• Zachary Beddingfield
    Hey everyone, I'm fairly new to ethics. I was asked to give a presentation on Kantianism, and a friend was asked to give a presentation on Deontology for the same organization. It's my understanding that these two things are the saem (we are opporating on a very basic level). What differences, if any, are there between Kantianism and Deontology?
  • Echarmion
    Deontology is a principle according to which a moral philosophy can be built. Kantianism is a specific, deontological, philosophy.

    But really reading the respective Wikipedia entries on the two should suffice to give an outline.
  • Zachary Beddingfield
    Thanks! For a general group (debate club), do you think there should be separate presentations on Kantianism and deontology?
  • tim wood
    What differences, if any, are there between Kantianism and Deontology?Zachary Beddingfield

    Genus and species. Deontology is a part of Kantianism. Actually, Kantianism is a strange term. I suggest you never use it; it's suggestive of an -ism, and with Kant there really is not such a thing. It's as if in speaking of arithmetic, you referred to arithmeticism.

    As to your presentation. You have a research problem, as well as making a number of decisions about what, exactly, you're presenting, to what end, etc.

    Your requesting organization is as well part of your problem. It's their business to have a good idea about what on these your topics you know and your ability to present. Whatever you do, then, if done in good faith, must be all right.
  • Echarmion
    Thanks! For a general group (debate club), do you think there should be separate presentations on Kantianism and deontology?Zachary Beddingfield

    I'd say there would be too much overlap for a general audience. Kantianism is the best-known example of deontological morals, so the basics of deontology can be discussed as a part of that. Much criticism of Kantianism centers around the supposed "blindness" to outcomes, as in the often misunderstand case of lying for a good cause. That'd also be a general argument against deontology.
  • Bartricks
    Don't - don't, don't, don't - go to Wikipedia for insight. Wikipedia is not an academically respectable source, as your institution should itself have told you. It is shot through with mistakes. Nothing on there is subject to proper peer review. If you are at a university then read from proper peer-reviewed sources - that is, academic articles and books by respectable academic presses (not books by philosopher-wannabes with no academic credentials in the area).

    As for the distinction in question, deontology is the name of a family of views of which Kantianism is a variety. So, Kantians are deontologists, but a deontologist is not necessarily a Kantian. (And Kant's own ethical theory would be a variety of Kantianism).

    Crudely, actions can be said to have three components - the agent, the act itself, and the act's consequences. And the three major approaches to ethics - virtue ethics, deontology and consequentialism - can then be understood as trying to ground our moral duties in one or other of those components. Virtue ethicists ground our duties in qualities of the agent, deontologists ground our duties in the nature of the act itself (so they differ from virtue ethicists in that a virtue ethicist would say that Xing is right because it manifests a virtue, whereas the deontologist would say Xing is right and so that's why performing it is virtuous), and consequentialists in the consequences of the act (xing is right because it has good consequences, and a virtuous person is someone who typically performs acts that have good consequences).

    A Kantian is a deontologist who says something more specific about the nature of those acts that are wrong. But Kantianism itself denotes a family of views all of which analyse the wrongness of wrong acts in terms of them manifesting one or other of a certain cluster of features - such as, for example, being an act that treats others as mere utensils because they are acts that could not be consented to by a rational deliberator, or being an act that the agent him/herself would not have agreed to under a range of circumstances, and so on. They basically seek to ground the wrongness of an act in something to do with the autonomy and consent either of the agent or of others.

    But by no means all deontologists would take themselves to be restricted to analysing the wrongness of wrong acts in this way. A good example of a deontologist who is not a Kantian would be W.D.Ross. This has become too long, but to give an example of a way in which one might be a deontologist, but not a Kantian, take breaking promises.
    Ross thought that acts of promise breaking are prima facie - that is, default - wrong. But he didn't think we need to say any more about why they are wrong. They are wrong because they are wrong. It is just the nature of acts of promise breaking that they are prima-facie wrong. (Ross, who was an expert on Aristotle, was no doubt influenced in his ethical thinking by Aristotle's dictum that it is unwise to try and explain the more obvious in terms of the less - it is more obvious that breaking one's promises is wrong than that it is wrong for this or that reason, and thus the wise person does not seek to analyse why promise breaking is wrong but just accepts its wrongness as a basic atom in the moral, er, molecule).
    A typical Kantian, by contrast, would seek to explain the wrongness of promise breaking in terms of it being an act that expresses a policy that we could not agree to everyone else acting on, or in terms of promise-breaking being something that the affected party could not have agreed to, etc.
  • Zachary Beddingfield
    All of these responses are excellent. Special thanks to @Bartricks for the detailed response on Kantian ethics vs deontology. I've emailed my group leaders asking if they are aware of how similar Kantian ethics and deontology are. Judging by the fact they asked one person to discuss consequentialism for ten minutes, then another to talk about utilitarianism for ten minutes, for such a general application of the theory, they do not. Thanks for the feedback!
  • tim wood
    Special thanks to Bartricks for the detailed response on Kantian ethics vs deontology.Zachary Beddingfield

    Bartricks's advice to do good research on good sources is good advice. Unfortunately he is not such a source. No biggie, just not quite right.

    As to deontology and presentation. Ask yourself what, exactly, you want your audience to know or be able to do when you're finished. Let your answer to that structure and drive your presentation. And, if you can get across to your audience a decent understanding of what a categorical imperative is, by example, demonstration, and explanation, you will have done an excellent and worth-doing job worthy of any teacher. Doing it in ten minutes would be a challenge, but doable. Keep it simple.
  • unenlightened
    Judging by the fact they asked one person to discuss consequentialism for ten minutes, then another to talk about utilitarianism for ten minutes, for such a general application of the theory, they do not. Thanks for the feedback!Zachary Beddingfield

    Kant is probably a good source for Kantianism, at least as good as Jesus is for Christianity. And Stanford is the go to place for online scholarship on all things philosophical. But life is short, and if the excellent @Bartricks will not allow wiki as a reasonable beginning, try a philosophy dictionary such as this, for a down and dirty quick cheat sheet of 'isms, big cheeses, and other technicalities.
  • Fine Doubter
    Please do NOT add to the confusion between Kant - a specific bloke who said specific things - and "Kant" - ian - ism which means a huge survey of all the things said on all topics by a huge number of people, most of it mutually contradictory, some of whom called themselves "Kant" - ians and some who are closer to him but didn't.

    The ethics of Kant are:

    - make of yourself an end in yourself and not a means only (the pawn of the "machine")
    - when possible give those around you the same chance, especially if you have more power than them

    I don't get the supposed complaints about "blindness to outcomes".

    It falls in the lap of each one of us every moment of every day, to work this out, if we can, as best we can at the time.

    None of us can control outcomes.

    Where's the problem - other than getting up in the mornings!

    As for your group, the more separately identified and scheduled topics the better, no matter whether they overlap. Life does overlap with itself!
  • god must be atheist
    What differences, if any, are there between Kantianism and Deontology?Zachary Beddingfield
    Anus and Feces. One is borne by the other. The two are unseparable, to a point.

    Kantianism says you Kan't do this, you Kan't do that. Deontology says something else, and if you find out what it says, please let me know, because I haven't the foggiest, either.

    I have a vague feelilng that it has to do with epistemology, or with dualism, or with the contintental school of philosophy, or with Schlager and Hellmunger. Beyon'd that, I Kan't say.
  • StreetlightX
    I've split all the comments regarding Wikipedia into its own thread, which can be found here:


    Please post further comments on that topic there, and not here.
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