Mill, Kant, and Capital Punishment
Mill's Utilitarian view of morality differed a great deal from Kant's perception of the categorical imperative. By examining the views of these two philosophers with respect to the death penalty issue, their differences become clear. In the following examination, Mill and Kant's positions on capital punishment will be considered, and their views will be used to defend my position on the death penalty. In addition, my position will be discussed in terms of the Turow arguments and their relation to Mill and Kant. This discussion will demonstrate that while Mill's utilitarian arguments are based on the happiness principle, Kant's morality is based upon a universal law based upon reason and good will. Because I agree with the views of Kant and Turow, I am against capital punishment.
In chapters two and four of "Utilitarianism," John Stuart Mill discussed his theory of utilitarian morality and the sort of proof that may be used to determine the utility of a particular act. For Mill, a theory of moral utility, which he also referred to as the greatest happiness principle, contended that "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tended to produce the reverse of happiness". Mill added that his definition of happiness was not to be confused with pleasure, but more with the absence of pain, while unhappiness denoted pain and the privation of pleasure. Mill summed up the ideal of utilitarian morality as the golden rule of Jesus, "To do to as you would be done by, and to love your neighbor as yourself". Mill offers two ways for society and individuals to approach this ideal: First, laws and social arrangements should place the happiness of every individual with the interest of the whole, and moral education should reaffirm the connection between individual happiness and the good of the whole society.