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i am new to philosophy. I am willing to understand where is the fine border between action-based and consequence-based morals:

To my understanding a deontologist judges an action irrelative of the consequences. Hold on, if my friend would never lie to me and all other human being no matter what the consequences are (because he is deontologist), and i ask him why did you pick this moral rule, and he answers: because if all people lie -> X and Y would happen (eg. our planet will be a bad place)

  1. Isnt he in this case referring to consequences, is he then a de-facto deontologist thus a consequalist?

  2. OR just because his start point are actions and not consequences (thus allowing any action) he is a legit deontologist?

  3. Can my deontoligst friend be asked about the reason behind his decision at all? If he answers "because it has good consequences", does this logically imply that he is consequalist?

  4. It is not obvious to me if when picking up moral rules because i choose them carefully to achieve good consequences, am i then a consequalist?

  5. Deontologist applying categorical imperative say when asked about the lying example: "because if everyone lies the whole world would be a bad place", consequentalism?

Sorry for the confusion, i am still trying to grasp the ideas.

Thank you in advance.

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    "he answers: because if all people lie -> X and Y would happen" then he is not a deontologist, but a (confused) consequentialist. The deontological argument behind not lying is more akin to "the goal of lying is to manipulate people, I.e. to treat them as means rather than ends, objects rather than people, which should not be done. Therefore we shouldn't lie". Good things might happen from lying, like innocent Jewish children could be hidden from nazis, but the maxim of the action, "manipulating those nazis" would still be wrong (according to deontologistic views). – armand Jun 9 at 1:07
  • @armand thank you for the answer i get it now, 1) but what if my friend says oh i choose these actions out of obligation BUT they have BY COINCEDENCE mostly good consequences. 2) why when deontologist apply categorical imperative says the following: "well i ought not to play football near the school. thus, (categoric imperative) no one is ought to do this. if everyone does this say 6 billions people on earth would be there and this is ...." – Embrulla Jun 9 at 3:42
  • 1 is not a problem. Good deeds might have good consequences, the point is that the criteria for judging an action is its maxim, its root principle, not it's consequence. – armand Jun 9 at 8:20
  • 2 is more subtle. This "can this action be universal ?" criterion is part of the categorical imperative idea of Kant. Note how it does not focus on the real consequence of a given, particular action, but asks "what if every body did the same ?". If I lie to nazis seeking fugitives, it is not a direct consequence of my action that everybody will start lying. OTOH, the universality criteria is trying to determine if an action is "according to reason"., by arguing that if I judge an action to be good for me, i must judge it to be just as good for everyone else (I have no privilege). – armand Jun 9 at 9:14
  • As Kant recognized, his CI principle will quite probably have good consequences, even in particular cases, and may also accord with biblical or other moral teachings. He simply wanted to define the moral principle in a way that could stand on its own rationally and be distinguished from moral justifications of instrumental acts. He also pointed out that consequentialist morals assume that we can actually predict the consequences of an act, which our finite minds can never know for certain. But you are by no means alone in finding the CI somewhat artificial and problematic. – Nelson Alexander Jun 10 at 19:49
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When deontologists apply the categorical imperative, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.", in layman terms "What would happen if everybody did the same ?", it might look like a consequentialist approach, but it is not.

Note how it does not focus on the real consequences of a given, particular action, but asks a hypothetical question. If I take the particular action "lying to nazis seeking fugitives", it is not a direct consequence of my action that everybody will start lying (say, for example, that no one saw me lying).

On the other hand, the universality criteria is trying to determine if an action is "according to reason" by arguing that if I judge an action to be good for me, I must judge it to be just as good for everyone else (I can't have a personal privilege), and if this results in chaos the action is not reasonable. It focuses on the principle that everybody should have the right to perform the same actions, rather than on the real consequences of the action.

Note that it is only one of the deontological views. Another can be religious: God said dont lie, so don't lie even if good things might come out of it.

Desirable things might happen by lying. For example, one might hide innocent Jewish children by lying to nazis, but the maxim of the action, "manipulating those nazis", would still be wrong according to deontologist views. Kant specifically states that a person who performs a dutiful action while motivated by a desirable consequence is not acting morally (they're not focusing on duty, but on benefit).

It does not mean that deontologically good deeds can't have good consequences, but the point is that the criteria for judging an action is its maxim, its root principle, not its consequence.

I think that covers your questions 1 2 3 5. About question 4, what you are describing is rule consequentialism, the idea that rules should be crafted with their good consequences in mind, and then we should act according to the rule because we can't trust our judgement on the spot. It is a somewhat gray area, as "rule" suggest the idea that we have a duty to follow the rule. But the motivation is still that good things will come from following the rule, not that the rule is an inherently good rule that we have a duty to follow.

Also, consequentialist rules can be amended if facts proves them to be not so good after all or circumstances change (for example, some people point that the US constitution about firearms was written when the deadliest weapon you could have was a 3 shots a minute imprecise musket, and should be amended in the time of automatic rifles). On the other hand deontologist rules come from reason or God, and are not amendable.

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    You're first paragraph conflicts with your description of the categorical imperative. I think the quoted text was meant to express the categorical imperative. – David Gudeman Jun 10 at 2:11
  • @davidgudeman wow, you're right. I will edit. Thanks. – armand Jun 10 at 2:19

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