Digest of terms


in contrast to consequentialism, deontologists argue that certain acts are intrinsically wrong and should therefore not be done: 'duty for duty's sake', as it is sometimes said. An extreme example is Kant's notorious claim that one should never lie even if telling a would-be killer the truth about the whereabouts of his intended victim leads to the latter's murder. Yet the distinction between deontology and consequentialism becomes blurred when it is argued, for example, that the duty to save an innocent life trumps the prima facie duty to tell the truth, for then the criteria of ranking duties in this way include an evaluation of consequences. Further appeal may also be made to intuition or conscience in reaching a particular judgment, given the moral complexities of so many real-life situations. The source of the binding nature of duties has been variously identified as reason (Kant), natural law, revelation, Hindu or Buddhist dharma. (heteronomy, categorical imperative, divine command, theonomy, modes of moral thinking)

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