Immanuel Kant was a philosopher and professor that was born in Konigsberg in East Prussia in 1724 and died in 1804 (Turner, 2012, para. 2). Kant developed a theory of duty ethics that focused on nonconsequential theories of morality. According to Thiroux and Krasemann (2012) Kant’s theory stated that questions of morality can be answered by reasoning alone (p. 50). The other theory of ethics that will be analyzed, compared and contrasted to Kant’s theory of duty ethics is the ethical theory of utilitarianism. There are two forms of utilitarianism.
Act Utilitarianism states that everyone should perform the act that brings about the greatest good for everyone (Thiroux, Krasemann pg. 37). Rule utilitarianism states that everyone should follow the rule that brings about the most good for everyone affected by that act. This paper will compare and contrast both theories and focus on each of their strengths and weaknesses. Kant’s duty based ethics are a nonconsequential theory of ethics. Kent was a nonconsequentialist because he believed that one should not consider the consequences of ones actions when making a decision about right or wrong.
Kent believed that only the “good will” was moral and all acts should be made based on rules no matter the consequences. Kent took a very systemic approach to ethics. Kent believed that all decisions could be made by being logically consistent and by applying universalizability. Kant believed that questions of morality could be run through the Categorical Imperative. The Categorical Imperative states that an act is immoral if the rule can not be applied universally. Some of the strengths of Kant’s theories are that ethics in Kant’s theories are approached with a system.
Someone can reach a decision about the morality of an issue with a formula and apply it universally. Someone that uses Kant’s Categorical Imperative to make decisions about right and wrong doesn’t use it base on their own personal interest. The decision is made from the “goodwill” point of view. There are some very glaring weaknesses to Kant’s theory. Kant suggests that morality comes from duty rather than inclinations. Most people would argue that it is better doing something out of want rather that doing it because you have to. Kant’s theory does not take situations with conflicting duties in to account.
In Kant’s theory, lying is wrong so one should never lie. What happens if lying would save some one’s life? Under Kant’s theory one should never lie regardless of the reason. In contrast to Kant’s theory of ethics consequentialist believe that decisions about ethics should be made by considering the consequences. One theory about how to make these decisions on morality is utilitarianism. There are two types of utilitarianism, act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Believers of act utilitarianism believe that everyone should perform the act that does the most good for everyone.
Rule utilitarianist believes that everyone should follow the rule that brings about the most good for everyone. Utilitarianism is a better system of consequential ethics than Egoism because Utilitarianism takes into account the best outcome for all people. Act Utilitarianism believes that all situations are different. So every situation needs to be viewed differently and each decision should be reached based on what is the best outcome for everyone. Rule Utilitarianism was created in response to the fact that starting from the beginning lever to make every decision can be difficult to do.
Some of the criticisms to utilitarianism are that it is difficult to know how the consequences of one’s actions will affect everyone involved. Utilitarianism also only takes into account how the majority are affected by the decision. Utilitarianism doesn’t take into account how the minority that don’t benefit from the decision are affected. Under ACT utilitarianism it is also hard to pass down wisdom or educate the young when there are no rules in place. One of the drawbacks to rule utilitarianism is that there are not any rules that don’t have exceptions. In conclusion Kant’s theories and Utilitarianism have there strengths and weaknesses.
Kantianism is very structured but doesn’t allow for exceptions. Utilitarianist try to take everyone’s best interest into consideration but it is nearly impossible to understand what is best for everyone when making a decision that affects many different people. References Ming, J. (1908). Categorical Imperative. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved July 5, 2012 from New Advent: http://www. newadvent. org/cathen/03432a. htm Thiroux, J. P. , & Krasemann, K. W. (2012). Ethics Theory and Practice (11thth ed. , p. 50). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Publication Inc.