Immanuel Kant was born, lived and passed away in his home town of Konigsberg. He lived from 1724 to 1804. He studied at the local university and later returned to tutor and lecture students. It wasn’t until he met an English merchant by the name of Joseph Green that Kant learned of David Hume and began to develop his ideas of morals and values. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781) is believed by many to be his greatest work. Kant’s was known mainly, however, for his moral code The Categorical Imperative.
Immanuel Kant was a follower of Deontology, or duty ethics. This means that for an act to be moral it must be performed out of duty. If you are concerned for the end product of your actions it is not a moral act. Only when your action is done in such a way that your only concern is the action itself is it a moral act. For example if a child runs into the street in front of a car and you grab that child you have performed a moral act. You are not worried about the outcome; your only concern is the act of grabbing the child. If, however, it is your child then your only concern is that your child is safe regardless the consequences of your actions. This then would not be considered a moral act.
Kant states that your duty to act comes from your good will. He describes the good will as the process by which we make our decisions. It is, as its name states, inherently good. It is something we have from the moment we are born.
In his Categorical Imperative Immanuel Kant explains what it means to act in accordance with universal law through his correlation of good will, reason, and duty. He says, “I should never act except in such a way that I can will that my maxim should become a universal law.” This means that when one is faced with a moral decision they are forced to observe a maxim. A maxim is an intention or a plan that we are to apply to the categorical imperative. The maxim provides us with a sound test see if our actions are moral our immoral. When deciding about our actions we are to ask ourselves the question of whether you would will that everyone did the same thing that you are about to do at the same time in the same circumstances. You are to universalize your decision so that you would wish everyone would do the same.
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was born in London. Mill lived from 1806 to 1873. He had a very structured upbringing. His father made certain he excelled scholastically. At the age of 21 he had a nervous breakdown due to his rigorous studying habits. In 1863 Mill wrote Utilitarianism. This was written as a response to Kantianism.