Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


categorical utilitarianism

Utilitarianism on google is described as “the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority.” I agree that the definition of utilitarianism is whatever benefits the greater good.

Categorical imperative is defined as “an unconditional moral obligation that is binding in all circumstances and is not dependent on a person’s inclination or purpose.” To me, categorical imperative is doing good things not for any benefits, solely because it’s the right thing to do. It’s essentially the same definition but it sounds better to me.

Personally I’m a little biased towards Kant, so I agree with the categorical imperative. I think cheating is wrong no matter what, on a test, on your SO, no matter how you try and justify it, it will be wrong. The definition of categorical imperative where “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” is really important to me. I think it’s super important that we treat others the way you want to be treated. The only real hiccup I can see in categorical imperative is in the case of self defense. If someone tried to kill you and your body enters fight or flight response, and you end up killing them, are you in the wrong? I believe Kant would say that it is wrong because it is regardless of your situation. Personally I think it’s okay that you killed them which is why I also don’t think I’m 100% categorical imperative. If you can prove that you literally had no other choice, then murder is right in that situation. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye.”  I don’t believe these are the only two moral philosophies one can have. A combination of both would describe me since I can’t commit entirely to one.

A personal issue that I have encountered that relates to my moral philosophy is the Good Samaritan act. In Canada, “a person who renders emergency medical services or aid to an ill, injured or unconscious person, at the immediate scene of an accident or emergency that has caused the illness, injury or unconsciousness, is not liable for damages for injury to or death of that person caused by the person’s act or omission in rendering the medical services or aid unless that person is grossly negligent.” Basically, if you try and help someone but end up harming them more/killing them, you cannot be sued unless you were consciously disregarding their need for care. Categorical imperative would say that although you had good intent, you killed them anyways which is wrong. Utilitarianism would say that you tried to do something for the greater good (help them) but you ended up killing them in the end which is okay. As a civilian, I am protected under the good Samaritan act since it is my MORAL obligation to help people, but as a lifeguard, I am not because it is my LEGAL obligation to help as opposed to moral. The law has seemed to lean towards a utilitarianism way of looking at things.

However if you look at it from a different angle, the Good Samaritan act will allow people to “do the right thing because it is the right thing to do” without worrying about repercussions it could have which supports categorical imperative. On the other end, helping the weak doesn’t benefit the greater good because you’re wasting our tax dollars on their health bill, might as well let them die because the tax dollars can then be put towards the greater good. Though this sounds rather extreme, I think it is a true, valid and sound argument.

I don’t believe in the death penalty. I don’t believe in imprisoning people for the sake of keeping them segregated but rather to rehabilitate them. I DO believe that people should be allowed to do the right thing without thinking about the consequences to helping others. There are flaws in both systems of utilitarianism and categorical imperative. A combination of both together used in balance would have the greatest benefits. Being black or white sometimes is the right answer, but arguing for the right to have the grey areas is what allows us to even have morals in the first place.


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