JSB175 Reading Week Three Notes
Ethical Theory in Context, p. 9 - 11
What is Deontology?
The word deontology is derived from the Greek word ‘deon’ meaning duty and ‘logos’
meaning science or study.
Deontologists argue that we have a duty to treat others fairly and with respect.
Imannuel Kant (1964) argued that fairness and respect have priority over all others goals and
ends. He believes that we should treat other people as an end and not as a means to an end
because we are all moral agents with beliefs and feelings of our own, and that should be
Contrary to the egoists view, deontologists believe that people have an innate ability to act
apart from their feelings and desires. This means that we all have a duty and even when our
duty differs from what we want, we need to fulfil our duty.
This internally imposed sense of duty gives rise to a number of rules which Kant calls
o Always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal
law of humanity.
This means that you need to ask yourself before performing an action –
would it be ok for everyone to behave this way? If the answer is yes, then
the action is morally ok.
o Always treat humanity, whether in yourself or in other people, as an end in itself and
never as a mere means.
This is important because it means respecting others without using them or
treating them as a means for personal gain.
Kant argued that we are never right in lying. In this view, even lying to save a life or to
protect something would be considered wrong. Because of this, Kant and other
deontologists have been criticised