Author Archives: Rachel Sirotkin

Kantianism > Utilitarianism

Onora O’Neill simplifies Kant’s moral theory through the Formula of the End in Itself, which is acting in such a way that treats humanity as an end, as opposed to a mere means. To use someone as a mere means is to “involve them in a scheme of action to which they could not in principle consent” (O’Neill 412). To treat a person as an end is to respect an individual “as a rational person with his or her own maxims” (O’Neill 412). After an understandable explanation of Kantian ethics, O’Neill shows the advantages of Kantianism over utilitarianism.

Kantianism and utilitarianism have different ways for determining whether an act we do is right or wrong. According to Kant, we should look at our maxims, or intentions, of the particular action. Kantians believe “human life is valuable because humans are the bearers of rational life” (O’Neill 414). In other words, humans are free rational beings capable of rational behavior and should not be used purely for the enjoyment or happiness of another.  On the other hand, Utilitarians believe that we should do actions that produce the greatest amount of happiness. The problem with this, however, is that it could involve using people as mere means and may lead to the sacrifice of lives for the greater good. (O’Neill 413-415). Christopher Bennett expands on this point by stating that Utiliarians justify punishing an innocent party “if it is necessary to bring about a sufficiently important good effect” (Bennett 59). Additionally, promises, which are typically binding in our society, can be broken if it produces a greater good. This can be applied to any promise, including those made with loved ones. Utilitarianism sometimes involves the sacrifice of an individual’s happiness or life in order to promote the greatest amount of happiness and the least amount of misery (Bennett 71).

It is easier to determine an action as morally right in Kantian ethics than in utilitarian ethics. When data is scarce, Kantian theory offers more precision than utilitarianism because one can generally determine if somebody is being used as a mere means, even if the impact on human happiness is ambiguous. Kantians “consider only the proposals for an action that occur to them and check that these proposals use no other as mere means” (O’Neill 413). Contrastingly, utilitarianism compares all available acts and sees which has the best effects. Although utilitarianism has a larger scope than Kantianism, it is a more timely process. The decision-making method of calculating all of the potential costs and benefits of an action is extremely time consuming and leaves little time for promoting happiness, which is the Utilitarian’s goal (Bennett 63).

What world would you rather live in? A world where your happiness or life can be taken away from you for the sake of others or a world where you’re acknowledged as a rational being?  A world based off of trust or a world full of broken promises? A world full of calculations or a world with quick decision making? The decision is yours.

Works Cited

O’Neill, Onora. “A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics.” 411-415. Blackboard. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.

Bennett, Christopher. “Utilitarianism.” What is this thing called ethics?. London: Routledge, 2010. 55-73

Evolution and God Can Coexist

In Christopher Bennett’s What is this thing called ethics?,  Bennett discusses the positions of theists, atheists, and humanists. The concept of God and morality coinciding is a difficult process to grasp because there is no tangible proof of the existence of God. Although there are aspects of each position that I agree with, I support the theist position in regards to evolution and how the world came to be. Christopher Bennett, when speaking on behalf of the theists, made the claim that “we need to explain the very existence of the universe through there being a perfectly free and powerful being” (Bennett 116).

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution explains how organisms evolved from natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Darwin never mentioned God in his theory nor did he explain why the process of evolution originally occurred. To understand the world in which we live in, we need to “point to a Being powerful enough to start the process of the universe’s development off” (Bennett 116). Science dates back to the big bang, but what happened before it? Bennett implies that there must be a figure behind the world’s creation.

Darwin’s theory is scientifically proven as true. Just because his theory is true, does not mean the existence of God is false. Author Stefan Lovgren argues that evolution and religion can coexist. He argues that evolution could be God’s tool in the creation of humans. Lovgren states, “it would be perfectly logical to think that a divine being used evolution as a method to create the world” (Lovgren). In other words, it makes sense that God would use evolution as a method because the ones that are most adapted to the environment survive.  Evolution could be used to explain present life, but God could be the ultimate creator who used evolution as a tool (Snellenberger). If we are all God’s children, wouldn’t God want us all to be well adapted so we can survive and prosper?

Bennett also discusses the fact that God is the Designer. He states, “where there is a design, there must be a designer” (Bennett 115). To support this claim, he compares a watch and a chameleon. If a person were to find a watch on a deserted island, that individual would know that someone else created the intricate clockwork and the design of the watch. A chameleon, on the other hand, does not have a known designer. Conscious design was put behind the chameleon’s ability to change color to fit its surroundings. But who gave the chameleon this ability? (Bennett 115). Science cannot answer this question; religion can. God, Almighty, could be the mastermind behind this design.

The belief in God has no genuine proof like science has, which is why many people find it hard to accept that there is a god. The existence of God is not proved by facts, but rather by beliefs and faith. Through the theist’s argument, it is clear that one can support scientific theories while also having faith in god.


Works Cited

Bennett, Christopher. “Ethics and Religion.” What is this thing called ethics?. London: Routledge, 2010. 111-125. Print.

Lovgren, Stefan. “Evolution and Religion Can Coexist, Scientists Say.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 18 Oct. 2004. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. <>

Snellenberger, Earl . “Creationism Evolving.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. <>