Skip to main content

Immanuel Kant Wasn't a Deontologist After All?


The standard definition of "deontology," in moral philosophy, is the view that the morality of an action is to be judged by duty or rule independent of the consequences of the action.

Or, in the popular cliche, the view that "the end never justifies the means."

The standard example of a deontologist is Immanuel Kant.

The standard Philosophy 101 type example involves the serial killer looking for his next victim, and the honest man who knows where the potential victim is hiding, and wonders whether it is permissible to lie to save that life.

But in the 1990s Barbara Herman wrote a book apparently intended to overturn the way moral philosophy has been taught in survey courses for generations.

I've just learned of this book, because ... well ... news from academia reaches me slowly.

At any rate, the book is THE PRACTICE OF MORAL JUDGMENT (1993).  

That's a photo of her above.

Here's a link to the book, much of which can be read on line. 


  1. Did you know you can create short urls with AdFly and receive money from every click on your shortened links.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…