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Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill and James Rachels

Defining morality has always been a challenge to philosophers even from the beginning of time. Philosophers have come up with various philosophies which all attempt to raise their own objective and subjective definition of morality. The most famous moral philosophies which are widely discussed today are the principles of Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative and John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism. However, a contemporary philosopher named James Rachels argues at some points in his book The Elements of Moral Philosophy with regard to the earlier viewpoints of Kant and Mill.

Instead of coming up with an exact classification of his own philosophy, Rachels prefer to raise both sides of every issue and conveys an impression of what is much better and why it is much better. Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill To further compare the arguments stated by the three philosophers, it is rather important that their principles be revealed in brief details. First in line is Immanuel Kant. He has been one of the most renowned philosophers of the 18th century who is well known for his duty-bound theory or deontology.

Kant proposed the theory of Categorical Imperative which is duty-bound. “The moral imperative enjoins moral goodness: it bids us to act morally—that is, as we have seen, to act for the sake of the law or for the sake of duty. The universal ethical command is ‘Act in accordance with duty for the sake of duty’” (Paton 117). He believed that an act should be done because the act itself is moral and not because it would produce the desired consequence.

It is also well-known as the complete opposite of the consequentialist’s and utilitarianist’s claim that “the end justifies the mean”. Next is John Stuart Mill who proposed the principle of Utilitarianism which claims that an act is moral if it contributes the greatest good to the greatest number. It states that happiness is always considered as an end itself and people act in search of this end. Happiness for the greater quantity is deemed to be held with utmost importance.

It is also believed to be a form of consequentialism which considers the consequence to be the determinant of morality. However, James Rachels, a 21st century philosopher who is far centuries behind these two western philosophers argues against these two philosopher as he believes that there is no absolute or universal truth in ethics. It is merely a matter of cultural relativism to which we are all accustomed to from the time we are born.

He claims in Chapter 2 of The Elements of Moral Philosophy that people morally act in ways which are culturally conditioned to be moral. Thus, the definition of morality depends on the way we are culturally raised and not in an objective viewpoint such as what Kant and Mill are implying in their principles. Conclusion Apparently, Rachels does not give a certain designation of his philosophy which is understandable because he merely provided rebuttals to previously formed philosophies about morality.

However, it is significant to note that his way of arguing with the principles of Kant and Mill shows his consistency in claiming that there is no universal truth or absolute truth. Instead, he is sturdy in his claim that morality is based on our actual perception and conception of what is good and what is right brought about by our cultural preferences. Works Cited Paton, Herbert James. The Categorical Imperative: A Study in Kant’s Moral Philosophy. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971.

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