An Exposition of Kant’s, Arendt’s, and Mill’s Moral Philosophy

Topics: Morality, Immanuel Kant, Ethics Pages: 7 (2820 words) Published: November 26, 2012
An Exposition of Kant’s, Arendt’s, and Mill’s Moral Philosophy  Immanuel Kant adheres to Deontological ethics. His theory offers a view of morality based on the principle of good will and duty. According to him, people can perform good actions solely by good intentions without any considerations to consequences. In addition, one must follow the laws and the categorical imperative in order to act in accordance with and from duty. Several other philosophers such as Hannah Arendt discuss Kant’s moral philosophy. In her case study: “The Accused and Duties of a Law-Abiding Citizen”, Arendt examines how Adolf Eichmann’s actions conformed to Kant’s moral precepts but also how they ran of afoul to his conception of duty. In contrast, John Stuart Mill adopts a teleological view of moral philosophy. He exposes his view of consequentialism and utilitarianism to argue that an action is morally right only to the extent that it maximizes the aggregate happiness of all parties involved regardless of the motive. In the present paper, I will expose Kant’s moral precepts and the importance of duty in his Deontological principles. Then, I will evaluate Arendt’s report on Adolf Eichmann to analyze the ways in which his actions were in accordance to or against Kant’s moral philosophy. I will conclude my discussion with an evaluation of Mill’s approach to morality in order to examine the differences between his teleological philosophy and Kant’s ethical principles.  Kant’s moral philosophy is based on the categorical imperative (CI), good will, and duty. According to the CI, it is an absolute necessity, a command that humans should accord with universalizable maxims to treat people as ends in themselves and exercise their will without any concerns about the consequences or conditions of their actions. This concept can also be expressed in systematic terms by the two following formulations. The first form of the categorical imperative prescribes that we must act only according to that maxim whereby we can at the same time will that it should become a universal law (Kant, P.102). The second one states that we ought to treat humanity, whether in our own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means (Kant, P.105). In order to obey the categorical imperative, people have to act on a maxim that can be universalized. For instance, Kant argues that a lying promise is bad since it does not pass the universality test. Whenever a person makes a promise knowing that he will have to break it, he violates the first formulation of the categorical imperative. He intends to make use of another man merely as a means to an end which the latter does not likewise hold (Kant, P.105). In other words, Kant does not believe that lying promises are bad due to the fact that they generate bad consequences but because they result in a practical contradiction. According to him, people can’t lie since they can’t act for the results. Considering the second formulation of the CI, we have the need to have others working for us limited to some morality principles without treating them merely as a means. Kant believes that even though we have the ability to create our own ends, we can’t use people for our own devise. If we interfere with others to pursue their end while pursuing our own end, we violate their autonomy. We can’t have double standards for ourselves and for others. It is morally obligatory for us to respect others since people are rational agents. We must respect everyone in the exact same way and treat them as autonomous. As rational beings, humans are systematically united through common laws within the Kingdom of Ends. We belong to this kingdom as a member when we legislate in it universal laws while also being ourselves subject to these laws (Kant, P.107). According to Kant, everyone, no matter who they are, should be both the legislator and the follower of moral laws (Kant, P.95). Overall, Kant’s theory...
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