Deontology is philosophy of ethics proposed by Kant, which is based on absolute ethics and morality. Deontological ethics demand perfect morals and ethics that are universal in nature. This school of thought believes in focusing more on means than the consequences/ends (consequentialism). Moreover, deontology demands its adherers to focus on their own conduct and course of actions than criticizing or scrutinizing the behavior of others. Deontological ethics are criticized by the opponents of this theory as according to them, the ethics and morals presented by Kant are influenced by a religious philosophy and has no scientific reasoning behind its stance. They based their arguments against the deontology on the basis of its biasness and fundamentalism, which is against the very foundation of liberalism in the modern world. The deontological ethics are also considered fallacious and rigid as the irrationality lies in the absolute universalism of the theory. I believe that the deontological ethics are well-justified in terms of their absolute universalism, without any bias (Altman, 2008). Thus, deontological ethics have no foundation and universalism except being worshipped by its adherers (Baron, 2012).
There are two parts in reply to this argument. Firstly, there is nothing fallacious in associating ethics and morals to God/gods as majority of world population worships a God/gods and every faith promotes ethics and virtues such as truthfulness, honesty, kindness, tolerance, selflessness, and helping others. If a religion promotes ethics and moral conduct, there is no reason to go against the Kantian ethics and morals only because these ethics are promoted in a religious context. Let us take the example of Buddhism, which is solely based on ethics, wisdom, and morality. Christianity also has its own set of moral commandments and Kantian ethics are in direct relation with the Christian ethical values. In addition to this, the general nature of virtue does not alter in the context of religion or atheism as ethics and morals are universally applicable. Virtues such as modesty, truthfulness, honesty, courtesy, helping others, kindness, justice, and tolerance do not change in any context or frame of reference. In this manner, virtues such as these are universal in nature and apply uniformly to everyone. Thus, the association between religion and Kantian ethics is not illogical.
The second part of the argument against deontological ethics suggests that there is no scientific basis of ethics and moral acts. The opponents of deontology believe that the school of thought is not based on any reasonable explanation. However, the ethics and morals defined and proposed by Kant do have a reasonable explanation to them as they are based on categorical imperative (Katz, 1998). Categorical imperative proposes the reasoning for Kantian ethics, which is pure practical reason. The emphasis of Kantian ethics is on ‘pure’ and ‘practical’ reasoning, not pure reasoning or practical reasoning. Kantian reason asks for focusing on a maxim without any condition related to the outside world, which means that it does not care about the ends. In simple words, it implies that what ought to be done, must be done, no matter what the consequences are. In this way, killing a murderer is a moral obligation and it must be done without any consideration for the consequences. Similarly, the deontological stance regarding a lie that can save many lives or a doctor’s lie to console the relatives of a dying patient is based on ‘obligation’. In this scenario, the individual ought to tell a lie so as to save someone’s life.
Additionally, every developed country in this world has a constitution, laws, and a code of conduct articulated for its citizens. Despite the lack of belief in deontological ethics, almost all of the liberal countries want to implement the policies and procedures that are based on moral and ethical obligations of individuals. The policies and procedures directly related to Kantian ethics as the laws are binding in nature as are Kantian ethics. Moreover, deontological ethics and laws of a country, both demand justice and fair trial, even if the fair trial involves killing the murderer. In this case, the ends of the execution of the murderer become moral and ethical (categorical imperative), though the Kantian logic is indifferent to the consequences of an act. Regarding the treatment of a murderer, Kant was criticized by French philosopher Benjamin Constant who pointed out the ‘universalism’ of Kantian ethics to be faulty as lying to a murderer about his prey’s location would be unethical to deontological school. Kant denied any such weakness, regarding the answer given to murderer as part of ‘categorical imperative’.
My personal belief regarding the rigidity of Kantian logic is based on the ‘obligatory’ nature of Kant’s ethics and morals. On a concluding note, we can say that associating Kantian logics with religion to term them irrational and insensible is a fallacious and irrational objection as the rationale behind Kantian ethics is ‘absolute universalism’ and ‘obligation’. One must do and say what he/she ought to do and say, regardless of any influence from the physical world.
Altman, M. (2008). A companion to Kant's Critique of pure reason. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Baron, P. (2012). Religious studies (AS ethics). PushMe Press.
Brand-Ballard, J. (2010). Limits of legality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Katz, J. (1998). Realistic rationalism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.