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Kantianism vs utilitarianism

DEONTOLOGY VS UTILITARIASM Kant's theory judges the morality of an action based on actions adherence to rule, he bases his theory on the discussion of goodwill, a duty the moral law, the test of reasons and the categorical imperative. Utilitariani...Read More

~Posted on Mar 2019

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DEONTOLOGY VS UTILITARIASM Kant's theory judges t...

Kantianism vs utilitarianism


Kant's theory judges the morality of an action based on actions adherence to rule, he bases his theory on the discussion of goodwill, a duty the moral law, the test of reasons and the categorical imperative. Utilitarianism by Stuart Mill is a theory of normative ethics that reasons about the best moral action being the one that maximize utility. These two theories are quite distinct, and this paper is going to talk and argue about whether ethical actions should be judged by a good will or a good outcome or results.

            According to Kant people are not only rational agents but also have desires and appetites, but a rational agent can choose to do what is right in spite of the influences of desires and appetites. Moral worth to him is the ultimate attribute a person can have because it is more important and admirable than the talents of the mind that include intelligence, wit, and judgment. It is also more important than the qualities of temperament such as resolution, perseverance, and courage. According to Kant, these gifts of nature may also become bad and mischievous if the will to use them is not good. Kant says that β€œNothing can be conceived in the world or even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a good will.” A good will is necessary to make sure those gifts of nature such power and wealth does not lead us astray as moral beings. A good will is not only good of what it brings about or not because of what it affects but because it is good in itself, for example, a good will which brings happiness much more deserves of respect than the happiness it produces. It has a whole value in itself.

            Kant theory says that the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect expected from it, nor in any principle of action which requires borrowing its motive from this expected effect. That it is incorrect to look for the moral worth of an action in its effects. Thus, the pre-eminent good which humans call moral can, therefore, consist of nothing else than the conception of law in itself, only possible in a rational being. In short a moral person does the right thing because it is the right thing to do and not doing it because he gains anything or wanting to help a certain person. For Kant, his innate argument and line of thought posited that the morality of a person is in question if one acts for the wrong reasons, like keeping a promise to benefit yourself. According to Kant moral people act out of principle, that means recognizing an objective right that applies to everyone.  Thus it a human’s duty to do what is right and this makes it universal.

            Kant stresses that it is a person duty to do what is right or a morally good thing regardless of the consequences. Some acts are morally obligatory whether their outcomes are right or wrong. Duty is a good will exposed to a certain limitations and obstacles. There are also several motives for duty, for example did a person does a thing because it was his duty or is he opposed to it. Some people also don’t have an immediate inclination towards a duty but do it because they are impelled to do so. For example, if you are left to take care of your smaller sibling you don’t like it, but it is your duty to do so. It is also hard sometimes to get a clear distinction when some of the actions accords with duty and the subject also have an immediate inclination for the action. Deontology is the science of duty.

            Kant also talks about the categorical imperative that concerns actions which are conceived of as good as it. The categorical imperative he says is β€œI ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law.  A maxim is a law of conduct, such as β€˜be a man of your word.’ A categorical imperative means absolute, unqualified, or unconditional thus his imperative is objectively necessary. It concerns the necessity of a correct moral action itself without reference to any consequence of the action. In short Kant says that ethical issues should be judged by a good will.

             In Mills Utilitarianism, he argues that actions are right in proportions as they tend to promote happiness and wrong as they tend to promote negative effects of happiness. Utilitarianism is the greatest happiness principle, and by happiness is the intended pleasure and the absence of any pain, on the other hand, unhappiness means pain and privation of pleasure. That pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things desirable ends. Mills says that mental pleasures are better than physical to be because humans prefer and certain ways that engage in their higher faculties. Desirable things are desirable either for pleasure inherent in themselves or as a means to the promotion of pleasure and prevention of pain. When faced with a complaint that his theory is a doctrine worthy of swine, he responds that pleasures differ in quality. Human’s don’t behave like swine once their faculties are elevated than animal appetites, and once made conscious of them, do not regard anything as happiness which does not include their gratification. Mills says that in any two kinds of pleasure one is preferred to the other only if it is preferred by those competent judges who are acquainted with both. Mill says that higher pleasures are qualitatively better than lower pleasures; they are also immeasurable and, therefore, incommensurable with one another. Mills regards higher pleasures as being human while lower pleasures are referred to animal or bodily. That it is better to be a human satisfied than to be a pig satisfied. Thus mills theory is more about good outcome.

            The general meaning of Kant Deontology is a duty that people should act in the ethical acceptable way whenever they act following their duties and obligations. It holds that some acts are always wrong even if their ends are morally admirable, for example promising something just to get out of trouble and according to Kant we have a duty not to do this thing. This theory has some strength one that it is a consistent theory, a deontologist always acts in a predictable way, and they do keep their promises and honors their duties and obligations. The second strength is that it takes into special account obligations, like employees to their employers, a dog to its owner. These special obligations are created by the relationships that people stand in and only limited to those people. The third strength is that it makes sense of supererogation, which means that acting beyond or above duty. On the other hand this theory has some few weaknesses; first it requires justification for the duties and obligations. The difficulty in these is that it is not well understood where justification is supposed to come from. Secondly, it has a problem with conflicting duties and obligations; there is no mechanism for solving moral dilemmas that are created here.

            On the other hand, Utilitarianism principle is β€˜actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse happiness.’ It focuses on the consequences of actions, rather than on some features of the actions, so no action is either wrong or right. Killing, stealing, breaking a promise might be at some sometime be the correct thing to do but they are also wrong in other times. This is because if you are getting pleasure from those actions some other person maybe is experiencing pain from that same action. People are supposed to consider the action and chose the one that produces the most benefit and the least cost. Utilitarianism is rational, for example, it decides which action to take or perform by calculation. Utilitarianism is also situational because it addresses ethical dilemmas at each case separately. Utilitarianism also has several weaknesses that it is sometimes hard to predict the consequences of one’s actions whether it will turn out right or wrong. It is also inconsistent that is a person might sometimes do the correct thing sometimes he may not.


            Ethical action should be judged by good will and also a good outcome, as the essay has brought it out. Kant theory is good to be applied in real life because everyone wants people who keep their promises and sees to the end of the bargain. But in Utilitarianism, the outcome is not usually desirable, but people will always seek for the one that brings most positive outcome.


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