Deontological ethics

In moral philosophy, deontological ethics or deontology (from Greek δέον, deon, "obligation, duty"[1]) is the normative ethical theory that the morality of an action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong under a series of rules, rather than based on the consequences of the action.[2]

It is sometimes described as duty-, obligation- or rule-based ethics, because rules "bind one to one's duty".[3] Deontological ethics is commonly contrasted to consequentialism,[4] virtue ethics, and pragmatic ethics. In this terminology, action is more important than the consequences.

It is an ethical framework that depends on the predefined sets of rules and policies for the proper functioning of a system in the environment. The deontology is simply based on the checklist which includes certain rules to be followed while performing a particular task. According to this framework, the work is considered virtuous only if this checklist is completed. This procedure is very simple to implement and understand. Minimum time is consumed to decide between right and wrong. However, its simplicity ignores the consequences of the decision taken under this approach.

The term deontological was first used to describe the current, specialised definition by C. D. Broad in his 1930 book, Five Types of Ethical Theory[5] Older usage of the term goes back to Jeremy Bentham, who coined it before 1816 as a synonym of Dicastic or Censorial Ethics (i.e. ethics based on judgement).[6] The more general sense of the word is retained in French, especially in the term code de déontologie (ethical code), in the context of professional ethics.

Depending on the system of deontological ethics under consideration, a moral obligation may arise from an external or internal source, such as a set of rules inherent to the universe (ethical naturalism), religious law, or a set of personal or cultural values (any of which may be in conflict with personal desires).

Deontological philosophies

There are numerous formulations of deontological ethics.


Immanuel Kant's theory of ethics is considered deontological for several different reasons.[7][8] First, Kant argues that to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty (Pflicht).[9] Second, Kant argued that it was not the consequences of actions that make them right or wrong but the motives of the person who carries out the action.

Kant's argument that to act in the morally right way one must act purely from duty begins with an argument that the highest good must be both good in itself and good without qualification.[10] Something is "good in itself" when it is intrinsically good, and "good without qualification", when the addition of that thing never makes a situation ethically worse. Kant then argues that those things that are usually thought to be good, such as intelligence, perseverance and pleasure, fail to be either intrinsically good or good without qualification. Pleasure, for example, appears not to be good without qualification, because when people take pleasure in watching someone suffer, this seems to make the situation ethically worse. He concludes that there is only one thing that is truly good:

Nothing in the world—indeed nothing even beyond the world—can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will.[10]

Kant then argues that the consequences of an act of willing cannot be used to determine that the person has a good will; good consequences could arise by accident from an action that was motivated by a desire to cause harm to an innocent person, and bad consequences could arise from an action that was well-motivated. Instead, he claims, a person has a good will when he 'acts out of respect for the moral law'.[10] People 'act out of respect for the moral law' when they act in some way because they have a duty to do so. So, the only thing that is truly good in itself is a good will, and a good will is only good when the willer chooses to do something because it is that person's duty, i.e. out of "respect" for the law. He defines respect as "the concept of a worth which thwarts my self-love".[11]

Kant's three significant formulations of the categorical imperative are:

  • Act only according to that maxim by which you can also will that it would become a universal law.
  • Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.
  • Every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in a universal kingdom of ends.

Kant argued that the only absolutely good thing is a good will, and so the single determining factor of whether an action is morally right is the will, or motive of the person doing it. If they are acting on a bad maxim, e.g. "I will lie", then their action is wrong, even if some good consequences come of it. In his essay, On a Supposed Right to Lie Because of Philanthropic Concerns, arguing against the position of Benjamin Constant, Des réactions politiques, Kant states that "Hence a lie defined merely as an intentionally untruthful declaration to another man does not require the additional condition that it must do harm to another, as jurists require in their definition (mendacium est falsiloquium in praeiudicium alterius). For a lie always harms another; if not some human being, then it nevertheless does harm to humanity in general, inasmuch as it vitiates the very source of right [Rechtsquelle] ... All practical principles of right must contain rigorous truth ... This is because such exceptions would destroy the universality on account of which alone they bear the name of principles."[12]

Divine command theory

Although not all deontologists are religious, some believe in the 'divine command theory', which is actually a cluster of related theories which essentially state that an action is right if God has decreed that it is right.[13] According to Ralph Cudworth, an English philosopher, William of Ockham, René Descartes, and eighteenth-century Calvinists all accepted various versions of this moral theory, as they all held that moral obligations arise from God's commands.[14] The Divine Command Theory is a form of deontology because, according to it, the rightness of any action depends upon that action being performed because it is a duty, not because of any good consequences arising from that action. If God commands people not to work on Sabbath, then people act rightly if they do not work on Sabbath because God has commanded that they do not do so. If they do not work on Sabbath because they are lazy, then their action is not truly speaking "right", even though the actual physical action performed is the same. If God commands not to covet a neighbour's goods, this theory holds that it would be immoral to do so, even if coveting provides the beneficial outcome of a drive to succeed or do well.

