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 Guide Questions for our reading and discussion of Mill and Kant

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Join date : 2008-11-25

PostSubject: Guide Questions for our reading and discussion of Mill and Kant   Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:11 pm

Happy New Year to all, welcome back.

We're on part II of our syllabus – Traditional Normative Ethics. Our next topic will be Utilitarianism and Kantian Ethics, and then we'll have Virtue Ethics. For the first two topics, I want you to be guided by the following questions in your reading. These questions are meant to give you direction and focus when reading Mill and Kant (especially); they will also be the same questions that will be asked during our discussions. Of course these are just some of the questions so do not limit yourselves to only these.

1.Differentiate between Consequentialism and Non-consequentialism, and also between Deontology and Teleology.
2.Differentiate between ends and means.
3.Differentiate between intrinsic or inherent value AND instrumental, extrinsic, or external value.


Mill's essay is actually only a defense to Utilitarianism. In its original formulation, i.e. in the original Benthamite formulation, Utilitarianism reaped several criticisms. Mill was therefore faced with the two-pronged problem of defending Utilitarianism against its critics and polishing Utilitarianism so that it qualifies as a moral theory. To better appreciate Mill's essay it is therefore necessary to read first on the basic tenets of classical Utilitarianism and the several criticisms hurled at it. What are some criticisms to classical Utilitarianism?
How does John Stuart Mill address these criticisms?
But then again, first of all, try to first answer the following:
1.What are the underlying assumptions in Utilitarianism and the philosophical traditions upon which it is based?
2.Explain classical Utilitarianism. What are the main ideas in this original formulation of Utilitarianism? Explain the principle of utility.
3.What are some criticisms to Utilitarianism? And how does JS Mill address these criticisms?
4.Differentiate between quantitative and qualitative hedonism.
5.How does J.S. Mill move from individual psychological hedonism to universal ethical hedonism?
6.What is the notion of pleasure or happiness that we may deduce from Mill’s essay?
7.What are criticisms to or difficulties with J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism?

Brace yourself for some serious philosophizing. Kant's philosophy is unquestionably profound - really abstract (very) – but very brilliant (and noble) and for the more sensitive even life-changing. Kant is a duty ethicist, meaning, the focus is on what one OUGHT to do. So to give you a taste of Kantian philosophy, here are what you OUGHT to read about and answer to be able to understand Kant.

1.Why and how does Kant reject consequentialism?
2.What should be the basis of morality for Kant? What are some considerations that Kant made in proposing his theory of morality?
3.How does Kant provide and impartial/objective basis for the morality of an action?
4.For Kant, it is not the case that reason has merely instrumental value; on the contrary reason is itself constitutive of morality, of what it means to be moral? Be able to explain this. Why and how does Kant equate morality with rationality?
5.Explain Kant’s concept of “good will”. How is this different from our ordinary conception of “good will”? In what sense does this allude to the concept of “categorical imperative” and a “duty-based ethics”?
6.What are maxims? What is the significance of the idea that we should act on the basis of some maxims?
7.Differentiate between the “hypothetical imperative” and the “categorical imperative”. In what sense may we understand the categorical imperative?
8.Discuss the different formulations of the “Categorical Imperative”.
a.Explain the Formula of Universality, the universalizability test, and the implications of this.
b.Explain the Formula of Humanity. Why are we “ends in ourselves”? What does being “an end in itself” mean? What makes us “ends” in ourselves?
c.Explain the Formula of Autonomy. What does Kant’s concept of “autonomy” mean? How do we become moral legislators? How do we legislate laws for the kingdom of ends?
9.“A free will is one that is subject to the moral law.” Explain. How may we solve the apparent paradox? How is the concept of autonomy preserved in this case?
10.What is Kant’s concept of freedom? Differentiate between positive freedom and negative freedom.
11.How does Kant see an individual as a moral agent?
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