Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Utilitarian vs Categorical Imperative

John Stuart Mill, English philosopher, political economist and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism, he contributed widely to many different . Dubbed “the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century” also brought up often in high-schoolers blog posts on Utilitarianism, which does make sense considering he is the forefather of Utilitarianism. Kant a German philosopher who is considered a central figure in modern philosophy and also funnily enough appears often in high-schoolers blog posts on categorical imperative, and now they’re both appearing on mine, seeing as i’m comparing and contrasting the two for Mr Jackson’s Philosophy 12 class. Utilitarianism and Categorical Imperative, are almost polar opposites, in what they each individually preach, Utilitarianism, is more focused on the end goal, consequential, it’s sometimes referred to as, some would even go as far as to say that, it’s so heavily based on ones own personal happiness it’s almost borderline hedonistic, and egocentric. Categorical Imperative, is basically a fancy way of saying the same old rule you’ve been hearing all your life, from a poster on your childhood bedroom, to a mural painted across your school, to treat others as an ends in themselves rather than a means, treating someone justly and fairly, doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you, all that good stuff. basically just being a not terrible person. Skimming the surface aside, lets discuss and really delve deeper into each individual theory, or philosophical standpoint.

Utilitarianism, the philosophical baby of one John Stuart Mill, is defined by Merriam Webster as: a doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; specifically :  a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number, in simpler terms, a  theory that is mostly thinking more so about the end game, and how happy you are at the end of the day. Mill has a theory that i feel most liberal teenagers nowadays would be at a subconscious level subscribing to, if there’s something you dont like, it’s not worth doing, and it’s you shouldn’t do it because it doesn’t make you happy, I however dont agree with that, and here’s why, I believe that there will be times in your life where you will be faced with an obstacle, and to overcome that obstacle, is gain, you’d benefit greatly from overcoming that obstacle, yet because you wholeheartedly subscribe to Mills way of being, you wont attempt to overcome said obstacle, why? Because it doesn’t make you happy, therefore it’s not worth doing. The world is an imperfect place, with lactic acid build up when we work out, with our phones going off on a regular basis when we try to do home work, youtube videos are more interesting than studying for your English provincial, and there are easier, fun, ways out of things that we need to do, however the harsh reality is that, if we all live trying to have fun, and be happy, then nothing would ever get done, even if the end goal does provide joy, the getting there part, wont be enjoyable.

Categorical Imperative, the philosophical baby of German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is defined by Merriam-Webster as: a moral obligation or command that is unconditionally and universally binding, a much more straight to the point explanation compared to Utilitarianism, but for those who need reiteration, such as myself, in laymans term’s treat others the way you’d want to be treated. Really? That’s it? You may be asking yourself, essentially yeah, that’s pretty much it. Delving deeper than what you’d see in a preschool classroom however, Kant’s theory actually goes something like this: None should be treated as a means rather then an end in themselves, see that sounds alot better, atleast in my opinion. This would be more of an rights activist point of view, Kant was using this theory as  a means to protect peoples rights, so that their autonomy would be respected, because everyone is entitled to being treated like a respectable human being. I personally subscribe to this more so than Mills theory, mostly because I feel that, Kant’s theory in it’s bare bones form, is the way that everyone should be living, just because something someone does, doesn’t make you happy, doesn’t mean that you have any right to treat them with any less respect because of the fact, being a decent human being, i personally consider the Categorical Imperative way of being makes more sense. mostly because that’s just, the right thing to do, worrying about other people over yourself, it’s something you’re taught from a very young age, share your toys because the other kids might not, and then one day they’ll share with you too, cause that’s being a nice person, I feel like, if more people followed this idea, then the world would honestly just be so much better, everyone would be nice, donald trump wouldn’t be a cheetoh full of rage, and we could all live a cheetoh free lifestyle, what a world that’d be.

I was planning on making a whole paragraph on what i personally think of the two, but i kindof already did that within the second and third paragraphs. so i guess we’ll just wrap it up here then. I just feel as if though, we need more people thinking in the Categorical Imperative mind set, treating people how they should be treated, and obviously in a perfect world we’d all be nice to eachother and life would be great, and i realise that we’re not perfect, and to err is human, so obviously that’s no ones fault other than our own, but nevertheless i feel that’s the way that we should be moving as a society.  Just be a not mean person, open the door for little old ladies, tip your waiters/waitresses, and dont be rude, and we’ll all be able to sleep easy at the end of the day.


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