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Utilitarianism Vs. Kantianism

Utilitarianism can be best seen as the "conscious reflection on our moral beliefs with a goal of making better, extending or refining the beliefs in the same way." Human beings live in a society that is defined by their moral obligations, and Kantian moral theory and Utilitarianism are the two theories that attempt one to define this nature of humanity. But many ethics students and philosophers have debated on which of the offers the most plausible account of ethics. For instance, Emmanuel Kant's deontological theory of ethics considers if actions are moral, based on the person's will or intention. And those who believe in Kantianism believe that the action does have the biggest impact on ethics than the result of the action. This is to say what a person does, even if it is wrong, is right as long as it leads to the best reaction. On the other hand, Utilitarianism is based on the statement that "the end justifies the means." In other words, what a person does matters less as long as it leads to a happy ending. We can tell that both of these theories aim to create a most accommodating society. And they have been used by different industries of human social behavior to try and explain why people make the decisions they make.  

We can define ethics as the 'conscious reflection on our moral beliefs with the intention to change them in a positive way." According to economic consumer theory, humans are social beings who make rational decisions based on what benefits them the most. We are human because of our social nature. Each of us must make decisions throughout the day, which are influenced by our desire to succeed. Anything that does not give out the best output is ignored, while whatever benefits an individual is picked as the best decision. And the decision affect those around us. Economists use different models to understand human psychology and determine what leads them to make those specific decisions. In these cases, utilitarianism and Kantianism approaches offer a certain clue into answering these questions. Every human being is obligated to do what is considered ethically right while in a social setting. There are two aspects of human decisions and actions upon which these theories are based.

On the one hand, we have the action itself. The things that someone does when they are faced with certain or uncertain conditions. And on the other hand, with the consequences of the action, the results at the end of one's decision.

Kantian and Utilitarian theories seem to be conflicting ideas. However, a deeper view into the model may reveal a lot of similarities. The main split comes from their definition of ethics. According to Kant's thought, if action is moral, based on the person's intention, the end does not matter. This theory is categorized as deontological because actions are examined to be the permitted morality based on the not consequences they produce, but rather on the form of action. There, actions are based on duty and not on the consequences. The foundational principles of Kantian thought are maxims, willing, and categorical imperative. Maxim, according to Kant, is the general rule that defines what a person understands about their actions at any given moment and the environment in which they understand to be undertaking the action, (Friedman, 1999). This principle has to be universalizable, and the maxim is an application process to everyone who comes under similar circumstances, hence, deemed as a universal law. Kant's thought is founded on the second principle, which is willingness. In this case, the agent commits themselves consistently to make the action occur. The action is becoming the main focus, whether it brings out positive results or a negative one. He says, "In general, we can say that a person wills consistently if he will that p be the case and he wills that q to be the case together" (Friedman, 1999, 203). Kant's theory is based on a third principle, which is categorical imperative. The important view denotes this aspect that one must act in such a manner they will that the maxim behind the actor's decision is seen as part of the universal law. The maxim must be consistent with and applicable in every situation, for every person.

There are other critical aspects of Kantianism, which include the differences between imperfect and perfect duties. Perfect duties are those that the agent must always do in specific conditions, and the imperfect duties are the ones one must perform only when the situation arises. The simplest explanation of the Kantian theory is that human beings must always make morally upright decisions. Kantian theories believe that one should never kill, tell lies, or do anything that would otherwise compromise ethics. They must always keep their promises too, without questioning or making the other party feel less. It is wrong to tell lies in order to protect a friend from murder. 

Using this example, perhaps a lie would lead the friend straight to prisons while telling the truth could save them. The agent must focus on doing only what is right, and forget about what comes out in the end. Kantianism puts more trust in systems than in people; this is why it does not consider the action. A major assumption is that people are naturally evil and incapable of doing anything good; hence systems and organizations are better.

Utilitarianism is another theory that has been used together with Kantianism to understand the nature of morality and ethics. The theory is based on utility or doing what is best to produce the greatest happiness. Any action that leads to a happy ending is justified as right, whereas any action that leads to unhappiness is seen as wrong. In other words, it does not matter much what the person does, as long as a result is greater happiness within a specific community. According to the utilitarianists, an act's morality is found just if the results produce overall utility for everyone. If the greatest possible utility is not achieved, then lack moral rightness. In this view, a person needs to make decisions and act as to produce the best overall happiness and pleasure for those who may come in direct or indirect effects of what they do. This means every action should have corresponding consequences that are weighed thoroughly. One must think about all the proposed alternatives before making the decision to either take or ignore such an action. If, for instance, someone is caught up by armed robbers, it is okay for them to lie if the lie saves their lives. Therefore, Utilitarianism is different from Kantianism, in that is focuses on the end results, while the latter focuses on the process.

