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Immanuel Kant And John Stuart Mill

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To what degree is a rational agent allowed to pursue his own goals or to choose one action over another? Both Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill answer the question of what makes a person free. Two different conceptions of individual freedom and autonomy are present by them and for this reason these philosopher differ on why it is that freedom and self-governance should be valued. In Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals Kant puts forward a normative conception of freedom and autonomy where by one has the capacity to deliberate and give himself laws. It is based on this claim that he makes his argument that autonomy should be valued because it is the sole principle of our moral law. In On Liberty, Mill propounded that freedom was doing as one pleases, and unlike Kant promoted a personal account of autonomy wherein an individual is encouraged to decide for one’s self one what ever course of action they desired- often regardless of a particular moral. The good consequence of progress was the core reason that Mill felt that one should value this type of autonomy.
To understand Kant’s account of freedom and autonomy one should have a general picture of his moral philosophy. A moral philosophy based so heavily on autonomy, that it if fair to establish that Kant’s morality and freedom reciprocally imply one another. First, Kant holds that there is a single fundamental principle of morality, one that is absolutely necessary, on which all specific moral duties are based. This moral law is what is referred to as the categorical imperative. According to Kant imperatives are formulas for determining an action that is necessary according to a will that is good in some way. All imperatives can command either hypothetically o...

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...g as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it”(19). Kant’s requirement that the law of behavior you set for yourself be universal implies that you act toward others in the way that you would want them to act toward you. The same idea is plain in Mill’s definition, every person is free when it comes to their own actions and so must abstain from impeding another persons with your behaviors. Both Kant and Mill seem to mandate that in your actions as a free individual we do not harm others. This ethical thread that runs through both these theories bears hints of the golden rule that one should treat others, as he himself would want to be treated. One is left with the idea that no matter what the reason for valuing freedom and autonomy, that there is freedom in living in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
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