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Higher RMPS. Lesson 6 Area 2 Examples. Learning intentions. After today’s lesson you will be able to: consider the relationship between Kantian and utilitarian ethics and the moral issue being studied in area 2 apply Kantian and utilitarian ethics to different modern moral issues.

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Higher RMPS

Lesson 6

Area 2 Examples


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Learning intentions

After today’s lesson you will be able to:

  • consider the relationship between Kantian and utilitarian ethics and the moral issue being studied in area 2

  • apply Kantian and utilitarian ethics to different modern moral issues.



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Crime and punishment

Utilitarian view

In An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)

Bentham argued that:

  • Appropriate punishments for crime must be considered in relation to the consequences of the wrong doing on others.

  • Punishment is an effective way of deterring others from similar action and the criminal from re-offending.

  • Punishment is necessary to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people.


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Utilitarian view continued…

In A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive (1843) Mill argued that:

  • Punishment is the consequence of crime.

  • Punishment must be about reformation.

  • For some serious crimes life imprisonment is most appropriate as the criminal is removed completely from society and deprived of freedom because this provides the most amount of happiness.

  • The obvious consequence of stopping the life of an innocent person must be to stop the life of the criminal.

  • Mill argued that if a person had no possibility of release from prison because their crime was so terrible, e.g. murder, then the greatest amount of happiness will be achieved by ending the criminal’s life thus preventing them from years of pain in prison.


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Crime and punishment

Kantian view

In The Philosophy of Law (1887) Kant argued that:

  • The penal law is a categorical imperative.

  • Criminals must pay for their crimes.

  • Punishment is necessary but not for the greater good of society, which would mean individuals would be used as a means to an end.

  • Punishment is necessary because there is a duty to punish criminals to establish justice and demonstrate dignity for the victims.

  • The punishment must fit the crime, for example a murderer must be murdered.


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Gender issues

Utilitarian view

  • Utilitarians believe the happiness of everyone is of equal value and they aim to provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.

  • In doing so an action may hurt some people but provide happiness for the greatest number of people.

  • Bentham, however, argued that the individual is the best judge of his or her own happiness. The way to maximise happiness is to leave people free to make their own choices.

  • Mill argued that individuals should have control over their own lives and be free to do anything that is not harmful to others.

  • In ‘The Subjection of Women’ (1869) Mill argued for social and economic equality. He outlined an ideal of marriage in which both partners are equal – thus giving each maximum pleasure.


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Gender issues

Kantian view

  • Kant argued there is a difference between people and things.

  • Things have a price and can be exchanged for a price but people are beyond price.

  • Everyone should be treated as a person with dignity and not as an object.

  • The consequences of stereotyping and discrimination against women is that women are treated as objects, which is to deny the dignity they deserve as humans.

  • Kant’s saw women as being experts in the beautiful and sublime but he believed their morality was based on feelings not reason, his ideas of duty and categorical imperatives therefore did not apply to women.

  • In ‘Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime’ (1764) Kant said, ‘Man should become more perfect as a man, and the women as a wife’.


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International issues

Utilitarianism view

  • Making a moral decision is based on what causes the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

  • Therefore it would be a morally good act to give money to charity and support international aid.

  • However, utilitarianism does not say it is morally wrong to fail to give money to charity and support international aid.

  • A rule utilitarian might respond by arguing no rules suggest they are obligated to give money to charity and support international aid.

  • An act utilitarian might respond by arguing we must act morally in ways which improve the world.

  • The long-term effects of global warming will produce more harm than good so utilitarians would want to fight against global warming.

  • For further information, go to www.utilitarian.net/singer/ for more details.


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International Issues

Kantian view

  • We act because of our duty, we ought to do what is right.

  • It is right to help others and support charities concerned with international aid in addition to looking after the world we live in.

  • Someone who gives money to charity to support international aid or fights global warming reluctantly but because they believe they ought to is acting in a morally correct manner according to Kant.

