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14
15
Yes No
Debate Score:29
Arguments:28
Total Votes:29
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 Yes (13)
 
 No (15)

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Are Kantian ethics a better guide to moral behaviour than utilitarianism?

Kantian ethics involves categorical moral rules; (i) one can only act on maxims which one can rationally will to become universal laws (ii) you can never use a person as a means to another end. From this: one must never tell a lie, steal, kill an innocent person, torture (no matter what the consequences may be).


Utilitarianism is a consequentialist moral theory. The right thing to do is the action which brings about the best consequences - 'the greatest good for the greatest number.' From this, we might justify telling a lie, if we thought it might prevent hurting a person. We could also justify killing or torturing an innocent person, if it saved ten others.

Yes

Side Score: 14
VS.

No

Side Score: 15
2 points

We need categorical moral rules in society, otherwise any act could be justified. Morality becomes totally relative to the situation you find yourself in.

Side: Yes
JaiF(2) Disputed
1 point

By following Kantian ethics you allow people around you to suffer because of your inactions. In a situation such as the trolley case, you are morally obligated to let the trolly hit the 5 people because other wise you would be using the one as a means to an end. Yet by not changing the trolly's direction you are using the one as a means to the end of your philosophy. If you don't change the direction you have also caused the death of the five through inaction. How can this be considered moral?

Side: No
peterc(39) Disputed
1 point

There are many, many people who are not giving money to support charities like Oxfam or World Vision. Thousands die every day from poverty / famine. Are we to say that anyone who does not give money is responsible for these deaths through inaction?

Side: Yes
Samudepu(2) Disputed
1 point

The fundamentals of Kantian ethics are flawed. Kantian ethics bases its system on not paying attention to the consequences of actions. But the Categorical Imperative (a key part of Kantian ethics) asks us to justify actions by using the maxim 'Only do that which is universalisable' that is, actions are only moral if everyone could do them all the time. This part of Kantian ethics offers a direct contradiction, as considering universalisability surely pays attention to the consequences of actions.

Side: No
jamelaur(6) Disputed
1 point

Although Kantian ethics contradicts itself it is easier to use in any situation then utilitarianism, due to not being able to see the future utilitarianism is useless as a guide for what is a moral action, because you cannot know what is moral when you act.

Side: Yes
1 point

I believe Kantian ethics to be better. It does have problems, but the one big issue I have with Utilitarianism is it tends to infringe on the rights of the few. John Rawls arguably has the best moral direction with his "Veil of Ignorance".

Side: Yes
1 point

I like your style. Yes, I suspect that those who support utilitarian ethics change their minds when they finds themselves in the minority who are being mistreated or abused for the 'greater good.'

Side: Yes
Samudepu(2) Disputed
1 point

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spok

Side: No
1 point

Kantian ethics is the more useful moral philosophy because it doesn't take consequences into account. utilitarianism insistence on the future being able to judge the moral worth of your acts doesn't make any sense. You cannot predict the future so when you act you cant now what is moral, as knowing what to do is what a moral theory is for utilitarianism is useless as a moral theory.

Side: Yes

I will have to side with Utilitarianism since there are shades of grey in it as opposed with absolutes in Kantian ethics. For example, I do feel that telling a lie in order to prevent hurting another person's feelings is O.K.

Side: No
jamelaur(6) Disputed
1 point

A moral philosophy is supposed to tell you what is the right thing to do. Utilitarianism doesn't do this because of the shades of gray that are involved. Utilitarianism means that you cannot know what to do in a situation because calculating net happiness is to difficult for the everyday. Even after the calculation what you do may not turn out to be moral if something you haven't added to the calculation happens. An example of this is if someone saved a girl from being hit by a bus by running across the road and grabbing it from the path of the oncoming vehicle, however the bus swerves and hits a cafe causing the death of three people.

was the decision to act the correct one? i think what the man did was most definitely moral, he cant see into the future, yet a utilitarian view means that the mans action was immoral.

Side: Yes
1 point

Yes, I agree. Doesn't utilitarianism require us to predict the future? No one can foresee all of the consequences of their actions - no one has a crystal ball. I might lie to save from hurting someone's feelings (immediate positive), but much later down the track they may discover that I lied and no longer trust me (long term negative).

Side: Yes
1 point

Utilitarianism ethics are ultimately more valuable as a guide for moral behaviour than Kantian behaviour. A Kantian would have to uphold their moral principles when it is logically morally wrong, for example in the case of Trolley a Kantian would be unable to switch the lever to save the 5 children. They would feel that by not acting they have no responsibility for the death of the 5, this is illogical as they had the opportunity to save them by sacrificing the one. If we changed the numbers it becomes even more apparent, if there were 100 children and 1 adult it would seem inarguably right to save the 100. However, a Kantian would be unable to use they one as a 'means' to an 'end'.

Utilitarianism ethics are consequently a better guide to moral behaviour.

