Mill’s utilitarianism on Kant and Baxter’s arguments
In John Stuart Mill’s arguments for utilitarianism, it can be observed that his concept of that which is “good” corresponds to the maximization of utility, or the promotion of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Further, Mill maintains that right actions are those that primarily promote happiness while on the other hand actions that result to the reverse of happiness are wrong actions.
At this point, it should be noted that Mill is arguing for the centrality of a form of consequentialism in his conception of actions and their resulting moral worth. That is, the moral worth or value of the actions of man can be assessed through the very consequences that they give rise to.
As human conduct is essentially directed by the quest for happiness or utility, Mill elaborates further that the very directive of men to acquire happiness does not refer to individual happiness or the happiness of each person taken singularly but rather to the collective happiness or the happiness for the greatest number of people. Among the numerous possible manifestations of such happiness that may be perceived, he further argues that the greatest happiness is to be sought after in connection to the greatest number of individuals. From this point, we are to analyze the arguments raised by Immanuel Kant and William Baxter on the aspect of rational agents juxtaposed with the issue of pollution.
Both Kant and Baxter resort to the claim that men as rational agents should occupy the central role in ethical considerations. Prior to Baxter, Kant has already maintained that human beings, as agents imbued with and the capacity to reason, should not be treated as the means to possible or given ends. Rather what Kant strongly proposes is that human beings should be considered as the very ends themselves in the course of the actions of every individual. On the other hand, Baxter strongly argues in line with the Kantian prescription for the acts of man. That is, man’s actions should be that which is what one ought to do.
Mill will most likely tell us that Baxter’s conclusions do not eventually promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people in the immediate consequences of man’s actions towards the environment. Mill’s utilitarian principles will maintain that Baxter’s conclusions on the scope of environmental ethics merely prescribe what men ought to do.
This prescription, when applied to several environmental issues such as man’s hunting for rare animals for the therapeutic values of their body parts, will most likely condemn the given example and other related instances. However, Mill will argue that, since the gathering of the body parts of such a rare animal will most likely contribute to the betterment and eventual happiness of the greatest number of human beings, the act in itself is a right act. The apparent consequences of such an action are deemed with the greatest amount of merit in classifying such action as morally right.
For the most part, Mill might have instead argued for the claim that even if pollution becomes a result of the actions of man towards his environment, these same actions should be taken if it promotes the greatest degree of happiness for the greatest number of individuals as its consequence.
Mill’s arguments cannot in any way directly support and uphold the ethical guidelines set forth by both Kant and Baxter in seeking the proper conduct for the status quo of the environment.
Mill’s utilitarianism on Carr’s “Is Business Bluffing Ethical?”
One essential feature of the utilitarian ethical doctrine is that its moral point of view rests firmly on the consequences of the actions made. That is, an action is then to be categorized as either good or bad depending on the consequence or result of the action intended. However, what differentiates the utilitarian principles from other ethical or moral tenet is that the former further qualifies the outcome of the actions as good in terms of maximum benefits conferred by the deed.
In a sense, a good action, then, is one which has maximized benefits or advantages not to oneself but, more importantly, to the most number of individuals as well in the end. Thus, in essence, such doctrine of utilitarianism can be briefly summarized as one that seeks to establish “the greatest good for the greatest number.
In adopting the principles being set forth by utilitarianism one is inclined to embrace the belief that the welfare of the majority is being taken with utmost concern and that, parallel to such aspect of utilitarianism, the greatest happiness or the benefit of the most number of people is seen as fitting enough to further accept the ethical theory of utilitarianism. The relative consequences in adopting these principles highlight a connection to the modern world inasmuch as the welfare of the majority rather than the individual is deemed to outweigh personal motives.
Thus, the extent of Mill’s conception of the utilitarian doctrine will firmly hold that business bluffing is ethical so long as it promotes the good of the majority through the greatest good such an action is able to produce.
For instance, when company executives are tasked to manage dealings or negotiations with fellow executives, customers, government authorities, labor groups, or the department heads of the same company the executives work in, they can resort to many forms of deception. The act of deceiving these “other” people in terms of its moral value can be analyzed through the apparent consequences such a conduct is able to make materialize.
