What is deontology? In what way does Kantian ethical theory, as expounded in his Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals represent an excellent example of a deontological ethical theory? Use examples drawn from this text in support of your answer.
Deontology is the oldest approach to ethics. In accordance with deontological approach, “actions are right or wrong depending upon whether or not they accord with duty”¯ (Phelps & Hassed 174). Immanuel Kant, the outstanding philosopher of the 18-th century is considered to be the most widely known deontologist in the study of ethics, ethical behavior and ethical formulations, such as Ten Commandments and the Hippocratic Oath which can be viewed as the established deontological frameworks. In his work Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant represented a method for the study of morality in human society. This method is focused on the testing of one’s maxim against the appropriate requirements mentioned in the formulations of duty. Three sections of Kant’s work help to better understand morality, ethics and ethical principles of human society. Kant’s formulation of the fundamental principle of morality can be viewed as an excellent example of deontological ethical theory.
Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals is a significant work in moral philosophy which gives explanation to the categorical imperative ”“ the key concept of Kant’s philosophy of morality. In one of the sections, Kant gives explanation to moral obligations and duty and discusses their significance. He writes: “I omit here all actions which are already recognized as inconsistent with duty, although they may be useful for this or that purpose, for with these the question whether they are done from duty cannot arise at all, since they even conflict with it”¯ (Kant 13). In accordance with Kant, the Golden Rule is based on the fact that one’s actions comply with one’s own standard. It means that Kant’s moral imperative sets the standard for moral good and all people should be treated with respect. It is found that “nor could anything be more fatal to morality than that we should wish to derive it from examples”¯(Kant 25). It means that for every example people should be tested by principles of morality, whether it could serve as an original example or a pattern of morality. Duty is an important act based on the moral law. In order to follow the moral law, people are obliged to act in accordance with the sense of right and wrong.
In addition, Kant’s metaphysic of morals is not mixed with anthropology or theology, physics or hyper-physics. It provides the theoretical knowledge of duties. Kant represents four cases in which a decision can be made in respect of duty. In the first case, the actions are contrary to duty, for example, stealing. In the second case, the actions are dutiful but a person is involved in this activity only because of fear of punishment or penalty, for example, paying taxes. In the third case, the actions comply with duty, but in this case, the agent is inclined because it can be viewed as a pleasurable action, for example, a labor of love. In the fourth case, the actions are carried out in accordance with duty, but they are done in opposition to inclination, for example, committing suicide.
To sum up, deontology can be viewed as the science of morality. Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals represent an excellent example of a deontological ethical theory as this work sets the standards for deontology as a science, in which free will is essential for ethics and morality.