In this paper, I will argue that Kantianism, not utilitarianism, is the true account of morality. Utilitarianism is based on measuring happiness, but this is not something that can be objectively quantified. It is also a theory that bases the morality of an action on its future consequences, which cannot be accurately predicted. Lastly, a society governed by Kantianism would, possibly, produce greater total happiness than a society governed by utilitarianism.
However, before I get into those points, I will first start by introducing and describing a modified version of the "murderer at the door" thought experiment.
Say I am living in Germany back in the early 1940s, during World War II. A Nazi shows up at my front door, asking me whether or not I am hiding any Jews in my house. It turns out that I actually am hiding Jews in my house, and I have the following two options: I can lie to the Nazi, or I can tell them the truth. Intuitively, the best thing to do would be to lie to the Nazi, and a utilitarian would argue that lying is indeed the moral thing to do in this situation.
According to John Stuart Mill, the greatest good is happiness, where an action is good if it promotes happiness, and bad if it promotes unhappiness [REF]. The right action, then, is the one that produces the greatest overall happiness for everyone - humans and non-humans. In other words, the overall benefits of commiting the action must outweigh the overall consequences. If I tell the truth to the Nazi, there is a high chance that the Jews will be murdered. If I lie to the Nazi, there is a good chance the Jews in my house will continue to live. In this scenario, Mill would argue that telling the truth would produce a larger amount of unhappiness, whereas lying would result in the greater amount of happiness. Thus, lying would be the morally correct thing to do.
In contrast, Kant would argue that lying is immoral. He holds the categorical imperative to be the primary determinant of morality: an action has moral worth only if it is done purely from duty. Unlike Mill (who bases morality around the principle of utility), Kant is concerned with whether or not the action is in alignment with the categorical imperative, which he presents in two forms:
1) always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed universally [REF].
2) always treat humanity as both a means and an end. Never as a mere means [REF].
The act of lying violates both formulations. If I lie to the Nazi, then the maxim I am willing is, "lie to someone in order to save others". However, I cannot universally will this maxim because it is contradictory. If everyone is allowed to lie, then the act of promise-making and truth-telling would become meaningless. Lying is also considered to be a perfect duty, meaning it is a duty that is both necessary and universal; regardless of my circumstances, I must never lie. Lastly, if I choose to lie, then I am treating the Nazi as a mere means. By witholding...