“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.” – Immanuel Kant
The reason why the ethics is so significant is related to impact of it on a person has on himself and others.Some actions occur where the line between moral and immoral is not clear.Kant wants to clean any confusion on people’s mind by telling us to come up with a maxim for the situation. He argues that if the action is applied as a part of one’s duty, the action is moral. Mill suggests a different way of looking at situations.Mill prefers to suggests analyzing what will bring the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest amount of people instead of instead of obeying the strictly duty.
While comparing both Kant and Mill argumentation, it gives opportunity to people to critically think about the moral value of an action. On a personal level, I have often believed that the consequences are less important than the motive behind the action when it is considered in terms of morality. Although both philosophers philosophized about the same time period, the philosophers have very different ideas about ethics and happiness. Kant, believed in the morality of the good will and duty. He embraced that happiness is an irrelevant because according to him, fulfilling duty is the most important aspect of leading a moral life. Against this argument, John Stuart Mill, who is well known for his utilitarian mindset, the greatest happiness for the greatest amount. While they may have disagreed about what makes an action ethical, Kant and Mill are both extremely significant philosophers whose ideas about morality, duty and happiness are important to critically analyze.
Even if Kant and Mill often differentiate each other, in some cases they can have similar points and beliefs regarding how the moral value of an action should be judged, the relations between the moral and natural good, and what the duty is for both of these. Kant argued that in order for something to be moral, it must be done from duty. He calls this the moral law which is a product of reason or the moral good and said there were two types of this feeling of obligation expressed in the categorical imperative. Essentially, the categorical imperative consists of acting on maxims that can be considered a universal law. By acting on maxims that can be considered moral law, Kant meant that ethical decisions should be based on a greater ideal. This maxim; however, should not just be applicable to you in the situation. Instead, for a maxim to be moral it needs to be applicable to everyone, otherwise it’s not a moral law and not morally rational. The reason this is so important is that it directly relates to a sense of duty. In other words, people make a decision based on what’s best for them and not based on moral reason. Thus for Kant, duty and moral law are very closely linked in the quest for taking ethical actions.
John Stuart Mill, on the other hand, investigates morality a little bit differently. He argues that the amount of suffering and happiness is what indicates the morality of an action and thus strongly believes the consequences of an action are what decide its morality. He claims that an act is good or right insofar as it brings the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest amount of people. By happiness he means pleasure as against to pain and suffering. From his point of view, the happiness derived from an action doesn’t even have to be that person’s own. Rather, as long as it makes more people happy than unhappy, it is moral. The nature of morality of an act for Mill is its consequence. While motive in an action initially affects the person, it has little to do with the consequences. This may sound a bit problematic because it doesn’t adequately explain why a person would care about the happiness of someone else more than their own. However, according to Mill, people still have a tendency to be moral even if the moral path doesn’t make them happy because of internal sanctions. These sanctions ensure a person fulfill his or her utilitarian duty, which is essentially ensuring decisions made about actions cause the least amount of suffering for the smallest amount of people. These sanctions generally show themselves in a person as guilt or other forms of mentally internal pain. For Mill and utilitarianism, sanctions are inevitable if you don’t accept by the philosophy’s rules. As guilt is often a painful enough reason not to do something, a person does not choose happiness over duty.
As a consequence, I try to evaluate the idea of both Kant and Mill argument and they have different approaches to morality by comparing their dissertations. The motives of the actions so as to determine whether the action is morally right or not are based on various consequences and results. In my point of view, Kant arguments about the morality is more relevant and applicable because according to Kant, intention is significant as much as results are important and good intention has ability to make something to morally good regardless of its results. According to Mill; nevertheless, just focusing on the results and the action is determined just according to its result whether its moral or not and I believe that without good intention, an act does not make sense for me and calling the action as a morally right so difficult for myself. Therefore, even if the Mill’s utilitarian approach is correlated with the amount of happiness to the greatest amount of people, it is difficult to accept all sanctions and apply the all sanction for the sake of the maximize both my own happiness and other people’s happiness. Thus, Kantian view seems to me more achievable.
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