Sebastian Zearing

how to be progressive without being a stupid liberal

Tag Archives: deontology

Should

This post was originally published at therationalqueer.wordpress.com.

The Problem

A Nice Guy says “I should have a girlfriend by now.” A Feminist says “You’re not entitled to any woman!” A tirade ensues.

The misunderstanding lies in the multiplicity of meanings of the word “should.” It generally means one of three things:

  1. There’s the deontological “should”: “You should respect everyone without regard to their ethnicity.”
  2. There’s the utilitarian “should”: “You should invest in Vanguard index funds.”
  3. And there’s the rarer epistemic “should”: “You should be fine after drinking lots of water and resting.”

Read more of this post

The Conflict between Rights and Utilities

See more posts in the Principles series.

Much ink and server space has been dedicated to the issue of how morality is constructed. My view is that the two prevailing ethical theories, deontology and utilitarianism, are both necessary for a healthy moral perspective. Further, many political conversations can be lubricated by explicit understandings as to what morality or moral ends comprise. I will explain my views here in order to provide lubrication for future reference.

Deontology

Deontological ethics stress the importance of rules and authority in determining moral behavior. Abrahamic and Judeo-Christian ethics are quintessentially deontological. These are the morals delineated by the thou shalts and the thou shalt nots. I’d like to frame deontology as a prescription of the rights one has and does not have. Rights can be described as either positive rights—rights allowing the exercise of a behavior—or negative rights—rights allowing the non-exercise of a behavior. With this terminology, a duty or obligation can be described as the absence of the right to not perform the obligation—the absence of a negative right. A prohibition can be described as the absence of the right to perform the prohibited act—the absence of a positive right. Deontologically, actors cannot be held morally accountable for actions or inactions that they had the right to execute.

Utilitarianism

Read more of this post