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Slobodan Brkljac Paper Topic No.

In this paper I will give the summaries of two dominant and generally opposed moral philosophies, Kants deontology and John Stuart Mills utilitarianism, and try to construct an argument against the latter.

Kants moral philosophy has a mapped out place in his enormous philosophical system. Therefore, it is very difficult to give an isolated and short account of his ethical theory. Anyway, having established human autonomy and the concept of freedom in his theoretical philosophy, Kant emphasizes that in every person, as a rational being, there is a sense of morality which is nothing more and nothing less than a, so called, fact of reason. That morality (better said, moral law) is not anything individual, but a common trait of every rational being. Our every act, according to Kant, is an act on some principle which he calls a maxim. Maxim, simply put, is what you are doing and why. Our maxims represent goals of our actions. Kant holds that there are material and formal principles on which we can act, to which correspond hypothetical imperatives (a prescription on how I should act in order to fulfill some desire e.g. if you want coffee, you should go to a cafe) and a categorical imperative. The categorical imperative is connected to acting without references to any desire, it commands unconditionally that I should act in some way, and moral laws are expressed in the form of a categorical imperative. In Kants moral theory, only acting on a categorical imperative makes us free because, since it is the expression of the moral law in us, as a result of our rationality, we give ourselves a law to be governed by and not following external, material principles which govern our will in the case of desires. In order to be moral, we have to try to universalize our every maxim and see if it can serve as a universal law. Only if it passes that test, we can act on it and be moral. It doesnt matter if it would be good for 1

everybody to act on this maxim, it only matters that it can be willed as a universal law. But also the intention counts moral are only those acts that come from formality of the test, i.e. if we act from duty, not those that have anything to do with desires, even desires to make good. Quite differently, John Stuart Mill, holds that the end of morality is maximization of pleasure (or, we could say, happiness) and that is established in human nature. However, we should stress that Mill is not a crude hedonist. His concept goes further than Benthams and emphasizes the quality of the pleasure, rather than simple quantity. His premise is that some pleasures are better than the others e.g. reading Wordsworth is more pleasurable than drinking beer. This qualitative side of pleasures as moral ends has to be included into utilitarian calculus. One more point of importance for Mills account of utilitarianism is that its ruling principle is something called the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. That is different from crude hedonism in which only egoistic gain is considered a true end to action. Mills theory asks that we always act with the greatest happiness of the greatest number in sight and only if the consequences of our actions lead to that state, our actions are considered moral. But Mill goes further and says that this way of acting is also personally motivated since the pleasure of helping others (and being moral) is greater than simple pleasure resulting from solely egoistic benefits. Once again, quality surpasses quantity. This specific trait of his account results from humans being social species and living in a society where care for others emerges gradually as a sign of moral progress. As a conclusion, I would like to present certain difficulties for Mills moral philosophy that have negative impact on utilitarianism in general. Even if we skip the notion that some pleasures are better than others, although it does not seem that people would generally agree that reading Wordsworth is more enjoyable than drinking beer, utilitarianism is still faced with couple of problems.

The first problem that seems to emerge is that utilitarianism is asking too much. Since what matters are consequences of our actions, it is required that we predict too far into the future. If a man saved a baby from the flames of the burning house, that would usually count as a moral act. But what if it later turns out that the baby was Adolf Hitler? Wouldnt the noble man be accused of doing a bad deed since by letting baby Hitler live he definitely did not pay respect to the greatest happiness of the greatest number principle? The consequences of his actions led to the world-known misery and, in utilitarianism, consequences are the only thing that matter when it comes to the morality of an act, but the problem is that we cannot know all the consequences of our deeds. The other crucial problem for utilitarianism in my opinion is the punishment of the innocent. We can easily imagine a scenario where, in the spirit of rising crime rates and police inefficiency, government might accuse and put in jail an innocent person in order to preserve the trust in institutions and, further, preserve the order in society (let us assume also that the innocence of the accused one might be successfully hidden from the publicity).Order in society is generally accepted as a greater good. But this greater good requires from us to punish an innocent person, which is something that a lot of people would not be comfortable with and could not think of as moral.

The arguments against utilitarianism are only briefly sketched here and would definitely need further developing, but even with just listing them out, one can see that utilitarianism as a moral theory is full of problems. It should be stated that Kants deontology which is often offered as an alternative to utilitarianism is not without its problems too. One could argue that Kants concept of duty also requires too much, but compared to utilitarianism, for the reasons I have stated in this paper, I believe deontology to be more plausible.