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Ethical theories that maintain that the moral rightness or wrongness of an action depends on its intrinsic qualities, and not (as in consequentialism) on the nature of its consequences. Deontological ethics holds that at least some acts are morally wrong in themselves (e.g., lying, breaking a promise, punishing the innocent, murder). It often finds expression in slogans such as Duty for duty's sake. Deontological theories are often formulated in such a way that the rightness of an action consists in its conformity to a moral rule or command, such as Do not bear false witness. The most important exponent of deontological ethics is Immanuel Kant. See alsocategorical imperative.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on deontological ethics, visit Britannica.com.
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