A Business Encyclopedia

Deontological Ethical Theories

Definition: The Deontological Ethical Theories hold that the actions are morally right independent of their consequences.

Types of Deontological Ethical Theories

Deontological Ethical theories

  1. Negative and Positive Rights Theories: The negative rights theory asserts that an action is right if it protects the individual from harm or unwarranted interference from other people or the government while exercising his right. Suppose an individual has the right to use, sell or dispose of his personal car then the other persons have the correlative duty to not to prevent him from doing whatever he want to do with his car.

    The positive rights theory posits that an action is right if it provides or tends to provide an individual with anything that he needs to exist. Suppose an individual has the right to adequate health care services to survive this means other agents, perhaps the government has the correlative duty to provide him with the necessary health care services.

  2. Social Contract Theories: The social contract theories posit that people contract with each other to abide by the moral and political obligations towards the society in which they live. This theory is based on the notion that if there is no order and law in the society, then people will have unlimited freedoms, i.e. the right to all things and will resort to all misdeeds such as rape, murder, plunder, etc.

    Thus, there will be an endless “war of all against all” and in order to overcome such situation people enter into an agreement with each other to give up some of their freedoms and accept the obligation to respect and safeguard the rights of the others. Thus, an individual gains the civil rights that constitute the social benefits that he is entitled to the extent he fulfills his due obligations towards the society.

  3. Social Justice Theories: The social justice theories state that the action will be considered right if it confirms the fairness in the distributive, retributive and compensatory dimensions of cost and rewards. The distributive dimension means the perceived fairness in the distribution of social benefits and burden among the group members. The retributive dimension considers the punishment proportionate to the extent of crime while the compensatory dimension is the way people are compensated in relation to the injuries inflicted upon them.

    For example, if the second-hand smoke hurts the passive or non-smokers at work, there should be a fair distribution of health risk burden and the proportionate punishment should be imposed on the party responsible for it. Also, the affected parties shall be compensated to the extent they have suffered the injuries.

Thus, a theory asserts that the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on the goodness or badness of their consequences.

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