Exploring Ethics Essay

2181 Words May 9th, 2013 9 Pages
Comparison of Aristotle, Kant, and Mill


Aristotle represents virtue ethics, Kant represents duty ethics, and Mill represents utilitarianism. All three authors conceive of morality as the search for the highest good. They disagree about the definition of the highest good. For Aristotele, it is happiness understood as self-sufficiency (fulfillment of all desires), consisting in activity in conformity with virtue (EN 1.7), for Kant it is a good will, defined by duty (GMM, ed. Ellington, p. 7:393; p. 9:397), for Mill it is happiness understood as pleasure and absence of pain (Utilitarianism, ch. 2).

untarily or through ignorance or for an ulterior motive, and not for the sake of performing just acts.” EN 6.12.1144a13–16, cf.
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3. “[A] courageous man, as we have seen, is characterized by the fact that he endures what is fearful to man and what seems fearful to him, because to do so is noble and to do otherwise is base.” EN 2.8.1117a17–18. 4. “It is our contention that people may perform just acts without actually being just men, as in the case of people who do what has been laid down by the laws but do so either invol-

Mill: the EN the for
1. “It is the business of ethics to tell us what are our duties …, but no system of ethics requires that the sole motive of all we do shall be a feeling of duty; on the contrary, ninety-nine hundredths of all our actions are done from other motives, and rightly so done if the rule of duty does not condemn them.” Utilitarianism, ch. 2. 2. “[U]tilitarian moralists have gone beyond almost all others in affirming that the motive has nothing to do with the morality of the actions, though much with the worth of the agent. He who saves a fellow creature from drowning does what is morally right, whether his motive be duty or the hope of being paid for his trouble; he who betrays the friend that trusts him is guilty of a crime, even if his object be to serve another friend to whom he is under greater obligations.” Utilitarianism, ch. 2.

2.) Aristotle and Kant admit that there are actions that must never be performed (“intrinsically evil acts”), whereas for Mill, no action is always condemnable. Aristotle:

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