Immanuel Kant's Theory Of Utilitarianism

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Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill are two of the most notable philosophers in normative ethics. This branch of ethics is based on moral standards that determine what is considered morally right and wrong. This paper will focus on Immanuel Kant’s theory of deontology and J.S. Mill’s theory of utilitarianism. While Mill takes a consequentialist approach, focused on the belief that actions are right if they are for the benefit of a majority, Kant is solely concerned with the nature of duty and obligation, regardless of the outcome. This paper will also reveal that Kantian ethics, in my opinion, is a better moral law to follow compared to the utilitarian position.

According to J.S Mill, one should choose an action that maximizes the happiness
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This is because the consequences of the utilitarian mentality can’t be applied in all situations due to the dangerous outcomes it can lead to. Kantian ethics is concerned about practical reason and motives rather than the consequences of the action. In most cases, the utilitarian will base their actions on what the best result is for the greatest number of people, while Kant argues that a goodwill “is good only through its willing” (Kant, 2008, p. 106). In fact, Kant argues that even “with the greatest effort it should yet achieve nothing, and only the good will should remain…yet would it, like a jewel, still shine by its own light as something which has its full value in itself. Its usefulness or fruitlessness can neither augment nor diminish this value” (Kant, 2008, p. 106). In other words, if a person acts only out of duty and not self-interest, their action is morally justifiable regardless of what the consequence may be. As you can see, this belief is different from the utilitarian who mainly focuses on the end result of an act or the consequences of the…show more content…
He proposes to “act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end..” (O’Neil, 2008, p. 112). The utilitarian view, on the other hand, will use a human being as a means to an end if they are to benefit the majority. For example, the utilitarian would consider murdering one person if it can save the lives of thousands of Canadian citizens. In this situation, the utilitarian would be treating the individual as mere means, rather than as ends in themselves. In addition, he believes that “we just have to check that the act we have in mind will not use anyone as a mere means, and, if possible, that it will treat other persons as ends in themselves” (O’Neil, 2008, p. 113). This principle acts as a moral code implying that one should never treat a person merely as a means to an end.

Overall, Kantian ethics focuses and recognizes the importance of the value of humanity. His categorical imperative ultimately leads to a “kingdom of ends,” in which norms that deny the value of humanity are not permitted. In my opinion, it would be difficult to disagree because most individuals value their own life. As it has been shown, the utilitarian view has its strengths and is certainly logical in some cases, however, Kantian ethics offer a more stable set of moral
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