Ethical Theory: Non-Consequentialist (Deontological) Theories

Unit 2


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  • Ethical Theory: Non-Consequentialist (Deontological) Theories


This unit explores deontological views of ethics. Deontological views of ethics take an oppositional view to the consequentialist views from Unit 1. Deontologists believe some actions are inherently right or wrong, regardless of the outcomes, where consequentialists believe that actions are right as long as they promote the greatest good to the greatest number.


The word deontology derives from the Greek words for duty (deon) and science (or study) of (logos) (Alexander & Moore, n.d.). Deontology, then, views moral behavior as concerned with duties and principles, regardless of the consequences, even if the consequences benefit the greater good (Baggini & Fosi, 2007). Immanuel Kant’s thinking fits into the deontological way of viewing the importance of following maxims, or self-consciously held principles (Scarre, 1998). Simply stated, for deontologists, some actions are inherently right or wrong.

Why are there so many ethical theories, and why do they take such diverse stances toward similar questions? As Baggini and Fosi (2007) observe:

More than two millennia of moral philosophy have led to little consensus about the fundamental nature of ethics, the hierarchy of moral principles, or the way to apply them in the real world. Worse, some respectable thinkers have rejected the idea that reaching consensus about such things is even possible. (p. xv)

Each offers a different perspective on the basic conception of what is good, so looking at the same dilemma varies greatly depending on the theory. Because of this, the assignments in this course have been designed to provide you with the experience of examining a dilemma from varied theoretical and cultural angles. As you progress through the course, you may also wish to consider whether one or more of the theories presented might be relevant to your future dissertation research.


Alexander, L., & Moore, M. (n.d.). Deontological ethics. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Stanford, CA: The Metaphysics Research Lab.

Baggini, J., & Fosi, P. (2007). The ethics toolkit: A compendium of ethical concepts and methods. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Scarre, G. (1998). Interpreting the categorical imperative. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 6(2), 223.


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[u02s1] Unit 02 Study 1



Use your The Elements of Moral Philosophy text to read the following:

    • Chapter 3, “Subjectivism in Ethics,” pages 33–48.
    • Chapter 9, “Are There Absolute Moral Rules?,” pages 126–136.
    • Chapter 10, “Kant and Respect for Persons,” pages 137–146.

Use the Internet to read the following:

    • Velasquez, M., Andre, C., Shanks, T. S. J., & Meyer, M. J. (2015). Thinking ethically. Retrieved from

Learning Components

This activity will help you achieve the following learning components:

    • Explore the major categories of ethical theory.
    • Examine the role of virtue and personal moral integrity in ethical leadership.
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[u02d1] Unit 02 Discussion 1


In this unit, you examined non-consequentialist theories. The major branches include:

    • Duty-based approach (Kant).
    • Rights-based approach (Locke).
    • Fairness or justice approach (Rawls).
    • Divine command approach.

Of these four, decide which one you believe is the most relevant in our current global environment and explain why you believe the way you do.

To complete your post, a.) use appropriate citations to support your choice and, b.) address your personal ethics by answering if you believe that actions can be inherently right or wrong. Provide an example.

Support your position with references to the unit readings and your own research. Be sure you follow current APA guidelines for citations and references.

Response Guidelines

Respond to the posts of at least two of your peers. Try to choose someone whose perspective differed from yours. Do you agree or disagree with his or her position? Are there flaws in the reasoning?

Learning Components

This activity will help you achieve the following learning components:

    • Analyze the connection between ethical decision making and effective leadership.
    • Explain the strengths and weaknesses of ethical theories.
    • Explain the role of ethical theory in guiding business decisions in a global environment.
    • Cite and reference resources, giving appropriate credit for another’s work.
    • Apply knowledge of correct use of APA style.
    • Use feedback from instructor and peers to improve writing skills.