Everyday Ethics: Kant versus Utilitarianism

Posted: March 16, 2012 in Behaviour, Ethics, Philosophy, Social Justice
Tags: , , ,

We encounter it in many different situations, often without thinking about it in formal terms, that is the dichotomy between Kantian thinking and utilitarian reasoning.  We live in a moral universe and we therefore encounter situations which demand a moral response.  Take torture for example.  A Kantian response to torture would assert that the rights of the individual are inviolable, therefore torture is unacceptable under any circumstances.  A utilitarian approach however would weigh the benefits and costs of each course of action; it may therefore be permissable (and even desirable) to torture an individual to save the life of another individual or a group of individuals.

Ethics is all about making hard choices.  A clip from the BBC documentary entitled “Justice: A Citizen’s Guide to the 21st Century” is attached below.  This highlights perfectly the two opposing ethical positions and is very thought-provoking.

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