Supreme Principles of Morality Compared
● Kant: Acting out of duty to the moral law is what gives actions their moral worth. So the
only unqualifiedly good thing is a good will-- the intention to choose duty to the moral
law over inclination, regardless of the consequences of the action. Duty is respect for the
moral law. What the moral law is in any specific circumstance can be determined by any
rational being using the categorical imperative test.
● Mill: The promotion of happiness is what gives actions their moral worth. So the
(foreseeable?) consequences of your action in terms of happiness and unhappiness
determine its moral worth. *see powerpoint for cont.)
● Mill: The moral worth of an action is determined by its foreseeable consequences for
○ Advantage: others can tell what the moral worth of an agent’s action is by
assessing its foreseeable consequences for happiness. Moreover, we can have
moral obligations to non-human animals, assuming we agree that they experience
pleasure and pain.
○ Disadvantage: the moral worth of an action is not completely under the agent’s
control, since the consequences for happiness may not be entirely foreseeable or
● Kant: the moral worth of an action is determined by the moral law the agent is following
out of duty.
○ Advantage: The moral worth of an action is completely under control of the agent
through her free choice (will) to follow the moral law.
○ Disadvantage: there is no way for others to judge the moral worth of an agent’s
action, since they have no direct access to her choice and intention. Also, it is not
clear that we have any moral obligations to non-human animals, assuming we
agree they do not have a rational free will in the way human beings do.
Obligations to Utilitarianism (Mill cont.)
● Happiness cannot be the end (purpose) of human actions, because it is generally
● It is not only possible for human beings to do without happiness; it is widely thought that
renouncing happiness is a necessary condition for living a moral life (9, 11-12).
● Utilitarianism requires too much from the individual in terms of their moral duty to
promote the happiness of all others on the planet (12-13).
● Utilitarianism just involves a cold calculation about the consequences for happiness of
individual actions, and takes no account of the moral character of the person doing the