One thing that clearly distinguishes Kantian deontologism from divine command deontology is that Kantianism maintains that man, as a rational being, makes the moral law universal, whereas divine command maintains that God makes the moral law universal.

Contemporary deontology

Contemporary deontologists (scholars born in the first half of the 20th century) include Józef Maria Bocheński, Thomas Nagel, Thomas Scanlon, and Roger Scruton.

Bocheński (1965) makes a distinction between deontic and epistemic authority.[15] A typical example of epistemic authority in Bocheński's usage would be "the relation of a teacher to his students"; an example of deontic authority would be "the relation between an employer and his employee".[16] A teacher has epistemic authority when making declarative sentences that the student presumes is reliable knowledge and appropriate but feels no obligation to accept or obey; in contrast, an employer has deontic authority in the act of issuing an order that the employee is obliged to accept and obey regardless of its reliability or appropriateness.[16]

Scruton, in his book On Human Nature, is critical of consequentialism and similar ethical theories, such as hedonism and utilitarianism, and instead proposes a deontological ethical approach. He implies that proportional duty and obligation are essential components of the ways in which we decide to act, and he defends natural law against opposing theories. He also expresses admiration for virtue ethics, and believes that the two ethical theories are not, as is frequently portrayed, mutually exclusive. [17]

Deontology and consequentialism

Frances Kamm's "Principle of Permissible Harm" (1996) is an effort to derive a deontological constraint which coheres with our considered case judgments while also relying heavily on Kant's categorical imperative.[18] The Principle states that one may harm in order to save more if and only if the harm is an effect or an aspect of the greater good itself. This principle is meant to address what Kamm feels are most people's considered case judgments, many of which involve deontological intuitions. For instance, Kamm argues that we believe it would be impermissible to kill one person to harvest his organs in order to save the lives of five others. Yet, we think it is morally permissible to divert a runaway trolley that would otherwise kill five innocent and immobile people onto a side track where one innocent and immobile person will be killed. Kamm believes the Principle of Permissible Harm explains the moral difference between these and other cases, and more importantly expresses a constraint telling us exactly when we may not act to bring about good ends—such as in the organ harvesting case. In 2007, Kamm published a book that presents new theory that incorporates aspects of her "Principle of Permissible Harm", the "Doctrine of Productive Purity".[19] Like the "Principle of Permissible Harm", the "Doctrine of Productive Purity" is an attempt to provide a deontological prescription for determining the circumstances in which people are permitted to act in a way that harms others.

Attempts have been made to reconcile deontology with virtue-based ethics and consequentialism. Iain King's 2008 book How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time uses quasi-realism and a modified form of utilitarianism to develop deontological principles which are compatible with ethics based on virtues and consequences. King develops a hierarchy of principles to link his meta-ethics, which are more inclined towards consequentialism, with the deontological conclusions he presents in his book.[20]

