Right and Wrong
Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill had different moral theories that explained the source of right and wrong. Immanuel Kant believed in morality on the basis of ethics of pure duty while John Stuart Mill upheld utilitarian theory of ethics of justice. Both theories believe there is a conscience that guides human beings against doing the wrong thing and one that guides someone to doing the right thing. However, they both have different ways of reasoning in the way human beings perceive moral right and wrong.
Mill’s utilitarian theory believes that the sense of right and wrong is attributed to experience of pain and pleasure. When something brings happiness, it is morally right, and when it brings pain it is morally wrong. He emphasizes that consequences of an act determine whether the act is right or wrong. When the outcome of a certain act brings pain, the act is wrong, and when the consequences yield pleasure and happiness, the act is right to take (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2006). Therefore, his main principle is that he wishes to maximize his greatest pleasure by doing the right things and minimize pain by avoiding the acts that would yield pain, hence, maintaining his morality.
On the contrary, Immanuel believes that the judgment of right and wrong comes from the universal truth of reason, also known as ethics of pure duty. In his theory, he believes that a person performing a right or wrong thing does it from what he believes is right or wrong, but does not consider the consequences of the act, as Mill asserts. For Immanuel’s theory to be understood better, there are steps towards achieving universal truth of reason. One must first formulate the maxim of the action. He then universalizes the action and then determines whether the universalized maxim can become a universalized law. A person’s own actions are, therefore, the guide for anyone else. This challenges Mill’s theory because one does not have to reflect on the consequences of the action, but what the world believes is the right thing becomes right for a person (Trinity, 2012).
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006. Accessed on 2nd March 2013 from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/milljs/#SH2d
Trinity. Kant’s Ethics: Some Key Ideas. TrinityEducation. 2012. Accessed on 2nd March 2013 from: http://www.trinity.edu/cbrown/intro/kant_ethics.html