Normative Ethics: Consequentialism Vs. Kantianism

1103 Words 5 Pages
For centuries, philosophers have applied sets of normative principles in effort to distinguish if an action is morally right or wrong. The purpose of normative ethics is to help guide society on how humans ought to act. These theories provide justifiable and reliable outcomes to determine if an action is moral or immoral. Two principles that play a significant role in normative ethics are consequentialism and Kantianism. When faced with a moral dilemma, these theories may agree or conflict with one another.
To fully understand how normative principles, justify morality, they must be broken down. We will begin with consequentialism, which is a future-oriented family of theories. Consequentialism states that actions are morally right just because
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The rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences, but on whether the moral reason is “from duty”. Actions done “in conformity with duty” or out of self-interest, have no moral worth to Kant. Duty is defined as an individual’s rational understanding of the action their pursuing. This relates to an action’s maxim, which is what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Two main principles are used to further Kant’s theory, one being the principle of universalizability. This principle states that an action is morally acceptable only if it’s maxim is universalizable. There are three main steps to this principle: 1) formulate maxim, 2) imagine a world where everyone acts on it, 3) ask whether the action would be achievable in that world. If yes, the action is permissible. This shows a key difference between the principle of utility, as an action isn’t required with Kant, they’re merely acceptable. The next underlying principle with Kant’s theory is the principle of humanity. This is put as, always treat a human being (yourself included) as an end, and never as a mere means. The term “mere means” relates to an individual’s autonomy coming secondary to yours, deceiving someone, or not respecting another person’s goals. “End in itself” would be the opposite, to respect an individual’s autonomy and what their trying to

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