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Agent-centered deontology focuses on human actions rather than moral states. This view holds that all human actions are generated by mental states, which are generally styled as volitions, willingness, or intentions. However, volitions do not refer to the intention to kill. These views are at odds with the principle of agency, which claims that an agent must act in a certain way. Despite this difference, agent-centered deontology holds that the act of killing requires an intention.
In contrast, patient-centered deontological theories emphasize the importance of rights for humans. The core right of deontological theories is the right not to be used for good purposes without the consent of the person. This right should not be confused with discrete rights, which are defined separately. Deontological theories also contend that the use of another person's body, labor, or talent is immoral. In other words, a person's rights can be violated by other people without his or her consent.
Agent-centered deontology, on the other hand, tends to be agent-relative, which argues that more uses are worse than fewer. Nevertheless, this deontology still faces the moral paradox. Those who object to patient-centered deontology may ask: "Does more using equal worse than fewer?" Another argument for agent-centered deontology is that condemning acts produces better states of affairs. In such a case, the deontologist can deny that fewer wrong acts translate into bad states of affairs.
There are two kinds of deontological duties: permissible and strongly permitted. According to the deontological principle, some actions may be right but not always in favor of maximum good. The rightness of a specific action depends on the instantiation of certain norms. A permissible action is one that is not obligated or forbidden. Another type of permissible action is an action that may be done even when there are negative consequences.
An absolutist approach to deontology is the most common view in modern society. It holds that conformity to norms is a source of absolute force and great weight. In addition to being rational, deontology also demands that general texts be given reasons for their validity. Consequently, deontologists must justify their decisions if they claim to speak for an omniscient Deity. This principle is not applicable to the case of utilitarian deontology.
A distinction must be drawn between moral reasons and all-things-considered reasons. Moral reasons require compliance with deontological norms, while all-things-considered reasons require compliance regardless of consequences. In the former case, a person's choice is justified by the fact that the agent acted with good will. However, in the latter case, a person's choice might be justified by a purely rational reason.
Another distinction between consequentialism and deontology is the concept of threshold. In threshold deontology, the amount of evil is fixed and does not vary according to the categorical duty severity. On the other hand, sliding-scale threshold deontology holds that the degree of wrongness varies with the severity of the duty. The principle of agency is an important part of deontology and should not be overlooked. If the deontologist does not have an adequate threshold for evil, his or her moral theory will always be contradictory.
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