Mill’s Utilitarianism What is more important? what you intend to happen or what actually happens?…

Mill’s Utilitarianism

 

What is more important? what you intend to happen or what actually happens?
Description
Mill’s Utilitarianism is based on the notion that actions in themselves have no moral value and that it is only when we see the results (i.e., the “consequences”) that we can say that the action we chose was the right one, meaning that it led to an increase in happiness for the majority of people affected by a particular decision to act. In other words, the Ends (results) justify the Means (the action); and, for a Utilitarian, the intent is always to maximize happiness, but the consequences determine whether the actions and intentions were morally justifiable. For example, if a lie maximizes the happiness of everyone affected by the lie, then the lie was justifiable and the morally right thing to do.

Kant, on the other hand, says that our intentions to make moral choices are more important than the end results. For Kant, the only thing that matters is our intention to do the right thing, simply (and for no other reason) because it is the right thing to do. For example, if we intend to do the right thing by telling the truth but get bad results, we cannot be blamed for the bad results, because we did the right thing—we told the truth; but, if we do the wrong thing and lie and then get bad results, that is entirely our fault, because we chose to do the wrong thing to begin with.

As you do this assignment, keep Kant’s Categorical Imperative in mind, since most of us are pretty aware of how we would not like to be treated by other people. Pick one (1) of the following scenarios, and then answer the questions at the end.

Scenario #1:

You are a soldier in a battle zone. Your commanding officer has told your unit that you are to take a small village and that the orders are to shoot any combatants who might interfere with the mission. He says that the intel from above insists that the majority of the villagers either are or are harboring insurgent leaders. But, by accident (and unknown by your CO) you have a contact in the village who has been sharing confidential information, and your contact has indicated that the soldiers slipped out a week ago and that only women and children remain in the village. You already tried three days ago to explain what you have been learning from the unofficial source, but your CO seems to be more interesting in perfectly following the orders from HIS commander rather than pay much attention to just “one more pair of boots on the ground.”

• First, which scenario did you pick?

• Pretend you are good Utilitarian who is more interested in the results than in the intention to do the right thing, what course of action would you take and why? Please be specific with your answers and refer to the principles of the Utilitarian ethical theory as you explain your reasoning.

• Next, using the same scenario, pretend you are good Kantian who is more interested in the intention to do the right thing than in the consequences, what course of action would you take and why? Please be specific with your answers and refer to the principles of Kant’s ethical theory as you explain your reasoning.

• Finally, which of these two theories feels the most “comfortable” for you, when you are thinking about the moral rightness and wrongness of some action. Explain in detail why you prefer one of these ethical theories more than the other one.
 

 

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