Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


In moral philosophy, deontology is the view that morality either forbids or permits actions. For example, a deontological moral theory might hold that lying is wrong, even if it produces good consequences. Historically, the most influential deontological theory of morality was developed by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who introduced the idea of the categorical imperative.

Table of contents
1 Contrasted to consequentialist and aretaic moral theories
2 Examples of deontological theories
3 Bibliography
4 Related topics
5 External links

Contrasted to consequentialist and aretaic moral theories

Deontological theories of morality are frequently contrasted to consequentialist theories such as utilitarianism and Aretaic turn theories such as contemporary virtue ethics. While deontological moral theories typically hold that certain actions are either forbidden or wrong per se, consequentialist theories usually maintain that the rightness or wrongness of an action depends on the consequences of the act and hence on the circumstances in which it is performed.

Another way of distinguishing consequentialism and deontology is due to Shelley Kagan, who notes that, under deontology, individuals are bound by constraints (such as the requirement not to kill) but are also given options (such as the right not to give money to charity, if they do not wish to). Strict consequentialism recognises neither.

By way of contrast, aretaic theories often maintain that character as opposed to actions or their consequences should be the focal point of ethical theory.

Examples of deontological theories

The most famous deontological theory is that advanced by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant's theory included the idea of a categorical imperative. One expression of the categorical imperative is: "Act so that the maxim [determining motive of the will] may be capable of becoming a universal law for all rational beings." One example of a contemporary deontological moral theory is the contractualism developed by the American philosopher Thomas Scanlon.


Related topics

External links