Mill, Kant, O’Neill

Please post questions and comments as comments below, about Mill, Kant, O’Neill. Please use other places for other kinds of questions (see dropdown under “Q&A” above).

Note that you don’t have to be logged in, and if you log out first you can use a fake name to post your comments if you wish, so no one reading the comment can tell it’s you. But, if you want to use this for points towards your discussion mark, you need to tell Christina what your fake name is!

To be notified by email when someone replies, be sure to use an email address you check when posting your comment (email address will not be shown publicly), and check the box to subscribe to comments on the post.

3 thoughts on “Mill, Kant, O’Neill”

  1. John Stuart Mill posited that justice is more fluid than absolute, with some aspects such as theft being justified in certain cases that elevate happiness. If that is so, how would Mill propose a way for the justice system to discern if the person’s actions were sincere to a happiness cause?

    1. You’re right that he thinks many rules have exceptions, so there is a sense in which morality is fluid. Justice is a bit trickier, though. He does say that sometimes we can do things that would seem to go against justice (like steal medicine to save a life), but he also argues on the last page of the Utilitarianism reading that what is going on there is not that we are violating rules of justice. Rather, it’s that what is required because of justice in many cases (avoiding stealing) is not actually required by justice in this case. So one is still being just by stealing the medicine.

      Now, that still doesn’t address your question! Maybe one way to think about it is that a justice system could have laws that would take into account such cases where what generally is unjust is actually permitted in certain cases. And then the person wouldn’t be guilty of a crime. I’m also wondering if what you mean by the second sentence is whether or not we can discern a person’s motives? In other words, are you asking whether a justice system could determine if one really was doing something because they thought it would lead to more happiness, and that was their main reason for doing it? If so, remember that for Mill the motive doesn’t matter to the morality of an action (though it may matter in a criminal justice system). For Mill, what matters is that one did something that is a kind of action that would generally promote happiness in that sort of situation, even if one had a motive for doing so that many people might not think is very moral (like saving a life because one wanted a reward or wanted others to like them).

      I’m not sure if what I’ve said fully responds to the question you had; if not, please reply back if you wish!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *