Mill and Kant Boat Problem

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Immanuel Kant Pages: 4 (1373 words) Published: May 10, 2013
Mid-Term Paper
C&G are Dead
Imagine a situation where there is a boat full of “good” citizens, and a boat full of “bad” citizens and each boat has a bomb with a detonator in the hands of the other boat. Defining “good” or “bad” is challenging enough, and while analyzing both Kant and Mill one will see that the complexity of the issue cannot be adequately solved by either argument for what one “ought” to do. In the first case, which will be that they are both on the same ship, full of “good” citizens each offers their arguments. Kant argues, “We should not simply destroy individuals simply because our own lives are in danger, for we must do what is good in itself.” Mill, being a utilitarian disagrees with this argument and offers his own argument for what the passengers ought to do. He begins, “We ought to pursue the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, and since we do seek happiness as an end in itself. Being upstanding citizens, we are more valuable to society and can produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number if we push the detonator and go home.” Although there are respectable points in each argument, one can determine that neither argument is sufficient for solving the puzzle because there is no winning.

Kant lays out his argument for morality and what one ought to do based on the idea that there is good in itself regardless of the circumstance. Kant seeks necessity and not simply a sufficient outcome for a situation. Simply put the end is not the most important test for morality, but rather the actions and intentions in themselves possess the trueness of goodness. Kant’s first premise is that morality should not be merely subject to the outcome, but rather should possess goodness in the action itself necessarily through reason, and not contingency as it is with experience. So in a sense, morality should be rational, “[T]he true vocation of reason must be to produce a will that is…good in itself, for which reason is...

Cited: Kant, Immanuel, and Mary J. Gregor. Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals. Cambridge, U.K. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.
Mill, John S., and George Sher. Utilitarianism. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub, 2001. Print.
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