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Kant v Utilitarianism

March 18, 2015
Kant v. Utilitarianism
The two theories of utilitarian vs Kantian ethics seem to take opposite viewpoints of how
we as people should live our lives morally and ethically. Does this mean that one is better than
the other? For us to decide that, let us explore the two theories first and then decide. Both Kant
and Mill try to create a set of ideas that tells us about the ethics and morality of any given
situation one may encounter. But this is where they differ… According to Immanuel Kant
consequences don’t matter, unlike utilitarianism where consequences do matter. The Kantian
view centers on the motivation behind an act with total disregard for the consequences. In
opposition to this, utilitarianism makes decisions about the morality of an act based the
consequences that the action brings. For a person who believes in the Kantian theory, they think
that the only pure good is human reason, or the motive of the person performing the action,
without any regard to the consequences. As opposed to the utilitarian view, that states that the
motives of an action are not important, just the consequences. A purely good act, according to
Mr. Immanuel Kant’s, would be performed in line with the categorical imperative, or golden rule.
However, according to utilitarianism a good ethical decision is measured by the amount of
happiness that the act creates. This is the basic difference between the two theories.
The underlying idea behind Kantian ethics is that each human being has inherent value.
Simply because you are a human, Kant believes, you have worth in and of yourself. “Kant
argues that without human beings, there would be nothing “valued” — so, since the value must
come from someplace, it must be from human beings.”1 Kant’s idea is that the Categorical
Imperative should function as the moral decision rule for an action. The general idea behind this
is that you shouldn’t act on motives you wouldn’t want to be universal law, in other words, treat
others the way you want to be treated. “One of the major variations on the categorical imperative
1 “Kant vs. Utilitarianism.” Philosophyfactory. Philosophy Factory, 30 May 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Vitale 1
is the “means / ends” formulation… which makes an important point about Kant’s view of
humanity — namely, that you ought not treat humans as a means to an end. In other words, you
shouldn’t use people to get what you want.” 2 Basically Kant believes that if your motive for

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