Deontological vs. Teleological Ethical Systems
Deontological normative ethical theories place focus of right and wrong in autonomous
adherence to moral laws or duties.
In order to make correct moral choices, we need to
understand what are moral duties are and what the correct rules exist for those duties to be
When people follow their duty, they are behaving morally.
When people fail to
follow their duties they are behaving immorally.
An example of deontology would be if a person
was a student at a school shooting and refused to shoot one of the African Americans, it might be
because they felt they had a duty to follow the commandments, “thou shalt not kill.”
sentence then becomes a rule that one attempts to live by.
If a person is a deontologist they tend to not look at how much good that might be caused by
an action, but they look at the action itself.
Deciding whether it is prohibited or made obligatory
by one of their rules.
Most of the time the rules are expressed negatively, do not lie, do not harm
the innocent, do not steal.
In some cases, rules are expressed positively, keep promises, treat all
people as beings with rights, and tell the truth.
According to Joyce Pollock, deontological ethical
systems pertain to behaviors that are evaluated by others.
Under the realm of the deontological
ethical systems fall the categories of ethical formalism, religion, and natural law (Pollock, 2004).
Ethical formalism is concerned with the motivation behind one’s actions; the statement can
characterize it: “
What is good is that which
conforms to the categorical imperative” (Pollock,
For example, if a man performs CPR on a choking woman and in the process breaks
her sternum, which then leads to her death, then ethical formalism would say that this man’s
actions were inherently good because of his intent.
Ethical formalism does not approve of “eye
for an eye” type justification; therefore, issuing the death sentence for a murderer would still be
judged as bad.
In ethical formalism, there is no justification for murder because no good can
come from taking a life intentionally, no matter what the circumstances are (Pollock, 2004).