Why Couldn't Kant Be A Utilitarian? Essay

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Why Couldn't Kant Be A Utilitarian? ABSTRACT: In his essay "Could Kant Have Been a Utilitarian?", R. M. Hare tries to show that Kant's moral theory contains utilitarian elements and it can be properly asked if Kant could have been a utilitarian, though in fact he was not. I take seriously Hare's challenge to the standard view because I find his reading on the whole reasonable enough to lead to a consistent interpretation of Kant's moral philosophy. Still, I hardly believe that it is necessarily concluded from Hare's reading that Kant could have been a utilitarian. In this paper, I will first show that Hare's interpretation of 'treating a person as an end' as treating a person's ends as our own is reasonable, and so is his reading of…show more content…
Nevertheless I hardly believe that it is necessarily concluded from Hare's reading that Kant could have been a utilitarian. This paper aims to show why Kant couldn't be a utilitarian despite the apparently utilitarian elements in his theory. I will seek the answer in Kant's theory itself, not in the biographical matters like Kant's Pietist background, which might be of interest in some other context. Hare begins his interpretation with one of the formulae of the Categorical Imperative known as the Formula of the End in Itself: "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." He interprets this as prescribing that one should treat other persons' ends as one's own ends, which is the same as the utilitarian prescription that one should do what will conduce to satisfying people's rational preferences or wills-for-ends. Hare notes that this formula conforms to Bentham's injunction "Everybody to count for one, nobody for more than one." In my view, this is the most reasonable interpretation of Kant's illustrations of the duty to others in Grundlegung. I put the same point as follows. The status of a person as "an end in itself" consists in being capable of setting and pursuing his/her own ends. (2) This capacity is essential to the concept of the rational agency, as Kant writes: "Rational nature
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