The Intrapersonal Paradox of Deontology

Journal of Moral Philosophy 16 (3):279-301 (2019)
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In response to the so-called “paradox of deontology,” many have argued that the agent-relativity of deontological constraints accounts for why an agent may not kill one in order to prevent five others from being killed. Constraints provide reasons for particular agents not to kill, not reasons to minimize overall killings. In this paper, I tease out the significance of an underappreciated aspect of this agent-relative position, i.e. it provides no guidance as to what an agent ought to do when faced with the prospect of killing one in order to prevent herself from killing five. After rejecting mere agent-relativity, the view that agents are morally permitted to violate constraints in order to minimize their overall violations, I offer a view that this is both agent- and time-relative, and show how this view exemplifies the underlying motivations for deontological constraints while successfully responding to both the inter- and intra-personal paradoxes of deontology.



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Christa M. Johnson
University of Dayton

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