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Kantian Vs Utilitarianism

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Kantian Vs Utilitarianism


The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant is the most important prominent in philosophical history of deontological, or duty based, ethics. In Kant's view, the sole feature that gives an action moral worth is not the outcome that is achieved by the action, but the motive that is behind the action. And the only motive that can endow an act with moral value, he argues, is one that arises from universal principles discovered by reason. The categorical imperative is Kant's famous statement of this duty: "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." (internet ecyclopedia of Philosophy).

Suppose Mr. A needs money. Is it right for him to ask someone to lend him money with a promise to pay the money back but with no intention of paying it back? Does Mr. A's bad financial circumstance exonerate from him lying to his lender? The answer to this question according to Kant, would require us to universalize the maxim of this action: "It is morally permissible for anyone in desperate financial circumstances to make a lying promise, that is, to promise to repay borrowed money with no intention of doing so." Would such a universalized maxim be logically coherent? Kant (1990, p. 19) answers with a resounding no.

He believed that the essence of morality is by rational deduction.

Kant's theory is independent of consequences – one's duty should be done for duty's sake. Hence moral law has to be obeyed because that is the right thing to do and not because there consequences to not acting morally.

Kant is best known for advocating "respect for persons" principle which implies that any business practice that puts money on a par with people is immoral.

This expression means no one is used merely as a means in a voluntary economic relationship where both parties benefit.

Moreover, it is the presence of this self-governing reason in each person that Kant thought offered decisive grounds for viewing each as possessed of equal worth and deserving of equal respect. (Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy).

He continues, ‘moral law is by nature universal'.

It is also worth noting that morality is within the individual and that moral values do not arise from actions dependent on consequences of an act, Sahakian (1966, p45).

‘Deontology', comes from the Greek word Deon, meaning duty. According to Kant, the motivation for duty is respect for lawfulness. Kant argued that the highest good was the good will. To act from a good will is to act from duty.

For example: If an Accounts department employee's motivation for not committing fraud is to avoid being jailed – that according to Kant is not being moral as the employee's intention is to avoid consequences. To be moral is for the employee to avoid fraudulent acts because that is the right thing to do.

To act with reason is to do what we ought to do and to act unreasonable is to allow every influence to prevent us from what we ought to do.

Under Kantian ethics, individuals have the ability to choose the principle to guide their actions (Tao ethics).

The Kantian theory distinguishes between accountability and responsibility. He maintains that the outcome of our actions is beyond our control, what can be controlled is the will and intent behind the actions. He argued that what matters to morality is that the decision makers perceive their action in the right manner.

Kant examines 4 duties based on category imperatives:

• No suicide as this negates self love and humanity. It also amounts to using one's own person as a means only as this is contrary to the principles of humanity.

• No false promises such as borrowing money know fully we that the borrower is unable to pay as this may result to distrust among people and using the lender as a means only.

• Developing one's talents and capacities

• Show benevolence towards others


Utilitarianism is balancing one person's

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