This title might be interpreted by some as either a contradiction in terms or just a plain error. After all, the distinction between Immanuel Kant's ethics and utilitarian ethics, such as that proposed by John Stuart Mill, is one between conservatism (basing moral decisions on duty) and consequentialism (basing moral decisions on consequences), respectively. To hold to either one of these methods as opposed to the other may be a decisive factor in one's ethical considerations. However, I plan on justifying the claim that the title implies--that one has a duty to be mindful of consequences. I'll contend that it's morally wrong, as a rule, to follow Kant's suggested practice of considering consequences as not morally relevant at all. My intention, however, is not to discredit Kant's theory. Rather, my intention is to show that the differences between the two schools of thought aren't as incompatible with one another as supposed--that is, upon reconsideration of what is good in itself. I should mention here, too, that neither Kant nor Mill would have agreed on any type of compromise between their respective views. The compromise I'll be proposing is directed, rather, to the acceptance of the majority of humankind who are neither strictly Kantian nor utiilitarian. As such, I suggest that the compromise I offer should be judged as such. Ultimately, I hope to demonstrate that a Kantian framework is more complete when it's understood in terms of utilitarian principles.
With all due respect to Kant, sometimes the kind of moral conservatism that he advocated is intolerant and, as such, liable to what Kai Nielsen describes as "monstrous consequences". Moral conservatism "maintains that there is a privileged moral principle, or cluster of moral principles, prescribing determinate actions, with which it would always be wrong not to act in accordance no matter what the consequences" (Nielsen, 147). Kant wanted to provide ethics with a closed system of rules that apply to any moral dilemma, "concerned with form of the understanding and of reason itself ... without distinction of its objects" (Kant, 9). The manner in which he set about this attempt was first to establish a moral rule that would assist a moral agent to decide correctly her moral duty in every situation, and avoid inconsistencies. Even though most people would consider the task Kant set out to do as impossible, Kant's attempt is rather thorough. Nevertheless, from an ethical standpoint, such a system ought to be foolproof. I'll be pointing out that Kant's total rejection of utility, even as a safeguard, provides a loophole in his final formulations. This insufficiency, in fact, may lead to the monstrous consequences implied above.
The basic idea behind "utilitarianism" has actually been around for centuries prior to Kant and Mill. Even Socrates refers to its sentiments in Plato's dialogue Protagoras (www.ibiblio.org/gutenberg/etext99/prtgs10.txt): "And do you, Protagoras, like the rest of the world, call some pleasant things evil and some painful things good?--for I am rather disposed to say that things are good in as far as they are pleasant, if they have no consequences of another sort, and in as far as they are painful they are bad." At about the same time in Ancient Greece, this preference for "pleasure" over "pain" as analogized to preferring the "good" over the "bad" was formalized as a basis for an entire philosophy by the Epicureans. According to the Epicureans: "pleasure is the absence of pain." This sentiment later led to the notion that a rational being's sense of rightness may be intuited by a natural, moral sensibility (i.e., contingent on the agent's feelings). It was David Hume who came up with the term "utility" to denote how society may benefit from acknowledging such a moral sense and applying it to social law. The first principle of such a law would be such that: "the action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers" (Hutchensen, xxxii). The principle's idea of utility (implying "usefulness") refers to how such a principle may prove useful for society as a whole.
Mill was to add to the notion of happiness, as pertinent to "utility," as being both descriptive and definitive in what's meant by "pleasure and the absence of pain." When Mill states: "pleasure and freedom of pain are the only things desirable as ends" (Mill, 408), he means to say they're desirable as much as when one examines one's motivation to act on something by will, the motivation may often, if not always, reduce itself to the complete goal of happiness. As for the ends themselves, Mill's predecessor and mentor, Jeremy Bentham, stated (Bentham, 115): "An article of property, an estate in land, for instance, is valuable, on what account? On account of the pleasures of all kinds which it enables a man to produce, and what comes to the same thing the pains of all kinds which it enables him to avert." It would seem that such an inherent root of motivation inspires all of one's goals: to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. It's in this manner that "happiness," if nothing else, is said to be an intrinsic goal of sentient beings. Likewise, the "property" or "land" seem to be of a secondary, instrumental nature, in attaining the primary intrinsic goal (Rosenstand, 150). Mill, in fact, goes so far as to state that "to think of an object as desirable and to think of it as pleasant are one and the same thing--two different modes of naming the same psychological fact" (Mill, 437).
The principles of utilitarianism is categorized here, and elsewhere, as moral consequentialism because the criteria, such as those offered by Bentham's "hedonist calculus" (i.e., an accounting of pleasures and pains in regard to particular situations and factors), can only be established by considering the possible consequences of a given action. Moral consequentialism--if not the "hedonist calculus"--continues to be a relevant moral point-of-view to this day. It's also directly opposed to moral conservatism since conservatism decisively judges moral worth on motives, regardless of consequences. As stated earlier, the moral criteria of conservatism for deciding the correct course of action are dependent on rules. According to Kant, "morals themselves are liable to all sorts of corruption, as long as we are without that clue and supreme canon by which to estimate them correctly" (Kant, 12). Thus, for one to avoid acting on an inclination in which one is unsure of one's motives, Kant recommends that one's moral choice should be one based on duty alone. By acting for the sake of duty, at least it can be assured that one's motives wouldn't have any contingent basis.
[For] an action [to be] be morally good, it is not enough that it conform to the moral law, but it must also be done for the sake of the law, otherwise that conformity is only very contingent and uncertain; since a principle which is not moral, although it may now and then produce actions conformable to the law, will also often produce actions which contradict it (Kant, 12).
The question I'll generally be asking, however, is whether duty itself is merely an inclination that's applicable to every possible world, and, if that be so, whether that inclination may, in itself, involve pleasure? If one is already familiar with Kant, one may have already responded negatively: Kant considered pleasure and pain as irrelevant to moral worth. A person who acts with pleasure in mind "is acting not from a sense of [the act's] rightness but from self-interest" (Ross, 229). My objective, in this paper, however, is to prove that pleasure may be understood as a non-contingent good in itself (that is, non-relative to any particular person), and, thus, an accurate objective measure of determining one's duty.
THE GENERAL GOOD IN TERMS OF GENERAL UTILITARIANISM
When I earlier stated my objective of proving "pleasure" to be a "good in itself", my claim may not seem much different than John Stuart Mill's similar consideration of a "directive rule of human conduct" (Mill, 412), as stated in Utilitarianism. There, Mill states: "it is by no means an indispensable condition that the acceptance of the utilitarian standard ... is not the agent's own happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether" (Mill, 412). Of which, he says:
[the greatest happiness principle] is a mere form of words without rational signification unless one person's happiness, supposed equal in degree (with the proper allowance made for kind) is counted for exactly as much as another's. Those conditions being supplied, Bentham's dictum, 'everybody to count for one, nobody for more than one,' might be written under the principle of utility as an explanatory commentary (Mill, 457).
Accordingly, a modern utilitarian states: "the states of affairs to be sought are those which maximize [satisfaction] to the greatest extent possible to all mankind" (Nielsen, 147). An important element to utilitarianism, which makes it all the more objective, is that the agent who considers on what is the "greatest happiness" should do so impartially--"that there can be no relevant difference from a moral point of view which consists just in the fact ... that benefits or harms accrue to one person rather than to another" (Williams, 169).
It's in this sense that utilitarianism, like Kantian ethics, can be deemed as an objective theory much like Kant intended his conservatism to be. Perhaps utilitarianism's greatest possible benefit to moral theory is that it treats ethics as though a matter of statistics. Such statistics seem to be ideally established by consideration of the "greatest happiness" in regards to the population of human beings. According to Mill, "there is a powerful principle in human nature" that's derived from a "basis of powerful natural sentiment," in the human character, consisting of the "desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures.... This firm foundation is that of the social feelings of mankind" (Mill, 430).
