Throughout the realm of philosophy there have been many arguments on the idea of ethics and what motivates human nature and guides our judgments. I will be focusing on two philosophers both of whom tried to answer that question. Jeremy Bentham whose views on what should be used to guide our judgments as to what’s wrong or right have been defined as utilitarianism. Focusing on a different idea using morals and a sense of duty to the greater good comes, Immanuel Kant’s ethics of deontology, or the ethics of rules and duties.
Jeremy Bentham’s ideas of utilitarianism focus on the experiences of pleasure over pain. To Bentham utility is the property in any object that tends to produce benefit, good, pleasure or happiness or prevent the happening of pain/evil, or unhappiness to the party where interest is considered. Kant on the other hand uses what he called imperatives to decide what should be considered morally right. The imperative, the law or choice must be respected, no matter what consequences come from the choice.
Also Kant looks at it this way, if the action in and of itself could be placed into a law for the morals of the people. Bentham: So Immanuel, are you saying that in order for a person to be moral that he has to possess his or her own free will? Kant: Yes Jeremy that is correct, your idea that morality can be dictated by a government or a majority of the people is ridiculous. Bentham: You’re wrong on that account Immanuel because human kind is evil in nature so they have a hard time deciding what is right and wrong so we need rules to govern us to make the right decisions.
Kant: Even though those rights may infringe on our personal beliefs? Our individuality is what makes us human, whole!! Bentham: You are wrong about that, the greater good is what is important, so what if a minority of the people is left out, it is important that the majority is happy, then and only then will it matter. Kant: No, as a human, we can govern ourselves. We have the knowledge within us to make the right or wrong choices; we do not need a bureaucrat sitting behind a desk somewhere to make that choice for us.
Bentham: Your idea of the use of morality sickens me Immanuel. You sit here on your high horse saying that if you decide that, oh let us just say killing is wrong, and someone breaks into your home and starts to rape or murder your wife or child then you are going to stand back and do nothing?? Kant: If I have made that decision that killing is wrong then yes, I will have to stand by that choice. Bentham: You know Kant, I think you would ignore that choice and you would defend your household because it is for the greater good of your family.
Kant: Well we will have to cross that bridge when we get there want we. So Benth old pal, you tell everyone that pure ethics are not practical, that you have to arrange things so it will compatible with human nature, why is that? Bentham: Because my friend, humans are in general like animals. We are instinctive and act on emotions; we need to have rules and regulations to keep us on the straight and narrow. Just knowing that there are consequences to our actions keep us in line, wouldn‘t you say?
Kant: No, I think people have a working knowledge of what is right and what is wrong; we do not need rules to keep us in line, which again, we can do those ourselves, unless, of course, a person is criminally insane and they can’t distinguish between the two actions. Kant: So then if your wheels are stuck in mud on this and keep spinning, how then do you see mankind in general? Bentham: Humans, by nature, are as follows. We are selfish and greedy, pleasure seeking, out for themselves, and in general not very trustworthy.
Kant: So you put me and you in those categories Jeremy? Bentham: Well we are human are we not Immanuel? Kant: You are impossible Jeremy!! I am done having this conversation with you Immanuel; it is like talking to brick wall. Bentham: You know you enjoyed it Mr. Kant, and I bet we will talk again real soon. Morality and ethics are different for all of us, and I believe that Kant makes some good points, and Bentham has some good points but there are flaws in both. We all face choices in our lives sometimes they are dictated by the situation or opportunity.
If a gunman walked into a crowded store, would I take the gunman down to save lives putting my life in jeopardy, would I tell him the police are on their way even though I may be lying? Kant follows a strict path, one that he may have broken if faced with a certain situation, we are human of course, and this is where I side with Bentham. Being a former law officer I have seen good and bad in this world and I do believe that we do need rules to govern us, even though we might not agree with the all.