Human Rights: Consequential or Deontological View?
Consequential ethics and deontological ethics (DE) mutually maintain that there is a right action that we morally ought to do. However, these normative ethical theories differ in the derivation of what is valued. In the case of human rights, both accounts are supportive of human rights, but for different reasons.
Deontological ethics has as its basic thrust, the concept of a duty to do what is right. For one’s actions to be in accordance with DE, those actions must be realized out of a “notion of right (that) is not derived from a prior notion of good”, as explained by Illies (Illies, 2011, p. 107). A
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According to consequentialists, human rights should be promoted because the rightness of supporting those rights is what is best for the world. It is clear that suffering is bad, and if we can alleviate suffering by supporting human rights then we clearly should promote them. If the consequence of the action is resultant from an actor who is promulgating the purist sense of consequentialism, it very well has the potential to be counter to his own individual interest. For the consequentialist, the overall consequence of an action is of primary importance. Consequentialists view impartial importance so “the good of everyone should count for everyone, no matter their identity, location, or personal and social attachments, now or hereafter” (Lillehammer, 2011, p. 92). This view supports the notion that the human rights of those who are far away are just as deserving, and just as valid, as the rights of those who are near. Furthermore, the universe will be better off by the rightness of supporting human rights. Maximizing the good is required from the consequentialist perspective. As noted earlier, consequentialist and deontological accounts differ from one another from their foundations. While consequentialists focus on the good being promoted only as in relationship to its overall effect on humanity as a whole, deontologists view principles affecting individuals’ actions. Rules guide the deontological approach and the best consequence for most