See also


  1. ^ from the verb δέω "bind, tie, fetter", via the present participle stem deont- + the suffix -logia.
  2. ^ "Deontology dictionary definition | deontology defined".
  3. ^ Waller, Bruce N. 2005. Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues. New York: Pearson Longman: 23.
  4. ^ Flew, Antony. 1979. "Consequentialism". In A Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd Ed.). New York: St Martins: 73.
  5. ^ Beauchamp, Tom L. 1991 Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy, 2nd Ed. New York: McGraw Hill: 171.
  6. ^ Jeremy Bentham, Chrestomathia (1816), p. 213: "For a synonym, Dicastic Ethics may have the single-worded appellative Deontology. [Deontology.] From two Greek words, the first of which signifies fit, fitting, right, becoming, proper. Deontology—an account or indication of that which, on the occasion in question, whatsoever it be, is—(i.e. by him who speaks or writes, is regarded as being)—fit, fitting, becoming, proper. It is in sound only, and not in signification, that it has any connexion with the word ontology, employed above. Applied to every branch of Ethics, taken in the largest sense of the word Ethics, the use of such a word as Deontology affords a promise of being attended with considerable convenience. It will accord equally well with every system which ever has been, or ever can be, devised, in relation to the foundation of moral obligation :—in the use of it, no such incongruity and presumption is involved, as that which is called petitio principii—i.e. a begging of the question—an assumption of the matter in dispute." Also explained as "the knowledge of what is right and proper": "Deontology is derived from the Greek words, το δεον (that which is proper) and Λογια, knowledge — meaning the knowledge of what is right and proper; and it is here specially applied to the subject of morals, or that part of the field of action which is not the object of public legislation. As an art, it is the doing what is fit to be done; as a science, the knowing what is fit to be done on every occasion." Deontology or, The science of morality : in which the harmony and co-incidence of duty and self-interest, virtue and felicity, prudence and benevolence, are explained and exemplified : from the MSS. of Jeremy Bentham ed. Bowring (1834), p. 21.
  7. ^ Orend, Brian. 2000. War and International Justice: A Kantian Perspective. West Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press: 19.
  8. ^ Kelly, Eugene. 2006. The Basics of Western Philosophy. Greenwood Press: 160.
  9. ^ Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (trans.), Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, 1889 [Preface and Introduction to Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Tugendlehre, 1797]. Abbott's deontology translates Kant's Pflichtenlehre.
  10. ^ a b c Kant, Immanuel. 1785. "First Section: Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morals to the Philosophical", Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.
  11. ^ Kant, Immanuel (1785). Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (ed.). Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals (10 ed.). Project Gutenberg. p. 23.
  12. ^ "Über ein vermeintes Recht aus Menschenliebe zu lügen", Berlinische Blätter 1 (1797), 301-314; edited in: Werke in zwölf Bänden, vol. 8, Frankfurt am Main (1977),
  13. ^ Wierenga, Edward. 1983. "A Defensible Divine Command Theory". Noûs, Vol. 17, No. 3: 387–407.
  14. ^ Cudworth, Ralph. 1731. A Treatise Concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality. Reprinted in 1996. Sarah Hutton (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  15. ^ Józef Bocheński (1965), Analysis of authority, in The Logic of Religion, New York: New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814700501, pages 162–173
  16. ^ a b Anna Brożek (2013), Bocheński on authority, Studies in East European Thought, Volume 65, Issue 1, pages 115–133
  17. ^ Scruton, Roger (2017). On Human Nature (1st ed.). Princeton. pp. 79–112. ISBN 978-0-691-18303-9.
  18. ^ Kamm, F. M. 1996. Morality, Mortality Vol. II: Rights, Duties, and Status. New York: Oxford University Press.
  19. ^ Kamm, F. M. 2007. 'Chapter 5: Toward the Essence of Nonconsequentialist Constraints on Harming.'. In Intricate Ethics: Rights, Responsibilities, and Permissible Harm. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-518969-8.
  20. ^ King, Iain (2008). How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time. Continuum. p. 245. ISBN 978-1-84706-347-2. Page 220 of this book lists fourteen deontological principles, which it describes as "The first fourteen principles of right and wrong".


  • Beauchamp, Tom L. 1991. Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy, 2nd Ed. New York: McGraw Hill.
  • Broad, C. D. 1930. Five Types of Ethical Theory. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co.
  • Flew, Antony. 1979. 'Consequentialism'. In A Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd Ed.). New York: St Martins.
  • Kamm, F. M. 1996. Morality, Mortality Vol. II: Rights, Duties, and Status. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • F. M. Kamm Professor of Philosophy Harvard University (2006). Intricate Ethics Rights, Responsibilities, and Permissible Harm Rights, Responsibilities, and Permissible Harm. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-534590-2.
  • Kant, Immanuel (1964). Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-0-06-131159-8.
  • Olson, Robert G. 1967. 'Deontological Ethics'. Paul Edwards (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Collier Macmillan.
  • W. D. Ross 1930. The Right and the Good. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Salzman, Todd A. 1995. Deontology and Teleology: An Investigation of the Normative Debate in Roman Catholic Moral Theology. University Press.
  • Waller, Bruce N. 2005. Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues. New York: Pearson Longman.
  • Wierenga, Edward. 1983. 'A Defensible Divine Command Theory'. Noûs, 17 (3): 387–407. Dumaguete city.

