Jeremy Bentham born in 1748 was a radical empiricist.
He believed strongly in the fact that knowledge absolutely had to come from the senses; it could not be invented by the mind. Jeremy Bentham was a strange man, often looked at like an oddball. He was strongly negative. He was anti-establishment, anti monarchist and anti imperialist. Bentham wrote a book called ???Introduction to the Principals of Morals and Legislation???. (Moral Questions: An Introduction to Ethics, 2000). In this book he discus??™s how human being are under the governance of two sovereign masters pain and pleasure, we will do anything to feel pleasure and do anything to avoid pain. It iterated the point that laws should only be passed should it maximize pleasure for the greater good and minimize pain.
This is the beginning of utilitarianism, greater happiness for the greater good. Later in 1806 a man named John Stuart Mill was born. Just as Bentham he to was a utilitarian but he was able to see deeper into the subject then Bentham. He stated that ???peoples motives could not be seen or measured but the consequences could be???. He began a new group of thought that was an offset of utilitarianism and it was called Consequentialism. Mill thought that more normal people should stick to traditional rules rather than calculate what to do all the time. If people spent all there time calculating the moral moves from the immoral rules without having a moral base to work off of, the world would be a ludicrous place. However, there are still shortcomings to both utilitarianism and Consequentialism.
If we are always trying to please the greater good, there is always a minority such as immigrants or the less fortunate that will be continuously suffering. Only obeying rules, which experience shows, will produce greater good for the greater number. For morality to function perfectly it is a matter of everyone obeying the rules all the time, even then we could not guarantee the right of individuals or minorities. The main problem with these trains of thought is the fact that you must break traditional rules such as trying to please everyone on occasion. Immanuel Kant born in 1724 had strong feelings of disagreement of what he heard of Utilitarianism. He felt strongly that morality had little to nothing to with happiness.
Different recounts on Kant from the public state that he was a creature of habit; he worked the same schedule everyday and was very predictable. (Moral Questions: An Introduction to Ethics, 2000). Kant was the author of Foundations of metaphysics and morals.
In this book he discus??™s how to separate moral actions from non-moral actions. He understood the fact that moral actions are actions that are performed because of sense of duty and not because we are acting the way we want to. Kant created the group of thought called Deontology.
Individuals who consider themselves Deontologist are someone who believes in duties. To Kant the study of ethics is all about what duties are and why we must perform them. Kant believes that we can discover which moral rules are compulsory. We do this not by asking ourselves what we would enjoy doing the most, but by using reason and logic. He asks the question of what would happen should we choose to ???universalize??? what we wanted to do, always treating other individuals as and ends and not a means. For example, if everybody in the world was killing each other all the time society as we know it would collapse into itself. By using the Universability test we have discovered a compulsory rule or as Kant called it, a categorical imperative.
You can consider the categorical imperative as a kind of moral compass pointing us in the right direction. This is how Kant tries to show us what moral rules are compulsory.Immanuel Kant??™s moral theory puts emphasis on the moral equality of all human beings, which is implied in his view about nature of moral obligations as universally binding. A major weakness of Deontology and Kant??™s moral theory is that it is not exact. It does not tell us which rules to obey and which ones to ignore. Kant attempts made the theory to specific and tried to apply it to the individual too much.
The theory does not allow for exception, in situations such as unexpected pregnancy, therefore it does not take into account forces beyond the decision makers control such as environment or other people. One major situation that aids in separating Utilitarianism and Deontology is the issue of the death penalty. According to Utilitarian??™s our motives for an action cannot be measured but the consequences of said action could be. Does this mean if somebody attempted to help the greater number, but failed, should he be prosecuted Although he did not do anything malicious he still failed to improve the happiness for the majority. And Utilitarian??™s do not have the ability to measure motives, only consequences therefore this man will most likely be sentenced to the death penalty, because it is ethically justifiable. This is the extremely harsh reality of the Utilitarian school of thought. Although this man did not necessarily do anything wrong, and set out with the correct intentions he failed at improving the happiness for the majority group.
Since the motive for an action is completely disregarded under Utilitarian rule, this man will on be judged by the consequences of his action. However, should the issue of the death penalty be regarded from Kant??™s point of view, then the fate of this man would most likely be much different. According to Kant??™s moral theory an action is ethically justifiable as long as the person in question acted out of a sense of duty and not a sense of self-entitlement or selfishness. For example: A soldier is put on trial wit the threat of the death penalty for the death of one of his squad mates. The death of his squad mate was due to friendly fire by the soldier on trial.
The two men were on a mission and their objective was in site. The now dead soldier attempted race up ahead of the other, breaking formation and disregarding orders, this put the other man in danger as well as the completion of the objective. The other soldier had no other choice but to kill his squad mate and continue on to complete the objective. Although he killed a fellow countryman, he did complete the objective, which aided in the victory of the war. According to Kant since this man acted out of a sense of duty, whether it be securing the objective or securing the future victory of his country.
His action is completely justifiable and therefore does not merit the death penalty. In my opinion the most helpful theory regarding the death penalty is most definitely Utilitarianism. The reason I say this is simple. First off Kant??™s moral theory is based on intention as opposed to the results of an action. Intention is something that can be faked; there is no way to proof intention of an action based on the outcome.
The only way to measure the reaction to an action regardless if it is a positive or a negative reaction is through the outcome of said action. If criminals were judged based on their intentions the majority of them would still be walking the streets because they??™re intention was to feed their families or achieve a level of wealth in order to survive. I think utilitarianism is the most appropriate theory when discussing the death penalty.
This is because it is simple to decide out whether or not to put a criminal to death based on how they have affected the majority or how they could affect the majority. For example: A man is convicted of the murder of a young boy. This man is a repeat offender with charges such as public indecency, molestation, and sexual abuse and assault. In his past he has never been convicted of murder but all his past crimes are outdone by the newly committed crime. Meaning his offenses are getting gradually worse with each one committed. Based on these facts the jury figures he has done enough harm in the past, and is likely to commit more heinous crimes should he be allowed to walk, so they sentence him to the death penalty. By sentencing him to death both the judge and jury figure they are doing more good for the majority of the population which consists of good people then they are doing damage to the criminal minority by removing this man from their population.
In summation the fact that this man is being put to death based on the fact that it will bring more safety to the majority therefore making them happier makes the Utilitarian school of thought more helpful when making the decision on the death penalty. Sources:Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues, 2007, Barbara MackinnonAn Introduction to The Principals of Morals and Legislation, 1789, Jeremy BenthamMoral Questions: An Introduction to Ethics, 2000Nuttall, Jon