Free Normative Ethical Theory Essay Sample

In every functioning community or society, a transparent system that guides the moral of its members is crucial for the distinction between what is right and wrong. It is evident that almost every community has its code of conduct in matters of morals. Usually, these include traditions, laws, business transactions as well as the government policies. The above-mentioned components are aimed at putting a distinction between doing what is acceptable and avoiding the unacceptable.

Without these systems in place, the society would quickly collapse since operations in the community are dependent on the shared ethics. While some values such as "thou shalt not kill" may be accepted by most people, there is not a single moral guideline approved by all. In this regard, two grand theories try to offer the best way of instilling morals in the society so as to ensure everyone upholds the right values. This work seeks to agree with the theory of deontology as presented by Kant and differ with Mill’s theory of utilitarianism.

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Kant’s Deontological Theory

Deontological theory of morals is obligatory in nature and presumes that an action ought to follow a particular rule for it to be morally right. He bases his argument on the fact that human beings have the capacity for rationality and, thus, even when the action may be morally evil, it can still bring a desirable outcome based on the motive or the reasoning that led to it. Kant emphasizes that everyone is obligated to do what is morally right depending on the situation at stake. In this case, he is of the opinion that the outcome of an action can only be termed as right or wrong from the moral perspective based on the motive of this action. In his arguments, he singles out several outstanding characteristics that include the good will, rationality, and Maxim.


Kant bases his discussion on the ability of human rationality and more so on pure reason as opposed to the empirical evidence. According to him, the thoughts resting on doctrines are pure and are the ones that ought to drive the actions of an individual. He alludes to the fact that in any moral consideration, there is a need for an objective perspective. By this, he means that if a rule is valid from a moral point of view, then all people ought to admit and, thus, acknowledge its absolute necessity. It is right, as he points out, that if the law is moral, then it is supposed to be obligatory to any rational man. Thus, the assumption is that every human being can think and distinguish between right and wrong and, therefore, there is a direct correlation between a good thing and the perception of any rational person.


Goodwill is the aspect of being true to one's intention while carrying out a particular duty. The notion of Goodwill is heavily linked to the predominance of reason and, therefore, interrelated in one way or another. Goodwill is the only knowledge that can be ascertained to be good without any qualification. Kant suggests that goodwill is not an outcome of the action or the consent of everyone to the result achieved but is good in itself. He has set it as a goal for a reason and, thus, a motive for a given activity is to be carried out. In this respect, he points out that every reason has its target, and the action to be undertaken has to be coined in the mind where one works to achieve an end that is morally right or wrong. In this case, therefore, goodwill is good even if the outcome may not be morally right. Reason always carries a purpose that is practical in nature and is the premise of achieving the desired. In this respect, Kant states that good ought not to seek an end in itself but be performed as adherence to the duty but not to an inclination.


Maxim, according to Kant, is the justification for an action carried out. This point of the distinction is between moral actions carried out due to an impulse and actionstaken purely as a result of good will. In this principle, the central factor is being right to the good will. Thus,one ought not to act unless the action qualifies as a universal law. Kant believes that the decision made by any rational being in undertaking an action should be universal and, thus, morally right. This approach is imperative, and for it to be termed universal, it should be based on the reason of the principle of good will.For instance, if one tells a lie that rests on good will and seeks a greater outcome, then this will be taken to be morally right.

Principle of Autonomy

In the final declaration of Kant's principles there is a principle of autonomy that summarizes his entire ethical theory. It emphasizes that categorical imperative ought to be followed by any rational individual who uses his/her pure reason.  He holds the view that moral autonomy is within each person, and, thus, everyone possesses the ability to carry out an action that is universal if he/she has the right will. 


Utilitarianism is a theory that seeks to accept an action as being moral when it brings the greatest happiness to the majority of people. It rests on the principle that good morals should bring pleasure and not cause pain to a significant number of people. In this regard, the utilitarian theory does not uphold the need to have a pure reason but encourages people to seek what will only bring pleasure and avoid pain. This is contrary to what is accepted as good morals for development since saving is a culture that brings pain in a short while for the betterment of the future. It means that the theory, as advanced by Mill, will only seek instant gratification at the expense of long-term goals which may not be morally right after all.

Difference of Quality in Pleasures

Another aspect of utilitarianism is the distinction between different desires and, given that one has witnessed the two of them before, he/she will tend to choose the one that will provide the greatest quality of pleasure. In this regard, if humans advance all their actions based on the quality of pleasure, they will be contented with everything and not productive since, in most cases, one has to put in much effort to achieve great things. The hard work may bring pain, but, in the long run, the best can be realized for all. If humans are allowed to do only what will bring them happiness and disregard other things, it will make them indulge in immoral activities and become lazy. Therefore, it will be counterproductive to the morals sought after.

Happiness Cannot Be the Rational Purpose of Action

Utilitarianism calls for the satisfaction of happiness which cannot be considered as an action based on human reasoning. In this case, not only moral actions lead to happiness since the motive may sometimes be different. In this case, for an action to be moral, there has to be the main reason that motivates an individual to carry out such an action. If the reason for doing it is immoral and the work manages to bring happiness to a great number of people, then it can't be termed as moral. This means that moral actions cannot be solely be based on happiness since not all measures aimed at achieving the state of happiness end up being morally right.

Sacrifice and Happiness

Sacrifice and happiness are two phenomena antagonistic in nature, and no one seeking individual happiness will dare to surrender without rationality in their reasoning. The theory of utilitarianism aims to maximize pleasure while minimizing the pain that may result from doing good to others and sacrificingone's own happiness. Therefore, it calls for selfishness that will not work for the greater good of all but only for the individual undertaking the responsibility. In this case, no person will seek to promote moral actions if they do not lead to his/her happiness.

Doctrine of Utility

The theory of utility calls for the maximization of happiness and minimization of pain in every aspect. Consequently, the right or wrong nature of an action does not determine its moral standard.This school of thought is self-defeating since the very reason for morality is in achieving good and, thus, good will and being right morally are inseparable. Therefore, doing an action that brings happiness to some people while disregarding the impact of the action on othersis not to the advantage of the entire society. For the action to be right, it ought to be carried out with good will and with an intention of being right.


Conclusively, it is evident that Kant’s deontological theory is useful in a society setup as compared to Mill’s theory of utilitarianism. Kant's view is that humans have reason and, thus, it is appropriate to view actions considering individual motives. Consequently, rationality is the most important aspect in carrying out an action and, therefore, the motive grounds in rationality. Mill's utilitarian theory, on the other hand, seems to be unrealistic as it calls for the maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain. For one to do good for others, sacrifice is inevitable and, thus, by seeking to maximize pleasure, people will end up being selfish and doing what is right for them and not what is morally right.


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