chapter  2
17 Pages

There is No Real Moral Obligation to Obey Orders: Escaping from ‘Low Cost Deontology’

ByEmmanuel R. Goffi

This chapter argues through the French armed forces that low cost deontology' is superficial and to some degree dangerous for it deprives military personnel of their moral autonomy, restricts thinking, and leads to passive obedience to subjective and partial rules and orders. It suggests that low cost deontology and its corollary passive obedience' are fertile ground for irresponsibility and that the French military should move from low cost deontology to a wider approach of moral reasoning which encompasses utilitarianism, in order to put responsibility at the core of the profession of arms. Deontology needs thus to be revisited, rethought, and deepened. Obviously, one also must draw a distinction between legal and moral obligations to obey orders. In recent years, there have been many cases of selective conscientious objection, particularly in the United States and Israel. These cases must be considered in the context of more general debates about the morality of modern wars.