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Mill’s and Kant’s Moral and Ethical Concepts for Rescue Efforts


The fields of ethics and morality continue to dictate or govern human beings’ behaviors and actions. Different philosophers and scholars have presented evidence-based theories and principles to guide moral values and ethical perspectives. Some of these thinkers include John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant.

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The paper presented below uses the theoretical concepts and arguments presented by these philosophers to analyze a case study focusing on two rescue efforts. Mill’s utilitarianism theory will guide the rescuers in the two scenarios to pursue actions that can protect the greatest number of lives, while Kant’s model promotes initiatives that will treat all persons and lives as ends.

Applying John Stuart Mill’s Theory of Unitarianism

The theory of utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill can be considered to advise the rescuer in Rescue I and II. Using his ideas, it would be appropriate for the rescuer in the first scenario to focus on the needs of the five people. The effort to protect these lives will result in maximum happiness in comparison with those of a single person (de Lazari-Radek and Singer 84). Since the ultimate objective of morality is to reduce pain, such an approach will ensure that more lives are saved. Similarly, Mill’s sentiments are applicable in the second situation. The rescuer should consider a course of action that will eventually safeguard five lives. Deciding to protect one life means that five individuals will not live. Consequently, such a strategy can result in the reduction of maximum happiness.

Mill goes further to offer several insights and ideas that can support the recommendations described above. His utilitarianism theory views happiness as the foundation of human morality. This means that people should always pursue pleasure as the ultimate goal. He goes further to assert that any action aimed at reducing human suffering or pain will definitely contribute to the happiness (Mulgan 58). Whenever pursuing justice, it is appropriate for individuals to promote decisions that are capable of producing contentment for the greatest majority. This is something captured in his principle of utility. The above argument is, therefore, founded on Mills’ theory of utilitarianism.

Human beings use the notion of utility to analyze various situations from a philosophical perspective. It states that actions or decisions are right if they are capable of promoting happiness. What this means is that behaviors that produce the opposite are wrong. Happiness, according to Mill, is the absence of suffering or pain. From this principle, it is clear that actions capable of producing happiness will get counted (Mulgan 82). The outstanding message is that human beings should pursue choices that are capable of reducing the level of pain and safeguarding human lives. Such a principle supports the Mill’s arguments and recommendations.

Applying Immanuel Kant’s Deontological Theory: First and Second Versions of Categorical Imperatives

According to Immanuel Kant’s first version of his categorical imperative, human beings should obey absolute and unconditional requirements in all circumstances and justify their actions as ends in themselves. Many thinkers pursue this formulation as a commandment that is applicable to individuals who are planning to achieve specific outcomes or ends (Rachels 58). This imperative or rule becomes a maxim. This means that human beings should engage in activities that are morally reasonable and acceptable. They should also consider such approaches as if they are acceptable universal laws. Using this formulation of the categorical imperative, it becomes clear that the philosopher would present a different opinion to the rescuers in the above two scenarios.

According to Kant’s deontological theory, it would be right to instruct the savior to act morally whenever there is an opportunity to do so. This means that the targeted individual will focus on the best actions to ensure that all persons facing danger get the required support. In the second situation, Kant would argue that the decision to rescue the individual who is trapped on a rocky path is acceptable and necessary.

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The maxim is that every action should be undertaken in such a way that it can become a universal law for all people (Dimmock and Fisher 54). The duty generated from it is that of pursuing morality by all means possible. This is a clear indication that people can study Kant’s proposal as a powerful theory for evaluating all actions and determining if they are morally acceptable.

Kant’s second version of the categorical imperative is applicable to these two scenarios. This formulation asserts that people should act in such a way that they do not treat humanity as a means to an end (Dimmock and Fisher 72). Instead, they should always “act at the same time as an end” (Dimmock and Fisher 82).

The end goal should not be that of the individual pursuing a given action or decision. From this analysis, it is agreeable that the rescuer in the presented situation will be required to embrace appropriate actions that have the potential to safeguard the lives of all the affected persons as an end. This second version asserts that all decisions should be aimed at improving the welfare of all human beings. Consequently, such actions will become reasonable or moral. In the first scenario, the rescuer will have to meet the needs of all the targeted persons if he or she is to uphold the human principle.

In the second situation, it would be appropriate to take the needs of the trapped person and the partying group into consideration. The ultimate objective is for the rescuer to embrace Kant’s deontological ethics and act in such a way that all humanity is treated as an end.

Criticisms for Mill and Kant: Superior Ethical Approach

Immanuel Kant’s theory has attracted criticism from different experts, philosophers, and scholars because it appears to give people questionable autonomy. This weakness is supported by the fact that human beings might decide not to engage in practices that might disregard moral values or laws. This is the case because his model treats man as free will to give himself laws and guidelines that dictate his life. This kind of autonomy means that a given individual might decide not to act in a moral or ethical manner (Rachels 72). The end result is that he might abuse others or engage in behaviors that do not conform to moral law.

From this weakness, it is evident that the rescuer in the presented scenarios might fail to act ethically and pursue the needs of the targeted people. The individual might also choose to rescue the affected person and waste time. This practice means that the other individuals in need of immediate support might not receive his or her attention.

The thoughts presented by John Mill are also questionable because they have specific weaknesses or sources of criticism. The outstanding one is that the philosopher focuses on the best approaches to maximize happiness, thereby failing to embrace the idea of justice. In the pursuit of maximum happiness, human beings can engage in activities that might fail to promote equality or justice for all.

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Dimmock and Fisher argue that some of the actions human beings undertake to maximize human suffering might ignore critical aspects, including justice and freedom (48). As described above, a utilitarianism approach will consider or promote ideas that can protect the greatest number of lives. Mill’s assertion seems to ignore the rights of the minority. The final outcome is that those who embrace this philosopher’s insights or propositions will focus on actions that fulfill the pleasure principle.

From a personal perspective, I believe that John Stuart Mill’s theory is more superior. The first reason for this argument is that it focuses on most of the ideas and initiatives that have the potential to maximize happiness for many people. When the needs of such people are met or supported, the chances are high that the levels of pleasure and human understanding will increase significantly. The theory is also plausible because it encourages human beings to prevent suffering by all means possible (de Lazari-Radek and Singer 89).

When facing different challenges that call for immediate actions, it becomes critical to embrace evidence-based initiatives that will deliver positive results. The weakness identified in Kant’s framework can also be presented to support this assertion. For instance, the first and second versions of categorical imperative promote actions that put the needs of all persons first since they should be targeted as ends. However, the presented scenarios reveal that the application of Kant’s theory will only protect the lives of two individuals while endangering ten people. This is a clear indication that human beings should always consider the benefits of different theories before applying them in the targeted situations.


John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant are some of the greatest philosophers whose thoughts and theories continue to inform human decisions and ethical behaviors. The above discussion has revealed that individuals can consider the insights presented by these thinkers to solve ethical problems or situations. While Mill suggests that actions that increasing happiness should be pursued, Kant offers Categorical Imperatives that promote the rights for all and engaging in practices that treat every person as an end. Despite the existing weaknesses, Mill’s theory is more plausible since it presents evidence-based ideas for maximizing happiness and protecting the lives of the greatest majority.

Works Cited

de Lazari-Radek, Katarzyna, and Peter Singer. Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Dimmock, Mark, and Andrew Fisher. Ethics for A-Level: For AQA Philosophy and OCR Religious Studies. Open Books Publishers, 2017.

Mulgan, Tim. Understanding Utilitarianism. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2014.

Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. McGraw-Hill Education, 2014.

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