The paradox of deontology, revisited

Ulrike Heuer

in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 1

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199693269
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732058 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies In Normative Ethics

The paradox of deontology, revisited

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Ordinary morality tells us that we ought (not) to act in certain ways at all. Killing an innocent person would be wrong even if it led to preventing the death of several others. This seems puzzling, because it requires an agent to act (or to abstain from acting) in certain ways, even if by violating that requirement she could achieve a better outcome in terms of the very restriction that she is required to heed. This essay focuses on the obligation to keep one’s promises, and explains the reasons for keeping one’s promises and for seeing to it that others keep theirs. In explaining the structure of reasons, the paper argues that while promising is subject to an agent-centered restriction, there is no puzzle. Taking a lead from promising, the paper argues that agent-centered restrictions on killing (or harming) others aren’t puzzling either, but they are less potent than some deontological accounts maintain.〉

Keywords: paradox of deontology; agent-centered restrictions; minimizing violations; consequentialism; maximising rationality; promising; practical reasons; agent-relativity

Chapter.  14428 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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