Universal Law and Utilitarianism

In the search for the proper behavior, one always has to make decisions. Whether it would be decided between the proper and improper behavior, plausible and implausible consequences, one always has to mind both own interests and the situation that will occur. Choosing between Kants theory and Utilitarianism, one has to either respect all the consequences or reject them totally as the factor he cannot totally embrace. Yet, with respect to own personality, it could be better to accept the excessive responsibility, than to refrain from it for the freedoms sake.

Particularly, Immanuel Kant created a theory, in which a person remained virtuous as it performed the rightful acts in each situation, disregard the possible consequences. He believed that human being had enough inner sense not to hold on to external ethical regulation. Thus, one considering own evaluations had to balance between the morality and desires. For Kant, Good Will as a source of deliberate decision making remained the only virtue and way of world measuring. The other actions would not be good or bad themselves disregard the ways of implementation. The ability to make decisions constituted the core of the theory. One had to act properly in each individual case, relying on inner judgments and disregarding the possible outcome.


Yet, Kant did not leave a person alone with her own decision making but rather provided a solid way of thinking according to which one could adequately evaluate the surrounding world. His beliefs revolved around a concept of Categorical Imperative. According to this concept, one had to perform only those actions that he would prefer seeing as obligatory for every living creature, or in other words, the actions that would constitute a Universal Law. Thus, deciding how to act properly, one had to choose the way that would be desirable for each person in every similar situation.

One also had to mind that the virtue of Good Will presumed not imposing the own categorical judgments on the other people. Everyone, including a person herself, was entitled to equal dignity and decision right. Thus, people had to never use anyone as means to ones Maxims, but respect as personalities. Kant used a term Maxim to underline the single action structure one would desire seeing as a behavioral pattern suitable to become a Universal Law. Creating a Universal law through Maxims required consistency, or in other words applying only justified Maxims. Kant named this process a self-imposed morality as a possibility to decide personally.

Yet, the negligence to consequences also made Kants theory excessively optimistic. In total, one had to regard every action separately from the current situation, for the sake of abstract greater good. One also had to evaluate the personality separately from her social bonds or even current needs, for the sake of acting the way that would be unconditionally most proper. Particularly, it would mean refraining from lying even if doing so one could save a life, or curing a person even if she has minimal chances for survival. Independently from the events of the real world, one has to perform acts of dignity. One cannot know the consequences, which each action, both good and bad in its nature, may cause. Thus, acting properly a person remains innocent whatever happens.

To the contrary, Utilitarian theory heavily relied on the consequences of each action, as well as the evaluation of outcomes in it. One had to measure its influence on the living creatures able to recognize pain and pleasure. Pain and pleasure constituted two basic levers of the theory, and consequently, the proper actions would be such that provide maximal pleasure and minimal pain. The intrinsic values thus remained unimportant, giving way to probably measurable reality.

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The way of desired outcome evaluation can be observed through Benthams theory. Under his presumption, Pain and Pleasure regulated all the actions within the human society, and each action produced both One had to act in order to maximize the pleasure, minimize the pain, and thus to provide the greatest amount of pleasure to greatest amount of people, with the consideration of both current and future conditions. His evaluation was strictly quantitative, and yet presumed measurements according to intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, and nearness or remoteness. One had to evaluate a total amount of pleasure and pain in the first instance, the consequent painful and desirable side-effects, and summarize all them together. Bentham called the reasons for Pleasure and Pain theexciting causes and foresaw a variety of aspects Utilitarian had to mind harmonizing them.

Such method of strict evaluation served as both motivation source and nervous breakdown reason for John Stuart Mill, who consequently reevaluated the system, adding it more human features. For him, the quantitative amount of total pleasure was insufficient. Thus, his view of utilitarianism provided an evaluation of own interests in particular, as well as qualitative evaluation of pleasure. Mill divided pleasures into higher and lower, discussed the necessity of self-development in order to enjoy the higher pleasures, reasoned the impossibility of being contented and stated that it would be better being a dissatisfied human, than a satisfied pig. He pursued the idea of self-development as an additional lever of Utilitarianism and thus presumed that the search of more developed pleasure requires the dignified life and widens the list of enjoyable things to the point that serving the social needs or self-development would also become pleasures desired for multiplication.

Yet, this superfluous efficiency also became a reason for disbelief. Particularly, Bernard Williams argued that Utilitarianism becomes self-destructing in its attempts to evaluate the unmeasurable consequences. One might act being misinformed and consequently could multiply painful consequences due to the disability of calculating issues beyond personal ignorance. Moreover, one could not foresee or influence all the positive and negative actions of people influenced by ones current action. The attempt to calculate all negative consequences performed by all people and take responsibility could become irrelevantly exhaustive and impossible for the majority of cases.

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Consequently, as Utilitarianism presumed excessive responsibility for every consequence of action taken, Kants theory denied it as a fact. At the same time, while Kant stressed dignified respect towards everyone including himself as the moving force of his theory, Mill adopted the same aspect of Utilitarianism thus making a theory more humane. Thus, as currently both theories highly appreciated the personal responsibility and high moral in own decisions, it would be proper to ask, what would become more obvious reason for a person to feel acting right, measurably good actions or measurably proper results. Under that condition, the virtue of the Free Will of one dignified person would feel less inspiring than the promotion of actual high-quality happiness to a plenty of dignified people.

Thus, both theories gained equal respect to personality in the process of evolution. Nevertheless, it may seem that Kants theory, decent in itself, lacks the practical result of actions based on free will. Bentham utilitarian concepts created a theory that was falling behind Kants ideas due to the lack of humane attitude. Nevertheless, aided by Mill, Utilitarianism became morally exhausting and yet powerful and moral machine for evaluation of own decisions with respect to possible consequences.

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