Deontologists claim that an action or a moral rule is right because of its own nature, even if it fails to bring about the greatest good. Deontology is critically based on duty (deontos) – a moral obligation we have towards another person, a group or society as a whole. In this sense, deontology is concerned with the intrinsic properties of actions, not their end result. Immanuel Kant is arguably the most famous advocate of modern deontology.
According to Kant, moral law is synthetic apriori and took an absolutist approach. Kant argued that since everyone possesses the capacity to reason and has a conscience, it would be possible for all people to arrive at an understanding of moral truths without the need for experience. He claimed because reason is universal, moral reasoning would lead to the same results over and over again. Kant belived that obedience to the moral law is a ‘categorical imperative’ – an absolute and unconditional duty on all people to act morally in the correct way.
He said that true morality should not depend on individual likes and dislikes or on abilities, opertunitities of external circumstances. Obedience to a moral command is an end in itself. Personal preferences(intuition) cannot be trusted as a reliable guide to what is morally right. Duty is more important, and to this end, he advocated the principle of universalisbility’ which requires people to ‘act in such a way that their actions might become a universal law. Universalisable principles apply to everyone.
In his ‘formula of kingdom ends’, Kant claimed that every action should be undertaken as if the individual were ‘a law-making member of a kingdom of ends’ this should ensure that every individual appreciates the significance of his/her part in establishing moral guidelines and rules. Furthermore, the ‘formula of the end in itself’ ensures people are vauled for the intrinsic, not instrumental worth, while the formula of autonomy’ stresses that a moral action must be genuinely free if it is to be genuinely good.