrong according to whether it maximizes the net balance of pleasure over pain in the universe. (Britannica, 2009)

The important and still popular theory embodies the basic intuition that what is best or right is whatever makes the world best in the future, because we cannot change the past. It is claimed in the slogan that an act is right if and only if it causes “the greatest happiness for the greatest number”. (Sinnott et al, 2019)

Deontology vs. Consequentialism

Consequentialists consider what things are good and identify ‘right’ actions as the ones that produce the maximum of those good things. In comparison, Deontology tends to do it the other way around, they first consider what actions are ‘right’ and proceed from there. (BBC, 2014)

Consequentialist ethics theories bring a degree of uncertainty to ethical decision-making, no one can be certain about the consequences of a particular action. Duty-based ethics (deontology) don’t suffer from this problem because they are concerned with the action itself, if an action is right, then a person should do it. (BBC, 2014)

Take, for example, there is an active shooter in the school, you lie to the shooter, informing him the police are on the way and about to arrive. This is not permitted because you are breaching deontological ethics, on the contrary, by doing the action, your outcome is beneficial as the shooter could flee the scene, thus, saving hundreds of lives. (Natalie, 2019)


  1. Alexander, Larry, and Moore, Michael, Edward N. Zalta(editor), 21 Nov 2007, Deontological Ethics, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(Winter 2016 Edition), Metaphysics Research lab, Stanford University, [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 October 2019]
  2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 08 March 2019,
  3. Deontological Ethics, Encyclopaedia Britannica, [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 October 2019]
  4. Russ Shafer-Landau, 2013, Ethical Theory An Anthology, Second Edition, Wiley-Blackwell ( John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), Oxford UK.
  5. Johnson, Robert and Cureton, Adam, 2019, Kant’s Moral Philosophy, Spring 2019, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2019]
  6. Kerstein, Samuel J., 2002, Kant’s Search for the Supreme Principle of Morality, Cambridge University Press.
  7. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2019]
  8. BBC, 2014, Duty based ethics, [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2019]
  9. Natalie Regoli, 15 January 2019, 12 Pros and Cons of Deontological Ethics, [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2019]
  10. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 03 March 2009, Consequentialism, Encyclopaedia Britannica, [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2019]
  11. Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, 2019, Consequentialism, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019), Metaphysics Research lab, Stanford University, [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2019]
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