In utilitarianism, the outcome of our actions matters most. Our intention to serve the greater good and strive for happiness transcends our moral obligation to discern right from wrong in our actions, providing an excuse for abusing society’s traditional moral system or values that we learn through our experiences and our education.
In Kant’s moral philosophy, a categorical imperative promotes a more optimistic society as it encourages us to act the way we would want others to act in similar circumstances, clearly defining moral duty and separating good from bad, an unconditional command of conscience.
“Act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.”
In my own morality, the categorical imperative philosophy appeals to me because it is hopeful for a fair society by eliminating exceptions for anyone who may choose to act selfishly and lack consideration for those who might be affected by their actions. However, I think this moral philosophy would only function effectively to a certain extent, depending on the importance of the situation and the nature of the potential consequences. For example, for most situations that give us a choice to either follow the moral code that Kant presents or to dismiss these principles, we usually make general predictions about the potential outcomes of our choices but we are still unable to guarantee the consequences of our actions which suggests that either option has a seemingly relative equal chance of leading to negative consequences, but that it is more morally acceptable to “do the right thing”, as opposed to taking a risk. In my own morality, my choices are sometimes directed by my fear of negative consequences, but I’ve realized that although I like to think I’m in control of myself and the result of my actions, sometimes I’m not, because just like positive consequences, negative consequences are still possible and I would like to improve my approach to these consequences in a more rational way.
In our class discussion we talked about moral worth and the challenge of truly acting unselfishly. I recently saw a (seemingly staged) video on facebook of a man filming himself as he left some money with a homeless man sleeping on a bench, who woke up and found it and saw no one around who might have given it to him. I processed this video with the ideas that came up in class about the authenticity of acting for the good, because the person who donated his money to the homeless man might have felt good about himself and satisfied with his act of kindness, but his genuine consideration for the homeless man might have been questionable because of his decision to film himself, losing all moral worth and turning his charitable act into a selfish one for publicity, according to categorical imperative philosophy. I personally think that although this was intended to be a positive message for the public to encourage kindness and compassion, it also brought attention to the possible impure intention and desire for recognition through these actions, which dissolves all moral worth. I think this would be an example of utilitarianism moral philosophy because it would justify these actions with the idea that the outcome is most important – that spreading this valuable act of kindness (whether it was staged or not) and its message of compassion transcends the actual process of achieving its desired outcome, and this made me feel unsure about how I feel about this but I still feel more inclined towards the categorical imperative approach because I would prefer a more genuine consideration and pure intention towards acting in kindness even if it would be a challenge to truly act unselfishly.