External links

Categorical imperative

The categorical imperative (German: kategorischer Imperativ) is the central philosophical concept in the deontological moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Introduced in Kant's 1785 Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, it may be defined as a way of evaluating motivations for action.

According to Kant, sentient beings occupy a special place in creation, and morality can be summed up in an imperative, or ultimate commandment of reason, from which all duties and obligations derive. He defined an imperative as any proposition declaring a certain action (or inaction) to be necessary.

Hypothetical imperatives apply to someone who wishes to attain certain ends. For example:

If I wish to quench my thirst, I must drink something.

If I wish to pass this exam, I must study.A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that must be obeyed in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself. It is best known in its first formulation:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.Kant expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the popular moral philosophy of his day, believing that it could never surpass the level of hypothetical imperatives: a utilitarian says that murder is wrong because it does not maximize good for those involved, but this is irrelevant to people who are concerned only with maximizing the positive outcome for themselves. Consequently, Kant argued, hypothetical moral systems cannot persuade moral action or be regarded as bases for moral judgments against others, because the imperatives on which they are based rely too heavily on subjective considerations. He presented a deontological moral system, based on the demands of the categorical imperative, as an alternative.

Christine Korsgaard

Christine Marion Korsgaard, (; born April 9, 1952) is an American philosopher and Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University whose main scholarly interests are in moral philosophy and its history; the relation of issues in moral philosophy to issues in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, and the theory of personal identity; the theory of personal relationships; and in normativity in general.

Critique of Practical Reason

The Critique of Practical Reason (Kritik der praktischen Vernunft) is the second of Immanuel Kant's three critiques, published in 1788. It follows on from Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and deals with his moral philosophy.

The second Critique exercised a decisive influence over the subsequent development of the field of ethics and moral philosophy, beginning with Johann Gottlieb Fichte's Doctrine of Science and becoming, during the 20th century, the principal reference point for deontological moral philosophy.


A duty (from "due" meaning "that which is owing"; Old French: deu, did, past participle of devoir; Latin: debere, debitum, whence "debt") is a commitment or expectation to perform some action in general or if certain circumstances arise. A duty may arise from a system of ethics or morality, especially in an honor culture. Many duties are created by law, sometimes including a codified punishment or liability for non-performance. Performing one's duty may require some sacrifice of self-interest.

Cicero, an early Roman philosopher who discusses duty in his work “On Duty", suggests that duties can come from four different sources:

as a result of being a human

as a result of one's particular place in life (one's family, one's country, one's job)

as a result of one's character

as a result of one's own moral expectations for oneselfThe specific duties imposed by law or culture vary considerably, depending on jurisdiction, religion, and social norms.


Farḍ (Arabic: فرض‎) or farīḍah (فريضة) in Islam is a religious duty commanded by Allah (God). The word is also used in Persian, Pashto, Turkish, and Urdu (spelled farz) in the same meaning. Muslims who obey such commands or duties are said to receive hasanat, ajr or thawab each time for each good deed.

Fard or its synonym wājib (واجب) is one of the five types of ahkam into which fiqh categorizes acts of every Muslim. The Hanafi fiqh, however, makes a distinction between wajib and fard, the latter being obligatory and the former merely necessary.

John Rawls

John Bordley Rawls (; February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition. Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls's work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."In his 1990 introduction to the field, Will Kymlicka wrote that "it is generally accepted that the recent rebirth of normative political philosophy began with the publication of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice in 1971." Rawls has often been described as the most important political philosopher of the 20th century. He has the unusual distinction among contemporary political philosophers of being frequently cited by the courts of law in the United States and Canada and referred to by practising politicians in the United States and the United Kingdom.Rawls's theory of "justice as fairness" recommends equal basic rights, equality of opportunity, and promoting the interests of the least advantaged members of society. Rawls's argument for these principles of social justice uses a thought experiment called the "original position", in which people select what kind of society they would choose to live under if they did not know which social position they would personally occupy. In his later work Political Liberalism (1993), Rawls turned to the question of how political power could be made legitimate given reasonable disagreement about the nature of the good life.