The two theories are similar, too, at one point. They are both used in attempts to explain how an individual can act ethically. They look into human psychology and try to determine why people must behave in certain ways, or take certain actions that produce the best results. However, the main difference emerges from how they measure morality and how they use morality and ethics rules. Both Kant and Milles approach morality from different perspectives, which seems to bring about the clashing ideas. According to Kantianism, there are two reasons that make an act moral. The first reasons are if the act is taking for the sake of duty, and the second one is if maxim can be willed as a universal law. If the actor goes through the action because of duty, they are doing the right thing because they are demanded by duty. Hence, the act would be seen as morally just. In the case of Utilitarianism, it is only the act that is morally permissible from which the maximum utility and happiness are willed.

The theories also show great differences in which and how rules apply. The Kantian moral theories look at the universal law and maxims as the guiding principles for human behavior under certain conditions. Maxims are aspect used in describing "some general sort of situation, and they propose some form of action for the situation" (Feldman, 1999, 202). Kant continues to state that adopting maxim means one has committed themselves to act in the way described in the law, whenever the condition it is set under arises. Maxims are used through the theories and in their applied, and hence, they have valued guides since they are applied on a universal scale.

A good example is a moral rule for lying that Kant came up with. He said if an individual can make a lying-promise, then it should be decreed that all people can do it, which becomes a universal law, and trust would be self-defeating. Here, Kant, means that it is not a perfect duty to lie, and according to the universal law, not one should, under any circumstances, make false promises. Kant has gone ahead to develop similar rules for other situations, like rusting of talents, helping others in distress, and taking their own lives. Based on this explanation, Kantianism can be seen more like a rational and logical theory that explains decisions made. On the other does not have any universal set rules, one in which morality is founded, and hence every situation is judged individually. And therefore, this approach can be lengthy and time-consuming if used in weighing consequences to determine if an action will maximize utility. Again, it is hard to tell if your decision will, in effect, truly promote the most utility.

Generally, Mills shows that people should only focus on things that improve human life, encouraging people to always engage in actions that promote society's general well-being. Kantian is more concerned about the 'why' behind the action, and not the final outcome. These are the definitions of morality – outcome, and process – which brings out the main difference between the two theories. Overall, however, they both seek to promote the general well-being of society. But it is worth noting also the Utilitarianism focuses on a person, while Kantianism puts more emphasis on the action. Milly, therefore, believes that people ought to live with the rules, and there is no justification for breaking them. Human actions are motivated by external and internal forces, and the motives should be the basis of judging whether an action is right or wrong. In light of this, utilitarianisms look at systems and institutions and not the people. Hence, supporters of the theory believe that established institutions should be trusted more than people and that human beings cannot be trusted when it comes to making certain decisions. This is why the main focus is placed on judging the action more than the outcomes. On the other hand, Kantianism proponents trust people more, which is why more emphasis is placed on the action. According to them, life's main goal includes creating happiness and pleasure for people more than pressing them with rules. Hence, people should be given the freedom to do what they want to do – freedom of choice and the outcome of consequences.

Utilitarianism believes that people are inherently evil, hence cannot be trusted to do good. It can be determined that both theories focus on human behavior, which can make a society to live happily. When people do the right things, then society will live generally happier. These theories categized human action into right or wrong categories. Human beings live in a world of rules and violating them to attract punishment. This is why the world has organizations that deal with human rights, the judiciary, and correctional facilities. More importantly, they both meet on a single line that human happiness and pleasures are a reward for good actions.

In assessing the two theories, there are those who believe Kantianism offers a more plausible account of ethics, whereas some believe Utilitarianism is better because it seeks to maximize utility. Utilitarianism holds that an action is morally right; the consequences are better than bad, and hence, moral conduct is determined by analyzing the results of an action. Nevertheless, it would be better to define the scope of the dilemmaUtilitarianism, considering the advantages and disadvantages of both choices before applying the appropriate theory.

Author: James Hamilton


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