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Kantian Ethics Vs. Utilitarianism Essay

1184 words - 5 pages

1.     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.

1.     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...

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