John Stuart Mill And Immanuel Kant Essay

John Stuart Mill And Immanuel Kant Essay

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There has been an ongoing debate regarding torture and ethical reasoning to determine when or if its ever ok. Modern scholars such as Alan Dershowitz, Sam Harris, and Charles & Gregory Fried, have expressed different ideas on ethical torture. Ideas of ethical reasoning were established by John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant. Even though they did not specifically use torture as an example of ethical reasoning for decision making their rational can still be applied to this topic.
Immanuel Kant believed our moral decisions are based on categorical imperative. Categorical meaning absolute, something is true all the time and imperative meaning something is very important or necessary. (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Kant believed consequences of an action should not dictate your decision making process. You make ethical decision because they are morally right, for everyone. (Matt, n.d.)

John Stuart Mill considered the consequences of an action, this is called consequentialism. Mill created the idea of utilitarianism, meaning “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” (Mill, 1863) You should do what matters for the greater good and not just one. (Lee, 2000) The same ethical reasoning multiple people would use may not have the same result.

Sam Harris, “In Defense of Torture” presents an idea that it’s ok to torture when there is a greater good. He starts his discussion with the ticking time bomb case reinforcing his idea with justifiable torture. If that’s not enough to convince you Sam Harris tries to make the situation more personal. Turning to a nuclear bomb in Manhattan or if you have a child maybe the thought of your daughter on the brink of death...


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...Mill? It’s easy to see the Fried’s fit nicely into the ideology of duty ethics. Harris is right there with Mill in doing what is right for the greater good. While Harris is trying to be a do gooder and the Fried’s are sticking with treating everyone the same, Dershowitz proposes better outcome. His ideas would not be endorsed by the ideology of Deontology or Utilitarianism; his idea would fit under the umbrella of Consequentialism.
John Stuart Mill studied Immanuel Kant work. Just as Kant helped establish a frame work for Mill, Kant and Mill will help establish rules/laws for morality and ethical decision making for torture. As our society changes so do our ideas and beliefs. Stances on ethics have softened and I believe people as a whole want to protect humanity, with greater concern to the underprivileged, the war torn, the minorities and the ones unhappy.

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