Explain Onora O'neil's argument for preferring Kantian ethics to Utilitarianism. 2.
How would Richard Taylor respond to O'neil's defense of Kantianism?
In the following questions, Onora O'neil defends Kantian ethics while Richard
Taylor agrees more with the Utilitarian ethics view. To fully understand both views and
why each author defends their view, a brief introduction of each author and who they are
is necessary. Onora O'neil is a philosophy professor at Cambridge University, while
Richard Taylor also teaches philosophy, at the University of Rochester. He has written
many books on ethics and metaphysics. He strongly criticizes Kant's philosophy by
saying it is too abstract. The Philosopher Kant in contrast with Mill deals with,
deontological ethics that, means rule based ethics, which basically deals with an either
wrong or right way of action. For example, in terms of stealing, Kant would say that this
action or act is always wrong. Mill (Utilitarian ethics) on the other hand who deals with
Consequentialist ethics which basically means that our actions have a consequence but
that it all depends on the situation or incident of for example, stealing is right or wrong.
Mill, who is famous for Utilitarianism, decides on every incident of a situation. Both of
these Philosophers are mostly concern with principal of individual action, which is our
intent or our acts in general. The difference between them is whether these acts are either
right or wrong. While Mill focuses on the consequences of actions, Kant does not, and
puts more emphasis on our actions.
To fully explain Onora O'neil's argument for preferring Kantian ethics to
Utilitarianism, a summary is needed of what Kantianism is all about. Onora O'neil's
argument is very useful because it explains in detail a review of Kantianism and a
comparison of this with Utilitarianism. The main requirement Onora O'neil focuses on is
that persons be treated as ends in themselves and on the value of human life. In her essay
she also states what is right and wrong with both sides. The theory called Kantianism
written by the famous philosopher Kant is difficult to understand O'neil tells us, because
Kant gives a number of versions of what he calls the Principal of Morality. O'neil makes
her argument appear more simple by only focusing on one part of the theory, the part of
the Categorical Imperative, which O'neil chooses to show the implications of the version
named "the Formula of the End of Itself" which to understand O'neil suggests that you
must know what it means to treat a person as a means or as an end. This means the
person cannot consent to the act such as making a false promise or deceiving someone.
These acts are always wrong and unjust according to Kant. O'neil prefers Kantian ethics
because it is more restricted. In other words, Kantian ethics deals with those acts that are
intentional and individual maxims, which are our decisions toward an act. She prefers
Kant because of the requirements of justice. In Utilitarianism, for example, the death
penalty is enforced. Kant on the other hand as O'neil suggests that this is acting on some
maxims which imply that we are using others as mere means. O'neil prefers Kantian
ethics also, because justice requires that we act on no maxims that use others as mere
means. Also, as she mentions in her essay, "Kant and Utilitarianism Contrasted" because
it considers only the proposals for action that occur to them and they check (but they, I
mean the people who believe in either one of these views), that these proposals use no
other as mere means. In contrast with Utilitarian ethics, acting on these proposals could
mean they will use others and still go ahead anyways with the proposal or action for
Utilitarian ethics. But for Kantians, if...
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