Kantian ethics

Kantian ethics refers to a deontological ethical theory ascribed to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. The theory, developed as a result of Enlightenment rationalism, is based on the view that the only intrinsically good thing is a good will; an action can only be good if its maxim – the principle behind it – is duty to the moral law. Central to Kant's construction of the moral law is the categorical imperative, which acts on all people, regardless of their interests or desires. Kant formulated the categorical imperative in various ways. His principle of universalizability requires that, for an action to be permissible, it must be possible to apply it to all people without a contradiction occurring. If a contradiction occurs the act violates Aristotle's "Non-contradiction" concept which states that just actions cannot lead to contradictions. Kant's formulation of humanity, the second section of the Categorical Imperative, states that as an end in itself humans are required never to treat others merely as a means to an end, but always, additionally, as ends in themselves. The formulation of autonomy concludes that rational agents are bound to the moral law by their own will, while Kant's concept of the Kingdom of Ends requires that people act as if the principles of their actions establish a law for a hypothetical kingdom. Kant also distinguished between perfect and imperfect duties. A perfect duty, such as the duty not to lie, always holds true; an imperfect duty, such as the duty to give to charity, can be made flexible and applied in particular time and place.

Maxim (philosophy)

A maxim is a concise expression of a fundamental moral rule or principle, whether considered as objective or subjective contingent on one's philosophy. A maxim is often pedagogical and motivates specific actions. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy defines it as:

Generally any simple and memorable rule or guide for living; for example, 'neither a borrower nor a lender be'. Tennyson speaks of 'a little hoard of maxims preaching down a daughter's heart (Locksley Hall), and maxims have generally been associated with a 'folksy' or 'copy-book' approach to morality.

Medical college

A medical college or medical association is a trade association that brings together practitioners of a particular geographical area (a country, region, province). In common-law countries, they are often grouped by medical specialties (cardiologists, family doctors, etc.).

Medical associations act as a safeguard of the fundamental values of the medical profession: the deontological ethics and code of ethics. In addition to providing exclusive representation in national and international medical practitioners, a medical college is responsible for management and protection of the medical profession.

In most countries, licensing is usually required. A professional or college official is a public corporation of an industry association composed of persons exercising liberal professions and calls are usually covered by the state. Associate members are known as colleges.

Moral absolutism

Moral absolutism is an ethical view that all actions are intrinsically right or wrong. Stealing, for instance, might be considered to be always immoral, even if done for the well-being of others (e.g., stealing food to feed a starving family), and even if it does in the end promote such a good. Moral absolutism stands in contrast to other categories of normative ethical theories such as consequentialism, which holds that the morality (in the wide sense) of an act depends on the consequences or the context of the act.

Moral absolutism is not the same as moral universalism. Universalism holds merely that what is right or wrong is independent of custom or opinion (as opposed to moral relativism), but not necessarily that what is right or wrong is independent of context or consequences (as in absolutism). Moral universalism is compatible with moral absolutism, but also positions such as consequentialism. Louis Pojman gives the following definitions to distinguish the two positions of moral absolutism and universalism:

Moral absolutism: There is at least one principle that ought never to be violated.

Moral objectivism: There is a fact of the matter as to whether any given action is morally permissible or impermissible: a fact of the matter that does not depend solely on social custom or individual acceptance.Ethical theories which place strong emphasis on rights and duty, such as the deontological ethics of Immanuel Kant, are often forms of moral absolutism, as are many religious moral codes.

Moral imperative

A moral imperative is a strongly-felt principle that compels that person to act. It is a kind of categorical imperative, as defined by Immanuel Kant. Kant took the imperative to be a dictate of pure reason, in its practical aspect. Not following the moral law was seen to be self-defeating and thus contrary to reason. Later thinkers took the imperative to originate in conscience, as the divine voice speaking through the human spirit. The dictates of conscience are simply right and often resist further justification. Looked at another way, the experience of conscience is the basic experience of encountering the right.

An example of not following a moral imperative is making a promise that you do not intend to keep in order to get something.

Natural-rights libertarianism

Natural-rights libertarianism, also known as deontological libertarianism, philosophical libertarianism, deontological liberalism, rights-theorist libertarianism, natural rights-based libertarianism, or libertarian moralism, refers to the view that all individuals possess certain natural or moral rights, mainly a right of individual sovereignty, and that therefore acts of initiation of force and fraud are rights-violations and that is sufficient reason to oppose those acts. This is one of the two ethical view points within right-libertarianism, the other being consequentialist libertarianism, which only takes into account the consequences of actions and rules when judging them, and holds that free markets and strong private property rights have good consequences. Deontological libertarianism is based on the non-aggression principle, which states that no human being holds the right to initiate force or fraud against the person or property of another human being, under any circumstances. Deontological libertarians consider this principle to be the basis of all morality, and therefore they believe that any violation of the principle is immoral, no matter what other arguments may be invoked to justify that violation.