In this manner, utilitarianism seems to function as an empirical, experimental science. Accordingly,
once we grant the fundamental 'greatest happiness' principle, all our moral problems turn into factual problems. Instead of debating abstractly in philosophical journals or courts of law, we must go out and collect facts about the happiness and unhappiness produced by various acts. If we are in doubt, we can experiment--set up a pilot project and observe the results (Wolff, 401).
It's in this sense that "utilitarianism" is empirical. It can use historical data to establish good from bad. It's in this sense of "data," though, that allows the greatest degree of contingency. As such, Kant found empiricism as in regards to ethics most disagreeable. According to Kant, "the principle of action [should be] free from all influence of contingent grounds, which alone experience can furnish" (Kant, 54). Mill, on the other hand, deemed proper education and the procurement of good habits as sufficient in assuring what may be determined as a good in itself. As he states: "Both in feeling and in conduct, habit is the only thing which imparts certainty" (Mill, 438). It's proper education that nurtures an individual's good habits. Perhaps the effects of this disagreement can be shown by an example:
Utilitarianism is contingent in that if, say, capital punishment was effective in reducing capital offenses, and, thus, proven to provide the greatest degree of happiness (i.e., in this sense "relief") for the population involved, capital punishment should, then, be ethically condoned. If, however, it's empirically proven that prevention seems to be more effective, and, in fact, capital punishment seems to have no effect on dissuading criminals from committing capital crimes, capital punishment should, then, be ethically condemned.
One perhaps unacceptable contingency that may be brought out here is that these statistics imply that the sentiments behind them may change over time. A conservative, on the other hand, may say it's always wrong to put an end to another person's life and, thus, avoid such a contingency. If the act, itself, is absolutely wrong, then that would make the act wrong regardless. In fact, a conservative may notice an inconsistency in a law that may alternately approve or disapprove of such an act. It would seem that a change of law condemning capital punishment would imply that all past actions of willfully administrating it should equally be condemned. Yet, if the legislative body penalizes those who've previously committed the act, and the law is changed again to approve of capital punishment, not only should those previously penalized be reprived, but the legislative body that earlier penalized them may, now, be subject to punishment, and so on.
A utilitarian may claim that such criticism is mistaken however. The rightness or wrongness of the action is dependent only on to what circumstances have been achieved. If it can be determined that capital punishment at least achieved the "greatest good" at the time the sentence was carried out, the action may be deemed commendable. This remains so despite whether public opinion may change in regard to subsequent similar kinds of acts. But, it would seem, then, that this view can be criticized in that the contingency of time may be dependent on a contingency of sentiment, which may likewise change over time, and so on.
It would seem, at any rate, that the divide between conservatives and consequentialists is a hefty one. For instance, it can be argued that the "rightness" or "wrongness" of an action is also contingent on how far one wishes to take one's utility. Perhaps one can limit such contingency, however, by a utilitarian clearly stating principles by which utility may be effectively established. For instance, objectifying, as opposed to subjectively considering, the utility involved. Utilitarians, for the most part, try to do this any time when they extend consideration of the "greatest happiness" to "the greatest number," for instance, and by establishing a "directive rule of conduct." In this sense, then, even a utilitarian theory may be regarded as conservative, as well as consequentialist.
Whether a compromise between the representatives of this paper, Kant and Mill, may be achieved on this account will be determined on the pages that follow. I'll discuss Kant first since Kant's ethics preceded Mill's, and since Mill's utilitarianism seems to partly have been a response to Kant.
Kant developed his ethics as a supplement to, and consistent with, his account of general reality. His metaphysical account of reality is described, at length, in his book Critique of Pure Reason, published in 1871--four years prior to his metaphysics on morals. It's Kant's claim that ethical conduct should only be acted upon "for the sake of the law." In short, what Kant says, then, is that human welfare shouldn't be the criteria one bases one's moral judgments on, but, rather, merely one's adherence to the moral law itself. What Kant was, thus, attempting to do here was to advance a truly objective code of conduct. Kant wanted a moral framework that was "pure." "Pure", in Kant's sense of the word, meant what lacked contingency. For example, Kant wanted to make a distinction between "pure ethics" from "applied ethics" (i.e., consequentialism) similar to the distinction made between "pure mathematics" and "applied mathematics." In the latter distinction, concerning mathematics, "applied mathematics" is dependent on the mathematics laws established by "pure mathematics". Kant wanted a moral theory that would be necessarily prior to any theoretical idea that would be contingent on how events will turn out.
But even a moral theory requires foundational claims that must be referred to in order to expand upon such a framework. For Kant, the primary foundation seems to be "a good will." Any conduct deemed ethical (e.g., courage, resolution, perseverance, etc. [p. 17]) may actually be quite the contrary if acted upon without such a will. "Power, riches, honor, even health, and the general well-being and contentment with one's condition which is called happiness, inspire pride, and often presumption, if there is not a good will to correct the influence of these on the mind" (p. 17-18). Even, "moderation in the affections and passions (as Aristotle advocated), self control and calm deliberation ... without the principles of a good will ... become extremely bad, and the coolness of a villain not only makes him far more dangerous, but also directly makes him more abominable in our eyes than he would have been without it" (p. 18). And, yet, despite its necessity, even this basis is secondary to the law itself, supported by reason. Reason, naturally, is the essential component of any logic, and, here, it's the means by which one produces a "will" in order for one to establish what may be "good in itself".
I have mentioned that Kant regarded consequences as morally irrelevant. One may ask, then, how can one identify a good will if not by the consequences such a will would bring about? The "good in itself" may be described in Platonic terms as the "Form of Goodness", but Kant didn't consider himself a Platonist. Kant, more distinctly, seemed to have considered a "good in itself" more along the lines of principles, such as those essential to logic--the forms, or "laws", by which, mathematical exactitude may be based on, for instance. Like mathematics, Kant considered morality to have its fundamental laws, as well--these he regarded as "noumenal." For one to adhere to such laws would assure one of avoiding inconsistent motives.
Kant determined what was "good in itself" by reference of a principle that he called the "categorical imperative." "The conception of an objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory for a will, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of the command is called an Imperative." (Kant, 40) "The categorical imperative would be that which represented an action as necessary of itself without reference to another end, i.e., as objectively necessary" (Kant, 42). The first general formulation of the categorical imperative is thus: "Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will it should become a universal law" (Kant, 49). In accordance to such a law: "that will is absolutely good which cannot be evil, in other words, whose maxim, if made a universal law, could never contradict itself" (Kant, 66).
The categorical imperative can be formulated in a number of ways, all of which Kant considered equivalent: 1) "Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a Universal Law of Nature" (Kant, 49). That is, one should only be dutiful to an action that would consistently, and in any event, be acceptable as a universal law of "nature," applicable to all rational beings. 2): "So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only" (Kant, 58). The universal law must presuppose that every rational being subject to such a law (i.e., every rational being) must be treated as an individual end. 3): "[Act in accordance to] the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally legislative will" (Kant, 60). This provides the principle with an autonomy one may freely act upon. Each individual should be regarded as an equal end as oneself in that each individual is an equal legislator of the universal law. This last formulation essentially denotes the last ingredient of the general imperative, the "kingdom of ends": "A rational being must always regard himself as giving laws either as member or as sovereign in a kingdom of ends which is rendered possible by the freedom of will" (Kant, 63).
