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Consequentialism and deontology form part of the common approaches to moral thought. This paper explores the strengths and weaknesses of these concepts. The paper focuses on the argument of W. D Ross in the exploration of deontology, while the paper focuses on the argument presented by Philip Pettit in the exploration of consequentialism.
Strengths and weaknesses of deontology
Deontology is a concept of normative ethics that determines the morality of any given action by basing on the obligations of the actor or agent. Ross introduced the concept of intuitionism in deontology by arguing about the prioritization and rationalization of moral reasons behind an action.
This is one of the main strengths of deontology as far as exploration of moral thought in the society is concerned. The morality of an action can only be determined by putting to scale the diverse explanations and arguments concerning the course of action and determining the reasons the argument seems to have profit. The other strength of deontology based on the thesis by Ross is the distinction of moral obligations of agents in any given action.
Ross makes a distinction between the prima facie duty and the actual duty of an agent. The prima facie duty is the conditional duty of an agent, while the actual duty entails the compelling forces behind a certain action.
These compelling forces are often weighed against the stimuli to determine the critical moral reasons and circumstances that motivated a certain kind of action. Moreover, there is a classification of obligations into special and general obligations (Hooker n. p.). Therefore, deontology is broader and the best concept in exploring moral thought.
Deontology gives a lot of space for rationalizing and justifying a moral action to the extent that it does not offer enough room for questioning moral actions. There is also no clear basis on which to make a distinction between the diverse moral duties. This comes from the argument that the validity of moral duties differs with time and situations. Therefore, no clear mechanisms are provided on how to solve conflicting issues between moral duties (Hooker n. p.).
Strengths and weaknesses of consequentialism
Consequentialism is a concept of moral philosophy that opines that the moral rightness of an action is determined by the outcome of the action. Pettit presented an argument pointing to the strength of consequentialism over other approaches to moral thought. In his support of consequentialism, Pettit made efforts to establish a connection between the agent and the action, an aspect that is critical in the moral justification of actions.
The goodness of an action can only be fully explored by looking at the action and the process leading to that action. This makes consequentialism to be analytical. The other strength of this moral concept as presented by Pettit is the broadening of the grounds on which moral rightness of actions can be assessed and justified. According to Pettit, the effects of an action and the moral rightness can be determined by making a comparison with other moral concepts (Danaher para. 3).
One main weakness of consequentialism is that it gives priority to the action itself and the effects of an action. This makes it quite hard for the concept to explore the moral responsibility of a moral action, which mostly begins with the establishment of the state and position of an actor or agent (Singleton 2).
From the discussion, it can be concluded that the strength of deontology as argued by Ross is in its classification of the obligations of actors, while its weakness is in the fact that it does not give enough room for critiquing moral actions. On the other hand, the strength of consequentialism as presented by Pettit is in its establishment of a link between the action, the process, an agent. Its weakness is its prioritization of actions, which makes it hard to explore the moral course of action.
Danaher, John. Philosophical Disquisitions, 2009. Web. 16 July 2013, http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com/2009/12/consequentialism-by-philip-pettit.html
Hooker, Brad. Developing Deontology: New Essays in Ethical Theory. Malden, MA: Wiley, 2012. Print.
Singleton, Jane. Virtue Ethics, Kantian Ethics and Consequentialism, 1999. Web. 16 July 2013, http://uhra.herts.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/2299/1152/103504.pdf?sequence=1