Utilitarianism and Kantianism Theories

Utilitarianism and Kantianism Theories


Utilitarianism is a normative moral theory which places the locus of the exact and erroneous exclusively on the upshots of choosing one policy. The argument goes beyond the individual decision to include others.

On the other hand, Kantianism theory uses the deontological loom which explains the concepts of the universal moral law. Majorly, the approach addresses the idea of the categorical imperative, in which ethical commands are hypothetical. Therefore, this paper provides a discussion on the ideas contained in the two theories and an analysis of their application to Jim’s case studies.

Utilitarianism Theory

The theory states that something is termed as moral or right if it yields proper amounts of pleasure to many people. It is a normative ethical theory that evaluates whether something is moral or immoral, correct or not wrong. The approach offers an evaluation of the pleasures that activity may yield before putting the activity in place. According to John Stuart Mill, the virtuous is what enhances the extensive assortment of valuable mental states, which are in turn worthwhile and cherished without being congenial. As well, he argues that happiness is the wished-for pleasure while the discontent is pain and deprivation of delights (Russ Shafer-Landau pg. 53). For instance, the quality of the contentment is the most significant determinant of utilitarianism as opposed to the quantity of pleasure. He asserts that there are differences between par and lower pleasures and therefore, the joys can seldom be quantified. Utilitarianism seeks to enhance the capacity of realizing gladness for most people. However, despite showing the connection between morals and immoral, utilitarianism has a challenge which makes it unacceptable to some people.

The theory has a problem concerning the value of life and how it treats the imminent people and immigrants. For instance, it disregards the future results and such has no insinuations on the usefulness of the people in the future. For example, the theory does no value the fact that the state most significant role is not only to own citizens but also to the aliens as the chief implements for the welfare of citizens. For one, the theory does not offer a precise measure of pleasures yielded as it proclaims that maxims happiness may not be equal to someone else’s. As well, the theory does not provide a common destination as it supports opposing actions on various occasions as a good thing to do.

For this reason, the theory proves to be powerless to resolute conflicts. Also, the approach supports doing horrible activities as long as they yield more amounts of pleasure to the highest number of people and ignores the rights of an individual. Such is witnessed in the case where the Romans threw Christians to the lions in the Coliseum to entertain the crowd (Shafer-Landau pg. 44). The theory also values all people as equal, without considering distinct differences that occur amid different group.

Kantianism Theory

The key terms in the Kantianism theory that help bring out his philosophical view were universalizability, goodwill, the assertorial, virtual, deontological, categorical imperative, postulates of morality, and kingdom of ends. The moral theory philosophy supports deontological postulates which stand against making provisional to actual position and results of an action. Based on the theory, things are done for the sake of the duty and what makes them right does not guarantee desirable results. Kantianism theory posits that the supreme principle of morality is “categorical imperative” which unreserved domination. The theory asserts that categorical imperatives have the image of an absolute moral decree, and in which people ought to pursue in their aptitude of lucid beings. The essential theme of Kant’s principle theory is the initiative of benevolence, which is elaborated with the allegory of the gem which burnishes on its light.

On the theory, Kant maintains that nature is impersonal and nonmoral. Indeed, People cannot derive the knowledge about the world without referencing the possibility of the mighty God, who offers to mean to all that occurs between people. The implications here are people should be guided by the categorical imperative which acquaints them with a reason to be rational when in action rather than relying on their pleasures. Such shows that one does not need to follow his/her pleasure but the ethical principles when carrying out an activity. For example, mill’s article murder is prescribed to someone who might kill masses in future for such seems rational than mere killing (Sandel 46). When we relate Kant’s categorical imperative with maxims, we find duty as an objective, irrespective of the desires. For example, a person intending to become a professional guitar player must practice the guitar as his/her duty. For instance, a brilliant person assumes or rejects a subjective maxim for any action irrespective of whether it harmonizes with an objective maxim of performing a responsibility for the sake of it.

Kant presents the idea of lying as always wrong. According to Rachel’s, who summarized Kant’s arguments, people should do the actions that comply with universal rules. Instead, if people are to tell lies, they should be led by the guidelines that assert ‘it is permissible to lie.’ The rule could not be made universal since it is self-defeating. As a result, people should avoid believing one another and consequently no reasons to cheat. The problem with Kant’s view is that people can cheat without considering the rule ‘it is permissible to lie.’ As a substitute, people should be guided by a specific state of affairs like cheating to save a life. The rule can thus be collective as people avoid believing to others due to the condition of deception. The rule meekly differs from maxims as it offers a situation of cheating to save a life besides maxims which claim people should always cheat.

Application and Evaluation of Kantianism and Utilitarianism

Jim accidentally finds himself in a group of Indians arrested for being protestants and is given an opportunity to choose to kill one of the Indians caught in a protest, or else he and the Indians get killed. Based on the theory of Kantianism, Jim has to be rational in deciding on whether to shoot or not. He may kill to rescue the others and he, believing that those left will desist from protesting. The theory asserts that murdering someone to save the lives of others is legal if conditions forces (Sandel 34). Indeed, the Indians involved in protest may kill innocent people or destroy their properties in the future, but morally, those left after Jim kills one may stop protesting after witnessing their colleague killed.

The utilitarianism theory is focused on the pleasures achieved upon doing an activity. Jim has the joy of saving the lives of the other Indians by killing just one of them. For instance, though all the Indians are accused of protesting, there is a possibility of changing their behaviors if given another opportunity and therefore, giving them another chance is a pleasurable activity. Indeed, the quality of Jim’s contentment of saving the life of other Indians and his is the greatest contentment of utilitarianism.

However, Kantianism theory provides the best account for the theory. The approach stands on the moral position, as a blueprint of making decisions besides own pleasures that utilitarianism supports. Based on the mill’s article, a similar case faced Dudley where they had to kill Parker and save the rest (Shafer-Landau 34). Killing one of the Indians would save Jim’s life and the rest of the accused Indians. From the fact that behaviors can change, the other Indians may desist from protesting after narrowly evading death. Indeed, people should be led by morals, which are universally positive since pleasures vary from one person to another depending on prior experiences.


The utilitarianism and Kantianism philosophical theories revolve around pleasures and morals as the motivation for an action. People can either be moral based or interested in what makes them happy. However, the two theories have gaps in that they do not account for the variation in pleasures and morals in people which may be caused by cultures and prior experiences. However, the argument Kant provides is more satisfying than the ideas of Williams.  For this reason, Kant’s postulates explicitly fit in Jim’s case and can plausibly provide him with the decision to adopt.



Sandel, Michael J. “Justice: what’s the right thing to do.” BUL Rev. 91 (2011): 1303.

Russ Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics, Oxford University Press, 4th edition