Utilitarianism and Kant's Categorical Imperative Essay

1371 Words Nov 11th, 2012 6 Pages
Utilitarianism and Kant’s Categorical Imperative The issues of morality are most clearly expressed through examples of different methods of analyzing a situation. The case of Holmes, an officer in charge of a sinking ship, shows the striking differences between philosopher Immanuel Kant’s beliefs and those of the Utilitarians. After Holmes’ ship sinks, there are twenty passengers in a lifeboat that is only meant to hold fourteen people. There was no time to send out a signal for help before the ship sank, so no rescue is guaranteed and the nearest land is fifteen hundred miles away. Holmes decides to force the wounded passengers and those wearing life jackets off of the lifeboat and make his way to shore without them. This action …show more content…
For example, there is a hunter who wonders if it is morally acceptable to kill a deer. Act Utilitarianism analyzes the effects of this one action to decide if it is moral by assigning a value to the amount of pleasure and pain each individual involved will experience. In this case the hunter and his family will experience the pleasure of having food from eating the deer, many of the neighbors of the hunter will experience pleasure by having the deer off their property, and the deer’s family will experience the pain of the loss of a family member. If the outcome is that the net value of pleasure is greater than the pain caused by the killing of the deer, it is morally right for the hunter to kill it. The example of the sinking ship and Holmes’ decision to throw people off of the lifeboat represents an Act Utilitarian belief. Holmes’ decision making process can be seen as morally right when one assesses the amount of pleasure and pain that can be expected from his actions. The lifeboat is the only method of getting to shore, and the less people that are in it the better the chance they all have of surviving since it will be less likely that the lifeboat will capsize. The boat holds fourteen people, so it is best to take exactly
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