All functioning societies have a code of morals that are established to distinguish what is right and wrong. This code of morals relates to almost everything in societies such as government strategy, laws and tradition. These understood and shared morals are the base of the community because without them the society would fall apart, morals are part of our lives every day and they keep order and maintain fairness. Although many ethics can be accepted by all many are not. Emmanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill are a great example of this because they represent two of the most accepted ideas. Kant, who believes in absolutism and Mill supports utilitarianism both use morality as a principle that is the focal point of their theories. Kant puts a lot of trust in human’s ability to apply reason in our lives to build choices. He believes that our reason is not new; this is the base of his beliefs. Kant’s philosophy tells us that our pure reason is completed up by our intentions, which makes it clean (only using reason).
This trust in human’s capability to use reason is one of the key principles that are in the middle of absolutism and utilitarianism. Kant believes that an impartial outlook is wanted for all considerations of morality. He said that all people must agree that law is morally correct and that because of this it must have the greatest degree of necessity. This puts a strong emphasis on impartial thought. This means that the foundation for the absolutism of moral laws cannot not be seen through individual reasoning. Which I believe is a very strong idea; individual reasoning does not show what is best for all people but only for the minority. With all people agreeing that a law is morally correct we are able to see what is right for the majority and then place it at a different level of importance. The belief that good will is directly related to the idea of reason. Through this a division is drawn between inclination and morality. For good will to actually be good it cannot be used to achieve an end. We must not use our ideas and actions to get something that we believe we need or want. An action that is done may look to be moral, but if it is only done for an end, it does not show good will.
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This is the basic reason for actions, but what he is showing is the difference between moral action that is done because of preference, and the moral action done because of good will. This as the basis, Kant starts to show his fundamental principle of morality. Kant begins to tell us that a moral action, for man, must be made by his decisions as if his actions would affect all people and as if it is a universal law. This is one of the ideas that I most strongly agree with. If people actually followed this ideal that our actions affect everyone then maybe people would think more before they did things. I believe that the lack of thought before actions are done is large problem in the world today. Also if universal law were accurately universal for all people then it would be for the greatest good of all humans to follow it. Thorough absolutism, if universal law is not followed totally then it is not any longer a universal law. So any
person that has a good will, will naturally follow this universal law for it brings about actions that are also good. At last Kant proclaims his principle that is under all of the above stated, the principle of autonomy. This tells us that every person has moral independence and that we all have the ability to conclude universal law as long as we have good will. If we all do in fact have the ability to conclude universal law if we have good will then it makes it a lot easier for people to see what is correct and what is wrong. If we are able to use our good will to decipher what universal is then we will have the ability to without even thinking, make right decisions. Utilitarians believe in a principle that is a lot less involved. John Stuart Mill believes in the greatest happiness principle, “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse”. This means that any action that supports happiness evades pain and is moral. Mill discards Kant’s ideas that separate morality and happiness. For utilitarians, morality is happiness, in both intellectual and physical pleasure. Mill declares that the benefits of mental stimulations are more valuable then that of physical stimulations.
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This shows why he believes that education is so important, we as humans have the ability to learn and use the resources that have been given by society. This is another ideal that is often over looked in our times. Education does not merely mean what is learned in schools but what we can learn from others at any given time. If we all used the resources that we have been given by society then we could correctly spread ideas of morality. With the ability to learn, we can use the tools and ideas that we have in front of us every day to benefit ourselves as well as others. Other then the fostering of a learned mind there are other advantages of education in a moral human. Mill believes that through learning and socialization we can acquire these “moral feelings” naturally over time. This is against Kant’s idea that the human mind uses pure reasoning to determine morals. Mill does not accept this idea that pure reason can lead to good will and this is extremely important in Mill’s ideas on utilitarianism. I agree with Mill that we can over time naturally develop moral feelings. Although we do us our minds and pure reasoning to determine goals I think that we can further develop our morals. As we learn more on different aspects of life we can take our experiences of what is good and bad, and then use them towards our moral feelings naturally. We may not realize that what we have learned has shaped our morals, but they do. This can also be a bad thing because someone that has learned hate could then develop morals that are not actually moral. Terrorists learn that death and destruction is what is good, and then their morals are changed in a bad way. They may not realize that what they are doing is wrong, but because they have been educated in a way that preaches destruction and hate they believe that what they are doing is morally correct. But if we could truly develop universal laws that all people can agree with then we will be able to live in a morally just world.
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Because Mill believes that people through learning can develop morals, he also believes that education can inspire many other important values. If people are able to develop these other values in society we can learn to live in unity with each other. By using and creating great ideas in people we can achieve our morals (unlike Kant who believes that morals happen naturally).
Mill’s idea of utilitarianism is deeply rooted in the golden rule. Mill states that the golden rule, “constitute the ideal perfection of utility”. Mill thinks that to work together for good while protecting individuals is extremely important. Also that education and socializing are also extremely important in spreading morality and happiness but not as a way to learn morals. He has faith in happiness for every person as the most important moral. I would also like to try to also show how Emanuel Kant might feel on one of today’s most important moral and environmental issues. Emanuel Kant undoubtedly would have an opinion on the earth’s climate change and I will attempt to explore what he might have to say if he was alive today. Focusing on his second and third proposition we can see that Kant believes nature is what leads men to do certain things. The lives we live coincide with nature and it has shaped us into what we are today. I will ask the question for Kant, is it ultimately humans or nature that have lead to climate change. In the his second proposition Kant makes the statement “every individual man would have to live for a vast length of time if he were to learn how to make complete use of all his natural capacities… before the germs implanted by nature in our species can be developed to that degree which corresponds to nature’s original intention”. When it comes to global warming Kant may believe that our development, which is supposed to correspond with nature’s original intention, will never happen or that maybe we are about to fall upon our realization that we have found nature’s intention and we must now change. If he were to believe that because of climate change we may be to late to realize what nature’s intention was then he would believe that humans will not be able to stop the rising temperatures and this will destroy our world (hopefully he wouldn’t).
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But if it is the later of the two then Kant would believe that we could change our ways and fix this rapidly approaching problem. Kant’s third proposition tells us that man has been given the ability by nature to use his reason to become an individual and “produce everything out of himself”. This proposition has some very interesting quotes that give me the idea that he may believe that we will not be able to change the earth’s warming that is currently happening. “It seems that nature has worked more with a view to man’s rational self-esteem that to his mere well-being. For the actual course of human affairs, a whole host of hardships awaits him.” With the information that is available today Kant may draw the conclusion that nature gave us natural gases such as coal and oil so that we could use them for our the gain of our society and the gain of
individual. Nature gave humans the ability to foster natural gas energy for our “selfesteem” but we have abused this extremely useful natural energy and we will now deal with “a whole host of hardships”. I think ultimately what Kant (and I) would believe is that humans will use their reason to fix this problem. We may see this in his final sentence of the third proposition, “to have reason, and that, as a class of rational beings who are mortal as individuals but immortal as a species, it was still meant to develop its capacities completely”. If we cannot see that we have abused this type of energy and that we must use other forms of green energy then we are not a class of “rational beings” and his statements are false.