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Kant V. Mill Essay

Kantianism and Utilitarianism are two theories that attempt to answer the moral nature of human beings. Immanuel Kant’s moral system is based on a belief that reason is the final authority for morality. John Stuart Mill’s moral system is based on the theory known as utilitarianism, which is based upon utility, or doing what produces the greatest happiness. One of Kant’s lasting contributions to moral philosophy was his emphasis on the notion of respect for persons. He considers respect for persons (a. k. a the Kantian respect) to be the fundamental moral principle of ethical philosophy.

His Kantianism premise is a deontological moral theory which claims that the right action in any given situation is determined by the categorical imperative, which he calls the Supreme Principle. This imperative is a command that applies to all rational beings independent of their desires. It is a command that reason tells us to follow no matter what (P. 31). ” Kant considers this an objective law of reason and because it applies to all of us, he calls it a universal practical law for all rational beings.

The hypothetical imperative, on the contrary, is a conditional command, which “we have reason to follow if (it) serve(s) some desire of ours (P. 31). ” For example, if you want X, then you will do Y, whereas with the categorical imperative, X has nothing to do with why you do Y. Kant’s categorical imperative is a tri-dynamic statement of philosophical thought. In order to determine the morality of the Hill case from Kant’s perspective, it is vital to understand the formulations that accompany the categorical imperative. Kant upheld systematic laws as the model of rational principles.

A characteristic of systematic laws is that they are universal, such as the law that when heated, gas will expand. Kant thought that moral laws or principles must have universality to be rational. He derives the categorical imperative out of the notion that we should be willing to adopt those moral principle that can be universalized, that is, those which we can imagine that everyone could act upon or adopt as their principle. Thus, the first formulation of the categorical imperative is, “Never act in such a way that I could not also will that my maxim should be a universal law (P.31). “

By maxim, he means the rule or principle on which you act. Consider the example Kant gives of giving a false promise. Making false promises is wrong and therefore could not be a universal law, because every rational being would not adopt this as a principle of action. In the Hill case, if Paul Hill kills the doctor than it is morally permissible for everyone else to kill someone they disagree with. Therefore, Hill’s actions were not justified, because killing cannot be a universal law. Kant also believes that human beings have “unconditional worth.

” In his passage of, “The Ultimate worth of Persons,” he says: Now, I say, man and, in general, every rational being exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will. In all his actions, whether they are directed to himself or to other rational beings, he must always be regarded at the same time as an end. What we treat as having “only a relative value as a means . . . are consequently called things. Rational beings, on the other hand, are called persons because their nature already marks them out as ends in themselves, that is, as something which ought not to be used merely as a means.

Such a being is thus an object of respect and, so far, restricts all (arbitrary) choice. The practical imperative will therefore be as follows: “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own or in that of another, as an end and never as a means only (P. 32). ” According to Kant, as rational beings, we are self-directed beings. We experience ourselves and others as intrinsically valuable, as valuable as an end and not merely instrumentally valuable or valuable as a means to obtaining something. According to this second formulation of the categorical imperative, we should treat people with fundamental dignity and respect.

For instance, it would be wrong to make false promises because we would be treating others as merely a means and not respecting them as persons with intrinsic value. In order to avoid misunderstanding Kant, it is crucial to distinguish between treating someone as a means to an end and treating them merely as a means to an end. In a complex network of social relationships, we use other people all the time as means to our ends without dehumanizing them. For instance, we use the services of certain people to deliver our newspapers, groceries, and mail.

Students use professors as tools to become educated and earn degrees. By contrast, when you use someone merely as a means only, it is abusive and lacks respect for that person. The abuse of that person shows that you do not believe they have value apart from his or her immediate use. Kant believed that human beings occupy a special place in creation. Human beings have dignity, because they are rational agents, capable of making their own decisions and guiding their conduct by reason. Therefore, we have the duty of being good to all persons.

In the Hill case, Paul cannot kill the doctor, because according to Kant, in virtue of being a person the doctor had rights, dignity, and intrinsic moral worth, as well as value. Hence, killing the doctor would be the wrong thing to do and through Kant that action is not morally justified, since the moral law demands that we treat others as ends in themselves, and never as mere means to other ends. In other words, you should always treat other rational beings (persons) as having absolute moral worth, or as the ultimate ends of action. “?

