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Categorical and Consequentialist Moral Reasoning


Every day people have to deal with various moral dilemmas. Each decision has outcomes, and everyone has different opinions about what is right and what is wrong. In certain situations, it is not that easy to make a choice because it might seem that there is no ethical resolution. When individuals face dilemmas, they either go with categorical or consequentialist moral reasoning to decide what they should do.

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Categorical (deontological) moral reasoning states for the fact that some things are wrong a priori. It means that results do not matter if the chosen action is morally wrong. Therefore, people should, in the first place, think whether the act is ethically acceptable. On the contrary, consequentialist moral reasoning focuses primarily on the outcome of the act. It is based on the idea that the end justifies the means.

Michael Sandel discusses these approaches in the case called “trolley dilemma” when it seems like there is no ultimate right thing to do. In the first given situation, there is a truck with broken brakes that is to kill either five workers standing on the track or just one worker standing on the side track. It is supposed that an individual is a driver of that vehicle and has to make a decision. In the second instance, an individual is an observer, who stands on the bridge and sees the track with broken brakes, which, again, will kill five workers. However, an onlooker now has an opportunity to push a heavy man off the bridge onto the track so it will stop. The man will die, but thus, save the lives of five people. In both cases, an individual is to decide, what is the right thing to do.

Without any doubts, it is extremely difficult to make a univocal choice. Under the categorical moral reasoning, there is no proper way to act because any act will lead to deaths of at least one person. Consequentialist moral reasoning will defend the idea that it is better to save more lives at the cost of just one life. This approach allows rather a flexible way of considering an ethical part. Deontological point of view aligns with my values better than consequentialist approach. I cannot imagine myself making a decision on anyone’s death, as I do not think I have such kind of power.

Moral Machine test showed that it matters a lot to me to save as many lives as I can, and also that I put a lot of social value while making a decision. However, it is important to remember that while passing this test, I had no choice to avoid making a decision. I think that in both given scenarios, it will be difficult for me to give an answer because I believe that it is not up to people to decide on sacrifices. Again, I would follow categorical moral reasoning approach and would avoid choosing. Speaking about vehicular manslaughter and associated responsibility, I can say that I, personally, am against self-driving machines. I believe that some occupations cannot be mechanized and that robots should not replace humans, as they are not capable of making ethically right decisions.


In conclusion, there will always be discussions about moral sides of issues. The world is a very diverse place, and all societies are different from each other. It is almost impossible to come to the same conclusion about certain situations. Thus, it might be better to avoid, when possible, these kinds of arguments. There are such dilemmas, results for which should mostly depend on the natural processes.


Lecture “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do,” Harvard professor Michael Sandel

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 1). Categorical and Consequentialist Moral Reasoning.

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"Categorical and Consequentialist Moral Reasoning." StudyCorgi, 1 Jan. 2022,

1. StudyCorgi. "Categorical and Consequentialist Moral Reasoning." January 1, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Categorical and Consequentialist Moral Reasoning." January 1, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Categorical and Consequentialist Moral Reasoning." January 1, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Categorical and Consequentialist Moral Reasoning'. 1 January.

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