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Utilitarianism vs Kantianism - moral assistance

The two sources of moral assistance are the matching theories of Kantianism and Utilitarianism, both normative moral theories, meaning they deal with how we understand what is right or wrong. Kantianism is a deontological theory developed by Immanuel Kant. This means that the theory holds the value of task and motives of an act in higher prestige than the consequences of stated act. Kant argued, what featured is religiosity, that we, people are rational, moral beings. This suggested that we understand intrinsically what our moral duty is; this means that our motives that we act upon will be based upon what we feel it is our task to do and after that similarly crucial goodwill.

Goodwill is what, Kant believed to be excellent without question, for example murder and lying. This is where Kant introduces the idea of maxims. Maxims are rules that are formulated as rules to follow as moral law similar to a divine commandment e.g. do not murder, do not lie.

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Kant claimed that in order for a maxim to be used as an ethical law it must pass the test that is Categorical Vital (CI). The CI consists of 3 formulas, the Doctrine, this is the test of the rational possibility of universalizability– “Act just on that maxim which you can at the very same time will need to become a doctrine” which declares that if a maxim is universalizable then if everyone were to follow the exact same maxim then the world would be a more moral location.

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Second of all was completion in itself which declared that it is great to utilize people to attain goals as long as that is not all you use them for and lastly the Kingdom of Ends which was Kant’s logical mix of the 2. Kant held 2 things on equivalent as Universalizable maxims and these were to never lie and to never murder, so in this case then Kant would settle on never ever killing due to the fact that he would argue that murdering is not part of a moral responsibility or a goodwill motive.

Kant’s theory sounds all well and good but it lacks massive ecological validity because it is not applicable to real life. This is because, when formulating a maxim a few fatal things may happen. First of all it is slightly time-wasting for small moral dilemmas but more important are the contradictions in conception and in the will when formulating a maxim. In Kant’s philosophy conception is a contradiction which some impermissible maxims are guilty of because they attempt to will a logically impossibly state of affairs. Also a contradiction is in the will which some impermissible maxims are guilty of because although they are possible to conceive, they are inconsistent with other maxims which any rational person would wish to assent to at some point. Kant’s deontology is his downfall, completely ignoring consequences reduces the ecological validity because it’s human nature to take consequences into account when valuing a moral action, in addition, when formulating a maxim, universalization suggests taking consequences into account.

The rivaling theory is that founded by Jeremy Bentham, Utilitarianism, which is a teleological, consequentialist moral theory. This would then make it the theory that idolizes consequences as opposed to duty or motive when valuing moral worth of an act. Utilitarianism claims that an act that produces a pleasurable consequence (increase of happiness and decrease in pain) is a moral act and a bad act (decrease of happiness and increase in pain) is an immoral act. Bentham’s first decree was to declare that the GHP (Greatest Happiness Principle) which is based on 3 principles: Principle of Equity, that everyone’s individual happiness is as important as everyone else’s. The Hedonistic Principle, that the main goal is the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of pain. Consequentialist, if the consequences are good, the act is good. The GHP aims for the greatest quantity of happiness for the greatest number of people.

Bentham focused mainly then on the quantity of happiness of people and from this hedonism he formed the hedonistic calculus. The hedonistic calculus consisted of 7 variables of pleasure to be values quantitatively to value the total pleasure of an act, the 7 values were: Intensity, Duration, Certainty, Propinquity, Fecundity, Purity and Extent. John Stuart Mill was the next proponent of Utilitarianism. Mill went a few steps further for the theory and made the claim that quality of the pleasure was also as important as the quantity. Mill decided that higher pleasures were those of the intellect and included things like reading poetry and lower pleasures were those of the body and included eating sweets. Higher pleasure is then valued as higher quality pleasure than the lower pleasures “It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied”.

He also added that people that have experienced both forms of pleasures and prefer the higher are then competent judges and should be consulted for qualitative moral guidance. Utilitarianism is then refined into Act or Rule Utilitarianism. Rule Utilitarianism is all about maximizing the Utility in a situation by sticking to rules like “Do not cheat”, “Do not lie”, “Obey the law” and so would focus on the moral acts that would comply with these rules and produce the GHP. Alternatively, Act Utilitarianism accepts relative and situational morality therefore would be able to adapt their decision on what would produce the GHP. Therefore in the situation of never to murder a Rule Utilitarian would always agree because it is illegal to murder and to maximize Utility the law must be upheld. An Act Utilitarian may agree with the Rule Utilitarian although, may disagree also because they may argue a situation in which to kill would be a justifiable action based on the consequences.

It must lead then, that a consequential, teleological theory is more ecological theory, although it does not escape its flaws. With a purely consequentialist theory it is next to impossible to determine the consequences of an act because we only have perceived consequences, this is especially problematic in a situation that has not been experienced before as well as needing to determine the long term or short term consequences or the global or local consequences. Bentham’s Hedonistic Calculus suffers the criticism of being inevitably inaccurate because having to value an emotion is also extremely difficult. Mill’s competent judge theory of higher and lower pleasures can be seen as a very elitist theory as a lot of people may prefer lower pleasures or maybe value lower and higher pleasures equally.

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Utilitarianism vs Kantianism - moral assistance. (2017, Jan 07). Retrieved from

Utilitarianism vs Kantianism - moral assistance

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