Kant is the first to admit that such a "kingdom of ends," isn't known in nature--at least, not as yet, anyway. In fact, he states in a paragraph or two after he introduces the term: "It is certainly only an ideal" (Kant, 62). Yet, even so, such a kingdom isn't unknowable. For instance, such a kingdom "could" be realized if everyone "did" practice the categorical imperative, in every situation. But could this be possible? One may quickly suggest that perhaps a state could legislate such a law, but this would contradict the moral law itself in which every individual is a legislator. The "kingdom of ends" doesn't exist in nature, but only because of the limitations of our own species. For instance, it may be argued that the only reason that the "kingdom of ends" doesn't seem to be nature's course is that rational creatures lack the "moral imagination" that's required for a legislator to formulate its maxims. Kant, however, most likely would have disagreed with this. He would rather surmise that the "ideal" is so far denied human nature more due to the aspect that humans have of conflicting motivations. At any rate, although it may not exist in nature, Kant, no doubt, believed that the possibility of it exists. What's necessary in nature (i.e., "noumenal"), may not necessarily be observable (i.e., "phenomenal").
Naturally, one shouldn't suppose that the "kingdom of ends" is contingent on our beliefs or acceptance--that would make it contingent (and, bear in mind, nothing in Kant's moral agenda is intended to be contingent). I stated this last sentence normatively for good reason. For Kant, the "kingdom of ends" is an essential ingredient to moral necessity in that, should one base any other proposition as fundamental to all universal law, and thus make an alternative the universal basis, all moral law would break down. A "kingdom", according to Kant, is "the union of different rational beings in a system by common laws... Since it is by laws that ends are determined as regards to their universal validity, ... what these laws have in view is just the relation of these beings to one another as ends and means" (Kant, 62). In other words, the Kingdom of Ends is the authority that legitimizes the law. In order for any moral law to exist, such an authority needs to be established as well as adhered to.
To the degree that Kant may have known of Hume's moral theory, Kant may have begrudgingly accepted Hume's observation that goodness isn't readily found in nature. At any rate, then, there seems to be no inconsistency involved in Kant saying that a "kingdom of ends" isn't more observable than "goodness" itself. Kant himself states a number of times in his Fundamental Principles that "it is absolutely impossible to make out by experience with complete certainty a single case in which the maxim of an action, however right in itself, rested simply on moral grounds and on the conception of duty" (p. 34). Yet, we "must" assume such a grounding to exist in the same manner as even a most astute empirical figure such as Aristotle had to admit of fundamental principles in nature, of which Kant would call "a priori." These, too, aren't readily observable. The important point for Kant, then, is that such "noumenal" principles are necessary and, as such, any end that is an independent end would not be an end to be achieved, but, rather, "that which we must never act against" (Kant, 67).*
*(FOOTNOTE: Occasionally, people who read Jean-Paul Sartre, specifically Existentialism and Human Emotions, may be struck by how similar Sartre's formulation of a moral basis is similar to Kant's. Naturally, for Sartre, "the existentialist will never consider man as an end because [the man] is always in the making" [Sartre, 50]. But, even so, Sartre states that for such a "man in the making", for every act he commits, he's responsible for permitting such an act to be likewise committed by others. The difference here, however, is that, with Kant, an act may "break" a law that could be binding to all rational beings, whereas with Sartre, any given act seems to "make" a law that would be binding to all mankind.)
Kant's ready acceptance of what's not readily observable may not be so alarming, actually, if one considers what Kant regards as a moral act isn't so much as actions, but motives. He's referring to motives when he says: "when the question is of moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, but with those inward principles of them which we do not see" (Kant, 34). It should be noted that, for Kant, an act isn't considered "moral" unless it was acted on freely for the sake of duty, and not according to one's own disposition. In other words, if one were to naturally do kind acts, such acts wouldn't then, under this description, be moral acts. On the contrary, one would be merely acting on one's inclination.
For Kant, what distinguishes a rational creature from a thing is that "things" are dependent on nature, not on will. "Rational beings, on the contrary, are called 'persons,' because their very nature points them out as ends in themselves, that is as something which must not be used merely as means, and so far therefore restricts freedom of action (and is an object of respect)" (Kant, 57). It is in this capacity that Kant finds inclination most disagreeable. It's the factor by which "human will" comes to be imperfect, and may effect or conflict one's role as a "legislator."
Although Kant would agree with Mill insofar that human beings have "the strongest and most intimate inclination to happiness" (Kant, 23), Kant was strongly opposed to the contingent factors involved with inclination and, according to Kant, all of these "inclinations are combined in one total" when referred to as happiness (Kant, 23).
Kant finds the inclination of happiness capable of causing deceit in that: "Against all the commands of duty which reason represents to man as so deserving of respect, he feels in himself a powerful counterpoise in his wants and inclinations, the entire satisfaction of which he sums under the name happiness" (Kant, 30). Although Kant considers it a duty "to secure one's own happiness," one should do so only indirectly, not as an end in itself, because "the principle of private happiness ... is the most objectionable [contingency that one may be affected by]" (Kant, 72). The principle devoted to happiness is false, as well, in that "experience contradicts the supposition that prosperity is always proportioned to good conduct" (Kant, 72). Due to the subjectivity in acting on one's own inclination, Kant assumes that "nobody has the right to form judgments to others according to his own feelings" (Kant, 72). He goes on to say: "to deviate from the principle of duty is beyond all doubt wicked" (Kant, 28).
Does this imply, then, that, according to Kant, acting on utilitarian principles is, in some sense, wicked? In reference to utilitarian's "directive rule of human conduct," Kant claims that "as regards meritorious (contingent) duties towards others," one's action would still be derived from the motivation that "the natural end which all men have [is] their own happiness....
Now humanity might indeed subsist, although no one should contribute anything to the happiness of others, provided he did not intentionally withdraw anything from it; but after all, this would only harmonize negatively not positively with humanity as an end in itself, if everyone does not also endeavor, as far as in him lies, to forward the end of others. For the ends of any subject which is an end in himself, ought as far as possible to be my ends also, if that conception is have its full effect with me (Kant, 59).
Kant seems, here, to denigrate contingent duties by an argument that psychological egoists typically use in their favor--that, in any moral decision, one thinks only of her own advantage.
At this juncture, it would seem that there can be no compromise as far Kant is concerned. Mill, however, will seem to say that even he would admit Kant's theory as the better view, but only on the condition that it's empirically established that Kantian ethics offered the most social benefits. At any rate, though, since humankind has been shown to be predominately inclined toward happiness--a point in which even Kant wouldn't disagree with, though he wouldn't say it has much moral worth--utilitarianism appears to be the ethical model most accessible to a human's own nature. Even some rationalists, such as Kant's predecessor, Baruch Spinoza, have argued that the best way to control an inclination is by procuring a more favorable one by which one can outwill the less favorable (Spinoza, Part IV, prop. vii). Can this be said of duty? Is duty such an inclination? As for the compatiblity of the two ethical models, Mill states,
Utilitarian moralists have gone beyond almost all others in affirming that the motive has nothing to do with the morality of the action, though much to do 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 (Mill, 418).
He knowingly made this point in direct contrast to Kant's ethical view that motives (i.e., intention) have everything to do with morality. According to Kant, one who acted in a responsible manner, though with "the hope of being paid for his trouble," would be a person whose actions are without moral worth. At any rate, Mill will attempt to prove that Kant misses some important implications inherent in his own argument that owe their necessity to utilitarian principles. I will outline these after I, first, explain what distinguishes Mill's theory from other such theories.
UTILITARIANISM AS ADVANCED BY JOHN STUART MILL
Mill distinguishes his utilitarian principles from some of his predecessors in that Mill suggests that "happiness" is a phenomenon over and above what previous utilitarians have accounted for as pleasure. Namely, it is "the absence of pain." For Mill, as stated earlier, "by happiness is intended as pleasure and the absence of pain, by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure" (Mill, 408). The use of the conjunction, here, seems to allow that, unlike his predecessors' formulations, pleasure may be experienced separately from pain, and vice versa. "Happiness" would, then, be pleasure in its purest sense. As for pain, it's important to note that "pain" need not be an externally-caused phenomenon, but may just as well be internally-caused, such as a "feeling in our own mind" (Mill, 437).
