Immanuel Kant's Ethics Of Pure Duty
In Comparison To
John Stuart Mill's Utilitarian Ethics Of Justice
Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill are philosophers who addressed the issues of morality in terms of how moral traditions are formed. Immanuel Kant has presented one viewpoint in The Grounding For The Metaphysics of Morals that is founded on his belief that the worth of man is inherent in his ability to reason. John Stuart Mill holds another opinion as presented in the book, Utilitarianism that is seemingly in contention with the thoughts of Kant. What is most distinctive about the ethics of morality is the idea of responsibilities to particular individuals. According to Kant and Mill, moral obligations are not fundamentally particularistic in this way because they are rooted in universal moral principles. Mill and Kant are both philosophers whom have made great impact on their particular fields of philosophy and a critique of their theories in relation to each other may help develop a better understanding to them and their theories individually. Mill's utilitarianism theory is a version of the ideal judgment theory. So is Kant's, but there are differences. Mill holds an empiricist theory while Kant holds a rationalist theory. Kant grounds morality in forms that he believes, are necessary to free and rational practical judgment, namely his deontological ethics. Mill's utilitarian theory is a form of consequentialism because the rightness or wrongness of an act is determined by the consequences. Thus, deontologicalism and consequentialism are the main criticisms for both these theories. Kant's ethics of pure duty is the basis for his categorical imperative, which provides the basis for his universalist duty based theory. Mill's theory of utilitarianism is a primary form of consequentialism. Both deontologicalism and consequentialism are valid points of argument to the ethics of an action but they are also argumentative towards each other. Mill, in his later work, On Liberty, adds deontologicalism to correct his consequentialist view. John Stuart Mill, who made utilitarianism the subject of one of his philosophical treatise Utilitarianism (1863), is the most proficient defender of this doctrine after Jeremy Bentham. His contribution to the theory consists in his recognition of distinctions of quality, in addition to those of intensity, among pleasures. Thus, whereas Bentham maintained that the "quality of pleasure being equal, push-pin is as good as poetry," Mill contended that "it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied," that is, human discontent is better than animal fulfillment. Or more clearer stated as "better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied", as the fool would only be of a different opinion because he did not know both sides of the question. By this statement, Mill seems to have rejected the identification of the concept "happiness" with "pleasure and the absence of pain" and the concept "unhappiness" with "pain and the absence of pleasure," as found in Bentham's works. Although his position was based on the maximization of happiness, he distinguished between pleasures that are higher and lower in quality. Mill's 'principle of utility' or 'the greatest happiness principle' seeks for the logical rationality of ethics through the consequences of actions as the consideration determining their morality, thus the acquisition of happiness as opposed to the avoidance of pain. Utilitarianism may be viewed as an instance of a more general theory of right consequentialism, which holds that right and wrong can only be assessed by the goodness of consequences. This general kind of theory can perhaps be most easily understood by considering the form of consequentialism. Consequentialism is that an act is right if, of those available to the agent at the time, it would produce the greatest overall net value in the end. Utilitarian views are based around the...
Bibliography: Mill, John Stuart, Utilitarianism, Hackett Publishing Company Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1979, Original Publication, 1861
Kant Immanuel, Grounding For The Metaphysics Of Morals, Third Edition, Hackett Publishing Company Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1993, Original Publication, 1785
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