  • Someone who gives money to charity to support international aid or fights global warming because they feel compassion for those less fortunate than themselves or are protecting the world for their children does not, according to Kant, act in a morally correct manner.


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Medical ethics

Utilitarianism view

  • Utilitarianism is concerned with the consequences of action.

  • Act utilitarians would consider the individual situation and decide the right course of action in relation to the circumstance of the situation. For example, in euthanasia, is the person in a lot of pain? Is there an available cure? Will the illness progress and cause more suffering? In the use of human embryos, are the embryos being created just for research purposes? Is the embryo going to live and be loved? Is the embryo being created purely for the benefit of someone else?

  • A rule utilitarian believes that society needs clear rules as a result they would want to protect the majority by supporting an anti-euthanasia stand or the use of human embryos even if it led to individuals experiencing severe suffering.

  • For further information, go to www.utilitarian.net/singer/ for more details.


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Medical ethics

Kantian view

  • You cannot go against perfect duties.

  • According to the categorical imperative you act based on what can become a universal law and never act in a way that treats a person as a means to an end.

  • Euthanasia - Kant wanted to see moral laws as universal laws. With this in mind is it realistic to think of a world where wanting to die leads to death or where people can die to avoid suffering?

  • Use of human embryos – to create a donor for an existing person would be wrong according to Kant as this would be using a human as a means to an end.


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War and peace

Utilitarianism view

  • Utilitarianism does not argue that war or modern armaments are wrong.

  • However, utilitarians are concerned with the greatest happiness for the greatest number therefore neither war nor modern armaments are desirable due to the great deal of pain and suffering involved.

  • Utilitarians are also concerned with treating all people as equals and in war some people are enemies, which would not be desirable to most utilitarians.

  • Utilitarians are categorically opposed to nuclear war as the consequences are too severe and the devastation and suffering caused would out weigh any benefits.

  • A rule utilitarian would support the ‘just war theory’, although it is not obviously utilitarian, because it may be necessary to make the world a better place.


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War and peace

Kantian view

  • According to Kant a moral law must be universally good.

  • Everyone has a moral duty and people only suffer as a result of their own decision to breach that moral law.

  • Going to war needlessly would not be supported by Kant as it would involving willing someone to be shot or die, which is not ‘goodwill’.

  • However, he would support the just war theory as we could support a universal law that said it was ok to go to war to defend a country in the same way we would want to be defended if being attacked.

  • Soldiers are not humans being used as a means to an end because they are paid and they are fighting for their own safety as well as that of others.

  • In relation to modern armaments it is important to consider the universal law: if it is ok for us then it is ok for everyone else.


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Learning check…Crime and punishment

  • Explain the main features of utilitarian ethics. 3KU

  • How might utilitarian's respond to the issues relating to the punishment of criminals? 8AE

    3. Explain the main features of Kantian ethics. 3KU

  • How might Kantians respond to issues relating to the

    punishment of criminals? 8AE


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Learning check…Gender

  • Explain the main features of utilitarian ethics. 3KU

  • How might utilitarians respond to issues arising from gender

    roles world wide? 8AE

    3. Explain the main features of Kantian ethics. 3KU

  • How might Kantians respond to issues arising from gender

    roles world wide? 8AE


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Learning check…International issues

  • Explain the main features of utilitarian ethics. 3KU

  • How might utilitarians respond to issues arising from

    globalisation? 8AE

    3. Explain the main features of Kantian ethics. 3KU

  • How might Kantians respond to issues arising from

    globalisation? 8AE


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Learning check…Medical ethics

  • Explain the main features of utilitarian ethics. 3KU

    2. How might utilitarians respond to the moral implications of euthanasia? 8AE

    3. Explain the main features of Kantian ethics. 3KU

  • How might Kantians respond to the moral implications of euthanasia? 8AE


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Learning check…War and peace

  • Explain the main features of utilitarian ethics. 3KU

  • How might utilitarians respond to the issues arising from

    fighting wars? 8AE

    3. Explain the main features of Kantian ethics. 3KU

  • How might Kantians respond to the issues arising from

    fighting wars? 8AE


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