For Mill, "some kinds of pleasures are more desirable than others" (Mill, 408). Mill accounts for what may be the purest sense of pleasure in what he describes as the "higher pleasures" as opposed to "lower pleasures." Humans, who seem to be distinguished from other animals primarily by their better reasoning ability, "have faculties more elevated than the animal appetites and, when once made conscious of them, do not regard anything as happiness which does not include their gratification" (Mill, 409).* He states correctly that even the ancient Epicureans assigned "pleasures of the intellect, of the feelings and imagination, and of the moral sentiments a much higher value as pleasures than to those of mere sensation" (Mill, 409). The fact that such pleasures result in "greater permanency, safety, uncostliness, etc.," gives these pleasures a "circumstantial advantage," as he calls it.
*(FOOTNOTE: For instance, Epicurus, the school's founder, stated: "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives well and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life" [Epicurus, III]. Likewise: "Fortune but seldom interferes with the wise man; his greatest and highest interests have been, are, and will be, directed by reason throughout the course of his life" [Epicurus, XVI].)
Ultimately, for Mill, the "higher pleasure" can be determined in quality according to the calculation that
Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure. (Mill, 409).
It should be noted, here, though, that "by experience" Mill means to say that one is not merely acquainted with it, but "competently acquainted" with it. It's in this manner that, although "happiness" may be susceptible to failure, which may result in happiness, this liability is more than made up for by the fact that the superior, rational, creature is capable of greater happiness than the inferior (Mill, 410). As such, one "can learn to bear its imperfections, if they are at all bearable; and they will not make him envy the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those imperfections qualify" (Mill, 410). Hence, Mill claims: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied" (Mill, 410).
One may argue that this preference for "higher pleasures" only makes Mill's utilitarian doctrine even more contingent than those of his predecessors. For instance, one may argue that a contingency of taste may be involved, and such a contingency would vary from one person to another. But such an argument would ignore Mill's formulation of what determines a higher pleasure: a statistical analysis of those who have been competently acquainted with the pleasures in question. Even so, though, one may claim that the term "competently acquainted" is disputable. Who's to say what such competency involves, and what's to qualify as acquaintance? But even this, it would seem, can be established based on such factors as credentials, competency, and so forth. One may observe, in fact, that, despite any contingencies involved in the doctrine, Mill specifies them in a manner that allows all of them the capacity of being empirically determined.
It also may be due to the practicality involved in an empirical grounding that Mill accepts utilitarian tenets as better securing "directive rules" than principles established purely by reason. As far as earlier utilitarian doctrine is concerned, Mill doesn't seem too far removed from Hutchensen when he states: "Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness" (Mill, 408). At any rate, as far as "the greatest number" or what Bentham referred to as "extent" is concerned, Mill does seem to compromise a bit on earlier notions of utilitarianism when he states in an effort to oppose Kant:
To speak only of actions done from the motive of duty, and in direct obedience to principle: it is a misapprehension of the utilitarian mode of thought to conceive it as implying that people should fix their minds upon so wide a generality as the world, or society at large. The great majority of good actions are intended not for the benefit of the world, but for that of individuals, of which the good of the world is made up.... [T]he occasions on which any person (except one in a thousand) has it in his power to do this on an extended scale--in other words, to be a public benefactor--are but exceptional; and on these occasions alone is he called on to consider public utility; in every other case, private utility, the interest or happiness of some few persons, is all he has to attend to (Mill, 419).
This quote seems even to somewhat contradict the generality involved in what he stated earlier as his "directive rule of human conduct," by which he held that "the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct is not the agent's own happiness but that of all concerned" (Mill, 417). At any rate, from what is quoted above, it may seem undebateable that what Mill regards as "all" in the phrase "that of all concerned" is merely that of "private utility" unless in exceptional cases. Yet it should be pointed out that, at the same time, Mill intended his doctrine as a practical one, and that the above statement was made as a minimum requirement in response to those who "find fault with [the utilitarian] standard as being too high for humanity" (Mill, 418).
From further reading, though, it's revealed that what Mill seems to have intended the above quote to establish is a bare minimum of what is required in order to achieve "virtue." For Kant, "virtue" seems to be the ethical standard for all of one's decisions--the goal of acting in regards to duty alone. For Mill, on the other hand, "the object of virtue" is "the multiplication of happiness" (Mill, 419).
Mill explains "virtue" by making an analogy between it and "the love of money." Had Kant heard of this, one may suppose he would've been shaking his head in dismay at this point. At any rate, according to utilitarian doctrine, "virtue ... is not naturally and originally part of the end, but it is capable of becoming so; and in those who live it disinterestedly it has become so, and is desired and cherished, not as a means to happiness, but as a part of their happiness" (Mill, 435). Thus, although "originally a means," virtue is capable of becoming desired for itself "by association with what it is a means to" (Mill, 435). Just as money currency isn't desirable as the copper and steel it's stamped on, but by association to what it represents does it become "one of the strongest moving forces of human life....
The desire to possess it is often stronger than the desire to use it, and goes on increasing when all the desires which point to ends beyond it, to be compassed by it, are falling off. It may, then, be said truly that money is desired not for the sake of an end, but as part of the end. From being a means to happiness, it has come to be itself a principal ingredient of the individual's conception of happiness (Mill, 435).
Likewise with "power," "fame," as well as "virtue." At any rate, the natural attraction of these objects "is the immense aid they give to the attainment of our other wishes [i.e., 'conduciveness to pleasure, and especially to protection from pain']" (Mill, 435-6). This analogy is not unlike Bentham's description of happiness as an intrinsic goal, mentioned earlier. It would seem that "what was once desired as an instrument for the attainment of happiness [becomes] desired for its own sake," but, actually, "the desire of it is not a different thing from the desire of happiness any more than the love of music or the desire of health" (Mill, 435).
Mill ends the analogy here, however. For Mill, "virtue" is unique from these other instruments for obtaining happiness in that "all of these may, and often do, render the individual noxious to the other members of society to which he belongs, whereas there is nothing which makes him so much a blessing to them as the cultivation of the disinterested love of virtue" (Mill, 436). Perhaps Kant, had he been alive to read Mill's words, would've stopped shaking his head at this point and returned to a state of passive attention.
What's interesting here, though, between Kant and Mill, is Mill's description of the status virtue achieves as a "desire for its own sake." According to Mill, "the utilitarian standard ... enjoins and requires the cultivation of the love of virtue up to the greatest strength possible, as being above all things important to the general happiness" (Mill, 436). In other words, although "virtue" is originally a means to happiness, it, nevertheless, becomes a requirement of happiness, especially in the sense as Mill originally defined "virtue" as "the multiplication of happiness"--the standard that supports "the directive rule of human conduct." What Mill seems to say here, which seems true of "virtue" by definition, is that "virtue" may be habituated through proper conduct with others, and that such conduct would both result in an agent's happiness as well as contribute to society's happiness. For the most part, and as Mill states, "happiness" ought not to be understood "as an abstract idea, but a concrete whole" (Mill, 435).
As it relates to Kant, I find this merit given to "virtue" important in that, even for Mill, "virtue" is necessary in its usefulness as an addition to his ethical theory. In other words, without a doubt, virtue, as associated with the utilitarian basis of pleasure as the "absence of pain," seems to provide an absolute usefulness whenever practiced (i.e., willed). Virtue, in conjunction with utilitarian principles, then, seems to Mill, as much as to Kant, a fundamental principle to follow. Virtue, as stated, provides utilitarianism with a foolproof benefit to a society fit for rational creatures.
IS "THE GREATEST HAPPINESS" NECESSARILY "THE GREATEST GOOD"?
