Utilitarianism and Kant's Categorical Imperative Essay

1384 Words Dec 12th, 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…
Also the wounded have the least chance of surviving whether or not they are in the lifeboat, so if they are thrown off more room can be made in the boat for the healthy ones with a greater chance of survival. There are twenty survivors total, and if Holmes can almost guarantee the survival of fourteen of them, this ultimately creates much more pleasure and much less pain. Even though the other passengers might die, the pain they endured in their struggle, and the pain of their family and friends who mourn their death becomes outweighed by the pleasure created by the survival of the others. Holmes’ actions can be said to produce the greatest certainty and extent of pleasure, which is the aim of Utilitarianism. When accepting this view of morality Holmes would not seem to be guilty of murder if any of the passengers he threw in the water were to die. This is because he was doing what he believed to be morally right, and he was attempting to save the most lives in order to ultimately create the most happiness. It would not have been morally better for everyone to die together, because then that would create the least pleasure and the most pain for everyone involved and the people close to them that it would also affect. Despite this reasoning, Holmes could have done things

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