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Dean Ioannou Professor Campisi Ethics Paper 10/29/09

The Utilitarian and Kantian Views on Prostitution

One of the biggest issues that has caused controversy and debate throughout history is prostitution. Prostitution is the act of selling one¶s body for money so as to make a lifestyle, or in some cases people are forced into the profession. While it happens legally in some places and is monitored and controlled such as in Amsterdam, and Las Vegas. It also happens illegally where pimps force young woman to sell their bodies and earn a living off pleasuring others. Also as the internet continues to grows, it becomes much easier to find private escorts and other discrete ways to find a prostitute. With the help of the Utilitarian theories of Mill and Bentham, and the Deontological views of Kant, I will prove that prostitution is unethical. John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham both have utilitarian theories, or happiness theories. This theory µs primary point is, ³The ethical goal is a life rich in pleasure or happiness both in point of quantity and quality for the greatest number of people´ (Troyer 100). Utility is also very consequentially based in the means that whether or not the motive of the action is good or bad the end result is all that matters. This theory is based on measuring happiness through pleasure and pain, and Bentham and Mill have slightly different views on how to measure it. Bentham states, ³Actions are good and bad according to the tendency they have to augment or diminish the pleasure or happiness of the parties whose interests are in question´ (Birch 86). Bentham is simply saying that depending on how much pain or pleasure a specific action gives a person determines how good or bad it is. Bentham argues that happiness and pain can be measured quantitatively. ³Bentham discusses seven aspects of a utilitarian evaluation: intensity,

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duration, certainty, propinquity, fecundity, purity, and extent. This procedure is sometimes called the Utilitarian Calculus or hedonistic Calculus´ (Birsh 89). Bentham uses these seven categories to evaluate pain or happiness that is caused by giving each category a numeric value. Each category is based on a -10-10 scale -10 being the most painful, and 10 being the most pleasurable. After each category is given a number value they are added up and one can see if the action is good or bad. Mill on the other hand believes that happiness can be measured more by quality then quantity. An example of this would be if one was given the choice to be a human for 20 years or an oyster for eternity. While being the oyster would give you eternal life, one¶s life would consist of nothing. At the same time being the human you will be able to be much happier and capable for so much more. Mill also believes that pleasures are broken down into two categories higher and lower pleasures, he explains this as, ³I am asked what I mean by difference of quality in pleasures: of two pleasures, if there is one to which all of almost all who have experienced of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it that is the more desirable pleasure. If one of the two is, by those who are competently acquainted with both, placed so far above the other that they prefer it, even though knowing it to be attended with a greater amount of discontent, and would not resign it for any quantity of the other pleasure which their nature is capable of, we are justified in ascribing to the preferred enjoyment a superiority in quality so far out weighing quantity as to render it, in comparison, of small account´ (Troyer 100).

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What Mill means here is that if a person is given experiences and they prefer over any other pleasure even if they know they won¶t be as happy then it is a higher pleasure. Examples of higher pleasures would be reading a book, learning something new, or studying. Lower pleasures are more physical pleasures like watching a funny movie, going on a rollercoaster, or sexual interactions. While the lower pleasures cause more immediate pleasure the higher pleasure are more benefiting and last longer. While Utilitarian¶s believe that actions are based on happiness Kantian views, or Deontology, or duty ethics are much different. ³Deontological ethical theories focus on the reasoning that precedes the action. Deontology relates to the Greek word, deon, which translates out to duty´ (Birsch 69). Deontology is very motive based and it is you initial action that determines good or bad. Kant states, ³If we do either more or less than is required of us we can be held accountable for the consequences, but not otherwise ± not if we do only what is required, neither more nor less. If all the good that we do is just what is required and no more, the consequences of our actions cannot be adjudged to our credit´ (Kant 59). What Kant is explaining here is that if everyone does only their duty then they cannot be held responsible for their actions. He has many duties some of them being: duties to oneself, duties to the body, duties to others, and duties to animals. The first and most important duty is to oneself Kant describes this by saying, ³A man who fails in his duty to himself loses worth absolutely´ (Kant 118). He is saying here that if you can¶t fulfill your duty to yourself then you are worth nothing. He then goes on to say, ³it is obvious that nothing can be expected from a man who dishonors his own person. He who transgresses against himself loses his manliness and becomes incapable of doing his duty towards his fellows´ (Kant 118). He is now bringing in the duty to other by saying that if you fail in your duty to yourself then you cannot do your duty towards others. The duties