But what can be said of unusual cases--such as a society populated entirely by masochists, for example? Can it be said that, even in such a world, "the absence of pain" is beneficial? The word "pain", as it's often been ascribed, seems to be a self-intimate term. In other words, pain seems to be such a self-validating phenomenon that "even if all normal physical and physiological causes of pain were present, if you are not aware of any pain and do not believe that you are in pain, then you are not in pain" (Kim, p. 17). In this manner, a masochist, as one who feels pleasure by what would typically cause the agent pain, may be said not to be in pain at all, despite the "normal physical and physiological causes of pain" present in a given circumstance. In this sense, at any rate, it would seem inconsistent to say that the sensation that a masochist is feeling as pleasure is pain.
According to Mill, "happiness" consists of "higher pleasures." It would seem, then, that, for Mill at least, a society of masochists determining "happiness" as the advancement of pain would offer a logical contradiction. According to such a society, those "competently acquainted" with all types of pleasures (i.e., "pains," in this case) may decisively find what other worlds find painful, as a whole, pleasurable. If that is the case, though, the meanings of pleasure and pain, as a whole, would entirely be switched in such a world. As a result, then, a society of masochists wouldn't be a society of masochists--a contradiction. But, does such a conclusion then suggest that "pleasure" and "pain" may be socially determined? Can one non-contingently define pleasure or pain?
Occasionally utilitarianism is criticized for suggesting that "the greatest happiness for the greatest number" implies "the greatest good for the greatest number." According to a well-known argument, attributed to G. E. Moore, for one to do so is to commit "the naturalistic fallacy" (Moore, 13). This fallacy refers to any claim that suggests "happiness" or "pleasure" or anything is synonymous with the "good." Although one may experience "pleasures" of which one may reasonably assume are "good", it isn't a necessary factor of anything "good" that it's pleasant. The notion of a "hedonist machine," for instance, which provides a nonstop feeling of pleasure at the expense of one's bodily welfare, provides an example in which pleasure seems to fall short of being "good." According to Moore, "good" is better synonymous with a type of word--a type of word that can only be synonymous with itself. Words, such as "yellow", that are understood as having "definitions [that] describe the real nature of the object or notion denoted by a word" (Moore, p. 7).
According to Moore, "good is good". He calls such words "simple notions." "Goodness", however, differs from other such "simples," and, thus, unique, in that, unlike a simple notion of "yellow", for instance, "there is, so far as [what one may observe], no self-validating proposition as to the goodness or badness of all that exists or has existed or will exist. It follows that, from the fact that the existent world is of such and such a nature, nothing can be inferred as to what things are good or bad" (Russell, p. 22).
It seems to me that assumptions with the word "good" as a "simple" develop from the fact that since "goodness" isn't of a nature one can sense, it cannot be readily defined as other than what it is. As such, when anyone "affirms [or denies] that the good [is such and such], we consider what he says, and either assent or dissent; but in any case our assent or dissent is decided by considering what the good and the desired really are" (Russell, 19). The question would remain, then, what's the basis of the assent or dissent? According to Russell, one must already have an understanding of "good" and "bad" in order to even understand what's being asserted. Russell states, for the most part:
Whenever a proposed definition sets us thinking whether it is true in fact, and not whether that is how the word is used, there is reason to suspect that we are not dealing with a definition, but with a significant proposition, in which the word professedly defined has a meaning already known to us (Russell, p. 19).
Nevertheless, when Russell states that "one must already have an understanding of 'good" and 'bad' in order to even understand what's being asserted," he seems to imply that what a rational being comes to interpret as "good" and "bad" is associated somewhat to one's very nature. Thus, it seems to follow that what is "good" is beneficial to one's nature, and what is "bad" is detrimental to one's nature. What both Kant and Mill would seem to agree on, at any rate, is that which is "good," for a rational being is what is beneficial for one to reason properly. Whereas Kant seems to suggest that maintaining a "good will" provides the necessary guidance, Mill suggests "competent acquaintance" with the "higher pleasures." Whether a compromise may be established on this close proximity between them of what amounts to "goodness" will be determined in the sections that follow. In the following section, though, I'll discuss how Mill makes valid points but ultimately fails, in his own attempt, to reduce Kant to his own views.
In opposition to Kant, Mill was of the mind that even an "a priori" ethics like Kant's would have to, and does, have some kind of basis grounded on "the greatest happiness principle." For Mill, since "questions of ultimate ends are not amenable to direct proof," Kant seems hard pressed to find in ethics an absolute basis for why one should submit to duty over and above that of one's inclination of "pleasure." Even Kant admits that moral worth isn't observable (p. 34), though, as stated earlier, he claimed that this factor is irrelevant. One cannot typically observe a "motive." Accordingly, Kant wasn't troubled that one's obligation to the law "has nothing to show for it on heaven or earth" (Kant, 54).
On the contrary, though, Mill seems to suggest that this unverifiable factor, on Kant's part, proves to be a deficiency of Kant's theory. Mill finds the deficiency a result of Kant's treating as irrelevant what Mill deemed as that which fundamentally motivates a rational creature:
as men's sentiments (i.e., will, in this case), both of favor and of aversion, are greatly influenced by what they suppose to be the effects of things upon their happiness, the principle of utility, or as Bentham latterly called it, the greatest happiness principle, has had a large share in forming the moral doctrines even of those who most scornfully reject its authority (Mill, 405).
Consequently, he interprets Kant as one who's compelled to attribute to humans an implausible, sacred quality to their willing. "Nonexistence of an acknowledged first principle has made ethics not so much a guide but a consecration of men's actual sentiments (i.e., willing)" (Mill, 405).
At any rate, Mill considers a larger meaning of proof than what's merely "the last results of metaphysical analysis" (Mill, 404). This larger meaning of proof consists of kinds equivalent to those analyzed as "first principles." One such equivalent kind of proof, which Mill endorses, is by verification of what one may derive as to be self-evident to our own case. For Mill, the ethical goals that Kant believes ought to be grounded by the agent's adherence to duty, are simply natural to the human condition:
[I]t would be unworthy of an intelligent agent not to be consciously aware that the action is of a class which, if practiced generally, would be generally injurious, and that this is the ground of the obligation to abstain for it (Mill, 419).
In the sense of "equivalence," then, such an empirically-established principle, based on what seems to be both introspection and observation, may serve in the stead of a metaphysically-derived "first principle."
At any rate, Mill claims that "utilitarian principles arguments are indispensable" to any moral claim, even to those of "'a priori' moralists who deem it necessary to argue at all." By this he seems to suggest that such principles are, at the very least, implied premises that would apply to even moral formulations directed on duty. Speaking specifically of Kant, Mill claims that Kant, in the process of showing that his categorical imperative treats consequences as irrelevant, "fails, almost grotesquely" (Mill, 405). Rather than show that there would be any contradiction, any logical (not to say physical) impossibility, in the adoption by all rational beings of the most outrageously immoral rules of conduct. All he shows is that the consequences of their universal adoption would be such as no one would choose to incur (Mill, 405-6).
This may very well be true, but, as I stated, I don't believe Mill's argument as he offers it is entirely convincing on this score. In all fairness to Kant, Mill's claims may only point out that good consequences necessarily follow by acting on one's duty, and that bad consequences may necessarily follow by acting otherwise. For instance, in an example of what Kant calls a "perfect duty" (i.e., those which not only one could consistently frame as a general law, but those in which one will be willing to do so also), Kant argues that "breaking a promise" may be considered logically wrong since, if made a universal rule, the meaning of "promise" would be undermined. Likewise, this may be interpreted by Mill to mean that the action's negative aspect is based on a consequence. But, for the sake of argument, it may be said that the consequence only results as such only because of the logical contradiction that causes the consequence. Thus, it's the logical contradiction that's the first principle from which the consequence is the result of. As a result, Kant's claim is redeemed in that it's the logical contradiction that's fundamentally at issue, not the consequence.
