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Kantian Morals, Utilitarianism, and Basic Human Rights


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Kantian Morals, Utilitarianism, and Basic Human Rights

As we continue to study the origin of moral theory, we come across two very influential philosophers; Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill. Both have very opposing ideologies concerning morality and basic human rights, but they have certainly contributed much to the way we work as a society today. In this paper, we will look at both theories more in depth. First we will look at Kant. According to Kantian Ethics, what gives an action it’s moral value is the agent’s respect for moral duty; In other words, the agent must be completely selfless in his action in order for it to be considered moral. Consequences do not matter, the “good will” of a person is the only thing with intrinsic value. A person must act out of only intention to do good; not for personal gain, but because they know it is the right thing to do.(Kant Slides). This theory is impartial to all, there are no exceptions. In order to establish whether an action is moral, the act must follow two categorical imperatives (universal commands): -Categorical Imperative I states: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become universal law...”(Kant, 414). In accordance with this imperative, you must first state your maxim (the rule which states your action) and decide whether or not the rule can become a universal law. If it can, in fact, be a universal law by which all of humanity abides, then it is a moral act. For example, if one’s maxim was: “I will make a false promise for financial gain.” This cannot be a universal law because if all of humanity were to make promises they could not keep, “ one would believe what was promised to him but would only laugh at any such assertion as vain pretense.” (Kant, 415) -Categorical Imperative II (practical imperative) states: “Act so that you treat humanity,

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