I think I have heard about this before in my ECR class. Associated with Immanuel Kant. Kant believed that ethical actions follow universal moral laws, such as “Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t cheat.”
From PD20: Deontological theories focus on moral duties: is the person doing the right thing for the right reasons?
- Immanuel Kant said our duty is to treat people as an end and not only as a means
“Our duty is to respect the moral autonomy of other humans and treat them with dignity”.
Deontology is the opposite of Consequentialism. It doesn’t weigh the costs and benefits of a situation. This avoids subjectivity and uncertainty because you only have to follow set rules.
Drawbacks / Shortcomings
Rigidly following deontology can produce results that many people find unacceptable. Same drawback as Consequentialism.
Suppose you’re a software engineer and learn that a nuclear missile is about to launch that might start a war. You can hack the network and cancel the launch, but it’s against your professional code of ethics to break into any software system without permission. And, it’s a form of lying and cheating. Deontology advises not to violate this rule. However, in letting the missile launch, thousands of people will die.
So, following the rules makes deontology easy to apply. But it also means disregarding the possible consequences of our actions when determining what is right and what is wrong.