Yesterday, we talked a little bit about the philosophical standpoint of utilitarianism. As a recap, we stated that utilitarianism seeks to effect the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. Today, we will discuss the opposite viewpoint: Kantianism. This standpoint stands in direct disagreement with utilitarianism. Read on to find out why.
Kantianism comes from a German philosopher who lived during the eighteenth century by the name of (you guessed it) Immanuel Kant. Now Kant was known to be a moralist. He held certain morals in high esteem and viewed some as unbreakable. For example, he believed that one should never lie. In fact, he viewed liars in the same group of culpability and punishment as murderers.
Now that you have some background on Kant, we will discuss some of the basic characteristics of Kantian thought. Whereas utilitarianism looks to be pragmatic, Kantianism views some laws as unbreakable, even if it will end up better breaking them. Perhaps an example will suffice to explain
Suppose there is a man who is deranged who shows up at your doorstep with an axe. He asks if your children are in the house with the intent to murder them. While a utilitarian would lie to tip off the madman, Kant would suggest that you tell the truth, even if it ends up having a poor outcome. He believed this because he thought that certain laws were not meant to be broken, no matter how dire the circumstance.