Consequentialist Moral Theories Vs Deontological Moral Theories

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Consequentialist Moral Theories vs Deontological Moral Theories

Contemporary consequentialist theories are mainly divided between act-consequentialism and ruleconsequentialism. According to act-consequentialism, each person is morally required on every occasion to act in such a way as to make the greatest possible net contribution to the overall good. The rightness or wrongness of actions is determined not by moral rules, but instead by the net values of the consequences of the actions themselves (Darwall, 52).

In contrast, ruleconsequentialism holds that rules are indispensable as determinants of the moral status of actions, for the very function of morality requires that it provide a public system of rules. Moral right and wrong are determined by the most beneficial rules—either by the most beneficial individual rules (according to some forms of rule-consequentialism) or by the most beneficial code of rules (according to others). For example, the most beneficial rules may require every business to control its pollution even if that pollution, considered in itself, is negligible. For the cumulative effects of businesses' controlling their individually negligible pollution could be a great public benefit. A code of rules can be considered to be the most beneficial if the expected overall net value that would result from the general internalization of that code exceeds the expected overall net value that would result from the general internalization of any rival code of rules. It is sometimes further specified that an assessment of the overall value of the consequences should give some priority to the well-being of the worst off (Gaus, 27).

Deontological ethical systems maintain that an action can be morally right (a duty or an obligation) even if an alternative action in a given situation would have better overall consequences. Theories of this type thus deny what consequentialist ethical systems affirm, namely, that morally right actions are all and only those that have optimal consequences. (Nonconsequentialism is often used as a synonym for deontology.) While deontological and consequentialist views sometimes differ as to whether particular actions are morally right or wrong, these disagreements stem from a more basic dispute about what makes right acts right and wrong acts wrong. In contrast to consequentialists, deontologists generally hold that actions are morally right insofar as they accord with principles or rules that require something other than simply bringing about desirable states of affairs (Darwall, 53). A wide variety of moral principles fit this description, and deontological ethical systems encompass many conceptions of moral justification. The theories of Immanuel Kant and W. D. Ross are the ones that deontologies most frequently encountered in business ethics, but John Rawls's influential theory of justice is also deontological, as are contractarianism, some natural law theories, libertarianism, rights-based theories of ethics, Divine Command theories, and the Golden Rule.

The contrast between deontology and consequentialism can also be stated in terms of reasons for action (Gaus, 28). A consequentialist holds that reasons for action are always grounded in the goodness of the states of affairs that actions can bring about. From this perspective, however, the deontologist's claim that ...
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