Term Paper: Kant and Mill

Pages: 4 (1722 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Kant, the difference between acting from duty and according to duty stems from a possible difference in moral motivations. On the Kantian paradigm, an act has moral worth if and only if it is done from duty (that is, done with respect for the moral law), and not merely according to duty (that is, outwardly conforming to duty). The two forms of moral action are closely related, as when one acts from duty, then obviously the action also conforms or accords with duty. The converse relationship, however, is not necessarily true: an act can be motivated by something other than duty, e.g. inclination, but still be consistent with one's duty (cf. Kant 14, 20). As an illustrative example, take a person who is naturally charitable, and gives a donation because he has considered the moral law, and is acting so as to universalize the maxim. This, for Kant, is morally acceptable, since the person is acting both from duty, and according to duty. If the act, however, was not motivated by respect for the moral law, and merely stems from a personal desire to be charitable, or because the person is naturally inclined to be charitable, then this act does not stem from duty, but since the consequence is consistent with duty, it accords with duty - this latter situation, for Kant, is morally unacceptable, because duty is not the primary motivation.

2. If Mill were to advise a person in this situation, he would certainly assert that it is morally unacceptable to change one's grade in order to improve job prospects, because it is not consistent with the principle of utility: the greatest pleasure for the greatest number of sentient beings (cf. Mill 7). When applying the principle of utility, the happiness under consideration is the happiness of a group, and not of a single individual (cf. Mill 11). So, even though I, personally, might derive pleasure when graduating with a 4.0 GPA and attaining an otherwise out-of-reach job, my happiness is not able to outweigh the pain of those I will be slighting by cheating. Under my assumption, there are probably many other (more qualified) candidates who are vying for the same position, and by cheating, I effectively increase their collective pain in trying to increase my individual happiness. Therefore, the Mill's principle of utility would suggest that I not falsify my GPA in order to get the job.

3. Mill responds to the objection that it is degrading to our nature to consider pleasure as the highest good by stating that objections of this sort misunderstand the highest form of pleasure. For Mill, pleasures are of two types: intellectual and bodily or sensual (cf. Mill 7-9). Sensual pleasures are of a lower order, and thus not the pinnacle of happiness. Intellectual pleasures, conversely, are high-order pleasures, which we should strive to maximize. The principle of utility, therefore, does not degrade our nature, but rather, as Mill states, the objectors who view pleasure as only low-order desires are the ones that cast humans in a degrading light.

4. Both Kant and Mill place different emphases on the nature of proper moral action. Of course, as a deontologist, Kant does not place any value in consequentialist moral theories, as the highest moral good is that which stems from duty founded on a priori rationality - in a sense, the consequences are irrelevant. An action, for Kant, can be morally laudable if and only if it is done from duty, even if the outcome is unfavorable. This can be plainly seen in his three formulations of the categorical imperative: 1) act so that your maxim could become a universal law of nature (cf. Kant 30); 2) treat humanity as a means and never merely as an end (cf. Kant 35); and 3) act so that you can regard your will as a lawmaking member of a Kingdom of Ends (cf. Kant 39). Essentially, all three formulations place the greatest emphasis on the motivation behind an action; so, if you treat someone kindly only to fulfill a selfish pleasure, or to achieve some external end, then the action is not morally motivated, as it does not arise from your duty to humanity. if, on the other hand, an action produces a negative outcome, but is motivated both from duty, and in accordance to duty, then Kant would deem that action morally worthwhile. For example, if I am forced to kill one person to save a million people, Kant would concede that this is morally unacceptable, since I am using the victim in this situation as a means to some other end, thereby devaluing his humanity.

Mill, as a consequentialist, is committed to asserting that motivations have very little to do with moral assessments, as it is strictly the consequences of actions that are relevant to the moral judgment. According to his principle of utility, the aforementioned example is discordant with the Kantian view, as Mill would undoubtedly state that the sacrifice of one person to save a million is a morally valid choice, since the pain of the victim does not outweigh the potential pain of the million people; therefore, the greatest happiness for the greatest number would result in killing the single individual.

When choosing between the two paradigms, it is seems as though neither is sufficient as a robust moral theory, as there is too much ambiguity present in life to make moral choices based on any single, overarching principle. That said, Mill's view seems more consistent, as Kantian morality is too stringent and abstract to be viable. On Kant's account, it seems that the goal of morality is to suppress inclinations, and attempt to restrict the scope of moral judgments to rational decisions. Emotions should play a role in our moral calculus, and to state that an action is morally unacceptable, simply because it does not stem strictly from duty seems like too great a demand. It seems as though Kant is committed to denying that there are any morally ambiguous situations, and there is always a morally correct choice. Take, as a counter example, harboring Jews during the Holocaust. If the SS inquires as to the situation, lying in order to save lives would not be an option, since you are using the Nazi soldier's as a means to an end, and not as ends in themselves (lying, as Kant explicitly states, is not a universalizable maxim; cf. Kant 31). On Mill's consequentialist theory, however, lying would be acceptable, as it adheres to the principle of utility - be lying, you are effectively saving a number of people from a horrific fate. There are situations that are morally ambiguous, and a priori rationality needs to be supplemented by the concrete particulars of experience. Utilitarian calculus is more consistent with experiential facts of life, and therefore seems like a more plausible ethical account.

5. In "Crimes and Misdemeanors," Judah feels as though he has no other option than to have his mistress killed. This action is one of premeditation and seems to be ethically indefensible. If one analyzes this situation through the Kantian paradigm, then it is an unambiguously bad action, since it violates all three formulations of the categorical imperative. It could not be the case that murder could be a universal law, as Judah is using his Dolores as a means to achieve a self-fulfilling end. Therefore, there is no way to accept murder on Kant's view.

Mill, on the other hand, might view Judah's act as one that is morally permissible. For Mill, the principle of utility must factor in the relative pain of Dolores' death, and the pain of those who would be affected by allowing her to reveal their affair. With Dolores dead, Judah, his family, friends, and others would be spared the psychological harm of dealing with adultery and betrayal. No one would have to deal with the horrible divorce that would ensue. However, had Dolores broken up his marriage, then it seems no one, not even Judah or Dolores would be happy. So, in this sense, one would view the murder as a morally defensible action. This, however, does not seem entirely correct, as the pain of Dolores' death seems a much greater slight than the pain that his family would experience by the knowledge of the affair. Mill's principle of utility seems to be able to account for qualitative factors (in separating the two forms of pleasure, Mill obviously views qualitative factors as meaningful in moral calculus), thereby providing the justification that Dolores' murder is unacceptable, as her pain would outweigh the potential pleasure realized by her death, or the pain that would accompany her revealing the affair (cf. Mill 11).

It seems as though Dolores' murder cannot be defended on either construal of morality. Furthermore, the judgment is consistent with my own view, as it is impossible to view the murder as morally acceptable, but the one fact that escapes both Kant and Mill could be the… [END OF PREVIEW]

Kant and Happiness for the Philosopher Essay


Mill and Kant- Morality Immanuel Term Paper


Kant and Mills Moral Philosophy Term Paper


Mill and the Individual Thesis


Goodness: Kant Goodness Is an Elusive Concept Term Paper


View 137 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Kant and Mill.  (2007, May 2).  Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/kant-mill/211527

MLA Format

"Kant and Mill."  2 May 2007.  Web.  19 August 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/kant-mill/211527>.

Chicago Format

"Kant and Mill."  Essaytown.com.  May 2, 2007.  Accessed August 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/kant-mill/211527.