Several philosophers in history tried to present their perspectives on the concept of morals and the existence of God. They are a few of them whose documented work can be analyzed for an objective conclusion.
However, the concepts by various philosophers lead to different interpretations of morals. This paper shall compare two pairs of philosophers and their philosophies. An analysis of all philosophies will determine the best approach to morals and the concept of God.
Immanuel Kant versus John Stuart Mill
John Stuart mill presented his concept of morals in the nineteenth century. He adopted the philosophy of utilitarianism, which another man, Jeremy Bentham had presented in a different perspective in the previous century. Mill argued that good morals could be derived from assessment of the quantity of pleasure as Bentham had postulated. However, the quality of pleasure was also an important factor to him.
The quantity of pleasure can be measured by the magnitude of the experience of an individual with whom the pleasure is associated. Thus, if a person engages in an activity that brings greater pleasure than other activities, that particular activity is the most morally good.
Since this rule alone seemed to advocate for activities that sometimes featured lack of productivity and opposition to basic human principles, Mill considered quality of pleasure to define good morals. To Mill, the quality of pleasure is the number of people experiencing pleasure resulting from a certain action.
Therefore, if an activity results to the greatest pleasure for the majority of people involved, then this is the most morally correct activity. The result of any activity is paramount according to Mill’s philosophy. An action done for a good purpose, but has unpleasant results for the majority of people, is morally bad.
On the other hand, Immanuel Kant presented a concept of morals based on goodwill, which is unconditionally good. The purpose for which an action is done is the sole determinant of the nature of morality of the action. If an individual engages in an activity for any purpose that includes self-gratification or pleasure, the particular action is immoral.
All actions should be done for the sole reason of obligation or duty. A universally applied law with no exceptions defines duty. Thus, goodwill arises from any action undertaken to fulfill one’s duties. In other words, the sense of duty is the goodwill. If an activity carried out for the sake of fulfilling one’s duty results in pain for everyone involved, it remains morally correct.
According to Kant, a person should not undertake an activity for the purpose of fulfilling duty and experiencing pleasure. Consideration of pleasure and gratification makes the activity morally bad. Consequences of a morally good action do not matter. Kant’s philosophy is in direct opposition to the concept of morals presented by John Stuart Mill.
Aristotle versus Aquinas
Aristotle presented a moral system that depended on an ultimate goal. He postulated that humans have a definite purpose in life. Aristotle identifies this purpose as rational thinking and rational action. He also continues to rule out wealth, pleasure, and honor as possible ultimate goals of human existence.
He disqualifies pleasure since it is not unique to humans since animals can achieve it. Honor is disqualified because one cannot own it since it depends on the perceptions of other people. Furthermore, wealth is disqualified because it is not an ultimate achievement but a means to an end.
All actions that are aimed at realizing rational thinking and rational action are morally correct. They aim at achieving the ultimate goals for humans. He also asserts that all actions undertaken by humans are good since they have goal.
The only difference is that some actions are aimed at achieving ultimate good while others are aimed at achieving intermediary goals. A morally good action should be aimed at achieving ultimate human satisfaction and fulfillment. To Aristotle, achievement of the ultimate goal or good is the highest good. This is Aristotle’s description of happiness.
On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas acknowledges that happiness can be realized by achieving the ultimate goal. In this case, happiness is fulfillment of the human being. Fulfillment is a situation where one has no desire for anything. At this point, one achieves everything.
Thus, fulfillment occurs when one has knowledge and understanding of God. While a human being is alive, fulfillment cannot be achieved. One cannot understand God while he or she is still alive.
Aquinas postulated that fulfillment could be achieved by living one’s life such that all actions are aimed at achievement of God’s will. Gods will is the ultimate destiny for all creation. This philosophy is based on Christian doctrines, and this is the major difference when it is compared to Aristotle’s concept of morality.
God’s will is the eternal law that is to be obeyed by all creation. Some parts of creation such as animals and plants are guided towards God’s will by God himself. This is necessary since plants and animals have no capacity to reason.
Aquinas’ proof of God is the tendency of all aspects of universe to act towards achievement of a certain goal. Plants and animals act in a manner that suggests that they have a definite goal. Since they have no capability to identify the ultimate goal, an intelligent being, who guides them towards that destiny, must exist.
This intelligent being is God. Humans are allowed to think and act rationally with the aim of fulfilling God’s will. God exempts them from his control of all aspects of universe. It is the duty of the humans to act according to God’s will.
The major difference between Aquinas’ philosophy and the concept of morals as postulated by Aristotle is that Aquinas invokes the concept of God while Aristotle does not. In addition, Aquinas claims that fulfillment occurs only after death of an individual and entry into the afterlife, while Aristotle says that fulfillment can be achieved here on earth.
Among all the studied philosophies of morals and existence of God, some are arguably applicable to humans in the current situation while others are not. The more applicable a philosophy is to the current situation, the more appropriate and important it is.
The utilitarian philosophy by John Stuart Mill is deficient because the amount of pleasure experienced by an individual is relative, and it depends on the perception and the state of mind of the particular person. Thus, it is difficult to measure pleasure in order to determine the moral good of an action.
Aquinas presents the concept of God, which he acknowledges that humans have not yet understood. Thus, this philosophy is not applicable to living humans to a satisfactory extent. On the other hand, the concept of rational action and thinking as the ultimate goal presented by Aristotle is subject to judgment.
Rational judgment and actions are relative to the state of mind of the individual. Finally, Kant presents the most applicable philosophy for humans to use. He avoids considering the consequences since the future is not certain regardless of human efforts to influence it. It is only reasonable that all actions are done out of goodwill. Thus, this ethical system is arguably the best.