The Views of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill on Morality of a Person

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1434 |

Page: 1|

8 min read

Published: Jun 6, 2019

Words: 1434|Page: 1|8 min read

Published: Jun 6, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Similarities
  3. Differences
  4. Conclusion


Both Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill studied the concept of morality for, sort of, future goodness of the society. Even though they both, overall, studied for the same aim, their ways of study were different. For Immanuel Kant, key to achieve future goodness with morality is separating law and duty from morality, while John Stuart Mill considers it was utility's morality, that helps people to reach their future goodness. Both of these philosophers and their respective ideas created different and consistent perspectives. Their perspectives which influenced by experience (Mill) and reason (Kant) is the reason why they have differences in their own ideas. This why, in this paper both ideas will be compared in terms of their similarities and one major difference.

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Even though both ideas and the philosophers share a common goal, their ideas do not share many similarities. In fact, there are two similarities between these two ideas. First one is the, not having self-interest during a moral action. Second one is the universality of the moral action.

Both Mill and Kant, thinks that morality appears when a person abandons his her self-interest, with minor differences. According to Kant, due to human rationality, there are laws, moral laws to be exact, and those laws are the factors that pushes people to act morally. This represent also represent Kant's alignment with reason. However, when humans choose to act morally, not just because of the law factor, they act only according to morality. In order to clear this definition, Kant gives the example of shopkeeper in this book Metaphysics of Morality. The example, basically says that, in a situation where a shopkeeper able to deceive customers, but chooses not to deceive them due to laws. Then shopkeeper is not a moral person because, heshe does choose to act moral out of fear of consequences (Kant, p.11). Just like in this situation, moral actions that are taken just for obeying the law is not moral because it contains a self-interest, not getting caught and avoiding punishment. According to Mill, and utilitarianism view, every action taken is moral, if the particular action aims to increase aggregate utility, or in other words happiness. Just like Kant's reason, this represent experience. This utilitarian condition for morality clearly shows that the overall happiness in the world is what matters and people should try to achieve it. Unlike Kant, Mill does not restrict the self-interested actions, as much as Kant. Mill has more calm behavior towards those actions, because in a situation which selfish action produces more utility, selfish action must be taken. In this scenario one's self interest also becomes the moral interest. As Mill says in his book Utilitarianism; "He who saves a fellow creature from drowning does what is morally right, whether his motive be duty, or the hope of being paid for his trouble; he who betrays the friend that trusts him, is guilty of a crime" (Mill, p.20). However, this does not mean self-interest and utility are parallel concepts. This means, they can sometimes coincide and for Mill it is perfectly fine to choose selfish action because it serves the higher purpose, morality. While according to Kant's view, self-interest and moral actions cannot coincide with each other. Even though, they both differentiate in terms of the strictness of the self-interest, they both always put moral actions above selfish actions.

Second similarity between Mill and Kant is the universality of the morality. For both of them, their respective understating of morality should apply to all human beings. For utilitarianism, idea itself aims to be universal because the main concern is the aggregate happiness in the world. But Kant's idea has few more layer, when it comes to universalization. According to Categorical Imperative, it is moral to take actions that are rational and possible, for everyone, to take. In Kant's words, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law" (Kant, p.30). Naturally, this universalization comes from the Kant' trust in the human rationality. There is delicate balance in the Kant's thinking, as far as I understand, when people act rationality, they aim to gain their self-interest. However, when the rationality of the humans is possible or conceivable for everyone, universal, self-interest of one disappears. It leaves its place to general goodness and morality. There is no point for chasing self-interest, because now everyone can have their self-interest, it is only logical to seek out general happiness by rational and general actions, morality. This is why Kant's categorical imperative is similar to universalization of utilitarianism, because it is moral to take the actions that are rational and possible for all.


Unlike the similarities they have in common both ideas have also differences. However, there is a major difference, that shows why these both philosopher who aims to reach morality and general goodness, differ in terms of ideas. The main difference between both of them is their (Mill and Kant) view about the means of the ends. Kant says that, while taking an action one must consider the action's after effects as much as, considering the moral end. In Metaphysics of Morality Kant says this as, "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means" (Kant, p.36). Basically, Kant defends that no matter how noble or how moral the result of an action, if it creates something immoral during the process, then that action is not moral at all. Mill on the other hand, always consider the ends above the means. As long as an action helps world to become a better place, or in other words happier place, the action that have taken is not important because the result is always moral. The Superhero problem is the perfect example to display the difference between Mill's and Kant's understanding of morality, because it argues the what happens to world if superheroes exist. This superhero example basically says that, while saving the world they destroy many buildings, cities, construction and cause many people to die. Naturally, superheroes try to save the world due to their pure morality, without self-interest. However, Kant would disagree with their morality because during the process of protecting people they killed many of them. As a result of this, they lost their morality because they did not consider the means and focused on the end. Unlike Kant, for Mill, their actions still would be moral because they are focusing on the end. If they did not save the world, then everyone would be death. This is why Kant's and Mill's views cannot meet when it comes to means and ends.

As it is mentioned in the beginning of this paper, they found their motivation in different concepts, for Mill it is experience, while for Kant it is reason. I think, Kant puts reason above experience, because he sees everything as black and white, in every level. For example, an action either causes morality or don't. Then he moves on the next level and in that next level he tries to analyze the reasoning of the action, if it taken by a pure selfless intention or not. Basically, Kant follow a certain path of â'reason' to reach morality. However, for Mill situation is different. Mill sees every shades of the black, white and gray. According to his path of 'experience', every possible action can be put in order for a person, and this changeable from person to person. What matters it that what person feels when heshe have the experience. This is their given importance to means in an action process differs, because Kant must follow a certain path and if he takes a wrong step then he lost the path to end (morality). Mill on the other hand can freely move in the path, he can even go off-road, as long as he reached his end (morality) it does not matter. To him, mean is just a gap that needs to be passed.

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To conclude, both philosophers have consistent and reasonable ideas about their common goal, morality and general goodness. Even though, their main drive to achieve morality is different, they two important similarities, both in big and small scale. Their difference in terms of experience and reason creates their differences and also the minor differences they have in their similarities. Whether for Kant's one line path to reach morality or Mill's gap, morality is possible and everyone universality aim to reach it.

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Ideal Person: An Impossible to Find. (2022, December 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from
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