Kantianism vs. Utilitarianism. Which is Better for Joe and Why?

According to Mill and Utilitarianism, a vanilla Utilitarian breakdown of the prescribed scenario might lead a sophmoric mind to initially see that cheating would be the right way to go about maximizing the immediate happiness for Joe and his family. However, on deeper inspection and a wider scope of long-term outcomes would likely lead Joe to the conclusion that not cheating si the right, more ethical choice when exercising a well worn philosophy of Mill.

“When the temptation arises to violate the norms of justice or the acknowledged rights of others for the sake of maximum happiness, Mill believes that the Utilitarian must always keep this crucial human need for security in mind. We must never underestimate how acts of injustice or the violations of rights undermine this one good upon which all of our happiness depends. The willingness to readily lie, cheat or steal, undermines the security of all, and should therefore be avoided except in the direst circumstances.” (Mill pgs. 18-19)

As a Kantian I would argue that to cheat on the exam would be a moral no-no. Strictly off limits. Regardless of the potential benefits to Joe and his family, cheating cannot be justified. Duty and moral law emphasizes that certain actions are at heart wrong, regardless of outcome. It cannot be universalized; others are not a means to an end, and justice would not be served.

“To use someone “simply as a means” is to involve them in a scheme of action to which they would not in principle consent. If I lie to you about the state of the transmission of
my car in order to persuade you to buy it, I am using you. And hence, my actions are a violation of the categorical imperative. Just as before, the consequences don’t matter.
It is irrelevant how great the consequences will be for me, for my family, etc. The action is wrong as a matter of principle. So for Kant, the key to acting morally is simply to follow the categorical imperative. This means that before you act, you must make sure that your actions and intentions are consistent with the categorical imperative. You can use either version of the categorical imperative, because both amount to the same thing.” (Kantianism pg. 4)

At this point in time I find myself aligning more with Mill and Utilitarianism, though I hold, with much respect and high regard, the views of Kant. I believe that to side with Mill as a Utilitarian is the better path as the result could still be the same as Kant.

And the objective truth, regardless of my belief, is that I am out of time, as the clock on this assignment won’t allow me to write anymore.


Leave a Reply