John Stewart Mill's Categorical Imperative

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Various ethical theories aim to either prescribe or proscribe certain actions in order to determine what is moral. Kantian deontological ethics primarily focuses on “negative duties,” or proscribed actions. To meet Kant’s standard of the Categorical Imperative, one must act only from maxims that can be consistently willed to be a universal law. Under Kantian deontology, actions’ moralities are determined independently of their outcomes; certain acts are always right or wrong, even if they lead to favorable or unfavorable outcomes. This is a key way in which deontology differs from utilitarianism. Utilitarianism, developed in large part by John Stewart Mill, has both a value and a directive (consequentialist) component. The value component…show more content…
Kantian deontology does not specify any boundaries of this duty apart from that it should not be done so much so that the individual ends up requiring beneficence from others himself. Although there exists latitude in how to exercise this imperfect duty, “one is strictly required to make it one’s principle (maxim) to promote the happiness of others” (HWMW, 114). This doesn’t imply that it is “one’s actual duty to promote others’ happiness on every occasion when one can and other [perfect] duties are absent,” as that would imply that the promotion of happiness through beneficence is a perfect duty (HWMW 114). Instead, this explains how the imperfect duty of beneficence can be grounded in respect for others (treating others as ends), and creates an “obligation [of] adopting a modest maxim of beneficence and choosing, over time, to act accordingly” (HWMW,…show more content…
Recall that to satisfy moral requirements under Kantian deontology, acts – in this case, the creation of laws and/or policies – must be derived solely from duty; accordance with duty is not sufficient. Thus, foreign aid policies will lack moral worth if they have any motive other than pure duty, and thus fail to achieve the moral duty of beneficence. While it is technically possible for a policy of aid to be motivated by genuine duty, the immensely complex and politically strategic nature of all nation state governments make it virtually impossible for considerations/motives – including the way in which a nation is viewed from an international or humanitarian perspective – to be absent from the policy creation process. This is especially true given that a policy has to go through such a high volume edits by various people and groups before its implementation, making it infinitely more improbable for a policy to be motivated by duty

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