“What would Kantian and utilitarian views be on the Second Gulf War?

” Kantian and utilitarian ethics are vastly different, with – in a general sense – entirely opposite beliefs on many issues. From a philosophical standpoint, in many areas the Second Gulf War in Iraq can be treated just like other major wars in recent time: it was accepted by those who declared war that people would be killed in the effort to remove Saddam Hussein - the (former) Iraqi leader - from power and for regime change (for a larger, more important cause). On this basis alone it can be said that Kantian ethics would oppose the War. However, the utilitarian stance is much more complicated. The keystone of utilitarianism is the Greatest Happiness Principle (the ideology that what is right is what results in the greatest benefit for all humanity, and not a certain segment of the population). To decide whether the War was just one needs to look at the complexity of the issues – the circumstances – when war was declared and as the war went on (to find if the war continued to be just or unjust). With Kantian ethics opinions are based around the Categorical Imperitive. The best known formulations of the Categorical Imperitive are the three that Kant includes in his summary of the Groundwork (79-81) and which H. J. Paton (in The Moral Law, Hutchinson) translates as follows: 1 Act as if the maxim of your action was to become through your will a universal law of nature. The is the Formula of the Law of Nature and is saying that we should act in such a way that we can will that the maxim (or general principle) under which we act should be a general law for everyone. 2 Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end. This is the Formula of the End in Itself. Kant says that it can never be right to treat

people just as a means to some end – human beings are always “ends in themselves” and Kant describes human beings as “holy” because of this. 3 So act as if you were through your maxims a law-making member of a kingdom of ends. This is the Formula of the Kingdom of Ends. Kant envisaged rational agents acting as if they were making laws for themselves based on the use of reason and, in so far as they do this, they will become “law-making members of a kingdom of ends”. The Categorical Imperitive looks at the motives of an action to determine if it is just. In justifying the war against Iraq, the Bush administration and its supporters based their case primarily on the threat to the United States posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ties with al-Qaeda. “Recently the search for WMD was discontinued, American and British troops having found no signs of a chemical-, biological- or, more importantly, a nuclearweapons program and have uncovered only low-level ties to al-Qaeda.” – John B. Judis The claims of great threat posed to the United States seem unfounded. It is possible that the Bush administration based their decision to go to war around studies which they genuinely believed to be trustworthy. However, their responsibility for treating these sources with scepticism remains. Sources which reported WMD in Iraq in the time leading up to the War were flaunted by the Bush administration and it seemed only the apparent need to go to war was being talked of and not the negative prospects, with thousands of probable casualties. Another popular idea is that oil was an important factor in the Bush administration’s decision to go to war. Iraq has the second largest proven oil reserves in the world and it is expected that in future decades US and UK companies will overcome other international rivals and gain the most lucrative oil deals that will be worth hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars in profits. The motives of the Bush administration seem to be at least more complicated than out of duty to protect the Iraqi people from oppression which would be frowned upon be the Kantian purist. Fundamentally, the consequences of war are

irrelevent with Kantian ethics as war treats some human beings as less important than others, an ideology that some must suffer for the “greater good.” In order to treat each person equally, the Kantian must allow no person to suffer, or all to suffer. What a just war is exactly is difficult to define. However, there is such a thing as “Just War Theory”: This theory deals with the justification of how and why wars are fought. The justification can be either theoretical or historical. The theoretical aspect is concerned with ethically justifying war and forms of warfare. The historical aspect, or the “just war tradition” deals with the historical body of rules or agreements applied (or at least existing) in various wars across the ages. For instance international agreements such as the Geneva and Hague conventions are historical rules aimed at limiting certain kinds of warfare. It is the role of ethics to examine these institutional agreements for their philosophical coherence as well as to inquire into whether aspects of the conventions ought to be changed. Vincent Ferraro outlines a just war: “A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified. A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate. A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause. Further, a just war can only be fought with "right" intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury. A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable. The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought. The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered. The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.”

