Kant and Mill

Posted: December 2nd, 2013








Kant and Mill




Kant and Mill

Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, both prominent philosophers have diverse opinions towards the elements of moral theories. Kant’s views are considered rather interesting while compared to those of Mill, which are more conservative. The differences in their beliefs pertaining to the moral laws have been a cause for controversy for the longest period. The ‘new-age’ philosophers have accepted neither Kant’s theory nor Mill’s. Instead, they have stated that none of the theories can stand individually but if they are both put together, they are more sensible. However, this has also stemmed some more debate and so the matter has remained unsolved in philosophy. The good will of a person is alleged to be an intrinsic feature of the individual. It refers to the kind of good that chooses to fulfill its moral duty to act in a certain way that is expected by the society. Kant stated, “A good will is not good because of what it affects or accomplishes.” This statement is alluring not only because of the logic behind it but because it applies a lot to humanity.

This is because the message the statement depicts is that a person’s goodwill is not presumably good because of the effect of the actions of the person in question. For this reason, Kant’s statement appeals to me. The actions of an individual may be focused on merely favoring some inclinations and the sum of the inclinations in question. This kind of goodwill is lacking in power according to the moral theories by both Mill and Kant. However, it should be known that goodwill could let a person have a good disposition to will in a certain way. Kant mentioned two key aspects in his theory, “the good will and duty.” Kant did not think that any outcome was in the favor of general good. This paper will take up the concept of duty, which includes that of an individual’s good will. Good character trait like ingenuity, intelligence and courage are important in any morally upright person. However, these traits can lead someone to do the wrong thing and in so doing become ‘evil’. He uses this to describe the good will of humankind.

Kant thinks the only intrinsically good thing in a person is the good will. Good will is not only shown by appearance and actions but it is based on the outcomes of the actions. If the results are good, the will is also believed to be good. Intrinsic good refers to a concept that assumes that something’s good is found in itself. Duty on the other hand is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law and moral codes in a certain setting. It does not depend on results of a particular action and any principles. Laws teach us what we can or cannot do. We have to follow these principles, which guide our actions. The maxim should be consistent with laws. For instance, a person who talks on the phone during a movie, they have to keep their voices low. Such a person should consider whether the act is worth it or not. If the person foresees any bad consequences, it will be wiser to desist from the action.

Mill’s illustrious formulation in philosophy is filled with religious intolerance. He appealed for freedom and his opinion is that if all human beings have the same opinions apart from one; only that the one person has a contrary view. The rest of the human beings with a similar view have no reason to forbid this person to speak just because they have differing opinions. There is no logical reason that warrants the prohibiting of the opposing party to air his or her views. Mill has a formulation called the “greatest happiness principle.” It helps people to do the right thing in appropriate proportions, as they strive to promote general happiness for all humankind. He clearly states that there is a difference between higher and lower forms of happiness. He defines the difference between higher and lower forms of happiness with the principle that those who have experienced both tend to prefer one to the other.

Kant thought the fundamental principle of our moral duties is a categorical imperative. It commands us to exercise our wills in a particular way and to not do wrong since we posses rational wills. Both of Kant and Mill’s opinions are based on reputable principles. Kant was a philosopher and astronomer. He was also a founder of German classical philosophy and idealism. He is considered one of the most influential thinkers of modern Europe. He depicts the moral obligation of philosophy. According to him, an act is right if and only if it is done because of an individual’s sense of duty. However, for Mill, an act is right if and only if it results in the happiness of humanity regardless of the duty of the person.

Kant believes that what matters is that the will that was involved. Mill’s is an empiricist theory because he believes that the outcome and consequences of the action is what matters. Kant’s is a rationalist theory. He has good intentions though invalid because in reality, nowadays, the outcome is what matters as opposed to the reason the action took place. Mill rejects the Kantian tendency to separate morality and happiness. Happiness is morality that includes both physical and intellectual pleasure. Mill espouses the importance of cultivated minds for this reason; through education, humans can tap into the unlimited sources of intellectual stimulation that have been provided by civilization.

I disagree with Mill as he thinks happiness arises from instrumental good. In my opinion, it occurs because of the intrinsic good. I believe our mental states determine whether we are happy or not. Mill fails to prove his greatest happiness principle through his varied arguments. I reject empiricism and accept rationalism instead. Although studying and experience can reveal useful information, knowledge can also be acquired from experience. People should accept Kant’s opinion of the difference between phenomenal and numeral reality. This is vital for one to understand his moral philosophy. Our will is in control but the outcome of our will is not. A good person is not someone who does ‘good’ but rather is one who wills to be good.


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