Acting out of a sense of duty, sociology homework help –

Try to attempt to take the conversation further by examining their claims or arguments in more depth or responding to the posts that they make to you.  Keep the discussion on target and try to analyze things in as much detail as you can. 100 words or more. 

Hello All,

Acting out of a sense of duty can be either wrong or right based on your ethical approach. What one person view as wrong might be seen as right in another person’s eyes. A deontological approach will focus on the person acting, their intention in carrying out the act, and especially the rule according to which the act is carried out, rather than the consequences that follow (Mosser, 2013).

My example in which someone acted out of a sense of duty will come from the storyline of the movie, “John Q” (2002), starring Denzel Washington as John Q.Washington’s character John Q’s son fell ill and was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. His son was in need of an emergency heart transplant, but due to financial hardship and lack of insurance coverage; John Q could not cover the $250K operation cost, yet alone the $75K down payment to place his son on the donor’s list. All out of options, John Q decides to take a hospital emergency room under arm with hostages and demanded his son be placed on a donor list. John Q decides to commit suicide and donates his heart to his son, but at the very last minute his son received a heart from another individual. John Q eventually faced only kidnapping charges and was sentenced to 3-5 years jail time.

It was wrong for John Q to act in this way, despite the fact that it is his moral duty to help his dying child. You can apply various ethical deontological theories to this incident. The rule(s) corresponding to which John Q’s actions are carried out would apply to the categorical imperative. Kant sees categorical imperative as an, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (as quoted in Kemerling, 2011, “The Categorical Imperative,” para. 1). Kermerling (2011) sites this as meaning, “Each individual agent regards itself as determining, by its decision to act in a certain way, that everyone (including itself) will always act according to the same general rule in the future” (“The Categorical Imperative,” para. 1). 

The categorical imperative would ask John Q the question, “Would he want everyone in the same circumstance as him to take on the same action for results?” (Mosser, 2013). I believe John Q has the moral duty and obligations to help his son; John Q’s heart was in the right place, but his actions were criminal. His actions put citizen’s lives in danger, and those actions could influence others in similar situations. If John Q’s conduct were adopted as universal, it would have damaging repercussions on society. Obviously, we would not want this to be the standard rule for people who can’t afford healthcare. The categorical imperative concludes, “That we have a perfect duty (to which there can never be any exceptions whatsoever not to act in this manner” (Kemerling, 2011, “The Categorical Imperative,” para. 2).

According to Mosser (2013), “Deontology has the appeal of being easily explained and develops rules that seem to make sense and are also widely applied” (“Deontology,” para. 7). You can relate deontology and utilitarian theories, whereas utilitarian focuses on the end rather than the means, and deontology focuses on the means rather than the end result, e.g., duty and obligations (Mosser, 2013). Both of these theories can lead to possibly unethical results that are problematic (Mosser, 2013).


Kearns, J. & Cassavetes, N. (2002). John Q. [Motion Picture]. United States: New Line Cinema

Kemerling, G. (2011). Kant: The Moral Order. Philosophy Pages. Retrieved from

Mosser, K. (2013). Understanding philosophy [Electronic version]. Retrieved from

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