Explain the main differences between Utilitarianism and the ethics of Kant. (33)

Utilitarianism and the ethics of Kant are two opposing theories with two different outcomes.

Utilitarianism is a teleological theory of ethics. It maintains that it is the total consequence of an action, which determines is rightness or wrongness. It means that the morality of an action is to be safely determined through an assessment of its consequences. With utilitarianism it is not just personal happiness or self interest that counts, but the happiness and interest of everyone concerned. The basic principle of utilitarianism is ‘an action is right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number.’ In utilitarianism actions have no intrinsic value. In utilitarianism all people, ethically speaking are equal but the morally right action is the one, which produces the greatest overall positive consequences for the greatest number. This means in utilitarianism the majority are more important than the minority.

There are two utilitarianist approaches, Jeremy Bentham  (1748-1832) and John Stewart Mill (1806-1873). Jeremy Bentham, who stated that we should act in a way, which would maximise pleasure and minimise pain. This position is known as hedonistic utilitarianism. Its aim is to lower overall pain and increase overall pleasure.

What is produced form the consequence of an action is called utility. It is used to calculate the moral worth of an action. Bentham introduced the hedonic calculus to measure this. It was the idea that human pleasures and pains are measurable and that accordingly actions can be judged right or wrong on the basis of a kind of ‘moral arithmetic.’

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John Stewart Mill moral produced a modified version of utilitarianism. He based his theory on happiness rather than pleasure like Bentham. However he did focus on qualitative pleasures, some pleasures are higher (mind) and some lower (body).

Utilitarianism also exists in act form and rule form. Act utilitarianism maintains that the good action the one that leads to the greatest good in a particular situation. It also takes into account individual situations at a given moment. Act utilitarianism has the ability to justify virtually any act; however it may be impractical to suggest that we should measure each moral choice ...

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