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Kant’s and Mill’s Moral Theories Essay

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Updated: Feb 4th, 2022

Moral Theories

Morality can be defined as the system through which human beings try to differentiate right from wrong. On the other hand, ethics can be defined as the branch of philosophy that deals with morality. Moral theories are those theories that have been put in place to help determine whether some of the actions we do are right or wrong. They help human beings make informed decisions based on their understanding.

Kant’s moral theory

This theory is proposed by Immanuel Kant who was a philosopher and argued that the actions of human beings depended on goodwill. According to Kant, human beings should only do something if it is morally right. Based on Kant’s argument, we can conclude that an individual who follows moral laws in making decisions is a good person. One should also take into account the consequences, actions’ effects, or outcomes of their decisions. Kant defines goodwill as an action that respects moral laws. He believes that some actions are undesirable even if they would bring about happiness.

Mill’s moral theory

This theory is proposed by John Stuart Mill. According to this philosopher, people should consider possible outcomes, consequences, and effects of a decision before making it. Mill believes that humans should make decisions that benefit all people. His views also reflect an idea that people should do actions that make them happy too, which is known as utilitarianism. In addition, he defined a good action as an action that would make the person happy as well other people after the decision is taken. This theory focuses more on pleasure and happiness. However, Mill does not define how people should determine the effects of their actions.

To shed more light on this the following moral issue could be given as an example. A woman is walking alone at night unaccompanied. A criminal happens to spot her and without warning pounces on her. The criminal intends to rape and then kill the woman. While the two are struggling, the woman happens to take out a machete. She is compelled to make a quick decision. She either attacks the criminal with the machete first or risks being raped and killed. If she killed the criminal she would be happy as she would have escaped from being raped, injured, or even murdered. Also, people would be happy knowing that she killed a criminal who could continue causing harm to society. The other option would be not to hit the criminal with the machete. Her fate would then lie in the criminal’s hands. She would risk getting hurt and worse of all being killed or raped.

If the woman employs Mill’s theory to solve this situation, she would kill the rapist. She would then escape death. Self-defense here would have come first as she would escape unhurt while causing injuries to the criminal. The only option the woman would be having is to free herself from the hands of this rapist by using the machete.

On the other hand, if the woman employs Kant’s theory, it would be immoral to kill the rapist by attacking him with the machete. Therefore, in this case, the woman would have no other option. By not using the machete in her hand to free herself she would risk being raped or killed. By acting morally she would not be able to free herself from the ruthless rapist.

In my own opinion, in this case, the woman is faced with tough choices. Attacking a person with a machete is not morally right. But the woman would attack the criminal with the machete to protect herself. Therefore, attacking him would be the best option. This might inflict injuries to the criminal, but by doing so, the woman would be trying to protect herself. If she got killed her family would suffer. I think the moral thing to do in this case would be to attack the criminal with the machete. She would also help stop a criminal who could take advantage of other women if escaped.

Mill’s theory allows individuals to apply common sense when faced with complex situations. It also presupposes that one assesses the outcome before making a decision. On the other hand, Kant’s theory does not allow to use of common sense as it does not consider those complex situations that would compel a person to choose an immoral act to protect themselves. In this case, the woman will have to attack the criminal to become free. It is worth noting that Kant’s theory does not give individuals the freedom to choose.

I believe that Mill’s theory is more flexible compared to Kant’s one. We can, therefore, easily apply Mill’s theory when we are faced with complex situations. Since a person has a lot of options to choose from, he or she is assured of a better result after assessing the outcome of their decision. People should make decisions that make them happy and safe.

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