Role of Happiness in Ethical Decisions Essay

Role of Happiness in Ethical Decisions Essay

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“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason” (Kant 1). The usage of reason as a representation of one’s intellect is a common trait in the 21st century. Happiness, a positive emotion, tends to blur one’s judgement and coerces philosophers to look upon its relevance when formulating ethical decisions. When considering the role of emotion in ethical decisions, one must consider the contrasting views of Immanuel Kant, an 18th Prussian philosopher that focussed his philosophies around the doctrine of reason, in comparison to that of John Stewart Mill, a 19th century British philosopher that followed the doctrine of happiness through the ideology of utilitarianism. I shall argue that when making ethical decisions, it is imperative that happiness should play a very recessive, if any, role in the decision making process as it does not represent morality in any form.
According to Kant, a deontological ethicist, happiness is the “continuous well being, enjoyment of life, complete satisfaction with one’s condition” (Kant 593). He observes happiness as a form of hypothetical imperative, as opposed to a categorical imperative. Kant focuses on solely reason and does not explore the consequences of actions. He believes that there is no universal sense of happiness, and thereby states that the doctrine of happiness should not be equated with that of the doctrine of reason. In his book, Critique of Practical Reason, Kant defines happiness as being “the state of a rational being in the world, in the whole of whose existence everything goes according to his wish or will;” however, it is not a pleasure nor a source of happiness associated with a moral lif...

... middle of paper ... learned from experience” (Kant 370). Since happiness contains knowledge from experience, it must have no moral significance. Therefore, Kant rightly leaves it out of his moral theory.
In conclusion, through this paper, I have sought out to prove that despite Mill’s utilitarianism stance, Kant’s deontological ethics stands on solid ground when stating the happiness should not be used in ethical decision-making. It is not always logical to take human nature into ethical decision as emotions and experiences tend to cloud one’s thought process. Though today’s society focuses on consequences in order to gain happiness, I believe humanity has been forced into an immoral pathway of ethical reasoning.

Kant, Immanuel. “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals.” The German Library: Volume 13. Ed. Ernst Behler. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 2006.

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