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Intuition, System, and the “paradox” of deontology

Chappell, Timothy (2011). Intuition, System, and the “paradox” of deontology. In: Jost, Lawrence and Wuerth, Julian eds. Perfecting Virtue: New Essays on Kantian Ethics and Virtue Ethic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 271–288.

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DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511973789.013
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Abstract

Provided you start from suitable intuitions, it is easy enough to construct a whole range of arguments any or all of which might be called “the paradox of deontology.” Suppose you think that the role of agency is to bring about goodness, and that it's good to observe deontological constraints. Then it will follow that you should bring about the observing of deontological constraints. And if in some particular context the way to bring about such observings is via a breach of one or more deontological constraints, so be it.

Or suppose, more strongly, that you think that the role of agency is to bring about maximal goodness, and that the keeping of the maximum number of deontological constraints (or the maximum weighting, if some constraints are more important than others) is a crucial part of maximal goodness. Then it will follow that you should bring this about. And again, if the route to doing this sometimes runs via the breaching of one or more deontological constraints, so be it.

For a non-consequentialist, the way to challenge this supposed paradox is simply to deny that the role of agency is to bring about goodness. This is true because not all reasons are future-directed: some reasons arise from the past or the present, or arise without any time-index.

Kant sees this way out of the paradox, and takes it. So far, so good. But Kant goes further, into more complex and strictly Kantian moves against consequentialism; and it is less clear that this further is better.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Copyright Holders: 2011 Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 0-521-51525-4, 978-0-521-51525-2
Academic Unit/Department: Arts > Philosophy
Item ID: 32967
Depositing User: Timothy Chappell
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2012 14:45
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2013 19:01
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/32967
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