Deontological ethics

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L015-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved July 15, 2024, from

1. Constraints

Deontologists characteristically hold that we must not harm people in various ways. We should not lie, kill innocent people, or torture anyone. These prohibitions constrain us in what we may do, even in pursuit of good ends. Deontologists differ in how stringent these constraints are. Some think them absolute. Roman Catholic moral theology, for example, has traditionally held that one may never intentionally kill an innocent person. Other deontologists have held that although constraints are always a significant consideration they may be overridden, especially if that is the only way to avoid catastrophe. Either way, deontology sometimes requires agents not to maximize the good. While, of course, any moral requirement restricts us in what we are permitted to do, the term ‘constraints’ refers to moral restrictions that may require one not to maximize the good, where these restrictions do not stem from our special relationships to others.

Citing this article:
McNaughton, David and Piers Rawling. Constraints. Deontological ethics, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L015-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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