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Advantages and Shortcomings of Kantian Deontology

Advantages and Shortcomings of Kantian Deontology

Author: Glenn Kuehn

Identify the intuitiveness, advantages, and shortcomings of Kantian deontology

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Hello, I am Glen, and this is the ethics tutorial on the advantages and shortcomings of Kantian Deontology. Two things to keep in mind as we go through this tutorial are the definition of Kantian Deontology and how we should remember that for Kant, intent is all that matters in ethics. Circumstances and consequences are irrelevant. And therefore, Kantian Deontology is committed to saying that there is no such thing as moral luck.

In this tutorial, we will be looking at some general advantages and shortcomings of Kantian Deontology and also examining a couple intuitive and counterintuitive results of using Kantian Deontology. First, let's look at some advantages and shortcomings. And under advantages, there are a couple that are extremely appealing. Primarily is that Kantian Deontology is extremely systematic, consistent, and it appeals to that universalizability that is really quite alluring to us.

You know, Kantian Deontology is extremely consistent. And that's something that's really praiseworthy about it. There's probably no other ethical system, any other normative ethical understanding that is so consistent and abides by such rigid rules to create that consistency and systematicity.

It's extremely clearly organized. We always know where to focus. And we know how to do it. He gives us those standards-- the formulations of the categorical imperative. And, you know, it therefore also has that universal appeal.

Kant's goal was something called the Kingdom of Ends. And in this kingdom-- it's a metaphorical sense, but this is his idea of a perfect society-- is that everyone would be operating under the categorical imperative in its formulations all the time.

And therefore ethics would be completely consistent. Everyone will be doing the same thing, because they'd be operating under the same moral laws. And it would be very smooth. It would go well.

There are, however, a couple of shortcomings. One is that Kantian Deontology seems to be a somewhat unrealistic model, because there's a lot more involved-- or at least we seem to think that there's a lot more involved-- in morality and ethics than merely our intent. Our decisions about what is right and what is wrong go beyond our intentions and our motives.

And then another shortcoming is that Kantian Deontology cannot handle and denies the existence of conflicting duties. And this, again, seems to go against a lot of our experience. Because, for example, we engage in a multitude of roles in our lives-- as parent, as child, as teacher, as friend, employee, employer, citizen, pedestrian, motorist, right? It goes on and on and on.

And with each of these roles, we have duties. We have obligations that go with them. And sometimes they conflict, you know? The obligation of being a teacher sometimes goes against the obligations I have as being a friend. If a student of mine happens to be a friend of mine, there's going to be a conflict there.

Kant would say, no, there won't be a conflict. But you know, how you come down on that depends on how rigidly we want to follow Kantian Deontology-- so couple advantages and shortcomings.

And, as with other normative ethical theories, Kantian Deontology does have intuitive and counterintuitive results. Remember, intuitive is something that makes sense. And counterintuitive is something that just doesn't make sense.

So an example of an intuitive result of Kantian Deontology would be that genocide, according to Kant, would be wrong. Because genocide would be treating an entire race, humanity, as a mere means to an end. And that would violate the formulation of humanity. And, yeah, it makes sense. Genocide is wrong.

And now an example of a counterintuitive result. For Kant, remember, lying is always bad. Truth-telling is always good-- always-- consistency. So I always intend to tell the truth. But let's say my best friend just gets some new clothes and a new hairstyle and comes up to me and asks me, hey, Glen, how do you think I look? And I want to be completely honest, because I want to be morally good according to Kant. And I think he looks terrible.

And I tell him, you look awful. You just look awful. I mean, I can't believe you picked out those clothes. I can't believe your stylist made your hair like that. What were you thinking? You know, go home, change-- right?

That would not be kind. That would not be a nice thing to say. There could be much better ways of saying that, or just to not say anything. But according to Kant, I need to be honest. Otherwise I will be morally wrong. And that seems to be counterintuitive. So both intuitive and counterintuitive results arise from Kantian Deontology.

In summary, we have seen in this tutorial that Kantian Deontology has advantages and shortcomings. And using it leads to both intuitive and counterintuitive results.