Introduction to Philosophy
What is more important? what you intend to happen or what actually happens?
Mill’s Utilitarianism is based on the notion that actions in themselves have no moral value and that it is only when we see the results (i.e., the “consequences”) that we can say that the action we chose was the right one, meaning that it led to an increase in happiness for the majority of people affected by a particular decision to act. In other words, the Ends (results) justify the Means (the action); and, for a Utilitarian, the intent is always to maximize happiness, but the consequences determine whether the actions and intentions were morally justifiable. For example, if a lie maximizes the happiness of everyone affected by the lie, then the lie was justifiable and the morally right thing to do.
Kant, on the other hand, says that our intentions to make moral choices are more important than the end results. For Kant, the only thing that matters is our intention to do the right thing, simply (and for no other reason) because it is the right thing to do. For example, if we intend to do the right thing by telling the truth but get bad results, we cannot be blamed for the bad results, because we did the right thing—we told the truth; but, if we do the wrong thing and lie and then get bad results, that is entirely our fault, because we chose to do the wrong thing to begin with.
As you do this assignment, keep Kant’s Categorical Imperative in mind, since most of us are pretty aware of how we would not like to be treated by other people. Pick one (1) of the following scenarios, and then answer the questions at the end.
You are a soldier in a battle zone. Your commanding officer has told your unit that you are to take a small village and that the orders are to shoot any combatants who might interfere with the mission. He says that the intel from above insists that the majority of the villagers either are or are harboring insurgent leaders. But, by accident (and unknown by your CO) you have a contact in the village who has been sharing confidential information, and your contact has indicated that the soldiers slipped out a week ago and that only women and children remain in the village. You already tried three days ago to explain what you have been learning from the unofficial source, but your CO seems to be more interesting in perfectly following the orders from HIS commander rather than pay much attention to just “one more pair of boots on the ground.”
You have a bad gambling addiction, and over the weekend, you thought you had a “sure thing”; so, you bet double or nothing against the $50,000 that you already owed the bookie. You lost (again), and Bruiser (the bookie’s “collector”) is coming in two days with a baseball bat to “remind” you of the importance of paying off your debts. You don’t have even a thousand dollars in the bank, so your only real choice is to contact your rich Uncle Bob, who loved you dearly when you were eight years old (which was also about the time you learned how to play Black Jack). You are hoping that even though Uncle Bob will not be happy, he will still give you the money before Bruiser comes to your house. As you are driving to Uncle Bob’s house, you realize that you have two choices: you can lie about why you need the money (for example, your child will die without an expensive operation not covered by insurance) and promise to pay Uncle Bob back as soon as you can, OR, you can admit your addiction and explain the situation, listen to his lecture about the evils of gambling, and admit that the odds are pretty good that he may never see the money again (but, at least your knee caps will remain intact). In all truth, you are a much better liar than gambler, so Uncle Bob would probably believe whatever lie you told.
For either Scenario #1 OR Scenario #2, answer the following questions in your well-developed and thoughtful essay.
• First, which scenario did you pick?
• Pretend you are good Utilitarian who is more interested in the results than in the intention to do the right thing, what course of action would you take and why? Please be specific with your answers and refer to the principles of the Utilitarian ethical theory as you explain your reasoning.
• Next, using the same scenario, pretend you are good Kantian who is more interested in the intention to do the right thing than in the consequences, what course of action would you take and why? Please be specific with your answers and refer to the principles of Kant’s ethical theory as you explain your reasoning.
• Finally, which of these two theories feels the most “comfortable” for you, when you are thinking about the moral rightness and wrongness of some action. Explain in detail why you prefer one of these ethical theories more than the other one.
Please use standard American grammar and follow APA formatting guidelines. Keep in mind that the essay should be between 600 words and as 900 words. Also, please do not use anything other than your textbook as a source for this paper.