John Stuart Mill

Start Free Trial

From a utilitarian perspective, how would Mill assess the ethical scenario of recommending a lazy and mean cousin for a job? Would Kant agree?

Your cousin needs work, and there is a job open in your office. You know your cousin is lazy and mean, but you want to help your cousin, so you recommend him to your boss as a dependable and hard worker.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Stuart Mill would likely disagree with the decision to give this job to your cousin. As a utilitarian, Mill believed that the virtue of an action or decision can be assessed by its consequences. In this, the basis for judgment as to whether something is right or wrong can be discerned based on how much good it results in compared to how much pain comes from it. While providing this job to your cousin might help them out individually, it is likely that it will affect the company and all the other employees there negatively. So, the consequences, in this case, would be a net negative.

Now consider Kant. He was an adherent of deontological ethics. This is the idea that there are duties that everyone must adhere to have a functioning society. This means that virtue is derived from one's intentions more than anything else. Since your intentions in this scenario are to help out someone in need, Kant may judge your actions as being virtuous even though the outcome may be negative for some people.

However, Kant would disagree with one part of this. He argued that it is never okay to lie, since this interferes with someone's ability to make their own free decisions. Since you would be violating your duty to be truthful by recommending your cousin to your boss, you would not be adhering to the rules that make for a functioning society. Therefore, even though your intention to help your cousin may be virtuous, your method for doing so would not be.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on