Kant VS Mill

Immanuel Kant was born in April 1724 to a craftsman named Johann George Kant and Anna Regina Porter (Bennagen, 2000). He was trained more in Latin and Religion subjects as compared with science and mathematics consequently forming his concepts and ideas with regards to moral philosophy technically referred to as ‘deontology’ which actually reiterates that an act should only be carried out based on the an individuals’ responsibilities (Bennagen, 2000).

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was born in May 1906 to Harriet Barrow and a well known philosopher, James Mill (Bennagen, 2000). Being exposed to Greek when he was only three years old, Latin when he was eight, he was extremely brilliant, so intelligent that he acquired Greek Literature, Philosophy, Chemistry, Botany, Psychology and law before he turned eighteen years old (Bennagen, 2000).

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Major Similarities in their Ethical System

Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill’ ethical systems have similarities and these are the following:

In act utilitarianism, laws are not taken into consideration as long as the act is said to have brought about happiness to most individuals then it is right (Bennagen, 2000). The same is true with deontology wherein duty is the basis for a right act which means that even if it means breaking the law just as long as the responsibility is fulfilled then the act is definitely right (Bennagen, 2000).

 In addition, both cannot always be utilized as a guide to morals (Bennagen, 2000). There are several cases where a decision made based on utilitarianism or deontology fails (Bennagen, 2000).

Major Differences in their Ethical System

There are differences between the ethical systems of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill and some of these are the following:

In terms of goal, Immanuel Kant’s deontological theory’s goal is to fulfill a certain duty, whereas, John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism’s goal is to achieve happiness (Bennagen, 2000). This is clearly evident in the definition of the deontological theory which says that individuals ought to stick to their responsibilities in evaluating a moral quandary (Bennagen, 2000). Same is true with the technical definition of utilitarianism where it states that, in an assessment of an ethical issue, the alternative that will result in the greatest happiness to the most number of people is the option that is ethically right (Bennagen, 2000).

Also, rule utilitarianism considers the law and fairness in finally making an act which is said to be right (Bennagen, 2000). Here, an individual who is about to make an act seriously thinks about making the most number of individuals experience pleasure through fair and just means (Bennagen, 2000). Furthermore, it gives importance to justice, as well as, beneficence (Bennagen, 2000). By justice here, we mean, that everyone involved in the situation are treated fairly, on the other hand, by beneficence, we mean, doing what is good, in opposition to what is evil (Bennagen, 2000). The aforementioned defies deontology in such a way that it does not involve justice and beneficence in it, rather it only focuses on fulfilling the ‘duty’, whether or not it is fair or just to everybody involved (Bennagen, 2000).

Major Criticisms for Kant’s Theory

There are also criticisms for Kant’s Theory and some of these are the following:

First of all, since deontology is all about sticking to responsibilities, its rationale or logic is being questioned for it (Bennagen, 2000). For instance, how will individual duties would be defined (Bennagen, 2000)? If for example, if personally I consider my family as my first priority every time and it so happened that I am being called by my supervisor for an urgent or emergency meeting, would it be considered not doing my duty if I go to this emergency meeting that my supervisor has ordered (Bennagen, 2000). Another example is the fact that, citizens have to maintain a certain driving speed, however, an individual is running late for a qualifying exam in medicine, which is a make or break exam for him, would it be considered as not doing his duty if he went a little speedy just to make it to his exam, which is a personal duty for him in the first place. Very clearly, through the aforementioned examples, there are no limits or boundaries to this so called duty making it critical, even questionable, as an ethical theory (Bennagen, 2000).

Secondly, obviously it is not extremely useful or helpful in making decisions since it is not applicable in all situations, as seen in the examples above (Bennagen, 2000).

Last but not least, it is also being criticized because of its self-centeredness simply because it does not really consider the well-being of others (Bennagen, 2000). Going back to the aforementioned examples, it shows that deontology tends to take a certain side wherein the other side not chosen is left unprotected in terms of its welfare (Bennagen, 2000).

Major Criticisms for Mills’ Theory

The criticisms for utilitarianism include the following:

First of all, in making a decision using the utilitarianism, it does not always achieve its goal of the experience of the utmost number of people of the greatest pleasure (Bennagen, 2000). If the head of the family decide to unleash his dog in his yard at night to make sure that no one will jump over his fence and to make sure untoward incidences in his home are avoided which may consequently hurt his family, but unfortunately the dog got out of his yard and went over the neighbor’s yard and destroyed the flowers in the garden (Bennagen, 2000)? This means that instead of his family being happy being they were well guarded, other people were terribly disappointed, disturbed, and definitely did not experience happiness as should be the outcome of utilizing utilitarianism as a technique in making ethical decisions (Bennagen, 2000).

Secondly, many people criticize utilitarianism for its inadequacy of common sense (Bennagen, 2000). For example, would you give up the one you really love just because your best friend loves him too and for the reason that your family does not like him for you (Bennagen, 2000)? Your best friend will turn out happy and so will your family which complies with the technical definition of utilitarianism involving utmost happiness experienced by the greatest number of individuals (Bennagen, 2000). The questions however are ‘what about you’, ‘where is the common sense in that’, and ‘is selflessness common sense’ (Bennagen, 2000)?

Thirdly, happiness is undefined here in utilitarianism (Bennagen, 2000). For example, a customer service representative at a certain company has been reported to be sleeping on the job (Bennagen, 2000). Utilizing utilitarianism, the act has been carried out: 1) to correct the mistake of the customer service representative; 2) to serve better more consumers; and 3) to improve the company’s services and be appreciated by more clients (Bennagen, 2000). This may result in happiness for the consumers and the management; however typically, this will not bring in pleasure to the customer service representative being complained about (Bennagen, 2006). This only proves that an act may not always bring in happiness through the use of utilitarianism in carrying out an act (Bennagen, 2000).

Last but not least, utilitarianism is being questioned because it violates human rights (Bennagen, 2000). For example, if a Bill is submitted by a minority group leader to be passed as a Law, and will not qualify as a Law simply because majority did not vote for it, then this may jeopardize the rights and happiness of the so called minority groups (Bennagen, 2000). This then may also be justified as an act which is right since happiness is being experienced by the most number of individuals though several people are suffering as well (Bennagen, 2000).


Bennagen, P. (2000). Social Economic and Political Thought. Quezon City: UPOU

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