Utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory originally established by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill that advocates brining about good consequences or happiness to all concerned. Kantianism is the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Kantianism is another famous rule of the nonconsequentialist theory. Kant’s theory contains several ethical principles.
These principles are the good will, establishing morality by reasoning alone, categorical imperative, duty rather than inclination, and summary and illustration. There are many strengths and weaknesses to both utilitarianism and Kantianism.
Both utilitarianism and Kantianism provide people with a moral structure, from which moral decisions are made.
Keywords: utilitarianism, Kantianism, strengths, weaknesses, moral structure
Utilitarianism vs. Kantianism
According to Thiroux and Krasemann (2012), utilitarianism is, “a normative ethical theory originally established by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill that advocates brining about good consequences or happiness to all concerned” (pp. 451). Kantianism is the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Kantianism is another famous rule of the nonconsequentialist theory. Kant’s theory contains several ethical principles. These principles are the good will, establishing morality by reasoning alone, categorical imperative, duty rather than inclination, and summary and illustration . There are many similarities and differences associated with utilitarianism and Kantianism.
There are many strengths and weakness to utilitarianism. One strength of utilitarianism is it is straightforward and is based on the single principle if minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure and happiness. This is a system that aims to create a happier life for all individuals in a situation. Utilitarianism demonstrates fairness and has the desire to benefit the majority of people. It is the moral side of democracy meaning that if healthcare systems are put into place to improve the health of the population and if more money is spent on healthcare the healthier people will be and that will cause satisfaction and happiness . One of the major weaknesses of utilitarianism is the arguments depend on predicting the results of an action, but can one ever really know the consequences of their actions. According to Thiroux and Krasemann (2012), one weakness of utilitarianism is that it is very difficult to ascertain what will turn out to be good consequences for others. How would anyone know whether or not you are doing the best for another individual (pp. 37)? In many situation there isn’t time to ask if this is for the good of the individual, we simply must act in the best way we know how to. Another weakness is the difficulty of educating the young or uninitiated. If there are no rules or guidelines it will make it difficult to educate others to act morally and to do what’s best for everyone . It would be almost impossible to conduct any type of method of moral education for the young. They need to grow up wanting to discover what the moral thing to do is.
Just like utilitarianism, Kantianism has many strengths and weaknesses. One strength of Kantianism is it provides moral laws that hold universally, regardless of the culture or individual situations. Kantianism is understandable to all. The theory gives us a system that could be understood by a child. It also generates absolute rules, with no exceptions, which are easy to follow . Another strength of Kantianism is it is consistent. There are set rules that don’t exempt anyone and we are consistent in how we apply them. According to Kant, the value of human beings is absolute and all us must try to further the interests of others and treat them with respect . There are also weaknesses to Kant’s theory. One weakness is qualifying a rule versus making exceptions to it. Many have questioned whether a qualified rule is any less universalizable than one that is unqualified. According to Thiroux and Krasemann (2012), Kant never distinguished between making an exception to a rule and qualifying that rule (pp. 53). Also, one may object to exceptions to a rule but qualifying a rule might still be consistent with the categorical imperative. Another weakness of Kant’s theory is what happens when your inclinations and duties are the same? For example, you are inclined to not kill people and you are to obey that rule. Does this mean that because you are not inclined to kill, you are not amoral person because your duty is not pulling you away from your inclinations ? Also the Kant theory can be harsh at times. Kant believed in an eye for an eye and hanging murderers. Respecting people’s rationality means holding them accountable for their actions . The harshness of Kant’s theory holds both good and bad qualities.
Both utilitarianism and Kantianism provide people with a moral structure, from which moral decisions are made. Both utilitarianism and Kantianism have their strengths and weaknesses. Utilitarianism is an ethical system that proposes that the greatest useful goodness for the greatest number of people and Kantianism suggests that the morally correct action is an absolute, unconditional requirement that allows no exceptions, and is both required and justified as an end in itself, not as a means to some other end .
Kantianism. (2005, July 25). Retrieved from Wikipedia: www.wikipedia.org Polly, J. (2009, November 6). Strenths and Weaknesses Kant. Retrieved from philosophical investigations: http://www.philosophicalinvestigations.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=210&catid=42&Itemid=54 Thiroux, J. P., & Krasemann, K. W. (2012). Ethics: Theory and Practice 11th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Tsitsi, T. (2013, March). Utilitarianism. Retrieved from SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/aquinas_rs/strengths-of-utilitarianism
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