Everyday Ethics: Kant versus Utilitarianism

We encounter it in many different situations, often without thinking about it in formal terms, that is the dichotomy between Kantian thinking and utilitarian reasoning.  We live in a moral universe and we therefore encounter situations which demand a moral response.  Take torture for example.  A Kantian response to torture would assert that the rights of the individual are inviolable, therefore torture is unacceptable under any circumstances.  A utilitarian approach however would weigh the benefits and costs of each course of action; it may therefore be permissable (and even desirable) to torture an individual to save the life of another individual or a group of individuals.

Ethics is all about making hard choices.  A clip from the BBC documentary entitled “Justice: A Citizen’s Guide to the 21st Century” is attached below.  This highlights perfectly the two opposing ethical positions and is very thought-provoking.

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