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Kantian Moral And Utilitarianism Theories Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1549 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Ethics is the conscious reflection on our moral beliefs targeting to improve, extend or refine those beliefs in some way. Kantian moral and Utilitarianism theories attempt to respond to the ethical nature of human beings. Immanuel Kant’s deontological ethical theory evaluates if actions are moral based on the person’s will or intention of acting. Kant’s theory can be categorized as a deontological becauseactions are not evaluated to be morally allowable on the foundation of consequences they yield, but rather on the form of the agent’s will in acting,consequently his actions are based on duty and not consequential. Kantianism is based onvalues of maxims, willing, and the categorical imperative. A maxim is a general rule or principleexplaining what a person takes himself to be doing and the conditions in which he takes himself to be doing it.(Feldman, 1999, 201).This principle is universalisable and that the maxim can be applied reliably to everyone whocome across similar situations, therefore willed as a universal law. Willing as the second aspect of Kant’s theory involves the agent consistently committing oneself to make an action happen. A person will is inconsistent if he wills that x be the case and he wills that y be the case and it’s impossible for x and y to be the case together. The key aspect of the categorical imperative of Kant’s theory is that one must act in such a way that they can will that the maxim behind one’s actions can be conceived as part of the universal law. The maxim has to be consistent and applicable to every condition, for every person.

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The differences between imperfect and perfect duties are the additional key point of Kantian moral theories. Perfect duties are those duties that one must always perform in a specific situation, whereas imperfect duties are those that one must perform only when the situation arises. Utilitarianism is alternative theory in which its key objective is to clarify the nature of ethics and morality. Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which is based upon utility, or doing that which produces the utmost happiness. According to a utilitarian the ethics of act is found just if the consequence yields the utmosttotal utility for everyone. Nonetheless, if the greatest probable utility is not produced, the action is then morally wrong. A person should act as to yield the utmost overall happiness and pleasure for everyone who may be directly or indirectly affected by the action. Utilitarian require that for every action the corresponding consequences for every action should be thoroughly evaluated and optionssuggested before deciding whether or not to execute such an action. Kantian moral theory and Utilitarianism are similar in the respect that they both try to explain how one can actmorally, nevertheless they vary in areas of gauging morality and their usage of rules. Both Kant and Mills measure morality in varied ways.

According to Kantianism an act is believed to be moral if it is done for the sake of duty and if its maxim can be willed as a universal law. If one finalizes an action based on their duty to execute, they do the correct thing because it is what they feel they should to do as their duty. Consequently, this act would be considered ethically just. Utilitarianism would only see the act as morally allowable if the consequences of that action yield maximum utility and happiness for all involved. Kantian moral theory values the universal law and maxims as its guide for how people should act in a given situation. Maxims describe some general situation, and then suggest some form of action for the situation. To adopt a maxim is to commit yourself to acting in the defined way whenever the situation in question arises. (Maxims are also used consistently throughout and therefore are a valued guide because they apply universally. For example, Kant made anethical rule for lying which states that if a person can make a lying-promise, then it should be said that everyone can do the same and therefore it being a universal law reliance would be self-defeating. The universal law or rule, states that no one can lie under any circumstance. Kant has also developed similar ethical rules for rusting of talents, helping others in distress, and suicide. Kantianism is therefore a rational and logical theory in which decisions can be made.

In comparison, Utilitarianism has no universal rules on to which ethics are based and therefore they judge each situation independently. Because of this, in gauging consequences to determine if an action will maximize utility this can become a long, time-consuming process and the fact that you will never know if your decision will in effect truly promote the most utility. In evaluating the two moral theories, Kantianism provides a more plausible account of ethics even though from the outside it seems as though Utilitarianism would be the more ethical theory because it looks to maximize utility. Utilitarianism refers to ethical theories which uphold that an action is ethicallycorrect if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable. Consequently, correct moral behavior is determined by analyzing an action’s consequences. Utilitarianism needs the tally of both the good and bad consequences of an action. Then determine whether the total good consequences outshine the total bad consequences.

If the good consequences are greater, then the action is ethically proper. If the bad consequences are greater, then the action is morally improper. It seems as though this process is more subjective and can not be universally applied whereas Kantianism can be. One’s person determination of what yields the greatest utility may not be consistent with another person’s, therefore this theory is inconsistent and a universal law cannot be applied from it. Kantianism is more consistent of a theory and can be universally applied to all beings. It is more plausible because even if the consequences of performing an action aren’t the best, the agent is still indebted to execute the action because it is there duty to do so. Therefore, ethically and morally they are doing the correct thing.

Kantianism is a theory based on duties, maxims, willing and the categorical imperative. Utilitarianism is based on the idea that we ought to do whatever yields the greatest overall utility and this will be the morally right action. Kant holds that his philosophy is useful because a clearer understanding of ethics can help strengthen humanity’s ethical sense. This is because when a reader is informed on the issues surrounding the moral question, then they can make an informed decision. For example, a reader who has a clear understanding of the Kantian categorical imperative and Mills utilitarianism and agrees with the Cartesian theory will still know that it does not apply in all cases. For example, a person may be forced to lie for a good cause.

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Both theories have clear differences, although they are comparable in some ways. Kantianism concentrates on the inspiration of actions, has clear and separate set of universal rules, and is ethically logical. On the other hand, Utilitarianism relies on the consequences of an action, has no set universal laws as each action is evaluated on an individual basis, and morality is based on the results of the valuation.

According to Kant, every rational action must set before itself not only a principle and an end. Most ends are of a subjective kind, because they need only be pursued if they are in line with some particular theoretical imperative that a person may choose to adopt. For an end to be objective, it would be necessary that we categorically pursue it.The free will is the basis of all rational action. But to treat it as a subjective end is to deny the option of freedom in general. Because the independent will is the source of moral action, it would contradict the first formulation to assertion that a person is a means to some other end, rather than always an end in themselves. On this basis, Kant derives second formulation of the categorical imperative from the first act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.

By combining this formulation with the first, a person has perfect duty not to use the humanity of themselves or others merely as a means to some other end. As a slave-owner would be effectively asserting a moral right to own a person as a slave, they would be asserting a property right in another person. However, this would violate the categorical imperative because it denies the basis for there to be free rational action at all, it denies the status of a person as an end in themselves. One cannot ever suppose a right to treat another person as a mere means to an end. The second formulation also leads to the imperfect duty to further the ends of others and ourselves. If any person desires perfection in themselves or others, it would be their moral duty to seek that end for all people equally, so long as that end does not contradict perfect duty.


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