Especially in cases wherein the fate of the whole company or the status of the entire structure of the line of laborers is at stake, business bluffing is deemed right if and only if it is able to sustain the welfare of the general members of the company as its immediate consequence.
Or even in the smallest of the departments in a business establishment, the relative gains of that small unit when taken as a whole should be reason enough, at least in Mill’s utilitarian approach, to pursue actions that will ensure the greatest gains for the greatest number in that department. These actions, in turn, are qualified as ethical and, hence, right under the utilitarian perspective as far as Carr’s notion on the extent of cases where the business “player” resorts to bluffing is concerned.
On the other hand, the extent in which Mill will contradict Carr’s proposals for deception rests on the situation wherein bluffing does not promote the general welfare but instead advances the personal aims of the executive. In such cases, even if there are positive consequences for the businessman, the fact that the relative gains of the businessman for his own goes against the utilitarian principle of the maximization of the good. It ignores the crucial part of utilitarianism that prescribes actions which ensures the furtherance of the welfare of the majority.
Thus, such an instance is essentially unethical inasmuch as it is not right as far as the tenets of utilitarianism are concerned.
Kant’s ethical theory on DeJardins and Duska’s “Drug Testing in Employment”
In order to analyze DeJardins and Duska’s claims in the article, an understanding of Kantian ethics should first be noted. Kantian ethics can be roughly started with the presumption that if we are to strictly follow the assertion that the goal of the lives of men is the attainment of happiness in general, then every individual will most likely be inclined to seek personal gratification so as to arrive at happiness.
Nevertheless, the attainment of happiness is not entirely within the human capacity and that its actuality can be interpreted as a matter of chance that depends primarily on the varying capacities of man. No universal assurance on the attainment of happiness can then be seen. Consequently, by trying to remove cynicism and nihilism and by allowing the ethical norms of man to occupy the actions of all, it is necessary for these ethical doctrines to be unconditional such that there should be no exceptions and universal in the sense that these tenets should be applicable to every human being.
Kant proceeds with his idea of the good will by defining it as a will that operates for the sake of duty and as a “good-in-itself”. For the most part, the concept of duty is central to the ethical precepts of Kant which he regards crucial by considering the difference that dwell between actions in accordance with duty and actions performed for the sake of duty. For Kant, the latter phrase is the only one that bears moral worth implying a greater moral worth in man’s actions that result from a person’s greater disinclination to act merely for the sake of duty. That is, if a person is motivated to do a certain act simply because one is entirely inclined to do such an act, then the act itself is considered to be bereft of moral worth.
Duty for Kant is the inevitability or necessity of functioning out of a strict observation for laws that are universal. Consequently, the worth or value of the action done by the individual in terms of moral precepts is essentially drawn from the intention of the action thereby stressing the content of the actions in terms of intent as significant. This content can be further expressed in two manners. The first states that there are maxims or imperatives that stipulate that there are acts based on the desires of the individual. This is what Kant calls the hypothetical imperative. On the other hand, those which are based on reason and not merely dependent on one’s desires belong to the categorical imperative. The latter type deals with what ought to be done.
All these can be roughly transposed and summarized into Kant’s conception of the practical imperative that claims that one ought to act to treat human beings as ends in themselves and never merely as a means to any given end, whether the individual is the self or another person.
Thus, in line with the arguments proposed by the authors of Drug testing in Employment, Kant will very well argue that drug testing among employees in companies is unethical for the reason that it treats the employees as mere objects or means in achieving the ends of set forth by the company. The delicate private information that are to be obtained from the drug tests, moreover, gives rise to the possibility that these information can be manipulated for sinister ploys even if the protection of these information is given due recognition.
Moreover, as the authors of the article suggest, drug use is not always job relevant. If this is the case, then information concerning drug use is not relevant as well hence leading to the observation that drug tests are irrelevant and that these only impair the centrality of man as the end for every action.
The reason to these claims rests on two crucial aspects. First is that the practical imperative will not allow the treatment of the employees as schemes for the purpose of the upkeep of the employment status of the employer or of the company. Second is that drug testing undermines the rights of the employee thus, relegating our attention back to the first reason, undermining as well their existence as human beings and rational agents.
Mill, J. S. (1863). What Utilitarianism Is. In Utilitarianism (pp. 4-16).