D

Deconstruction

The view that language is a closed system of meanings with little direct reference to actual objects or relations among objects and thus that “reality” is “socially constructed”; deconstruction is the critical process of revealing and undermining the contingent way that the world is organized conceptually, including such binary categories male/female, mind/body, nature/culture, etc.

Deontology

Literally the “science of duty,” a general approach in ethics that sees the morality of an action in terms of motives for acting as well as the rightness and wrongness of the act itself regardless of consequences.

Distributive justice

Principles about the proper distribution of benefits (power, wealth, privilege) and burdens (taxes, environmental harms) among members of a society.  Common bases for distribution are desert, needs, and entitlement.

Divine Command Theory

The theory that morality is grounded in God’s will and that ethical principles are simply commandments of God.  For many, God is required to make morality strong and firm.  The fear is that without an ultimate guarantor of right and wrong, there will be only moral nihilism.  The character Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov famously sums up this fear:  “If God doesn’t exist, everything is permissible?”

(Human/nature) dualism

The conscious or unconscious view that humanity and nature are fundamentally distinct, independent, and mutually exclusive.  Some interpret the emphasis on the separation of humanity and nature as encouraging the belief that nature is to be controlled or dominated, or else simply a domain of facts to be studied—all hallmark attitudes of Renaissance humanism and contemporary Western science.