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Kantianism Versus Utilitarianism

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1. Explain Onora O'neil's argument for preferring Kantian ethics to Utilitarianism.

2. How would Richard Taylor respond to O'neil's defense of Kantianism?

In the following questions, Onora O'neil defends Kantian ethics while Richard

Taylor agrees more with the Utilitarian ethics view. To fully understand both views and

why each author defends their view, a brief introduction of each author and who they are

is necessary. Onora O'neil is a philosophy professor at Cambridge University, while

Richard Taylor also teaches philosophy, at the University of Rochester. He has written

many books on ethics and metaphysics. He strongly criticizes Kant's philosophy by

saying it is too abstract. The Philosopher Kant in contrast with Mill deals with,

deontological ethics that, means rule based ethics, which basically deals with an either

wrong or right way of action. For example, in terms of stealing, Kant would say that this

action or act is always wrong. Mill (Utilitarian ethics) on the other hand who deals with

Consequentialist ethics which basically means that our actions have a consequence but

that it all depends on the situation or incident of for example, stealing is right or wrong.

Mill, who is famous for Utilitarianism, decides on every incident of a situation. Both of

these Philosophers are mostly concern with principal of individual action, which is our

intent or our acts in general. The difference between them is whether these acts are either

right or wrong. While Mill focuses on the consequences of actions, Kant does not, and

puts more emphasis on our actions.

1. To fully explain Onora O'neil's argument for preferring Kantian ethics to

Utilitarianism, a summary is needed of what Kantianism is all about. Onora O'neil's

argument is very useful because it explains in detail a review of Kantianism and a

comparison of this with Utilitarianism. The main requirement Onora O'neil focuses on is

that persons be treated as ends in themselves and on the value of human life. In her essay

she also states what is right and wrong with both sides. The theory called Kantianism

written by the famous philosopher Kant is difficult to understand O'neil tells us, because

Kant gives a number of versions of what he calls the Principal of Morality. O'neil makes

her argument appear more simple by only focusing on one part of the theory, the part of

the Categorical Imperative, which O'neil chooses to show the implications of the version

named "the Formula of the End of Itself" which to understand O'neil suggests that you

must know what it means to treat a person as a means or as an end. This means the

person cannot consent to the act such as making a false promise or deceiving someone.

These acts are always wrong and unjust according to Kant. O'neil prefers Kantian ethics

because it is more restricted. In other words, Kantian ethics deals with those acts that are

intentional and individual maxims, which are our decisions toward an act. She prefers

Kant because of the requirements of justice. In Utilitarianism, for example, the death

penalty is enforced. Kant on the other hand as O'neil suggests that this is acting on some

maxims which imply that we are using others as mere means. O'neil prefers Kantian

ethics also, because justice requires that we act on no maxims that use others as mere

means. Also, as she mentions in her essay, "Kant and Utilitarianism Contrasted" because

it considers only the proposals for action that occur to them and they check (but they, I

mean the people who believe in either one of these views), that these proposals use no

other as mere means. In contrast with Utilitarian ethics, acting on these proposals could

mean they will use others and still go ahead anyways with the proposal or action for

Utilitarian ethics. But for Kantians, if the proposal or action will not use others then the

act is allowed, but for Utilitarianism it doesn't matter whether it will or not, the proposal

will be allowed regardless. This is one major reason why O'neil prefers Kantianism. She

also mentions that Kantian ethics has a more restricted scope which means that it is more

prÐ"©cised on how it guides the action, and states some comparisons of this with Utilitarian

ethics where peoples



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