Kant and Mill

Published: 2019-04-25 22:46:11
1535 words
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Vanderbilt University
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Creation of a universal moral system is pervaded with arguments where different philosophers preferably Kant and Mill assert their authority by presenting their seemingly divergent views. Kantian ethics dictate the need to abide by the principles of logical reasoning where only the maxims are considered in its application into universal law. On the other hand, Mill provides a different outlook by focusing on principles such as utilitarianism and the existence of utility. Consequently, this paper focuses on distinguishing the divergent perceptions between Kant and Mill insofar as the establishment of moral systems is concerned.

Morality as Perceived by Kant

The fundamental principles of the Kantian ethical paradigms encompass inclinations towards autonomy. Kant's philosophy holds true to the fact that individuals ought to possess free-will to make choices otherwise their actions have no moral bearing, classically referred to as heteronomy. Additionally, the philosopher sensitizes that using logic when perceiving moral dilemmas, one may agree with the ethical theory of Categorical Imperative. Although the law is quite objective, Kant argues that eventually, people would come to concur with the self-governance reflection. The Categorical Imperative may be exemplified by taking into consideration the implication of the maxims involved in the logical process and the possibility of its adoption into universal law (Timmermann, 2009). Kant asserts that besides our perfect duties that are aligned with the rule of law, imperfect duties do exist. For instance, it is not a moral necessity to give to charity, but one is often praised for such a noble act.

The Kantian moral philosophy asserts that the preservation of an individual's life should be encouraged by duty rather than naively conforming to duty itself. Naturally, most human beings adapt to the obligation of life preservation only because they dread the dire condemnation from the society if they chose to do otherwise. For instance, two people may inconspicuously have a complete resentment toward each other and would readily take away the life of the other for purposes of nemesis. However, since murder is illegal and socially unacceptable, the individuals opt to toe the line and instead forego their antipathy contrary to Kantian ethics (Timmermann, 2009). Additionally, he advocates that praise should be accorded to people whose actions stem from the aim of duty regardless of the consequences. He illustrates this by claiming an individual, who has lost the willpower to live, because of despair, yet he perseveres, not because of distress but due to duty, is more morally upright compared to any other. Even though it is considered unethical by the society to contemplate suicide, the Kantian philosophy conceptualizes that duty supersedes natural inclination when it comes to the subject of moral decency.

According to Kant, the principle of goodwill encompasses the actions that are in tandem with the concepts of law. The standard holds that when we undertake an action, whether or not we achieve our desires is a feature that is beyond our control (Johnson, 2008). This implies that the morality of our actions is independent of the outcome of our results. Nonetheless, we possess the ability to control the will stimulating the action, which means we have the option of choosing to comply with one rule instead of the other (Timmermann, 2009). In essence, the ethics of an action is assessed regarding the impetus catalyzing it. Take, for instance, James and John undertake a similar act concerning the conception of the law, but due to unavoidable circumstances, James is unable to attain his goal. Kantian ethics dictate that James is laudable for failing to succeed. Instead, both parties ought to be considered based on evened moral ground while also bearing in mind the will behind their actions.

Morality as Perceived by Mill

The Greatest Happiness Principle is also referred to like the concept of Utilitarianism, which denotes that actions can only be considered moral if they promote utility while the converse is true. The utility may be defined as happiness that is devoid of any pain, and it comprises underlines elements, which culminate in augmentation in satisfaction and reduction in pain for an action to be considered as being moral. Pundits agree that achieving both extremes is a daunting task since one has to consider an action, which yields the highest quality regarding the outcome. Nevertheless, Kantianism runs parallel to the designs of utilitarianism as Kantians rely on the intentions or maxims of a given action to be accepted as being morally upright. For instance, Kantians cling to the principle that human life is only valuable because people are deemed rational beings who engage in behavior that is not exclusively for the gratification of others. Contrariwise, utilitarian beliefs cling onto the paradigms of achieving the greatest amount of happiness although this is virtually impossible since it would mean using people as pawns where they are sacrificed to realize the greater good (Bratanova, Loughnan & Bastian, 2011).

The proof of the existence of the principle of utility is embedded in the fact that it is a derivative of the concept of utilitarianism. It holds as long as the actions are in the right proportion, they have a tendency of promoting happiness while wrong proportions are resulting in the production of negative emotions such as sadness. In essence, happiness may be denoted as the intended pleasure and the lack of pain while unhappiness infers to the pain and deprivation of pleasurable moments. Furthermore, utilitarian subscribe to the notion that actions are justified based on the gradation of which pure happiness is augmented; at the same time, people attempt to minimize the negative implications of actions that amount to unhappiness. According to Mill, the actions of an agent are to be considered morally relevant regardless of his motives (Bratanova, Loughnan & Bastian, 2011). This implies that since net happiness determines the worth of the action undertaken, since for an act to be seen as being morally right, it does not necessarily mean the total avoidance of situations that amount to pain. Rather, such actions account for more pleasure than pain hence one considers perceptions from both Mill and Kant leading to the development of the concept of morality in regards to universal prescriptivism, which explores the various hypothetical situations that would ultimately concur with the philosophical paradigms as perceived, by both Kant and Mill.

Critical Evaluation of Kant and Mill Philosophies

According to Immanuel Kant, the fundamental principle of ethical actions is founded in the prudence of the underlying doctrines and not the consequences of our activities. Subsequently, not much of our actions are of moral significance but our intentions in which we can naturally regulate. Kant regarded individuals as being morally upright as long as he makes an effort to conform to the moral principles by pursuing his duties (Johnson, 2008). Even though our efforts may be geared towards abiding by the stipulated moral principles, which benefit the larger majority, this is by no way a means of justification of morality. Instead, by pursuing the rational ideals, one may validate the intents of his actions, which concur, with the Kantian rules of morality. Besides, Kant is interested in the action that is under consideration such as the case of suicide rather the actual act itself of bearing suicide ideations. Regarding the above information, Kant employs logical reasoning processes, which do not allow for variations from the path of good will or duty. The only fundamental question is whether an individual's maxims may apply to the universal law for all lucid subjects. Hence, the reason may be seen as integral in the formulation of the structure of moral systems as most humans are presumed to be rational thus moral maxims are applicable across the globe. Customs and cultures of a community may differ, but the paradigms of shrewdness hold true for all persons throughout the world.

Under contrary, the concept of utilitarianism as defined by Mill seemingly contradicts the thoughts espoused by Kant. The utility principle sensitizes on the fact that one seeks to achieve the paramount good for a greater number of people. Although this idea bears similarities to the Kantian system of morality, the distinguishing factor would be that Mill was more particular on the outcomes of one's actions because of the action. Hence, subscribers to Mill's school of thought are more interested in the action that amounts to the greatest amount of happiness. Moreover, this paradigm holds that the consequences of an action are the only legitimate means in which most people are interested. The goal of morality is thus to advocate for pleasurable moments and shun instances that amount to pain. This contradicts Kantian ethics, which sensitize on separation of moral questions from what is arguably practical to what will benefit or harm us.

In Conclusion, Kantian ethics advocates for the conformity to the logical paradigms of morality while Mill's philosophy tends to lean on the need to accept ideologies tied to utilitarianism. Consequently, Kant and Mill's views tend to conflict leading to differences in opinion concerning moral systems.


Bratanova, B., Loughnan, S., & Bastian, B. (2011). The effect of categorization as food on the perceived moral standing of animals.T Appetite,T 57(1), 193-196.

Johnson, R. (2008). Kant's moral philosophy.T Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.

Timmermann, J. (Ed.). (2009).T Kant's' Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals': A Critical Guide. Cambridge University Press.


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