Personal Deontology

April 2019: Deontology’s Second Step

Among most moral philosophers, deontology is generally accepted as the superior moral framework. Most agree that there are specific rules that we must adhere to. I would argue that deontology is woven into the ethos of contemporary western civilization, which views utilitarianism’s willingness to use human life as a means to an end as a major evil. However, simply accepting a rule-based system of morality may not provide any practical insights. There is still enormous disagreement about what the rules that we should adhere to are. Different religions, for example, agree with deontology in general, but have entirely different rulebooks. Determining what rules are the correct ones to adhere to is the important next step accepting deontology over utilitarianism.

January 27, 2020: Personal Deontology

When writing about deontology back in April 2019, I wrote that a rule-based system of morality is probably a good thing because it addresses the major errors inherent within utilitarianism. However, the problem remains of what rules to follow. Religions, cultures, and other societal forces outline right from wrong; however, none of these sources can conclusively propose the absolute correct rules. A realization recently hit me about an idea that I call Personal Deontology: experience-based morality. Personal Deontology argues that one should use their everyday experience in order to be constantly formulating their values. By doing so, one can determine which actions result in the optimal outcome for themselves. One should then seek to establish these rules and then adhere to them.

There are some obvious problems with Personal Deontology. What if someone develops problematic values? One could adopt a problematic ethical belief and inscribe it into their own personal system of ethics that they must then subscribe to absolutely. In response to this criticism, I would argue that problematic ethical beliefs will not consistently yield optimal results. I would then assert that the rules must be firm but constantly developing in nuance. The purpose of all of this is ultimately to get one thinking deeply about one’s own values and then doing their best to adhere to them. I believe doing so will help one best lead a moral life.

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