Uploaded by marthap on Mar 30, 2004
Kant and Mill’s Theories
In July of 1994, Paul J. Hill, a former Presbyterian minister and later a pro-life activist, was prosecuted for killing Dr. John Britton, an abortion performing doctor, and James Barrett, a volunteer, outside a clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Prior to this, Hill commented on the murder of Dr. David Gunn, another abortion performing doctor, stating that it was a “biblically justified homicide (P. 215).” This statement shows how strong Hill’s beliefs were and leads one to assume that he did not regret killing Britton and Barrett. This paper will address the Hill case and determine the ethical parameter in which Paul Hill should have acted. The two philosophical approaches that will be examined and contrasted are the Kantian and Utilitarian perspectives. Kant and Mill’s point of view on the actions of Paul J. Hill will be presented based on their theories. Lastly, I will explain why I believe that Kant’s theory provides a more plausible account of morality.
Kantianism and Utilitarianism are two theories that attempt to answer the moral nature of human beings. Immanuel Kant’s moral system is based on a belief that reason is the final authority for morality. John Stuart Mill’s moral system is based on the theory known as utilitarianism, which is based upon utility, or doing what produces the greatest happiness.
One of Kant’s lasting contributions to moral philosophy was his emphasis on the notion of respect for persons. He considers respect for persons (a.k.a the Kantian respect) to be the fundamental moral principle of ethical philosophy. His Kantianism premise is a deontological moral theory which claims that the right action in any given situation is determined by the categorical imperative, which he calls the Supreme Principle. This imperative is a command that applies to all rational beings independent of their desires. It is a command that reason tells us to follow no matter what (P.31).” Kant considers this an objective law of reason and because it applies to all of us, he calls it a universal practical law for all rational beings. The hypothetical imperative, on the contrary, is a conditional command, which “we have reason to follow if (it) serve(s) some desire of ours (P.31).” For example, if you want X, then you will do Y, whereas with the categorical...