Immanuel Kant vs John Stuart Mill
Right vs. wrong! The debate continues. Philosophers have presented countless arguments on the subject, yet many still question whether morality should be based on what would be best for the greatest number of people, or on abstract principles derived through logic? Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill are both highly regarded on the subject of morality, each taking a unique position. Closely observed, their theories could be manipulated to support immoral behavior, or combined to present a more objective basis for determining morality. Kant believed that morality of an action is good when it is based on good intentions, regardless of the outcome. Mill, on the other hand, believed that because we cannot be sure of a person’s intentions, morality can only be measured in the consequences of the action. Based on these contradicting theories, I will attempt to note theoretical similarities between Kant and Mill.
Categorical Imperative vs. Utility
Kant’s categorical imperative gives precedence to morality over happiness. It is the absolute command of moral law and a duty bound action, void of any other purpose or condition, good in itself—proposing what one ought to do. It commands that a particular course of action is required, regardless of any willed end. It is the fulfillment of one’s duty to necessary truths that gives an act moral worth, regardless of its consequences. The basic formulation of the categorical imperative states: “Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law”.
Similarly, Mill theorizes under the principle of utility, which means that actions are good if they promote happiness, and wrong if they produce the reverse of happiness because pleasure and the absence of pain are the only things desirable as ends. The Greatest Happiness Principle states that actions are good based on the amount of happiness they provide. Happiness is defined as...