Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nonconsequentalist (Deontological) Theories of Morality


From Thiroux & Kraseman:

Nonconsequentalism: "Ethical theories based not upon consequences but upon some other moral standard (usually considered "higher" by the nonconsequensialist); referred to in traditional philosophy as deontology (from the Greek, loosely meaning "ought"). Examples of such theories are Kant's Duty Ethics and the Divine Command Theory" (286).

Deontological: see above.

Kaplan: 1) Just how "traditional" is the use of deontological? The term "deontological" was first used in this way--indeed, it was first coined--in 1930 by C.D. Broad in his book Five Types of Ethical Theory. Like the elucidation and promotion of a "theory," the coining of a term, notwithstanding the applicability or efficacy of the term, should not be confused with or considered to be representing a tradition in academic or learned discourse. Remember, phrases and theories are the stuff of academic advancement, and it is always important to identify the genealogy--the origins, the evolution and the uses--of the ideas we are considering. While by no means representing a comprehensive analysis or deconstruction of a particular idea, theory or school, such considerations and inquiries are important steps toward characterizing (describing and understanding) the idea in question. Such characterization can help to reveal the idea's use, efficacy and legitimacy. 2) How are rule-based ethical systems actually used and understood by the people who advance them? Are nonconsequentalist ethical law-givers entirely indifferent to consequences? Or are they taking into consideration a different set of consequences? Or do they rather privilege a different character of consequences? Similarly, are consequentalist thinkers entirely indifferent to rules? Or are they taking into consideration rules of a different character than their nonconsequntalist counterparts? If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, then it is unavoidable that the distinction between consequentialist and nonconsequntalist needs to be revisited and examined. Indeed, any affirmative answer would call into question the entire assumption of a consequentalist-nonconsequentialist dichotomy. The very language of the distinction is called into question, and it follows that so too does the distinction. Is it possible the entire discussion of such ideas is mere dialectics and sophistry? This seems to be born out by the synthetic character of the discussion. Consider the following distinction:

Act Nonconsequentalism: is based upon the "assumption that that there are no general moral rules or theories at all, but only particular actions, situations, and people about which we cannot generalize . . . It is the 'how we decide' in this theory that is most interesting. Decisions for the act nonconsequentialist are 'intuitionistic.'"
Kaplan: 1) If they are "intuitionistic," then how are they noncosequentialist? Moreover, how are they deontological? 2) Following the definition, note the sophistic nature of the discussion of this category on pages 32-33.

Rule Nonconsequentalism: "there are or can be rules that are the only basis for morality and that consequences do not matter. It is the following of the rules (which are right moral commands) that is moral, and the concept of morality cannot be applied to consequences that ensue when one follows the rules.

Act Utilitarianism: "one should perform that act which will bring about the greatest amount of good for all concerned."

Rule Utilitarianism: "one should always establish and/or follow that rule or those rules which will bring about the greatest amount of good for all concerned."

Divine Command Theory: "morality is based not upon the consequences of actions or rules, nor upon self-interest or other-interestedness, bit rather upon something "higher" than these rather mundane events of the imperfect human or natural worlds."

Kant's Duty Ethics: Kant stresses "performing a moral act out of a sense of duty, not inclination." Kant's ideas:
1) The Good Will (34): "nothing was good in itself except a good will, and he defined will as the unique ability to act in accordance with moral rules, laws, or principles regardless of interests or consequences.
2) Establishing Morality by Reasoning Alone (34): "It is possible to set up valid absolute moral rules on a basis of reason alone. Absolute moral truth 1) must be logically consistent and cannot be self-contradictory; 2) must be universalizable."
Kaplan: 1) The Good Will: Where does this Will go for instruction? Like a Greek or Roman Stoic appealing to transcendent universal reason, Kant might argue that this instruction comes of its own accord from the metaphysical universe, the "higher" something, but otherwise Kant's support for authoritarian political systems seems obvious. He is merely substituting the "transcendental" and the "metaphysical" for the catechism of a religious system. In the case of a religious system--the set of rules--comes from a corporation of churchmen obliged to the will of the state, in the case of  Kant's system, authority comes from a corporation of professors who are obliged to the will of the state. Compare Kant's source of transcendental authority with Hegel's spirit or "the Ultimate," Marx's dialectical materialism and inviolable "Laws of History," and Nietzsche's notions of "Will" and the attendant metaphysical assumptions this "Will" entails and/or drives. 2) Establishing morality by reason alone: Kant's metaphysical teacher of absolute moral truth is found in his superstitious exaltation of reason, mathematical equations, geometric proofs to a metaphysical level (not unlike Plato's realm of forms). But in application, such proofs are as unworldly as the transcendental realm they aspire to reflect. See 34-35 for elaboration of Kant's notions of Categorical Imperative, Practical Imperative, and his notion of Duty Rather Than Inclination. Then see the authors' commentary, 36-37.

Ross's Prima Facie Duties: (37-38) "A Prima Facie ['first face,' at first glance, first examination, on the surface] duty is one that all human beings must obey in a general way before other considerations enter into the picture." Examples: 1) Fidelity, 2) Reparation, 3) Gratitude, 4) Justice, 5) Beneficence, 6) Self-improvement, 7) Nonmaleficence."

Kaplan: Are these really Prima Facie? How so? Why?
Ross suggests conflicting duties can be resolved: "1) Always do that act in accord with the stronger prima facie duty; and 2) always do that act that has the greatest degree of prima facie rightness over prima facie wrongness."

Kaplan: How can we know these degrees prima facie; indeed, isn't some sort of consequentialist analysis necessary (or psychologically "normative") to order the various duties?

Universalizability (34): A truth or moral rule "must be able to be stated so as to apply to everything without exception, not just to some or perhaps even most things . . . all triangles are three-sided."

Categorical Imperative: "an act is immoral if the rule that would authorize it cannot be made into a rule for all human beings to follow" (34-35). An implication of of universalizability."

Reversibility: "Would you want this done to you? or Golden Rule idea" (36).

Human beings as ends rather than means: Reference Practical Imperative, (35). According to Kant, "no human being should be thought of or used merely as a mans for someone else's end. Fairness, equal treatment...."

Question: How does Anne Hutchinson's antinomian outlook characterize both consequentialist and nonconsequentialist "theories"? And how is her outlook unlike either?

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