Moral and Political Discourse Analysis

Betham’s main critics were on the law and of moral and political discourse. He was particular on the law and how there were legal fictions in it, all that would lead to confusion. To him, morals and legislations can be described scientifically although the description would require an account of human nature. As nature can be explained by reference to the laws of physics so can human behavior be explained with reference to pleasure and pain or the theory of psychological hedonism. To him, nature places mankind under the governance of pain and pleasure. There is no direct proof that such analysis does exist but he argues that it is evident in man’s behavior. Individual actions according to him are clearly guided by a principle. According to him, individual happiness translated to the society’s happiness, as their interests were so much at one with each other. His views are however criticized as being an illustration of fallacy as individual good cannot be collective good.

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( He argues further that there are different motives for seeking pleasure even though people act in keeping utilitarianism by nature. Betham suggests that characters of action should be determined by accessing the overall value of the consequences of the act or the act-utilitarianism. The best policy or best way for people to act would be through adopting the means that offered the greatest happiness to greater numbers. To Betham, man acts to achieve pleasure and avoid pain.

Mill also advocates for utilitarianism and only expounds on Betham’s work in terms of structure, meanings and application. He argues that although it is difficult to determine the action that has the greatest importance or meaning to all, it is acceptable to all that human actions by and large contribute to their moral value. He accepts Betham’s devotion on the greatest happiness principle as the basis statement of utilitarian value. He differs from Betham on the aspect that pleasures are quantifiable. He further argues that it is difficult to attain positive happiness and people are hence forced to reduce the amount of pain experienced when choosing their actions.

To Mill, people let morals principles act as guidelines in their actions in distinguishing between act and rule utilitarianism. He argues that secondary moral principles provide ample guidance to everyday moral life. In difficult or controversial circumstances, he explains how the value of each action is determined with reference to the principle of utility itself. Unlike Betham, Mill does not restrict himself to external sanctions of punishment and blame that can invoke pain.

To him, internal sanctions like self-esteem, guilt and conscience motivates actions. Mill’s work is problematic in the fact that he seems to portray double standards when he admits that pleasure and pain control people’s action but also embraces the 20th century normative ethics.

Comparative imperative is an idea coined by Kant where he sees all human beings as being occupants of a special place in creation. To him, people have various needs, which call for various means or approaches to be addressed. Intentions, purposes or principles of action are called maxims. He argues that as people work towards attaining the maxims they should not use others simply as means to an end but as an end to itself. Human beings according to Kant have dignity or rather intrinsic worth and consequently they should act in good will with a sense of duty while using the categorical imperative. He further discusses the types of imperative being the hypothetical imperative, which tells people how to achieve their goal, and the comparative imperative that makes people rational, It leads to absoluteness and it governs the way people act. (Robert H, 2000).

To Kant people should only act on maxims that can become universal laws. The acceptable universal laws of morality should control people’s actions and the implication of this is that such laws are in existence. To him, there are imperfect as well as perfect duties where the imperfect ones entail the exploitation of one’s talent for certain purposes while the perfect duties refer to the duties done to others.

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He also brings about the idea of modern autonomy, which means that people can make free and autonomous decisions but they are compelled by rationality and the categorical imperative in determining the decisions that they make. When people adhere to the categorical imperative the resultant effect is that there would be rationality in decisions made. People are unique in their own ways and they should not be used simply as means to an end but as an end in itself, meaning that all parties should benefit in pursuit for the various maxims.

Kant argues that human beings should not be manipulated even when the reason or causes are just. He opposed rehabilitation efforts in prisons, as according to him, they would be against people’s rational choice. Holmes agrees that although judges are from the dominant class in society and this affects their decisions as they could reflect class interests they should be respected. Holmes is concerned that judges should stop introducing external standards in to common law system.

In response to Kantian view of treating people simply as means to an end he argues that man will find himself in such a situation as he lives in the society. Holmes advocates for the societal good before individual interests. To him, individuals would only benefit when certain legal rights are followed and in general he avoids a totalitarianism approach and appreciates the fact that the societal good requires individual rights. His views are appropriate as they enable the legal system to conform to certain philosophical viewpoints. Holmes thinks that Kant denies the life of the law in practice and he hence illogical. (Holmes O and Griffin T, 2004).


Oliver Holmes and Tim Griffin. 2004. The Common Law. Transaction Publishers

Garth Kemerling. 2002. Utilitarianism. Web.

Robert H. 2000. Kant, Truth and Human Nature. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 8.

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