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towards others contain two parts, Kant explains, ³They are divisible into two main groups: 1) duties of good-will, or benevolence, 2) duties of indebtedness or justice. Actions falling under the first group are benevolent; those falling under the second are righteous and compulsory´ (Kant 191). Kant is showing the two categories on being the duty of benevolence and the other being the duty of justice. We should do good and be just towards others similar to the saying do onto others as you would want done onto you. He goes on to say, ³the chief of these duties is respect for the rights of others. It is our duty to regard them as sacred and to respect and maintain them as such´ (Kant 193). Kant also uses a test to determine whether or not something is ethical: the first is, ³that it allows for the universalizablitlity of moral judgments´ (Birsch 76), which means it can be applied to anyone, anywhere, anytime, the second is to ³act in regard to all persons in ways that treat them as ends in themselves and never simply as means to accomplish the ends of others´ (Birsch 75). This means that you cannot use people for your own benefit. It is no surprise that Kant sees prostitution as being unethical. He is not against sex and is an advocate of love by saying, ³a love that springs merely from sexual impulse cannot be love at all but only appetite and when a person loves another purely from sexual desire, none of these factor enter into the loves´ (Kant 163). It is when the people are using each for sexual desires that Kant disagrees with and asks, ³May a man for instance, mutilate his body for profit? May he surrender himself at a price to the highest bidder?´ (Kant 43). Prostitution consists of one person selling their body to another and this violates many aspects of the duty to oneself laws that Kant talks about. He states, ³If a man for gain or profit submits to all indignities and makes himself the plaything of another, he casts away the worth of his manhood´ (Kant 118). He is explaining that by giving yourself up your making yourself a thing, and by being a thing you are no longer worthy of being a man. By being a prostitute one gives up their freedom because they are using

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themselves to make money and ³to let ones person out on hire and to surrender it to another for the satisfaction of his sexual desire in return for money is the depth of infamy (Kant 166). This shows that prostitutes cannot be ethical because they fail to fulfill the duties to themselves. If they cannot fulfill duties to themselves then they most definitely fulfill duties to others. Another reason that prostitution is illegal is that it does not comply with the two part categorical imperative test. First the act of prostitution cannot be ethical because it cannot be universalizable. Kant states, ³If the intent of the action can without self-contradiction be universalized, it is morally possible; if it cannot be so universalized without contradicting itself, it is morally impossible (Kant 44). It is ridiculous to think that everyone could be a prostitute or partake in prostitution. Many people do not agree with these actions, and many religions have extremely strict rules on sexual relations. Therefore prostitution cannot be universalized because it is not able to be universalized. The second test is the means end test, which states that you cannot use someone. He confirms this by saying, ³It is absurd that a reasonable being, an end for the sake of which all else is means, should us himself as a means. It is true that a person can serve as a means for others, but only in a way whereby he does not cease to be a person and an end´ (Kant 120). As a prostitute you are using yourself for money, and on the flipside the person paying for the prostitute is using them to his own personal benefit. He continues by saying, ³Sexual love makes the person an Object of appetite, as soon as that appetite has been stilled; the person is cast aside as one cast away a lemon which has been sucked dry´ (Kant 163). Kant is saying that by buying a prostitute you are using them and then getting rid of them. Prostitution fails to fulfill the duties to one-self, which means it fails the duties to others, it also fails the universal and means to end test making prostitution completely unethical from a deontological standpoint.