Similarly, such an argument may be made from the standpoint of Kant's criterion that "the will of a rational being must always be regarded as legislative" (Kant, 63). Inasmuch as this aspect distinguishes every rational being as "an end in himself" (Kant, 67), one may make the same point in regards to Kant's example involving a man considering suicide: Could he consistently legislate this as a universal law? It would seem that it cannot be done. According to Kant, it would be "inconsistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself" (Kant, 58). A man is not a "thing" to be mutilated, damaged, or killed. For one to take one's own life is inconsistent, as well, with one in the position of "legislating" universal law. If everyone were in such a condition, and "everyone" is understood as all legislators, to act on such a rule would be contrary to the purpose of legislating--to protect and preserve moral activity. The contradiction occurs when the agent is understood as one legislator among all legislators, whose will is binding to all (i.e., applicable as part of the domain of all rational beings).
What may be said of Kant in this regard is that he uses a hidden premise in order to explain why a good will is necessary: because without a good will, human actions may lead to negative consequences. But the premise as "hidden", here, is analogous to how any state of affairs may implicitly entail its negative (e.g., "something is" seems to imply "something is not"). That is, a proposition is affirmative based on a true state of affairs, and negative based on a false state of affairs. In the same manner, Kant establishes "a good in itself" from which one may actively "will," which proves to be precise based on a true state of affairs, regardless of the consequences. The consequence that "good consequences" most often follow from, and is consistent with, such a "good will" only attests to the preciseness of the "good in itself."
At this point, one may be asking whether there's any need of a compromise. Thus far in the paper, especially in light of the last section, Kant seems to have succeeded in providing a closed account in regards to ethics; that is, an ethic that seems to assure of good consequences even in one's disregard of them. Actually, however, what's only been proven so far is that this assurance seems to be the case only insofar as Kant's examples of formulating one's will are concerned. But, as Fred Feldman remarks, one's own formulations for framing moral laws may "not so much represent the actual situation of the action as it does the situation the agent takes himself to be in" (Feldman, 216). In other words, Kant seems to offer no necessary principle, outside of supposed language rules, that would verify whether the logical consistency of one's claim accurately corresponds with what the consistency of reality itself.
Another consideration Kant is susceptible to is how a moral agent ought to decide between conflicting motives as they pertain to duty. Jean-Paul Sartre provides one such account in which one's duty is conflicted. The account is based on the experience of one of his students (Sartre, pp. 24-26):
His father was on bad terms with his mother, and, moreover, was inclined to be a collaborationist; his older brother had been killed in the German offensive of 1940, and the young man, with somewhat immature but generous feelings, wanted to avenge him. His mother lived alone with him, very much upset by the half-treason of her husband and the death of her older son; the boy was her only consolation.
The boy was faced with the choice of leaving for England and joining the Free French Forces (i.e., the Resistance)--that is, leaving his mother behind--or remaining with his mother and helping her to carry on. He was fully aware that the woman lived only for him and that his going-off--and perhaps his death--would plunge her into despair. He was also aware that every act that he did for his mother's sake was a sure thing, in the sense that it was helping her to carry on, whereas every effort he made toward going off and fighting was an uncertain move which might run aground and prove completely useless; for example, on his way to England he might, while passing through Spain, be detained indefinitely in a Spanish camp; he might reach England or Algiers and be stuck in an office at a desk job. As a result, he was faced with two very different kinds of action: one, concrete, immediate, but concerning only one individual; the other concerned an incomparably vaster group, a national collectivity, but for that very reason was dubious, and might be interrupted en route. And, at the same time, he was wavering between two kinds of ethics. On the one hand, an ethics of sympathy, of personal devotion; on the other, a broader ethics, but one whose efficacy was more dubious. He had to choose between the two.
Who would help him choose? ... Which does the greater good, the vague act of fighting in a group, or the concrete one of helping a particular human being to go on living? Who can decide "a priori"? Nobody. No book of ethics can tell him. The Kantian ethics says, "Never treat any person as a means, but as an end." Very well, if I stay with my mother, I'll treat her as an end and not as a means; but by virtue of this very fact, I'm running the risk of treating the people around me who are fighting, as means; and conversely, if I go to join those who are fighting, I'll be treating them as an end, and, by doing that, I run the risk of treating my mother as a means.
In this account, Sartre finds the categorical imperative to be inadequate for one to choose properly. A choice seems clear, however, in regards to consideration of "the greatest happiness for the greatest number." In the sense of a "directive rule of human conduct," the boy would choose to follow the resistance. Kantians would be wrong to believe that the boy would naturally choose based on what is probably his most direct inclination--sympathizing and staying with his mother.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect for a non-Kantian in regards to Kant's ethics is that he seems to demand that one should totally disregard pleasure and pain. This may seem troubling to many of those capable of reading, since many of those beings capable of reading are just as susceptible to pleasure and pain. It seems to me owing to this factor that Kant's ethics may be susceptible, in turn, of the possible "monstrous consequences" referred to earlier. Perhaps it can be argued that Kant only intended pleasure and pain to be deemed irrelevant only inasmuch as they're phenomenal inclinations. Nevertheless, though, if one considers a possible world in which truth necessarily led to pain (for instance, in a world that pleasure can only come from deceit), Kant would hold that the truth, not the pain, should be one's primary consideration. This is so, because, according to Kant, "'thou shalt not lie' is not valid for men alone, as if other rational beings had no need to observe it," but would pertain to any rational being (Kant, 12):
[T]he basis of obligation [to a moral law] must not be sought in the nature of man, or in the circumstances in the world in which he is placed (i.e., the actual world), but 'a priori' simply in the conceptions of pure reason ... (Kant, 12).
At any rate, Kant seems resolute in his denigration of considering "pleasure" or "pain" as moral criteria. His sentiment, in this regard, is evident by what, in his book the Metaphysics of Morals, immediately follows the text previously quoted:
... [A]lthough any other precept which is founded on principles of mere experience may be in certain respects universal, yet in as far as it rests even in the least degree on an empirical basis, perhaps only as to a motive, such a precept, while it may be a practical rule, can never be called a moral law (Kant, 12).
It would seem, then, that, in order for a compromise to be attained, pleasure would have to be proven as a universal, logical necessity. At the very least, such a compromise would need to prove absolutely that pleasure guarantees non-contingent consequences.
a) Is non-contingent pleasure possible?
Kant recognizes a distinction between cultivating reason and willing happiness. According to Kant: "[T]he cultivation of the reason, which is requisite for the first and unconditional purpose [i.e., of producing a will from which one can establish a good in itself], does in many ways interfere, at least in this life, with the attainment of the second, which is always conditional, namely, happiness" (Kant, 21). Kant considers happiness as having no consequence in that, as a conditional purpose (i.e., contingent on causal law), it would have little relevance on an absolute purpose such as provided by reason (i.e., necessarily absolute). "For reason," Kant says,
recognizes the establishment of a good will as its highest practical destination, and in attaining this purpose is capable only of a *isatisfaction of its own proper kind,*r namely, that from the attainment of an end, which end again is determined by reason only, notwithstanding that this may involve many a disappointment to the ends of inclination" (Kant, 21, italics mine).
Here--in perhaps the briefest explanation by Kant of "why" someone should ignore one's inclination in order to cultivate one's reason--he speaks of a "satisfaction of its own proper kind."
Mill, as one may recall, also argued in behalf of a satisfaction that comes from cultivating one's reason, and he referred to these as "higher pleasures." Perhaps this similarity between a referred to "satisfaction" and Mill's "higher pleasures" is the closest attribute of conservatism and consequentialism that may bring these distinct views together. The question is: Do they suggest one and the same criterion?
