Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill’s Moral Theories

Kantian Ethics

Immanuel Kant believed that people are guided by moral principles that ensure they live comfortably (Ellington 121). He argues that the society has a set of moral beliefs that control the behavior of people and that everybody must respect the guidelines provided to promote understanding, respect, harmony, and happiness in the society (Wood 37). His approach to ethical behaviors is based on the need to examine the appropriateness of human actions and not their outcomes (Kant 22). He believed that people should not just do things and ignore what others think or feel about them.

Kant opposed utilitarianism by arguing that the happiness of an individual should not supersede the need to respect others (Valley 40). Also, he argued that people should wear the shoes of others and think about how their actions would affect them before they do anything. Kant’s philosophy is based, ed on the need to understand that people should act in ways that they would want others to copy (Paton 53). However, if they do not want others to act the way they do, then their actions are not justified. Also, he claimed that people should view others as ends and not means to achieve personal gains (Gregor, Timmermann, and Korsgaard 71).

John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism

He is a controversial philosopher, especially when it comes to how people should behave to make themselves happy (Bykvist 19). Mill argues that actions that produce happiness and eliminate suffering and pain should be given attention because this is how human life is promoted. He claims that the law of utility requires individuals to choose the best course of action that would make them happy, even if this means that other individuals will suffer (Mill 31). His hierarchy of pleasure presents that an individual’s self-interest should be given the priorities over the needs of other people (Nathanson and Mill 51). This is a capitalistic and selfish approach to how people should behave when satisfying their needs.

Application of Mill and Kant’s Philosophical Beliefs

First, John can decide to donate the car to the veteran’s associations instead of selling it. He will not get money but happiness because of supporting social development in his community. This idea is supported by Kant’s philosophical belief that encourages people to do what they would like others to do to them (Schneewind 31). John’s donation will show his commitment, maturity, and responsibility in promoting and supporting community development. It focuses on the motive of human action that Kant described as dominant over its outcome (Tennant 29).

On the other hand, He can decide to sell the car and get money for his family’s upkeep. John’s family needs money for various reasons, and thus, it is important that he sells the car instead of donating it. He was not given that car, and that means that he needs to recover his money either in full or part of it. John will be happier when he sells the car and gets money than when he donates it to the veterans association.

Moreover, Mill explains that people should rank their actions and see which ones give them maximum happiness (Warnock and Mill 39). John will be happy whether he sells or donates his car, but the degree of happiness will be different depending on what he decided to do. Mill argues that there is no need for people to sacrifice their happiness by giving the priorities to others (Williams and Smart 19). Therefore, John should not donate his car to the association.

Works Cited

Bykvist, Krister. Utilitarianism: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides for the Perplexed). New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014. Print.

Ellington, James. Ethical Philosophy: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals and Metaphysical Principles of Virtue. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1995. Print.

Gregor, Mary, Jens Timmermann and Christine M. Korsgaard. Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.

Kant, Immanuel. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: With on a Supposed Right to Lie Because of Philanthropic Concerns. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1995. Print.

Mill, John Stuart. Complete Works of John Stuart Mill. Ohio: Minerva Classics, 2013. Print.

Nathanson, Stephen and John Stuart Mill. John Stuart Mill: Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004. Print.

Paton, John. The Categorical Imperative: A Study in Kant’s Moral Philosophy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971. Print.

Schneewind, Benson. Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

Tennant, Charles. Utilitarianism Explained and Exemplified in Moral and Political Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.

Velkley, Richard. Freedom and the End of Reason: On the Moral Foundation of Kant’s Critical Philosophy. Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Print.

Warnock, Mary and John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism and On Liberty: Including ‘Essay on Bentham’ and Selections from the Writings of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003. Print.

Williams, Bernard and Charles Smart. Utilitarianism: For and Against. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Print.

Wood, Allen. Practical Philosophy: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Print.

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