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Weapons of Mass Destruction & Deontology 3

Weapons of Mass Destruction & Deontology

“Weapon of mass destruction (WMD), weapon with the capacity to inflict death and destruction on such a massive scale and so indiscriminately that its very presence in the hands of a hostile power can be considered a grievous threat (Encyclopedia Britannic, 2015).” The indiscriminate and massive scale weapons of mass destruction employ are intrinsically unethical as they violate basic human rights. Their use knowingly endangers, or kills, civilians of all ages and genders along with any military combatants that may be present. While utilitarian theory may appeal to using weapons of mass destruction to shorten a conflict, deontology overrides the consequential justification as weapons of mass destruction violate our basic rights as humans and supports their banishment.

The overwhelming support for banning weapons of mass destruction is the duty we have to others regardless of situation. “Deontology ethics focuses on the will of the person acting, the person’s intention in carrying out the act, and particularly, the rule according to which the act is carried out. Deontology focuses on the duties and obligations one has in carrying out actions rather than on the consequences of those actions. (Mosser, 2013)” Immanuel Kant describes that our conduct must be universally conforming to law in that “I ought never to act in such a way that I couldn’t also will that the maxim on which I act should be a universal law (Kant, 2008).” We should never engage in an act we find unfair if the act were carried out on us. This dates back to the golden rule, due unto others, as you would have done to you. Deontology allows us to examine our ethical dilemmas in a personal way and respond out of a sense of duty towards our own happiness that increases the happiness of others.

Let’s start by examining the basic concept of war and our goals. Morally correct conflicts should be fought in a manner to limit the excursion, cost of lives and reduction of harm, with a goal of rendering the opposing force unable to carry out resistance. In doing so, we must have a universal set of guiding principles that establish the knowing harm of harming civilians is morally wrong. Acting in accordance with deontology, we would not find it morally right or derive any happiness in the indiscriminant killing of our families and friends (non-combatants); therefore, we cannot allow the same tactics for use on our enemies. So in applying the golden rule, we have established the use of weapons of mass destruction as immoral, they violate the basic belief that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Supporting this view is the “Obey all international laws on weapons prohibition. Chemical and biological weapons, in particular, are forbidden by many treaties. Nuclear weapons aren’t so clearly prohibited but it seems fair to say a huge taboo attaches to such weapons and any use of them would be greeted with incredible hostility by the international community (Orend, 2008).”

Objection or arguments against the deontology ethical view that mass weapons be banned are a utilitarianism view. “When given a choice between two acts, utilitarianism states that the act that should be chosen is the one that creates the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people (Mosser, 2013)”. These ethicists would examine the conflict and might determine that if the weapon used stopped the conflict from escalating or ended the war, with less casualties or damage, then its means justify its ends. And while utilitarian’s may agree that certain forms of weapons of mass destruction be banned, the argument is still valid to consider that if all things being equal the conflict would end with ultimately less damage or suffering in totality, certain weapons of mass destruction should be allowed. Additionally a deontologist may subject that if they accept weapons of mass destruction be used on them, it is morally right to use it on others. This is a hard position to defend as we ultimately are acting out of assumptions until the subject has experienced the devastation.

“Human beings have been fighting each other since prehistoric times, and people have been discussing the rights and wrongs of it for almost as long (Ethics of War, 2015).” Even the most misguided wars or conflicts must have ethical standards. Nobility in war dates back to perhaps its inception and as humans we are intrinsically driven to define and understand morally correct engagements. Mass killing of any kind, regardless of conflict or it justified cause, is morally and ethically wrong. It violates our own moral codes, we would never want these actions to be carried out on our communities, so we have not right to allow them to be carried out on others.


weapon of mass destruction (WMD). (2015). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from

Mosser, K. (2013). Understanding philosophy . San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education,


Kant, I. (2008). Groundwork for the metaphysic of morals. In J. Bennett (Ed. & Trans.),

Early Modern Philosophy. Retrieved from (Original work

published in 1785).

Orend, B. (2008). War. In E. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Retrieved from


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