Utilitarianism is a moral theory which is dictated by the “greatest happiness principle.” That is, that the best course of action is the one which results in the greatest happiness for all humanity. Kantian ethics on the other hand put individual welfare before the greater good, that is, people are never used as a means to an end. Each moral theory can be appreciated as best for some situations but neither can be seen as best without exception. Utilitarianism is divided into two categories: act (or classical) utilitarianism and rule (or indirect) utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism looks at the act to determine what is morally right whereas with rule utilitarianism there are a set of rules which are stuck by to determine what is morally right. According to rule utilitarianism we learn from experience the kinds of actions that, in the long run, contribute most to human happiness. Rule utilitarianism is exposed to specific cases where instinctive human ethics may cause some non-utilitarian considerations to influence the way that you think. “Two-level utilitarianism” is a system of beliefs saying we can use normal, everyday moral thinking for the most part because experience has taught human beings the kinds of ways of behaving that, in general, lead to happiness. Rule utilitarianism is a much stricter methodology than two-level utilitarianism as it relies on a set out plan of how to judge what is morally right (with the “greatest happiness principle”) whereas two-level utilitarianism is much more open minded looking at specific cases and primarily using past experiences to judge what is morally right. Ideal utilitarianism is not always good to promote some of the things that any given version of the theory might consider valuable in themselves. Since classical utilitarianism says that we do pursue our own happiness anyway, it makes no senses to think the theory ought to provide a reason why each of us should pursue our own happiness. However, it is not true that we always pursue the things which ideal utilitarianism claims are intrinsically good. The idea that the best course of action taken is what brings the greatest happiness is the product of psychological hedonism: the belief that all humans seek pleasure and shun pain. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) is best known as the man who founded utilitarianism, he said that all pleasures are commensurable, that they are comparable with one

another in the same terms, namely, pleasure. Bentham devised the “felicific calculus” or “hedonic calculus” – a calculation of pleasures and pains. This featured: 1. Intensity 2. Duration 3. Certainty or uncertainty 4. Propinquity or remoteness 5. Fecundity, that is, the chance of a pleasure producing other pleasures and the chance of pain producing other pains. 6. Purity, that is the number of people sharing in the pleasure or pain. Example: A rich man wins a large sum of money. He has no need or desire for it so he decides he will either give it to his girlfriend (who is also rich) as a gift or to the Red Cross charity. The felicific calculus would find that giving the money to the charity would the ideal course of action as it results in the greatest happiness. John Stuart Mill argued that there is a distinction in quality between pleasures, and he thus distinguished between what he called “higher” and “lower” pleasures. Mill’s basic idea was that pleasures of the mind and spirit – philosophy, poetry, conversation and so on – were higher pleasures, whilst those of the body – eating, sleeping, drinking and the like – were lower pleasures. Utilitarianism does not seem biased to any particular religion unlike other traditional moral systems of methodology. The theory seems very much like a common sense approach and relates to the modern view that everyone should be treated equally. Its central principle is happiness to the greatest extent possible, which strongly relates to the modern view that kindness towards others is very important. Many argue that utilitarianism is absurdly demanding. To see this, consider the following example: Suppose you would like to eat an ice cream. Now consider that there are people in the world with insufficient clean drinking water, let alone luxuries such as ice cream. If you were to give your money to Oxfam or some other similar charity to help provide drinking water to those without it then you would surely be creating more happiness. Utilitarianism also does not recognise the special bonds people have in families or in relationships with others. Many philosophers think that utilitarianism does not have a proper understanding of the notion of obligation. Some philosophers object to utilitarianism on the ground that it seems willing to countenance the use of individuals

