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Concerning Deontological and Teleological Ethics

Concerning Deontological and Teleological Ethics

I have been attempting to find literary relations to these types of ethical choices within characters, but have found myself unable to find any which may have any universal appeal. The idea of a teleological character is found easily enough, but Deontological is another matter entirely. I have found that Roschach is identifiably such, but as I am unfamiliar with The Watchmen, I cannot relate this very well. Therefore, my chosen venue is The Wheel of Time series, which I pray at least a few people are familiar with.

Firstly, and briefly, with very little in depth analysis, I am going to talk about these types of ethics. I realize that these are far more complex than I am making them out to be, but at this point I am not overly concerned with semantics.

Deontology is from two Greek words, the first deon and the second, you guessed it, logia. The first word is simply translated as "duty," but more accurately "that which is binding." The latter is, of course, "the study of" or "the science of." In relation to ethics, it is the idea that moral choices are based upon doing what is right bereft of what others think and what the consequences may be. Intentions are what matter here. This would mean that a person should not, say, kill a man to save a dozen or a thousand or so on. Rather a person who does not murder should not feel guilt at the deaths of others due to any correlation.

Teleological is not quite the reverse of this, but decidedly different all the same. Again, we are Greek, and the first word is teleos which is reference to the "end, complete, entirety." This is a variation of tele which you may recognize from telephone and the like. This form refers to "far off", or "far away." You can do the math here. What this all means is that Teleological Ethics focus on consequences of actions, so even if a person means well, and evil comes of a choice, they are still in the wrong. So if you push someone out from in front of a bus and off a bridge, you would be tried on consequence and not intent. Sucks for you.

Now, why is this important? Well, it isn't. Or is it? Well, maybe. Depends on any number of factors that I absolutely refuse to go into. For writing, I look at this as pertaining to how I develop my characters. Does a character believe that good intentions are truly the only good or that the ends justify the means? The Wheel of Time, by the late Robert Jordan and the current Brandon Sanderson, has a very good example of both a Deontological and a Teleological character. If you are not familiar with it, I apologize, but I am a nerd and this is what I read.

The character of which I speak is known as Galad (his name is a long one and fantastical in truth). Galad is described as always doing what is right, no matter who it hurts, even if it is himself. This means that he will not lie to save his life and would turn himself in if he felt he did any evil. At many point during this series the evidence of such instances are readily apparent, but I am not going to list them so that I don't inadvertently ruin something. Conversely, his sister, Elayne is constantly lying the getting into trouble for breaking laws and what have you, but always in the interest of furthering the ends of good as well. She bends and twists rules if she believes that it will serve some good.

These two characters have the same goals, (ultimately—I am being brief) which is to see what is right prevail. How they go about it is drastically different. The purpose of me writing the long-winded sack of worthlessness is because I foolishly alluded to it in my last post and someone called me on it. The reason why your are reading it is because you are likely that person. If not, then I have no idea why and you have probably just wasted your time.



P.S. I am certain that this is relatable to how one might develop characters when writing a piece of prose, but don't take my word for it. (Reading Rainbow!)


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