The Philosophists

Ep 2 - Beyond Cockroach Ethics - Part 1 (Utilitarianism vs Deontology)

July 19, 2021 The Philosophists | Declan McGrath, Simon Robertson Season 1 Episode 2
The Philosophists
Ep 2 - Beyond Cockroach Ethics - Part 1 (Utilitarianism vs Deontology)
Show Notes Chapter Markers

What can a cockroach teach us about ethics? Well, in this episode we attempt to find out as we talk our way through two of the most widely accepted ethical systems - Utilitarianism and Deontology. While scuttling around, we'll meet the great Immanuel Kant (well, not literally) and see how his ethical ideas can get you out of a sticky situation.

Is morality a numbers game or just a bunch of rules? Decide for yourself after hearing us out. Just one thing to note - this is the first part of a mini-series on the main ethical models and we'll be back next time to cover Virtue ethics, which will complete the moral menu we have prepared for you.

Main Talking Points

  • What is Utilitarianism?
  • What is Deontology?
  • What was some of Kant's thinking on morality?
  • Is inaction is a form of action and can it be immoral?

If Mr Kant suitably convinces you to treat humans with the utmost dignity then we would greatly appreciate it if you could please donate whatever you can afford to provide a life-saving mosquito net to someone who really needs it at

Follow the show on Twitter at @philosophistpod

Other Links

  • An Irish Goodbye - As promised at the start of the episode, here is a way to make your exits as sharp as your wit!
  • Deontology & Kant
    • BBC's "In Our Time" podcast with Melvyn Bragg has a wonderful episode on Kant's Copernican Revolution. Find out more about Kant, his ideas and his even some of his quirks
    • The Panpsycast Podcast really dive into Kantian Ethics (Part I) in a fun and accessible way
    • For something shorter and more visual, The School Of Life's short animated overview of Immanuel Kant is a pretty good way to spend 8 minutes of your life
  • Utilitarianism
    • Here we go again, this time The Panpsycast Podcast pick apart Utilitarianism and give plenty of background context
    • In just under 5 minutes, Julia Markovits packs just the right amount of info into this excellent illustrated Wireless Philosophy video on Utilitarianism
  • Wikipedia entry briefly covering some of the systems of ethics mentioned in this episode (this was in last month's show notes but we thought it useful to list again)

Socially Awkward


  • "Bike, Bell Ding, Single, 01-01.wav" by InspectorJ ( of
  • Intro music and cover artwork by © 2021 Declan McGrath, All Rights Reserved
What is cockroach ethics?
Have you ever reflected - ethically - on your last few decisions?
Listing of the ethical theories this episode covers
What is Utilitarianism?
What are some of the problems with Utilitarianism?
What is Deontology? And how does it sidestep some of the problems with Utilitarianism? And some thoughts on Kant and his moral system
Action vs inaction. Is inaction is a form of action and can it be immoral?
Inaction at work - an immoral example
A recap and an "Irish Goodbye"