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Differing from Deontology Utilitarians look at the most pleasure for the most amount of people so it is a possibility that prostitution could be ethical. Given that there are no sexually transmitted diseases, and that all the prostitutes love their job, and non are abused and forced to work then prostitution might work because everyone is happy. Prostitution is not a prestigious profession however and prostitutes are treated worse than animals in some instances. According to the prostitution research and education website, ³In order to understand prostitution you have to understand: lethal gender inequality, incest, poverty, violence, rape, and drug and alcohol addictions´ (Farley). These are very negative factors that come into play in the prostitution profession and cause a great deal of unhappiness. Also the Prostitution research and education website states, ³2% of prostitutes work for a lot of money for a short period of time then get out or are financially taken care of by one man. 38% of prostitutes are in dire need of money and become prostitutes as a result of childhood abuse, and incest. Finally 60% of prostitutes are the poorest people in prostitution. They have enormously restricted life choices, and many of these women have been physically coerced into the profession´ (Farley). With these new statistics to consider, the view of prostitution being ethical from a utilitarian point of view might change. Bentham would use his hedonic calculus and calculate whether or not prostitution augments more happiness than pain for the most amounts of people. Using this method you will find that because prostitution causes more pain than not because while it causes one party pleasure it is causing the other equal pain, this will cancel out making prostitution neutral, but under the category of purity both parties will agree that it is not a pure act, making the calculation sway more toward the painful side. Bentham would then deem prostitution an act

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that inhibits more pain for more people; therefore, it is not ethical. Mill would immediately factor prostitution under a lower pleasure because it is a physical action and only gives pleasure for a short period of time. He also would look down on participants of prostitution by saying, ³Many, who are capable of the higher pleasures occasionally, hinder in influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower´ (Troyer 102). What he is saying here is that prostitutes have fallen to temptation an lowered themselves to lower pleasures. He would then look at the quality of the pleasure. Prostitution can cause many STD¶s, AIDS, and HIV, which are very serious diseases and will cause a great deal of pain for many people. Also many prostitutes themselves do not enjoy the act, and many are beaten or forced to do it. This shows that even though it does give a short amount of pleasure, it gives much more pain. The prostitute is feeling pain, and if the person paying for gets a disease they will be in a much greater amount of pain than the pleasure from the initial act. Therefore Mill would agree that prostitution causes much more pain for more people than pleasure and therefore, would not be ethical. I myself agree with these three great philosophers that prostitution is very unethical. Prostitution hurts society because of the fact that women are selling themselves. It shows an inequality in the sexes, and shows that the people that participate in prostitution are lessening themselves. Another reason is that the people in prostitution are treated horribly; they are beaten, taken advantage of, and forced against their will most times to give themselves up. Also the amount of diseases that spread from prostitutes are affecting the society as an entirety because if someone uses the services of a prostitute and gets a disease, when he eventually falls in love he is giving his loved one the same disease. I find nothing about prostitution to be ethical because of one party selling themselves, and the other need sexual activity so bad that they pay for it.

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Prostitution will continue to be a huge issue in society whether it is illegal or not. Kant will agree that prostitution fails the two tests, the duty to oneself, and the duty to others. Bentham and Mill with both agree that under realistic circumstances that it will augment much more pain to more people than it will happiness. Using the deontological and utilitarian theories, Kant, Bentham, and Mill have proved that prostitution is unethical.

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Works Cited Birsch, Douglas. Ethical insights a brief introduction. Mountain View, Calif: Mayfield Pub., 1999. Print. Farley, Melissa. Prostitution Research & Education Website. 2008. Web. 29 Oct. 2009. <>. Kant, Immanuel. Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Ethics. Indianapolis: Hackett Company Inc., 1963. Print. Translated by Louis Infield Troyer, John. The Classical Utilitarians: Benthamn and Mill. Indianapolis: Hackett Company Inc., 2003. Print.