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Day 56 – Q 4.What is deontological moral theory? Elaborate with the help of suitable examples.

4. What is deontological moral theory? Elaborate with the help of suitable examples. 

निर्वैयक्तिक नैतिक सिद्धांत क्या है? उपयुक्त उदाहरणों की सहायता से विस्तृत करें।


Deontology is an ethical theory that uses rules to distinguish right from wrong. Deontology is often associated with philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant believed that ethical actions follow universal moral laws. Deontology falls within the domain of moral theories that guide and assess our choices of what we ought to do (deontic theories), in contrast to those that guide and assess what kind of person we are and should be (virtue theories). 

It doesn’t require weighing the costs and benefits of a situation. This avoids subjectivity and uncertainty because you only have to follow set rules. Those who subscribe to deontological theories of morality stand in opposition to consequentialists.


  • Deontology – the ethical system in which morality is determined by duty or laws. A simpler example of deontological ethics would be Christianity, in which moral acts are those that obey the Ten Commandments.
  • Deontology is duty ethics, so it compares a person’s actions against some duty or imperative.  An example is Kant’s Deontology, which has the Categorical Imperative that all persons must be ends in and of themselves and may never be used as means.  Deontology emphasizes the character of the actions.
  • This is generally the philosophy of most of the organized religions. Bhagwat Geeta says that your duty is important rather than the consequences. The five vows of Jainism too are based on deontological ethics.
  • According to Mahatma Gandhi also, wrong means cannot lead to a right end.

Merits of Deontology

  • By applying ethical duties to all people in all situations the theory is readily applied to most practical situations.
  • By focusing on a person’s intentions, it also places ethics entirely within our control – we can’t always control or predict the outcomes of our actions, but we are in complete control of our intentions.
  • There are absolute principles, like do not cheat, do not steal etc. which apply to everyone.
  • There are things you have to do, even though you know they are wrong, such as shooting that intruder to protect your family.

Limitations of Deontology

  • It is seen as strongly opposed to utilitarianism as it ignores what is at stake in terms of consequences. Kant, for example, argued it would be unethical to lie about the location of our friend, even to a person trying to murder them! 
  • Bioethical decisions in areas such as abortion, euthanasia, cloning, organ harvesting, end-of-life decisions, etc. are against the ethics of a medical practitioner, yet practiced for the greater good.
  • It can produce results that can be unacceptable to most. For example, 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


The rigidity of deontology can be done away by using threshold deontology, which argues we should always obey the rules unless in an emergency situation, at which point we should revert to a consequentialist approach.

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