as a mere means to increase the happiness of the world. It seems that utilitarianism fails to take seriously our ordinary conceptions of justice because it claims that in some cases it is right to “punish” the innocent. Kant’s anti-naturalistic, anti-utilitarian ethical theory argued that human beings could autonomously use their reason in order to determine whether an action was morally good. By expressing the principles that underlie individual actions in terms of maxims and seeing if they could be successfully universalised to group or societal levels, Kant argued that we could work out for ourselves which actions counted as moral ones and therefore what duties we should have. If one could find contradictions in such attempts to universalise, then the action would be considered immoral and should not be performed. With his Categorical Imperative, Immanuel Kant argued that moral acts are based upon general principles that apply unconditionally. They are done out of a sense of duty, irrespective of the influence of emotion or the consequences of the act itself. Kant’s ideas are often argued to be of limited value as a guide to moral conduct. In particular his theory is criticised on account of its: 1. Simplistic model of causality, which examines action solely in terms of intention; 2. Omission of any consideration of emotion as a motivation for action; 3. Use of maxims, which it is argued are an impoverished way to express moral truths; 4. Belief that moral goodness is incompatible with the presence of contradiction; 5. Preference for the objective, a historical and unitary over the inter-subjective, contingent and pluralist, a prejudice that seems to exclude any notion of innovation and moral progress. Actions that are always wrong give us what Kant calls our perfect duties: a perfect duty is one to which there are no exceptions. Perfect duties in this sense are also known as “narrow” or “rigorous” or “necessary” duties. And it is in the case of such duties that a contradiction in conception is said to have been generated when a maxim is willed that breaches them. Kant wants the categorical imperitive to provide us also with imprefect duties. These are also known as “wide” or “meritorious” or “contingent” duties. In the case of such duties a contradiction in the will is said to be

generated when a maxim is willed that universalises them. Kant says that we should never treat a human being merely as a means. By this he means that we should not risk harm to their welfare for any cause (eg. Convicting an innocent man because the public fear strongly he is gulity). It is not easy to separate actions done from an inclination and those done from a sense of duty – it is important to recognise that it is not the action which determines goodness but the intention, motive and reason lying behind the action. The good person must act correctly, according to reason, no matter what the consequences and independent of his or her own feelings or inclinations. If a person wills to perform an act, and if this willing does not rest on a sense of duty, then it will not be a morally good action. An action which is not done from inclination at all but purely rationally, from a sense of duty, will be a morally good action. This does not mean that one has to act against one’s inclinations, but it does mean that one’s inclinations cannot determine one’s moral duty. Karl Marx (1818-83) was arguably the greatest thinker and philosopher of his time. After much writing on social problems Karl began to take much interest in communism, which was a new idea being spread. In late 1847 Karl Marx wrote the Manifesto of the Communist Party, commonly called the Communist Manfesto. It covered all aspects of communism and all communist governments were based around it. There have been numerous attempts to combine Marxism with other major schools of thought, giving rise to neo- Kantian, existentialist, psychoanalytic, structuralist, etc, interpretations of Marxism. Equity bridges the gap between Kantian and utilitarian ethics. Karl Marx would undoubtedly not have supported a utilitarian state but he would have appreciated the utilitarian stance on the subject of equity: For many, the goal of equity not only means a fair and equal distribution of income and wealth, but also generating the greatest good for the greatest number. Implicit in the redistribution of income and wealth is the utilitarianism notion that every individual's utility contributes equally to society's welfare.

To conclude, Kantian ethics would have prevented the war, which was unjust as it

was not initiated with the right intentions – those of duty to help others – rather it was much more complicated but oil and paranoia and desire for power exploited the issue. It is possible that a utilitarian could go either way on this issue. On the one hand Saddam was removed from power and prevented from commiting more mass murder atrocities. However, the economic state of Iraq suffered from the war, and the people were generally had a lower standard of living than before the war, with disease outbreaks due to water and other vital supply shortages. Now Iraq is recovering however, and the resulting country will be better off than it was before. The death toll of the war would probably be seen as just to the utilitarian purist as Saddam Hussein had murdered many more people than have been killed in the war. The death toll is again very controversial however, with estimates varying from a total of 14,000 up to 100,000. If the figure were to be confirmed at 100,000 even the utilitarian purist may feel the war was unjust.