On the Basis of Morality

On the Basis of Morality (German: Ueber die Grundlage der Moral, 1840) is one of Arthur Schopenhauer's major works in ethics, in which he argues that morality stems from compassion. Schopenhauer begins with a criticism of Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, which Schopenhauer considered to be the clearest explanation of Kant's foundation of ethics.

Original position

The original position (OP) is a hypothetical situation developed by American philosopher John Rawls as a thought experiment to replace the imagery of a savage state of nature of prior political philosophers like Thomas Hobbes. In the original position, the parties select principles that will determine the basic structure of the society they will live in. This choice is made from behind a veil of ignorance, which would deprive participants of information about their particular characteristics: their ethnicity, social status, gender and, crucially, Conception of the Good (an individual's idea of how to lead a good life). This forces participants to select principles impartially and rationally.

In social contract theory, persons in the state of nature agree to the provisions of a contract that defines the basic rights and duties of citizens in a civil society. In Rawls's theory, Justice as Fairness, the original position plays the role that the state of nature does in the classical social contract tradition of Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke. The original position figures prominently in Rawl's 1971 book, A Theory of Justice. It has influenced a variety of thinkers from a broad spectrum of philosophical orientations.

As a thought experiment, the original position is a hypothetical position designed to accurately reflect what principles of justice would be manifest in a society premised on free and fair cooperation between citizens, including respect for liberty, and an interest in reciprocity.In the state of nature, it might be argued that certain persons (the strong and talented) would be able to coerce others (the weak and disabled) by virtue of the fact that the stronger and more talented would fare better in the state of nature. This coercion is sometimes thought to invalidate any contractual arrangement occurring in the state of nature. In the original position, however, representatives of citizens are placed behind a "veil of ignorance", depriving the representatives of information about the individuating characteristics of the citizens they represent. Thus, the representative parties would be unaware of the talents and abilities, ethnicity and gender, religion or belief system of the citizens they represent. As a result, they lack the information with which to threaten their fellows and thus invalidate the social contract they are attempting to agree to.

Prima facie

Prima facie (; from Latin prīmā faciē) is a Latin expression meaning on its first encounter or at first sight. The literal translation would be "at first face" or "at first appearance", from the feminine forms of primus ("first") and facies ("face"), both in the ablative case. In modern, colloquial and conversational English, a common translation would be "on the face of it". The term prima facie is used in modern legal English (including both civil law and criminal law) to signify that upon initial examination, sufficient corroborating evidence appears to exist to support a case. In common law jurisdictions, prima facie denotes evidence that, unless rebutted, would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact. The term is used similarly in academic philosophy. Most legal proceedings, in most jurisdictions, require a prima facie case to exist, following which proceedings may then commence to test it, and create a ruling.

Primary goods

Primary goods are presented in the book A Theory of Justice (1971) written by the American philosopher John Rawls.

In the first edition of the Theory of Justice, these goods are supposed to be desirable for every human being, just as they are also useful for them. Thus, primary goods are the common base for the unanimous selection of the justice principle in the original position.

Primary goods are subdivided in two categories:

Natural primary goods: this category includes intelligence, imagination, health, speed etc.

Social primary goods: this category includes rights (civil rights and political rights), liberties, income and wealth, the social bases of self-respect, etc.In the second edition of the Theory of Justice, primary goods are stated to be those that the citizens need as free people and as members of the society.

Robert Nozick

Robert Nozick (; November 16, 1938 – January 23, 2002) was an American philosopher. He held the Joseph Pellegrino University Professorship at Harvard University, and was president of the American Philosophical Association. He is best known for his books Philosophical Explanations (1981), which included his counterfactual theory of knowledge, and Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), a libertarian answer to John Rawls' A Theory of Justice (1971), in which Nozick also presented his own theory of utopia as one in which people can freely choose the rules of the society they enter into. His other work involved ethics, decision theory, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. His final work before his death, Invariances (2001), introduced his theory of evolutionary cosmology, by which he argues invariances, and hence objectivity itself, emerged through evolution across possible worlds.

Virtue ethics

Virtue ethics (or aretaic ethics , from Greek ἀρετή (arete)) are normative ethical theories which emphasize virtues of mind and character. Virtue ethicists discuss the nature and definition of virtues and other related problems. These include how virtues are acquired, how they are applied in various real life contexts, and whether they are rooted in a universal human nature or in a plurality of cultures.

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