How is Kant's "Categorical Imperative" view different from Mill's utilitarianism?

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The Categorical Imperative is an example of what's called a deontological ethic. This rather forbidding phrase simply means a kind of moral theory which emphasizes the intrinsic rightness of a particular action. In following the Categorical Imperative—"Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same...

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The Categorical Imperative is an example of what's called a deontological ethic. This rather forbidding phrase simply means a kind of moral theory which emphasizes the intrinsic rightness of a particular action. In following the Categorical Imperative—"Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law"—one is doing what is morally right, at all times and in all places. This is a universal maxim which applies to everyone equally, irrespective of race, class, gender, and nationality. The moral agent doesn't consider the consequences of what he or she is doing when following the Categorical Imperative; what matters is that the universal, rational moral law which exists inside each and every one of us, is strictly adhered to.

Mill's utilitarianism, on the other hand, is an example of a consequentialist moral theory, meaning that it looks to the consequences of moral actions rather than their intrinsic worth. What matters for Mill is the greatest good of the greatest number in society. Moral actions, to be considered moral, must be concerned with maximizing happiness and minimizing pain. In some cases, individuals may act from less than pure motives, yet still somehow produce beneficial consequences. Equally, someone acting according to the Categorical Imperative might somehow inadvertently cause pain and suffering. For utilitarians like Mill, the context is all-important. Moral actions are neither good nor bad in themselves, but only in terms of the consequences to which they lead.

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The major difference here is that Mill's utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory of morals while Kant's is emphatically not.  Mill says that the morality of an action is determined by looking at the impacts that it has on people.  By contrast, Kant says that the morality of an action is determined by the intention behind it.

To Mill, an action is moral if it brings a net gain in happiness to people.  The intention behind the action is irrelevant.  Kant's categorical imperative says that the actor must always act in such a way that the rule behind the action could be made into a universal law.

To Mill, an action could be moral even if the person taking it was trying to do something bad.  To Kant, an action could be moral even if it ended up creating bad effects.  This is the major difference between these two views.

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