There are varying viewpoints and ways to approach the topics of ethics and morals. This is due to everyone’s individualized perceptions as to what as viewed as “right” and “wrong” and/or “good” and “bad”. Typically, each persons values and morals can fit under the umbrella of utilitarianism or categorical imperative or a little bit of both. To further my personal thoughts and views on morals and ethics, I will first try and define what I comprehended from the reading given in class.
Utilitarianism: Basically what I got from this concept of morals is that something is right and/or good if one gains the most amount of pleasure with the least amount of pain. However, as we discussed in class, if this were the sole principal of utilitarianism, our society wouldn’t be productive and it would eventually turn into anarchy. This principal alone is very vague and broad. Mill shares how his definition of utilitarianism isn’t to just take levels and quantities of happiness into consideration, but the quality of the pleasure as well. He states that even if something may cause pain, the end result can produce a much higher quality of pleasure will supersede the pain felt leading up to the end.Utilitarian ethics are essentially based on what classifies actions as right or wrong, good or bad based upon the outcome or end. I don’t really agree with the idea that it doesn’t matter how someone gains their pleasure/happiness as long as the end is happiness. This principal works in terms but really can’t be like a rule for every situation. Mill continues to narrow his definition by including answers to questions such as: Who’s happiness? To which his response is, the majority’s. This is where the appeal of utilitarianism sort of falls apart for me. Yes, the majority’s happiness, but what about the minority’s? Because current-day western society is heavily based on democracy, the majority’s happiness is the most practical thing to pursue. That being said, this leads to many of our current societal conflicts. For example, just because there are statistically more straight cis people in Canada doesn’t mean that the LGBTQ communities shouldn’t get their say and/or potential happinesses.
Categorical Imperative: This ethical standpoint brought up by Immanuel Kant is what I perceive to be a widely accepted concept by the majority of people. Kant’s very optimistic views about doing the right thing solely because it’s the right thing to do, whether it benefits your own self-interests or not just doesn’t seem feasible. I say this mainly because society functions a lot based off of the self-interests of a select-few people. I do however agree with his theory of do as you wish others to also do. I also like the general concept behind Kant’s reasoning behind what makes an action moral(good) or not. Basically anything that one does out of duty, whether pleasurable or not is seen as moral. Anything else has some sort of deep-rooted selfish pursuit.
Okay, so now that I have expressed some of my opinions about the main two ethical standpoints we discussed, I would say I agree mostly with Kant’s views and some of Mill’s ideas. Hypothetically, utilitarianism sounds like a great time. You know, unless you’re stuck in the minority group, in which case, good luck. But I do like the hypothetical idea that happiness and pleasure should be an end. However, to contradict myself, I also believe strongly that one should do the right thing because it’s the right thing, whether or not they like to do it. However where I feel these two ideas could be synthesized, is where the accomplishment of a ‘moral’ obligation/duty allows one to access a different altruistic kind of pleasure/happiness; the trust and respect of others. A sense of control and dependability tends to lead others to positively receive one who upholds moral values as understood by the majority. Leading to the idea of honour and nobility being assigned to such an individual, and as much as many will argue otherwise, humans are social beings, and social status/apperception matters greatly in how we perceive/love ourselves. Hence Kant’s and Mill’s theories can work together to create a foundation to strive for utopic interventions.
A current day issue in which my moral standpoint could be possibly be beneficial is the many cases of racism. Now I believe that everyone holds an equal value and should share the same freedoms and opportunities as everyone else (Hey Rawls, didn’t see you there). I feel that if everyone had a sense of duty to be moral, whilst wanting others to follow in their actions, racism, along with a plethora of other conflicts within society would disappear. Plus, I believe that by solving said conflicts, most people would be subsequently happy, and appreciative of those who attempt to transcend arbitrary barriers to expose the misguided fear that cloaks as racism and to abolish it with this moral knowledge.