The evaluation criteria of morality is the intention. – Kantian ethics.
NB: The distinction between good and evil is inherent to human reason.
In science, we know the justification process of an assertion: logical coherence, systematical coordination of experimental results, predictive capacity; there is nothing such in ethics because there are no “experimental results”; because ethics has nothing to do with facts as facts. Should there be myriads of liars and a high enough number of murderers, this tells us nothing on the moral values of lying or murder.
The “moral justification” always connects with a certain moral doctrine that is presupposed. There are utilitarian justifications of falsehood or murder, but these same acts do not have any justification in Kantian morals. Therefore, we cannot say utilitarianism stands on moral justifications since these justifications presuppose themselves the acceptance of utilitarianism.
The ends can justify the means. – Utilitarian ethics.
The evaluation criteria of morality is the utility of the action. – Utilitarian ethics.
NB: Moral principles can never justify themselves rationally, but are justified in accordance with the desires of man.
The foundation of morality is fidelity to the principle of the pursuit of happiness of the majority. – Utilitarian ethics.
NB: We should follow the morals of established rules without forgetting that they are generalizations that can be distributed in exceptional cases, because they are not restrictive principles of conduct. Man has the right to be happy.
In his answer to Benjamin Constant, On the Supposed Right to Tell a Lie from Altruistic Motives, the argumentation of Kant is in fact very utilitarian, despite refusal of any consequentialist criteria in the Kantian doctrine. Why should the right to lie be refused even in the case where a lie would save a human life? Kant gives two arguments:
Any lie, whatsoever its reasons are, constitutes an injustice towards humanity in its entirety, because in allowing ourselves to lie, this action results that statements in general do not find credibility, and that, consequently, all rights that are founded on understanding fall equally.
The second argument is more singular, because it consists in warning temptation to accept the “well-intentioned” lie against detrimental consequences that may result from it:
If you have, for example, prevented by a lie someone with murderous intentions to act, you are responsible on a legal standpoint of all consequences of the outcome. But if you held yourself strictly to the truth, public justice can do nothing to you whatsoever the unforeseen consequences be.
This is an utilitarian type of argumentation: it’s good for humanity in its entirety that the principle of word given can be held as valid; it’s always preferable for me not to lie, it’s the strategy that will spare the troubles in which we fall inescapably as soon as we start lying.
The foundation of morality is the respect of the moral law written in the heart of conscience. – Kantian ethics.
NB: Moral ethic of intention to act freely, by respect of moral law and not by desires or dispositions. Moral value is not placed in the goal to attain, but higher, on a principle that determines the work in question. An individual act is moral when it’s determined to act by respect of the practice of moral law.
Moral laws are hypothetical, conditional imperatives. – Utilitarian ethics.
NB: Reasons are not important, only consequences. You cannot see or measure the motives of people, but only the consequences of their actions.
Moral laws are categorical imperatives. – Kantian ethics.
NB: Duty to always obey morality.
Kant virtually acknowledges that the interest of mankind collectively,
or at least of mankind indiscriminately, must be in the mind of the
agent when conscientiously deciding on the morality of the act.
- Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill.
To give any meaning to Kant's principle, the sense put upon it must
be, that we ought to shape our conduct by a rule which all rational
beings might adopt with benefit to their collective interest.
- Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill.
As close to the categorical imperative this formulation may seem, it’s still reductive and leads finally to misreading what constitutes the nerve in the metaphysics of morals. The collective interest of humanity does not suffice in defining moral duty.
Kant explains it clearly:
A fourth, who is in prosperity, while he sees that others have to
contend with great wretchedness and that he could help them, thinks:
'What concern is it of mine? Let everyone be as happy as Heaven
pleases, or as be can make himself; I will take nothing from him nor
even envy him, only I do not wish to contribute anything to his
welfare or to his assistance in distress!' Now no doubt if such a mode
of thinking were a universal law, the human race might very well
subsist and doubtless even better than in a state in which everyone
talks of sympathy and good-will, or even takes care occasionally to
put it into practice, but, on the other side, also cheats when he can,
betrays the rights of men, or otherwise violates them. But although it
is possible that a universal law of nature might exist in accordance
with that maxim, it is impossible to will that such a principle should
have the universal validity of a law of nature. 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,
and in which, by such a law of nature, sprung from his own will, he
would deprive himself of all hope of the aid he desires.
- Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals, Immanuel Kant
This fourth who is in prosperity is described by Marx. It’s the selfish bourgeois that puts forward that everyone follows his own ends and that it’s the least harm we can do for the entirety of humanity. On the factual map, Kant admits the premises of this reasoning. Rational selfishness is without doubt a good move and could even be profitable to humanity. But we cannot want it without contradicting ourselves. Therefore, an applicable and advantageous principle to the entirety of humanity is not sufficient; it still has that I may want it as I am a rational-reasonable being.
Fourthly, as regards meritorious duties towards others: 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 every one does
not also endeavour, as far as in him lies, to forward the ends 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 to have
its full effect with me.
- Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals,
Utilitarians place themselves on the map of our spontaneous tendencies and what is feasible without contradiction whereas Kant breaks radically with this conception in placing himself from the human will perspective.
I can so I want, says the utilitarian. I must, so I can, replies Kant.
At the same time, this shows how much utilitarians are far from having the depth and amplitude of sight required by moral philosophy.