Side: No
1 point

I feel kantain ethics is not a better guide to moral behaviour than utilitarianism because it is irrational to not think of the consequences of an action and deem it moral, even if many people are hurt.

Side: No
peterc(39) Disputed
1 point

But if you let the circumstances / the probable consequences govern your actions, then do you not lose your moral identity? Your autonomy? You don't decide the right way to act anymore - you let the external world decide.

Side: Yes
Kaitie(2) Disputed
1 point

You do not lose your moral identity by at least thinking of the consequences, you don't simply jump off a clif because you want to jump off something? You think 'well if I jump off this cliff I will probably die, so I won't jump off it' to not think of the consequences of your actions and choices is absurd. You do not loose your autonomy when following untilitarianism, you loose it following Kantian ethics by following those absolute moral laws. It is better to allow the external world to PARTLY decided what is right and wrong because you live in that very world and it will help you to adapt.

Side: No
1 point

Kantian ethics pays no attention to the consequences of the actions they do or do not take. But the rest of our lives are based on consequences. Systems of learning, how we know things and so forth. Paying attention to consequences is inherently part of human nature, and so we shouldn't build a system of morality (such as Kantian ethics) that is not based on consequences.

Side: No
jamelaur(6) Disputed
1 point

If you try to save someones life by running into a burning building but cannot save them surely that is more moral that just letting them die. Thus someones intention have a clear difference to whether or not something is moral regardless of the consequences. if this is so then morals can not be based on the consequences of the action.

Side: Yes
1 point

Utilitarianism is a better guide to moral behaviour rather than Kantian ethics. Utilitarianism is more adaptable, easy to apply and can be adapted to different situations. It also thinks about the consequences of ones actions rather than only thinking about the moment as Kantian ethics seems to only apply for the situations and the consequences don't seem to matter to affect your choice in the moment. Kantian ethics is able to justify immoral acts by maxim, and the notion of ' don't do what you wouldn't want others to do' is absurd to think that this applies to every situation.

Side: No
1 point

I feel that Kantian ethics is too rigid and does not work coherently with human nature. Morality should be subjective and based on the consequence of an act rather than whether it can be universalised. For example even the most good intention maxims such as 'never tell a lie' would be considered wrong in some circumstances. For example it may be better to tell a lie to support your friend or to prevent something bad from happening to them. An act should only be considered moral if it has positive outcomes for both parties.

Side: No
jamelaur(6) Disputed
1 point

if you jump into a river to save a drowning child, but get cold and wet and the child drowns anyway. it is in immoral act by your argument because both parties experienced negative outcomes.

Side: Yes
nobodyknows(745) Disputed
1 point

Well I don't know about you but if I saw a child drowning and I didn't at least try to save him of her I would feel real shitty about myself for a long time. In fact, I would feel better if I tried and failed rather than face the guilt I would feel from not trying. I believe most empathic human beings would make the same calculation.

You have to think beyond stage one with utilitarianism or else you get really absurd results.

Side: No
1 point

Insofar that incarceration, or any form of disciplinary punishment for not abiding by the rules would be considered by most recipients of correction measures to be a type of torture, what means would the of the proponents of Kantian ethics propose to ensure adherence to their code of moral behaviour?

Side: No

I have always liked utilitarianism every side I read Mill. Kant's system of ethics is beautiful and has the poetry of a religion of rationality. However, I don't like the convenience of poetry.

Kant would have us believe that the people who hid Jews from the Nazis acted immorally because they lied to the Gestapo. I reject such a simplistic and childish system of morality. True, it is hard to make the utility calculations required by utilitarianism for everyday decisions. That should not make us abandon it. There is no absolute right and wrong. There is only a spectrum of good and bad.

This means utilitarianism gives us something to strive for. Knowledge allows us to make more accurate utility calculations which makes us better people. The consequences of that statement is first, science and discovery have a moral imperative and second, each generation is more moral than the last. I think that is kinda cool. Utilitarianism makes us responsible for our own ignorance. If you didn't know feeding your kids bleach wasn't good for them and they die, you are held accountable for your ignorance.

Finally, I would like to argue that most of the long standing moral rules of societies and religions are actually unwittingly based on utilitarianism. Take for example a social and religious more surrounding reproduction: don't have sex out of wedlock. For the thousands of years before contraceptives, this was the utilitarian thing to do. If you had a child out of wedlock, unless you were lucky enough to get married the child would grow up with less resources and you would have to depend on your family and society who do not get the benefits of your premarital sex but often bear the cost. Of course now contraceptives are available and we now see the stigma surrounding premarital sex vanishing. Do you think this would have happened without contraceptives? I think not. We are by nature utilitarian thinkers. There is no need to adopt any other system.

Of course, I cannot prove that utilitarianism should be followed, I can only tell you why I like it. You should choose what ever system of morality makes you and those around you happiest.

Side: No