Happiness: John Stuart Mill vs Immanuel Kant

Happiness: John Stuart Mill vs Immanuel Kant

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Happiness. People go to any means by which to obtain the many varied materials and issues
that induce pleasures in each individual, and intrinsically, this emotion
remains the ultimate goal, John Stuart Mill, a nineteenth century philosopher,
correctly advocated the pursuit of happiness, and maintained the concept that
above all other values, pleasure existed as the final destination, Mill's
hedonistic views correctly and rationally identified a natural human tendency,
and his Utilitarian arguments strongly support the theory that above all else,
happiness is the most important dream to be fulfilled. Upon researching for
this paper, I came across a counter argument, which was based on metaphysics.
Immanuel Kant, in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, defends his strong
beliefs in the issue of a good will, and surfaces as MM's chief opponent on the
topic of metaphysics, The issue diminishes to a clash between emotions and
pleasures ve rses rationality and logic. Yet, what use is logic when the good
agent is miserable? Mill's stance within Utilitarianism exists as the more
favorable of the two beliefs, for happiness exist as the one intrinsically
favorable element, not an emotionless mind.

The main defender of the Utilitarian system exists within the Greatest
happiness Principle. Mill lived as a chief advocate of this concept, which
supports the idea that a decision is morally correct as long as it increases and
encourages pleasures and happiness. Kant, however, in his endless quest to
remain separate from emotions and thrive only on logic, would argue that
autonomy should be placed above happiness in a list of intrinsic values. A good
will, however, does not comfort an individual in any way if happiness does not
accompany this asset, Consider this example of a seemingly happily married
couple. The wife in this duo is madly in love with her husband fiercely loyal,
and completely happy with her marriage and children. The husband, however, as
wrongfully strayed, and had a brief, but damaging affair behind his wife's back.
Kant would argue that autonomy reigns over pleasure, and the woman should
therefore want to be informed of her husband's adultery, Mill would greatly
disagree. By revealing the secret of the past affair, the woman's happy world
would be instantly shattered. Her pride would diminish, her stability would
fall apart, and the children especially would be forced to view a nasty side of
their beloved father. In this case, individual control is greatly overshadowed
by the need for happiness. The husband is no longer acting unfaithful and the
family can easily continue to live in a happy realm, If the secret were to

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become uncovered, all members of this circumstance unavoidably would become
terribly disappointed, Under the Greatest Happiness Principle, the wife should
not be informed. Since happiness truly lives as the ultimate in human desires,
sparing such immense amounts of pain truly is the logical choice, Mill's
argument prevails, and all those involved remain happy. Through this example,
one can easily see that although autonomy is often a favorable feature, it does
not overshadow the importance of happiness.

One of the main arguments against Utilitarianism exist in the lack of
apparent fairness. An advocate of the Kantian logic principle would argue that
Mill's belief system does not allow for equal treatment, When considering what
is best for an entire society, however, it is necessary for certain individuals
to endure suffering. The good of society remains the ultimate goal, and
unfortunate pain is therefore inevitable, If young children are being killed in
a certain community, the obvious good for this society is discovering and
punishing the murderer. Especially when children are involved, people
automatically demand prompt justice. The officials of this area have searched
immensely for the accused, yet no leads have surfaced, and the community
suddenly erupts with anger, they demand that someone be punished, As a
Utilitarian, the police chief sees a window of opportunity. A drug dealer has
recently been brought in on yet another drug selling offense, and the chief
decides to coerce the invalu able member of society into confessing the crime at
hand, By doing so, the community instantly reunites in support and a dangerous
and deadly revolt is avoided, and a menace to society is right back where he
would have been regardless of his confession: behind bars, Kant, however, would
argue that logically, the chase for the true offender should continue. He would
shun the emotional decision to make the whole society happy by ignoring the
rational decisions. But since the community obviously chooses happiness over
logic, Kant's arguments are irrelevant. In addition, Kant believes in a
decision making process completely separate from the natural human emotions,
Such a demand is possible only for a character such as Star Trek's Dr. Spock,
for human emotions are as much a part of every day life as the decision making
process itself. Logically speaking, therefore, Mill's Utilitarianism arguments
maintain the largest dose of validity.

Other opponents to the philosophical viewpoint of Utilitarianism state
that followers of this belief system often promote an ignorant lifestyle, They
maintain that advocates of the Greatest Happiness Principle believe in the
theory that "ignorance is bliss," Again, such reasoning is quite faulty.
Displaying the erroneousness of this statement can be done by examining the
issue of AIDS, An opponent of Utilitarianism would say an Infected HIV victim
would not want to be aware of his disorder, Such a belief is extremely incorrect.
Mill and other Utilitarian are strong advocates of education, for with
intelligence, greater levels of achievement and happiness can be obtained. A
member of this belief system would rightly argue that being aware of the
disorder could increase long-term happiness, for treatments and support from
friends and family could greatly aid the victim's fight against his or her
alhnents, Mills therefore strongly support education systems and believe in
making society as a whole as happy as possible. In the case of the AIDS victim,
a Utilitarian would also support the notification of the disorder to the victim
in order to spare others of contracting the virus, The happiness of the majority
would not be increased by an unknowing HIV carrier spreading the disease to
other defenseless individuals, Utilitarianism clearly is not a ignorant way to
live, and the Kantian philosophy of ignoring the irrational system of emotions
cannot refute this standard.

Without happiness, the other opportunities and necessities lose nearly
all levels of importance. A true Utilitarian supports only those concepts that
promote the highest levels of pleasures, and as Mill states, encourages only
those actions that promote real happiness, From a Kantian viewpoint, rationality
and the possession of a good will remains the most important element, but even
someone with the truest and most logical of intentions can easily exist in a
realm of pure depression. The one link that exists between these opposite
belief systems is the concept that, all decisions should be made outside of
one's personality. The key is that Kant said this decisions should be made
without any regard for human emotions, A request of this magnitude is a part of
a utopian society only, for ignoring one's emotions is an illogical assumption
in itself, If your child and wife are both dying, deciding which one to save
cannot be made without some emotional influence, Utilitarianism allows for the
emotional side of life but requests only that the Greatest Happiness Principle
be strictly followed. Any truly decent human being naturally follows such a
request every day, Decisions are made based on the greatest level of happiness,
That way, the largest majority of people benefit, and the greatest amount of
happiness is achieved. Yet as Kant believed, a more morally correct decision
lies at the heart of every dilemma.

How does one decide who is morally more correct to save in an instance
where two cherished loved ones are passing away, and only one individual may be
saved? And even more importantly, how does one do so without regard emotions?
I personally feel that living strictly by the doctrine of Kantian philosophy is
completely impossible. Being a Utilitarian and hedonist, such as Mill, makes
more sense to me.
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