Utilitarian vs kantian essay

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Kant associates hypothetical imperatives with inclinations and with actions aiming at ends beyond themselves. It is his conviction of the a priori and rational nature of morality that convinces him that morality can have no basis in means-end calculations. But this is a mistake. The distinction between intrinsic and instrumental values has nothing to do with the distinction between a priori and empirical principles, nor the distinction between reason and inclinations. Take utilitarianism as a common foil for the Kantian moral theory: utilitarians counsel us to act always to achieve the end of happiness. Nevertheless, their theory is just as a priori as Kant's. They do not appeal to experience to show that actions which maximize happiness are right. Although they do have to appeal to experience to determine which actions will produce happiness, a similar thing could be said of followers of Kant: the fact that a given action will fulfill a promise, or aid the needy, or develop my talents (all duties that Kant mentions) is no less empirical a fact than the fact that it will produce pleasure. This is especially obvious for the case of the duty of helping others -- for helping them, presumably, means helping them to be happier and to satisfy their inclinations, and what will help other people in this way is surely no less empirical an issue than is what will help myself. Actions that are performed for their own sake may also be based on inclinations just as well as on reason. Suppose, for example, that somebody likes to dance just for the sake of dancing. The fact that the dancing would not be aimed at some further end beyond itself does not mitigate the fact that it is motivated by inclination rather than reason. So we see that, contra Kant, instrumental values can be rational, and intrinsic values can be based on inclination. Kant therefore has lost his basis for insisting on the purely deontological (as opposed to consequentialist (4) ) form of morality.

Utilitarian vs kantian essay

utilitarian vs kantian essay


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