This I will call the principle of autonomy of the will in contrast to all other principles which I accordingly count under heteronomy (P. 33). ” The moral will is the only truly autonomous will. Only by following the absolute dictates of reason (which is the source of will) do we arrive at the moral law, since will is a kind of reason, following the dictates of reason means following the dictates of will itself. Because we are subject only to the laws of our reason, he says, we are autonomous beings. And our autonomy gives us dignity and worth beyond all price.

Due to our priceless dignity and worth, all persons are worthy of respect. ” An immoral will would not be autonomous since it would violate itself, the law it gives to itself. The immoral will is heteronomous. If you pursue ends that are not the ultimate ends (the absolute dignity of persons), your actions are ruled by something other than the true (rational) form of will. You might be ruled by passion, by desire, by the wish for happiness, etc. , but whatever it is, it is not self-rule by reason. Therefore, Paul cannot kill the doctor, because in doing so, he will be violating the inherent worth and dignity of persons.

“A rational being belongs to the realm of ends as a member when he gives universal laws in it while also himself subject to these laws? (P. 33)” By this, I believe he means that Paul Hill cannot kill the doctor, because that will make him a hypocrite. He is strongly against abortion, which is the killing of the fetus who is a person from the moment of conception. Therefore, it is wrong for him to kill the doctor, because in doing so, he will be going against his own belief of taking life. Unlike Kant, John Stuart Mill believed in an ethical theory known as utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism is another theory in which the main objective is to explain the nature of ethics and morality. There are many formulations to this theory. Utilitarianism is based upon utility, or doing what produces the greatest happiness. It states that the actions of a person should be based upon the “greatest happiness principle. ” This principle states that ethical actions command the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. Mill’s main point is that one should guide his or her judgments by what will give more pleasure.

He believes that a person should always seek to gain pleasure and reject pain. So, the formulation is that the morality of an act can be held upright if the consequence produces the greatest overall utility for everyone who may be directly or indirectly affected by the action. Utilitarianism focuses on the consequences of an act rather than on the intrinsic nature of the act or the motives of the agent. So Hill’s killing of the doctor is morally justified based on it bringing Hill pleasure and eliminating the pain he inflicted on the fetuses.

Mill states that “some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others” and that “it would be absurd that while in estimating all other things, quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone”. Therefore, if Paul kills the doctor, he only took away two lives (quantity), which is less than those that would have been lost if the doctor would have continued performing abortions (quantity). However, Mill states that doing “? as you would be done by and ? lov(ing) your neighbor as yourself constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality”.

He also says that “the thoughts of the most virtuous man need not on these occasions travel beyond the particular persons concerned, except so far as is necessary to assure himself that he is not violating the rights, this is the legitimate and authorized expectations, of anyone else. ” Both of these statements do not justify Hill’s actions because he should have loved the doctor and he should not have violated the doctor’s rights. Kantian moral theory and Utilitarianism both attempt to explain how one can go about acting ethically, however they differ in how they measure morality and in the use of rules.

Kantianism says that an act is deemed moral if it is done for the sake of duty and if its maxim can be willed as a universal law. Kantianism can therefore be seen as a rational and logical theory in which decisions can be made. Utilitarianism, on the other hand, would only see the act as morally permissible if the consequences of that action produce maximum utility and happiness for all involved. Utilitarianism has no universal set of rules on to which morality is based. In assessing the two moral theories, I believe that Kantianism provides a more plausible account of ethics.

Kantianism is more consistent of a theory and can be universally applied to all beings. It is more plausible because even if the consequences of performing an action are not necessarily the best, the agent is still obligated to perform the action because it is there duty to do so. Therefore, ethically and morally they are doing the right thing. In conclusion, this paper has discussed two main theories regarding the ethical behavior of human beings. Kantianism is a theory based on duties, maxims, willing and the categorical imperative.

Also, it focuses on the motivation of actions, has clear and distinct set of universal rules, and is morally logical. On the other hand, Utilitarianism is based on the concept that we ought to do whatever produces the greatest overall utility and this will be the morally right action. Furthermore, it relies on the consequences of an action, has no set universal laws as each action is assessed on an individual basis, and morality is based on the results of the assessment. Because of these reasons, I believe that Kantianism is the more ethically plausible theory of the two.


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