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Mill And Kant's Efforts To Solve An Ethical Dilemma

1373 words - 6 pages

It is natural for human beings to subscribe to particular moral ideologies and to apply them to their day-to-day lives since we all live in societies that have norms and values. For many centuries, philosophers have tried to formulate frameworks upon which these moral principles can be based and measured. This paper tries to apply the moral theories of John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant is solving an ethical dilemma.
John Stuart Mill opens his utilitarian postulation by asserting that ethical statements cannot be subjected to scientific or mathematical provability (West 23). Mill’s utilitarianism is the moral standpoint that views actions as right or wrong in proportion to how they advance ...view middle of the document...

Going by the greatest happiness principle, utilitarianism would propose creating happiness for the veterans. John is also likely to create lower pleasures of food and entertainment to his family compared to the higher pleasures that can be offered to the veterans. Mill’s utilitarianism would probably suggest that John donates the money to the veterans.
Unlike Mill, Kant postulates that certain types of actions as theft, rape, lying and murder ought to be explicitly prohibited irrespective of whether they are likely to generate happiness or not (Reath 23). The Kantian ethical consideration requires that John contemplates whether his actions respect other human beings and whether he can will that other people in his position act in a similar manner.
Kantian moral theory is an example of a deontological ethical theory where the moral worth of an action is determined by dedication to moral duty (Wood 31). In choosing whether to use the money to support family or to donate to a veteran’s association, John needs to consider his duty to society as well as duty to family.
Kant proposes the categorical imperative as a command that ascertains moral duties irrespective of the consequences of the action (Baxley 23). In John’s case, the categorical imperative would be, ‘you ought to support your family.’ The categorical imperative can be contrasted with the hypothetical imperative, which commands an action to fulfil certain desires (Denis 43). For instance, ‘if you want to get a good job, then go to school’ (Guyer 32) Kant’s morality is founded on the categorical imperative in the sense that one cannot opt out of a moral claim (Gao 272). According to the categorical imperative, one needs to act according to the maxim that they can wish to become a universal law (Formosa 182). In choosing his action, John needs to decide whether he would like his choice to be universalized. This moral perspective might probably suggest that John should use the money to support his family.
Of the two options, I prefer the Kantian model since it implores the actor to use rationality in choosing a line of action. Kant’s model ensures that John can be held accountable for his choice based on duty rather than consequence. The obligation to assist those in need falls under imperfect duty according to Kant’s theorization (Reath 47). As a father, John has a perfect duty to fend for his family.

Works Cited
Bailey, Andrew. First Philosophy: Values and Society: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, New York: Broadview Press, 2004. Print.
Baxley, Anne. Kant's Theory of Virtue: The Value of Autocracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.
Denis, Lara. ‘Autonomy and the Highest Good.’ Kantian Review 10.1 (2005): 33-59.
Formosa, Paul. ‘Is Kant a Moral Constructivist or a Moral Realist?’ European Journal of Philosophy, 21.2 (2013): 170-196.
Gao, Guoxi. ‘Kant's Virtue Theory.’ Frontiers of Philosophy in China, 5.2 (2010): 266-279. Print. ...

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