Deontology vs Consequentialism

2021-05-06 11:42:36
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Deontology is an ethical system in which morality is determined by a series of legislations or duties. For instance, the Kantian ethics that involves singled out moral actions that are performed by ones duty to pursue the moral laws as opposed to actions that are executed outside individual desires. Similarly, the deontological ethics is expressed in Christianity in which case, moral actions are those of obeying the Ten Commandments. On the other hand, consequentialism refers to the moral philosophy that is perhaps captured well in aphorism (Hurka, 2014). This implies that, the moral philosophy is entrenched in the perception that the ends justify the means. Consequentialism may also apply to a system of ethics which would be utilitarianism where majority of morally desirable scenarios are geared towards the maximization of peoples happiness.

Consequentialism must consider what is good. The common answer to this question is the principle of happiness. This implies the promotion of happiness to majority of people. On the other hand, a deontological approach on action can be considered wrong as an act. For instance, torture is wrong as an act regardless of any situation at hand. However, according to consequentialism, consequences are never justifications of torture regardless of whether good or bad. Consequentialists might reason around the act of torture in the sense that torture inflicts suffering and further mitigates the extent of happiness on individuals (Hurka, 2014).

In case, an action of torture promotes happiness than causing problems, then, such could be justified. This implies that for consequentialists, torture is permissible or otherwise is dependent on the effectiveness it creates in generating information, thus, saving lives or actually helping to uphold typical happiness within populations. One of the critical issues in this disparity between consequentialists and deontologists is that evidence proposes that people have two distinct compelling moral systems that mainly correspond to both deontologists and consequentialists ethics (Kramer, 2014).

From deontological perspectives, an emotional, immediate reaction condemns particular actions. On the contrary, the consequentialists assert that less emotional but more analytic considers social consequences of an action thus, called consequentialists. The latter must however be deliberately overridden by emotional response. This means that deontologists are more emotional relative to the consequentialists that are considered purely rational. These two systems interact as systems of morality in describing the course of action as far as reasoning is concerned. With reference to the act of torture, it is considered less effective in creating reliable state of intelligence though consequentialists would probably endorse it as opposed to deontologists (Kramer, 2014).

Deontologists would have a second thought in making a reasonable bargain in proving an effective outcome with their argument being independent on perception that torture is wrong but rather based on the fact that torture is wrong since it does not create an impact of happiness or goodness to the recipients. Instead, torture is considered wrong in the sense that it does not create sufficient results towards offsetting sufferings it creates. Both perspectives, consequentialists and deontologists must provide critical arguments on their positions and must remember that peoples trusts in consequentialists analysis is based on the perception that social consequences of an action are more significant that the action itself and appears more intuitive and pre-cognitive compared to peoples trust in deontological case (Hurka, 2014).

Application to Policing

Deontologists perspective of reasoning is applied to policing through the framework of law enforcement. According to Kant, the implication of individual actions should be considered as if they were universal. For instance, in considering whether or not to pay transit fares through jumping over turnstiles, deontological perspective facilitates the consideration of the implications in an event that all transit users absconded making payments. In law, deontological arguments posit a scenario in which people must consider their actions. For instance, an investigator may consider an action of misleading media towards tricking a suspect into making an error that would eventually expose them. Such a scenario allows the investigator to consider other negative consequences from their actions. In case a false statement was made in the investigatory process with the intent of creating moral consequence like in the case of utilitarianism law which embraces the consideration of applications of actions (Kramer, 2014). This is essential in conducting police investigatory processes.

On the other hand, consequentialism is commonly applicable to policing as it justifies the use of force in policing. This perspective is based on three main principles namely; the police direction, social contracts and police authority. Subsequently, consequentialists provide that police are bound to offer protection of the society through the three main aforementioned approaches. Prohibition of such privileges would, therefore, make police quite ineffective in their trail to solve crimes and preserve peace and order through their daily activities. The justification of use of force by police in execution of their duties as provided for by consequentialism is based on the polices legal and moral discretions (Kramer, 2014).

Finally, while forceful execution of duties by the police could be justified under the theory of consequentialism, I think police should also exercise moderation in the execution of their duties. For instance, arbitrary killing that is anchored on suspected offenders as opposed to the use of full judicial processes amounts to extra-judicial killings which override the rights of others. In this regard, police should not only offer a consequentialists approach to determining the purposeful execution of their mandates but rather a consideration of deontological approach. This ensures that both pure emotional and non-emotional judgment is considered at stake in the policing operations.


Kramer, M. H. (2014). Torture and moral integrity: A philosophical enquiry. OUP Oxford.

Hurka, T. (2014). British Ethical Theorists from Sidgwick to Ewing. Oxford University Press,USA.


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