Deontology vs. Utilitarianism

Deontology and Utilitarianism.

I’m…going to guess that you don’t really know what it is. The reason I’m putting up this particular post is because

1. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and

2. It’s going to be related to the next post I put up (which involves some musing about the anime/manga Death Note if you’re interested, by the way) so I figured some explanation would be nice before I put up the next post.

Deontology is when an act itself is judged for whether it is good or wrong. This leads to strict, black or white judgement where either an act can only be good or only be bad. For example, Deontologists would judge something like shoplifting as wrong no matter what factors were involved in why or how the shoplifting occurred.

Utilitarianism is when an act is judged whether it is good or wrong by the consequences following the act as well as the factors involved with the act, not the act itself. For example, let’s say you were shoplifting. But what if you had to shoplift for someone who was threatening to kill your friend? I know it’s a weird example, but in this case by shoplifting in order to save your friend from being harmed/killed, that act would be considered good in the Utilitarian’s point of view.

There is a wide spectrum as of where most people’s way of judging things lie between Utilitarianism and Deontology. Where am I on this spectrum? I would like to think that I’m somewhere in the middle, but leaning slightly towards Utilitarianism. The reason I’m specifically there is because I think there are times where you need to be using the Deontology concept to judge certain actions, like someone being rude to somebody else. Obviously that’s wrong, but I get annoyed when someone is rude to someone else and the others around them just let it pass by because the rude person was somebody of a higher status. With the Deontology mindset, we would judge that rudeness to others as wrong. It shouldn’t matter who you are or how high up you are in status, but you really shouldn’t be rude to anyone even if you have power over them. There are also other times when you need to use the Utilitarianism concept to judge other situations, like the shoplifting one I mentioned earlier for example. But I lean slightly more towards Utilitarianism when it comes to a lot of situations because most of the time there are a lot of factors now that go into what made one person go and do this action or that action, and I think it’s good to keep those in mind. There could even be one situation where many others are involved but they have a different telling of the same story. Using Utilitarianism instead of Deontology would help me better to look at all those points of view and then pick out what was the real truth from there and judge that instead of just the action involved alone.

Where do you fit in the spectrum? Are you full Deontologist, a complete Utilitarian or somewhere in between?

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