For Mill, the importance of considering "higher pleasures" is that, by doing so, one may attribute quality to moral worth as well as quantity. Qualification seems to allow not only an attributive quantity in regards to "absence of pain," but also an attributive "prevention or mitigation of happiness" (Mill, 413). The form of qualification that Mill speaks of is primarily cultivated by education and habit (i.e., by cultivating reason) that would lead to the "competent acquaintance" by which one could properly consider, by experience, the "higher" of pleasures (i.e., of the proper kind).
Of course, in his allowance that pleasure may be understood without acknowledging pain, Mill also grants that pain may be understood without acknowledging pleasure. In this sense, Mill attributes to the cultivated person, what Kant earlier attributed, as well: "[T]he more cultivated a reasoner applies itself [sic] with deliberate purpose to the enjoyment of life and happiness, so much the more the man fails in true satisfaction" (Kant, 20). Likewise, Mill states: "A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, [and] is capable probably of more acute suffering" (p. 410). But, whereas Kant maintains that a "hatred of reason" would likely ensue from such a state, Mill claims that the knowledge of such faculties is a pleasure in itself. Such a pleasure, for Mill, outweighs any conscious deprivation of the pleasure that may be derived from them. Even when one is conscious of the deprivation, one is conscious, as well, of the capacity, which provides, in the deprivation's stead, a source of "pride", or, in "its most appropriate appellation ..., a sense of dignity," which one cannot ascribe to beings without such a capacity. As such, due to such "pride" and "dignity," one "can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence" (Mill, 410).
Mill seems to suggest here that, besides being sources of higher pleasure, "pride" and "dignity" assure a level of pleasure even when one falls short of "true satisfaction," as Kant claims. For Mill, a person who remains consistent with "pride" and "dignity," which "all human beings possess in one form or other, would "learn to bear [the world's] imperfections, if they are at all bearable," without "envying" the blissfully ignorant creature (Mill, 410). In fact, such "pride" and "dignity" seems crucial to Mill in that, without them, happiness, in Mill's terms, couldn't be totally distinguishable from pain itself. Cultivation of one's "higher pleasures" seems to depend on such "pride" and "dignity," and, yet, it's implied that such "pride" and "dignity" would intend to increase once one's "competent acquaintance" with "higher pleasure" increases.
Yet, it may be argued, that "pride" and "dignity" are poor requirements of any moral theory in that neither "pride" nor "dignity" seem to assure morality as things in themselves. In fact, "pride" and "dignity," depending on how they're interpreted, may sway moral consideration from one extreme to another. For instance, "pride" in an individual may be understood in the same sense as "vanity," which Christians, for one, regarded as a sin. In fact, early in the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant is critical of happiness specifically because it often inspires "pride, and often presumption, if there is not a good will to correct the influence of these on the mind" (Kant, 18). Aristotle, on the other hand, considered "pride," in some sense, to be one of his cardinal virtues.
At any rate, as stated above, dignity seems to have been Mill's preferred criterion here (i.e., in that he labels dignity as the "most appropriate appellation" for the form of satisfaction he describes), and perhaps one's consideration of happiness should never overlook or compromise such a sense of dignity. Even so, however, such dignity doesn't seem to constitute a "good in itself." This is so because "dignity" may not fare any better than "pride" in assuring proper moral motivation. For instance, it would seem that a sense of dignity may incline one to act wrongly out of, what Kant would call, "self-love." Nevertheless, though, by all accounts, it would seem just as well that it would never be right to deprive another person of such dignity. After all, "dignity" is here regarded as a necessary factor for happiness as allowing "pleasure" to be distinguishable from any sense of "pain." From the same source that this has been established, Mill also states that happiness should be "supposed equal in degree" and that one's own should be "counted for exactly as much as another's" (Mill, p. 457).
Dignity, in common terms, means "nobility of character," of which "nobility" implies "moral excellence" (RHD, 245, 595). In this sense, securing the "dignity" of others (i.e., morally assured dignity) seems to be synonymous with the "virtue" (i.e., "multiplication of happiness") that Mill earlier attributed as accomplishing happiness as a whole. Kant seemed to hold the same regard for "satisfaction of a proper kind" as a necessary element of "virtue" in regards to the general will, "the good in itself."
Interestingly, Kant refers to "dignity" when he speaks of the individual as a "legislator," and in this same consideration of respecting the "dignity" of others, as well:
[T]o whatever laws any rational being may be subject, he being an end in himself must be able to regard himself as also legislating universally in respect of these same laws, since it is just this fitness of his maxims for universal legislation that distinguishes him as an end in himself; also it follows that this implies his dignity (i.e., prerogative) above all mere physical beings, that he must always take his maxims from the point of view which regards himself, and likewise every other rational being, as lawgiving beings (Kant, 67).
So what may account for a "satisfaction of the proper kind"? As the quote earlier stated, it's participation in the "good will" that provides such satisfaction. Kant seems to maintain that it's a rational being's participation of the "good will" that grants one the recognition as being a moral "legislator." As such, Kant seems to suggest that "satisfaction of the proper kind" may be understood in the same sense as dignity is attributed, and necessary, to Mill's "higher pleasures" (i.e., cultivating, maintaining, and improving one's competency in reasoning): A "dignity above all mere physical beings" (i.e., those incapable of reason).
What does this prove? It seems to allow that what Mill says of "dignity" in regards to "higher pleasures," can be said of "satisfaction," as well, "of the proper kind."
b) A compromise in terms of Kant's logic
Earlier reference was made to Kant's "perfect duties." As stated, these duties are those which not only one can consistently frame as a general law, but those in which one should necessarily will to do so, as well. Kant, however, also refers to "imperfect duties." An "imperfect duty" is one in which one could consistently frame as a general law, yet needn't will as such. Kant gives two examples of "imperfect duties' in the same manner he gave two of the kind that were "perfect" (i.e., "breaking a promise," and "maintaining one's life"). The first involves a man who "finds in himself a talent" but, rather than cultivate it, "prefers to indulge in [supposedly "lower"] pleasure(s)" (Kant, 51). Although he can will it as a universal law (as do South Sea islanders, for example), he
cannot possibly will that this should be a universal law of nature, or be implanted in us as such by a natural instinct. For, as a rational being, he necessarily wills that his faculties be developed, since they serve him, and have been given him, for all sorts of possible purposes (Kant, 51).
Likewise, with Kant's second formulation of an "imperfect duty": A prosperous man ignores the wretched condition of those in need. He conceives that such behavior can prove consistent in terms of a general law (in the same manner that "survival of the fittest" subsists in terms of evolution). However, he finds that willing it isn't crucial to maintaining the "moral law." In fact, his decision to will it may just as likely prove inconsistent with his willing: "For a will which resolved this would contradict itself, inasmuch as many cases might occur in which one would have need of the love and sympathy of others," as well as their aid, in turn, at times of [his own] need" (Kant, 51-2).
The reason I mention this here is that, based on what was determined above, it would seem that one would, likewise, not "will" away happiness, despite the fact that "happiness" may not be eligible for legislation as a universal law. This may be demonstrated in a manner in which Kant formulates his maxims by a situation in the first part, and as a description of an action in the second. In such a framework, one can use as a basis for any formulation: Whenever anyone is _____, she will _____ (Feldman, 215). Since Mill states that it's this "capacity" for higher pleasures that provides the "dignity" that assures them as pleasures, one may not consistently will such a law as:
Whenever anyone is capable of higher pleasures, she will be denied the capacity.
