Utilitarianism is a principle that the moral worth of an action is determined by its usefulness in maximizing utility and minimizing negative utility. Utility is the pleasure, preference satisfaction and knowledge. The moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. In this study we are going to compare Mill, John Stuart’s work 'Utilitarianism’ and Kant, Immanuel’s work 'Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.' The study will also come up with findings based on the comparisons if the end justifies the means.
John Mill’s account on Utilitarianism is primarily influenced by Jeremy Bentham and his father James Mill. His famous formulation of Utilitarianism is known as the greatest-happiness principle. He states that one must always act so as to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people within reason. His major contribution is the qualitative separation of pleasures. He argues that intellectual and moral pleasures are superior to more physical forms of pleasure. He distinguishes between happiness and contentment stating that contentment is of higher value than happiness. Kant on the other hand states that, all rational knowledge is either material or formal. In formal perspective, it considers some objects while the material view is concerned only with the form of the understanding and of reason itself. Formal philosophy can also be called logic while material philosophy is concerned with determinate objects.
John Mill gives the difference between higher and lower forms of happiness and goes ahead to justify his claims that those who have experienced both tend to give preference on one over the other. He states that simple pleasure are preferred by people who posses no experience with high art and therefore not able to judge properly. Kant however does not give the difference between higher and lower forms of happiness.
John Mill advocates for qualitative account of happiness. He suggests that utility is to be conceived in relation to mankind as a progressive being. Kant on his part states that, logic cannot have any empirical part. On the other hand, natural and moral philosophy each have an empirical part as it has to determine the laws of nature as an object of experience. All philosophy can be empirical as long as it based on grounds of experience.
John Mill argues that moral theories are divided between the following two approaches; intuitive and inductive. They are both in agreement that actions are right if they tend to promote happiness and wrong if they bring sadness. Mill also criticizes categorical imperative arguing that they are the same as utilitarianism as it involves investigating the good or bad consequences of an action which verify the morality of that action. Kant states that, Moral laws are not only essentially distinguished from every other kind of practical knowledge but all moral philosophy rests wholly on its true part. Metaphysic of morals is indispensably necessary in order to investigate the sources of practical principles.
According to Mill, happiness can be of both intellectual and sensual pleasure. He goes ahead to show that our sense of dignity makes us prefer intellectual pleasure to sensual pleasures. The principle of utility also involves assessing the consequences of an action and not the motives of the actor. The principle of utility should be seen as a tool which promotes general happiness. Most actions are judged according to such principles. According to Kant on the other hand, there is metaphysic of nature and metaphysic of morals. The physics have an empirical and a rational part. The empirical part might have the special name of practical anthropology and the name morality being related to the rational part.
Mill also looks at motivation classes and ascertains that there are two classes of motivation which promotes general happiness. These include: external and internal motivations. External motivations arise from the hope of pleasing and displeasing God and other humans. Internal motivation in the other hand is the internal agent which is the feeling of duty or responsibility. Duty develops according to one’s experience in handling such issues. Kant on his side argues that, the concept of freedom is the key that explains the autonomy of the will. The will is a kind of casualty belonging to living organisms as long as they are rational.
Besides happiness, things like virtue which we desire also play a significant role in handling these issues. Everything that we desire in our lives is what brings about happiness once it has been achieved. According to Mill, happiness is composed of virtue, love of money, power and fame. On the other hand, Kant recounts that, some definitions of freedom are negative and therefore is not fruitful of its essence. For the happiness to be achieved there must be some positive conceptions which are much more fruitful than the restricted freedom.
However, there are some critics who argue that morality is not based on the consequences of actions but instead, based on the fundamental concept of justice. Mill on his part sees the concept of justice as a case for utilitarianism. Mill argues further that, justice is a genuine concept but must be seen as based on utility. Kant on his part, reduced the definite conception of morality to the idea of freedom. However, he could not prove to be actually a property of the human nature.
Mill committed his life to the defense and the promotion of the general welfare of people in the society. Mill became a champion of lofty moral and social ideals and a role model to many. Mill offered several improvements to Bentham’s principles in terms of structure, meaning and application. Mill made the assumption that the consequences of human actions contribute a great deal to the person’s moral value.
Mill accepted Bentham’s devotion of greatest happiness principle as the basic principle of utilitarian value. However, he disagreed with the fact all differences among pleasures can be given a measurable value. He argues that there are some pleasures that can not be quantified while other differs in qualitative values. Kant on the other hand treats all forms of happiness as equal. Bentham had a moral theory which was founded on the assumption that the consequences of human actions are the ones that count when evaluating their merit and that the kind of consequence that matters to human happiness is just the achievement of pleasure and avoidance of pain. He went ahead to show that the value of any human action s easily calculated by considering how intensely pleasure is felt and how long that pleasure will last. It is also based on the fact of the kinds of benefits that the pleasure is likely to bring about. Whether the outcomes are likely to produce benefits or harms.
Mill looked at the kinds of pleasure by considering their extents. He looked at it from a point of view that portrayed the happiness of the community as originating from the sum of individual human interests. Mill believed that social policies are evaluated properly in consideration of their effect on the general well being of the entire population that is involved. An example of this is found from the act of punishing criminals. In this sense, a criminal is likely to weigh the likelihood of future pain and the apparent gain of committing crime. Once he/she has established that there is nothing to gain from this act, he/she is likely to prefer not committing the crime. In this sense punishment needs to fit the crime by changing the likely perception of the value of committing the crime.
The two philosophers had different points of view; Kant viewed morality from a different perspective as compared to the way it was viewed by John Stuart Mill. John Stuart’s view is more realistic as compared to that of Kant bearing in mind all the aspects involved in it. Mill had a more organized and an easily comprehended approach to viewing morality and how it influences our lives. He also had real life examples that made it even more realistic. Kant’s approach however, lacked all these.
Work cited List
Kant, Immanuel. 'Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals' 1785
Mill, John Stuart. 'Utilitarianism’. University of Florida. 1861
Wilson, Fred. Psychological Analysis and the Philosophy of John Stuart Mill. Toronto: Toronto
University. Press, 1990