KANT vs MILL – Views

free essayDuring its history, humanity has always relied on specific rules, norms, and traditions to regulate the processes of interaction and cooperation within society and ensure the mutually beneficial existence of all its members. With the time, this practice has led to the formation of moral principles that were aimed at governing the behavior of people in various situations as well as at influencing their personal and professional relations. Eventually, the evolution of society and human psychology has resulted in the emergence of philosophical approaches that proposed different views of ethics and the role of an individual in a community. For instance, Immanuel Kant was the founder of the deontological ethical theory that was based on the principle of perfect duty and emphasized the importance of a person’s good will. On the other hand, John Stuart Mill contributed to the development of utilitarianism that was aimed at promoting the idea of utility.

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First of all, it is essential to review basic information on Immanuel Kant’s deontological theory and John Stuart Mill’s interpretation of utilitarianism to compare and contrast them. The first approach claims that all events in the surrounding world occur according to the specific laws that can be followed only by rational beings like humans whose actions are guided by such specific capacity as will (Cahn, 2011, p. 414). Kant’s ethical theory is based on the principles of good will, maxim, and categorical imperative. He believed that the only indisputably good thing in the universe is a person’s good will while all events in the surrounding world could happen from different reasons and lead to controversial results (Cahn, 2011, p. 414). Additionally, Kant argued that all human actions could be considered positive only if they were inspired by the principle called “maxim” that involves making decisions out of the duty to the moral law. The categorical imperative is one of the core principles of the deontological theory, and it assumes that any event affects all people despite their desire (Cahn, 2011, p. 414).

Additionally, Kant emphasized the importance of universalizability, autonomy, and the idea that humanity was an end in itself. The first principle implies that all actions may be performed only based on the maxim that allows it to become universal and an example for others to follow (Cahn, 2011, p. 416). For example, if a poor person was allowed to take food free of charge, no one would ever pay for it again. Therefore, each individual has to consider the possible consequences of his or her decisions before acting. The principle of autonomy implies that each person may perform specific actions with the obligation to follow the categorical imperative out of rational will (Cahn, 2011, p. 416). It means that people can act autonomously without breaking the moral law. Furthermore, Kant argued that rational beings should be treated as an ends themselves and not merely as tools to achieve certain goals (Cahn, 2011, p. 417). For example, influencing a person to perform actions that are against his will even out of good intentions is inappropriate.

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John Mill developed an interpretation of utilitarianism that promoted quantitative utility by including the quality of pleasure received after enduring suffering and focusing on the reasons for moral actions (Cahn, 2011, p. 419). He argued that intellectual experience provided greater satisfaction than simple sensation. Mill discarded the criticism to such approach that compared human needs and feelings to those of animals by insisting that intelligent beings possess higher capabilities for suffering, experiencing relief, and feeling happy (Cahn, 2011, p. 420). Therefore, people are guided more by personal will and desires rather than simple instincts. Mill also suggested that the principle of utility requires personal desires and ethical principles to be as close as possible to the ones of society so individual satisfaction could be beneficial for the whole community (Cahn, 2011, p. 422). This position can be explained by the fact that intelligent beings can get the greatest pleasure from completely satisfying intimate needs that may not always be similar to those of others. Mills also insisted that only ends bring actual happiness while all other actions can be considered just as means to meet them (Cahn, 2011, p.423). Nevertheless, he believed that a person could receive satisfaction only by following strict moral principles and desiring virtue in the process.

In my opinion, Kant’s ethical theory is more compelling in the context of the modern world. First of all, the majority of actions lead to different results for various people who get affected by their consequences despite the initial intentions. For example, the invention of nuclear power was aimed at providing a powerful source of energy for humankind, but eventually it was used to create weapons of mass destruction. This evidence illustrates Kant’s opinion that the only indisputably good thing is a person’s will. It is also highly doubtful that Japanese have experienced pleasure after suffering the consequences of atomic strikes as assumed by utilitarianism despite the fact that the bombardment helped to end the war.

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Additionally, the practices implemented in the modern business environment such as sustainability, social responsibility, and environmental protection prove Kant’s principle of maxima and the establishment of moral principles that the whole progressive humanity struggles to follow. On the contrary, the example of atrocities performed by Hitler and the Nazi regime illustrate how wrong ethical principles adopted in society and among individuals can lead to disastrous consequences for humankind despite the fact that they were beneficial for that specific community and represented certain virtues. This evidence shows that Kant’s deontological theory has merit and should be considered more compelling than Mill’s interpretation of utilitarianism.

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To conclude, the development of philosophy has provided different views of moral laws and principles including Immanuel Kant’s deontological theory and John Stuart Mill’s adaptation of utilitarianism. The evidence from modern political and business environment show that Kant’s approach concentrated on good will, maxim, and categorical imperative is more compelling and appropriate for the modern society.