Although one may imagine a world without refinement or cultivation, if this law was generalized as universal, one would be willing that oneself should be denied this capacity, as well. But, as Mill claims: "Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals" (Mill, 409-10). Likewise, according to Mill, such a law would deprive a person of their "sense of dignity." In short, one will be denying oneself of happiness. According to a utilitarian, happiness seems to be the ultimate end one is capable of. It's in this sense, then, that securing happiness seems to be an imperfect duty. In fact, if one finds this doubtful in Kantian terms, one may be surprised that even Kant stated that, as a means of avoiding a "great temptation to transgression of duty, ... [t]o secure one's own happiness is a duty, at least indirectly (i.e., in the sense of an imperfect duty)" (Kant, 23). So, in this regard, at least, what Mill says, for the most part, about "higher pleasures," seems similar to what Kant says about "imperfect duties."
c) Legitimizing the compromise
Already the "higher pleasures" have been adequately equated with Kant's "satisfaction of a proper kind." In this section, I'll also point out that one's "pride" and "dignity" in achieving "higher pleasures" may be associated with an aspect in the very meaning of law that Kant seemed to miss.
Kant suggests that a person isn't naturally inclined to adhere to moral law, but one must feel compelled to follow it based on one's sense of duty. At any rate, then, it would seem that one's choice to follow it depends on one's own "imperfect," but free, human will. As such, the law isn't commanded so much by an absolute authority (i.e., "absolute" in the sense of determinate), but, rather, by commandments that appeal to one's rationally inspired volition. In this sense, the law, in order to be adhered to, needs some grounds for approval. As it relates to law, such grounding is referred to as "legitimacy" (Lawson, 41). When Kant states, as quoted earlier, that a "good will" is established to realize, for the agent, a "satisfaction of a proper kind," the picking out of this phrase from out of thousands in Kant's text isn't the mere haggling over of a mere group of words. Rather, what seems to be involved here is the haggling over of a crucial group of words that may fundamentally signify this notion of legitimacy.
As such, if one had accepted the previous argument that "satisfaction of a proper kind" and Mill's "higher pleasure" seem to be equivalent in a crucial sense (i.e., as satisfaction in fulfilling one's capacity of reason), then maybe one can find merit in some of Mill's opening remarks in his book on utilitarianism. For instance, he states, contrary to the natural sciences in which "the particular truths precede the general theory,
the contrary might be expected to be the case with a practical art, such as morals or legislation. All action is for the sake of some end, and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose, must take their whole character and color from the end to which they are subservient.... According to the one opinion[, however] (i.e., conservatism), the principles of morals are evident 'a priori,' requiring nothing to command assent except that the meaning of the terms be understood. According to the other doctrine (i.e., consequentialism), right and wrong, as well as truth and falsehood, are questions of observation and experience. But both hold equally that morality must be deduced from principles (Mill, 404).
It's in this sense, then, that "satisfaction in fulfilling one's capacity for reason" seems to be a sufficient motivation that could claim an adequate principle of legitimizing a Kantian appeal for maxims, as well as be approved of by Mill. But, it should be reminded here, that "satisfaction," as Kant states it, would be of "a proper kind." It's in this sense alone that one may take "satisfaction," treated identical as "higher pleasures," as providing legitimacy to Kant's formulations as well as to the "dignity" Mill speaks of. What makes such satisfaction "proper," as well as consistent with basic utilitarianism, is that, according to either ethic, the agent's fulfillment of such a capacity would prove inaccessible unless one equally permits all other agents the capacity to act on the same principle. As stated earlier, Mill insists that "one person's happiness [ought to be] counted for exactly as much as another's" (Mill, 457). Likewise, for Kant, "as morality serves as a law for us only because we are rational beings, it must also hold for all rational beings" (Kant, 79). It's in this sense that, Kant may be interpreted as saying that a rational being should never be used merely as a means, for she may equally legislate the universal law, and if she's denied this capacity, all universal law would be compromised. This is so because, in Kant's terms, to speak of one rational agent as a legislator as opposed to another amounts to a contradiction.
Thus far in this essay I believe I have shown several correlations between Kant's theory and Mill's. In general, both seem to endorse an ethical outlook that removes an agent from her own subjective outlook in favor of a larger good. Both Kant and Mill clearly state, as well, that one's primary motivation should be one based on "virtue." Although Mill states that virtue is a derived "good," he states that happiness could never be known without it. Thus, for Kant as well as Mill, considering the "virtue" of one's decisions is crucial for any accurate assessment of what may be deemed proper in any circumstance.
Also, happiness as a moral consideration seems only contingent in terms of an agent insofar as the agent factors only what's beneficial to her. Once the concept becomes universalized, it's no longer an inclination, but an idea. In fact, such an idea is the very first principle of utilitarianism referred to earlier concerning "the greatest happiness for the greatest number." With this in mind, it's wrong of a Kantian to attack "happiness" solely on the grounds of it being an inclination. In fact, by acting on the general principle of "happiness," one may likely base one's decision contrary to one's inclination, as Sartre's "French Resistance" example has demonstrated.
I believe the closest link between Kant and Mill, however, lies in the notion of Mill's "higher pleasures." As stated, Mill seems to speak of "higher pleasures" as those that assure rational creatures a sense of happiness that is devoid of pain. In fact, it's by pursuing higher pleasures (i.e., "competent acquaintance" in such objective goods as education, for instance) that one advances one's inbred sense of dignity that assures a pleasure in itself--despite the strains or failed expectations of the effort. Such a "pleasure in itself" that, according to Mill, results from acting according to a sense of dignity, seems not unlike Kant's suggestion that one should pursue a "good in itself" from a sense of duty.
At any rate, as stated in my treatment of Moore's naturalistic fallacy, both Mill's "pleasure in itself" and Kant's "good in itself" are grounded in advancing one's reason. Likewise, according to both, such grounding may better determine one's moral outlook, whether stemming from "dignity" or "duty." These two latter terms, also, seem closely akin. In themselves, neither "dignity" nor "duty," when understood subjectively, seem to assure proper conduct. For Kant, one's sense of duty, rather, needs to reflect upon "the good will," which, for him, was objective in the sense of being "noumenal." Likewise, "dignity," as stated earlier, seems to be better grounded morally when the "dignity" is reflected upon a population of "all those involved"--seemingly, for "the greatest number."
At any rate, in order to assure the validity of Kant's examples as being non-consequentialist, as they were criticized by Mill, one would need to assume that Kant's focus was more on logical contradiction than on the consequences that would result from them. Since ethics seems to be an attempt at assuring the "good" in one's actions, it would seem, then, that the best way to assure goodness as it pertains to humans in all possible worlds is that one should consider what's true of human nature as a whole. Kant claims that humans are naturally inclined to happiness. With this in mind, then, if Kant was to create an algorithm for what a human should do in all possible worlds; that is, which assures good results (as an algorithm is meant to do), then at least some relevance ought to be provided for such inclinations. This is especially true in reflection of how such inclinations may alternate between worlds--for instance, in a world in which truth always led to pain. If one followed Kant's dictates alone, bad results would consistently follow in such a world. Perhaps Mill's formulation of pursuing "higher pleasures" may offer such a safeguard against such pain in the same manner that their pursuit seems to do in our own world. In Mill's formulation of utilitarianism, he merely establishes a standard of happiness that seems to guarantee good results, which may, in fact, apply to all possible worlds. As a result, Mill's criteria of a "higher pleasures" provides a standard in which contradictions may be established in "goodness" as it relates to conduct. One may recall that such a contradiction has already been demonstrated by the example of a world totally populated by masochists.
Overall, then, Kant's theory seems to need to consider consequences when logically providing rules that would be true of all possible worlds--"free from all influence of contingent grounds." At the same time, Mill seems to supply ethics with a conservative theory as well as a consequentialist one. The factor that seems to assure the consistency of both theories is provided by an embedded sense of "dignity" or "duty" that may be used to determine the "greater good," whether the "good" refers to general happiness or logical consistency, respectively. At any rate, both "dignity" and "duty" seem to be means in which one may obtain the reason both Mill and Kant find as necessary for assuring one's "good will," or "greater happiness," respectively, which, as has been pointed out, appear to be quite similar as concepts.
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