In the making of my own argument on the elements that justify a right or wrong action, I will reference two of the most influential philosophers, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill. In order to make this paper easy to follow, I intend to focus on one of the arguments formed by each of these men. I will evaluate how both of Kant and Mill’s principles fits into the morals of right and wrong. Kant gives us a categorical imperative that urges one to Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law (Kant), and Mill states that actions are right as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness (Mill). Lastly, I will briefly formulate my own position on the components of a morally right action. I find Mill’s view of utilitarianism somewhat conflictive with the idea of morality. Based on the notion that utilitarianism calls “right” the actions that promote greatest happiness, for one self and for the whole, it can be said that utilitarianism allows murder (for whatever reasons it may be) and therefore this view is incompatible with our assessment morally acts.
When we find ourselves conflicted in a difficult decision-making process, a Kantian would advise us to evaluate the outcomes of our decisions and think whether we would want to have such actions made acceptable universally. If we cannot imagine living in a world where innocent individuals, regardless of their status, meet death to pay for the crime of another, then we ought not to take such actions against an innocent individual. Otherwise, the result would only lead to a world, where the true criminals roam free while many innocent lives are jailed or executed. This effect could also create a presence of insecurity in society, since all innocent individuals would fear becoming the scapegoat for a committed crime. By further following a Kantian’s thought, putting an innocent life to death to appease a wider public implies that the innocent individual was used as a mean (falsely accusing and executing an innocent homeless) to an achieve an end (prevent the riot of an angry crowd demanding justice).
In a Kantian's view, if I want to make others happy, I should only act in ways that foster others’ benefits instead of simply manipulate them. This view, in a sense, resonates well with Mill’s aggregate happiness principle, as it states that we take on actions that only promote the greatest happiness for ourselves as well as others’. The paradox here is that the happiness of the whole is often not measured at the same level as the happiness of the individual. In light of this paradox, it cannot be said that the conviction and killing of an innocent life promotes that same individual’s happiness. An opposing view would say that unless the innocent individual desires death, then the Kantian would be seen as simply granting the individual’s request and achieving a greater end at the same time.