Philosophers have varying attitudes over ethical issues of life. From time immemorial, philosophers have been on a long quest to discover the meaning of life. They have pondered long on human emotions, virtue, character, duty, and place of God. They are not just concerned about morally differentiating the good and bad. Philosophy is a broader range that focuses on fundamental issues of decision-making, and it concerns the nature of ultimate value. It also attempts to set standards for judging human actions. Ethics is not concerned with factual knowledge like science and other branches of inquiry are. It relies on normative theories and applies the principles to practical moral problems. A critical comparison is necessary to determine if Kant is the best philosopher.
Philosopher Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas is a veteran Christian philosopher who tried to solemnize the essence of human law in four different types of law. His philosophy is a combination of Christian theology and Aristotelian ethics. He delves further into Christian philosophy by asserting that the world is dependent on its omnipresent Creator. Aquinas recognizes four kinds of law, mainly eternal, natural, human, and divine. Aquinas argues that regulations, in general, cannot repress vices. These laws do not prescribe all acts of virtue. Aquinas argues that a human cannot experience happiness unless he closely unionizes himself with God. True happiness lies in the beatitudes, moral integrity, and mystical union with God. Such union is unattainable to humans due to their inclination towards sin, a propensity inherited from Adam, the first parent.
For this reason, we need not only virtues but also God to transform our inner being. He stresses the role of God’s help in attaining the highest good. A cursory contemplation into Aquinas’ teachings can enlighten one on his perceptions of cardinal virtues. He believes that virtues are general templates of moral activity that guides a person’s character and duty.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant
Kantian view of ethical philosophy is concerned about the fulfillment of the duty, not on the consequences. Kant credited this to the supreme principle of morality or the categorical imperative. He tried to bring out the primary distinction between hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives. The Kantian principle asserts that morality must concern with categorical imperative since it can work on the varying perspectives of the person. Though the categorical imperatives have three different formulations, Kant argues that they share the very same essence. The categorical imperatives emphasize that a person should not do anything himself that he would not be ready to permit anyone else to do. It can thwart the vice goal of a person since the maxim willed will become a universal law. Kant also has a say in the moral worthiness of a person. Kant argues that the person becomes “good” or “bad” not based on the action’s consequences but motivational factors. He asserts that the real moral worth comes only from doing something out of your duty.
If all people act with the right intention, then both of them should be deemed morally worthy irrespective of their consequences. Kantian views of happiness are also not different either. Making oneself happy is of good significance, with no implication of selfishness. Kantian ethics holds that a good person is duty-bound. The overall theme prescribes that a person is morally right if he does good for his goodness sake. The idea of the highest good plays a vital role in Kantian ethics. He defines it as a heterogeneous mixture of virtue and happiness. Kant views virtue only as explicable in terms of dutiful behavior, not as a means to evaluate the character of a person.
Philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Mill
Bentham and Mill tried to view life from a utilitarianism perspective. Bentham, the founding father of the utilitarian concept, asserts that pain and pleasure are the governing factors that determine human acts. He even attempts to quantify the satisfaction sought using hedonistic calculus. The quantifiable factors are duration and extent. He further distinguishes the different thresholds of pleasure. Bentham is solely concerned with the result of the actions. He deems an action morally good or bad based on their happiness producing properties. The basic premise of his concept is that humans must minimize pain and maximize pleasure. He argues that humans obey the masters of pain and pleasure. This quantifying feature of the theory can help solve many vices in society, such as slavery and gender inequality. The concept aims to compare alternative solutions in a more or less critical way. Mill, a follower of Bentham, also argued that happiness is the sole basis of human existence. Mill categorizes pleasure and emphasizes that higher faculties’ pleasures should be weighed more heavily than baser pleasures.
Furthermore, he calls the need for counting people’s achievements as a part of their happiness. Mill differs from Bentham on the distinction he proposes between higher and lower pleasures. They view that the greatest good lies in consideration of the advantage of oneself as well as of others.
Kantian ethics and Bentham-Mill theories are all part of normative theories. However, Kant views ethics from a deontological perspective, while Bentham and Mill were proponents of the utilitarian concept. The Kantian concept differs from Bentham’s idea that he believes in the intrinsic value of moral actions and the duty to do good. Bentham holds the view that actions themselves do not generally carry any intrinsic value, and a person is not bound by duty to do good. He was concerned about the consequences of one’s actions, while Kant upheld the view that only duty and rules should govern our actions. Bentham was concerned about the outcome of both actions and their pain or pleasure factor, while Kant evaluated the act itself. Bentham’s theory takes into account that only moral actions cause happiness. Kant’s view was an attack against the natural theology upheld by Aquinas. However, the two philosophers had a similar idea on the necessity of experience to make a person a believer. They also shared similar views on the way the world works and on a person’s free will.
The philosophers’ defining differences lie with their belief in God’s existence and defining happiness principles. Another distinctive feature is Kant’s belief in transcendental idealism, which is against Aquinas’s deep-rooted theology. The authors cited here had different views on human perceptions of happiness. Kant held an autonomous view on human morality, while Aquinas held a heteronomical view that authorizes an external force to measure human action. Aquinas believed that true happiness is attainable with the mystical union of God, while Kant believed that happiness is a result of doing something out of duty. He strongly criticizes the indulgence of Aquinas regarding happiness. However, Aquinas and utilitarian veterans Bentham agree on the concept of happiness. Though Bentham does not confer the responsibility of joy on God, they both agree that humanly actions aim to be happy. They also believed that the consequences of one’s choice could affect the outcome of determining happiness.
Why Is Kant the Best Philosopher?
After a thorough analysis, it can be argued that Kant is the best philosopher of all. Kant gives the best way to do what one ought to and sorts best the two oughts when they conflict. It is a rational, consistent, and impartial concept that is devoid of loopholes and personal biases. It further values the unique intrinsic worth of the human being. This intrinsic value has helped them create a moral framework for rights and equality, which is traceable in the American constitution. The theory grants full autonomy and the ability to choose moral projects. The moral rights and duties are relatable on an individual and cultural basis. It is devoid of any empirical appeal and inconsistencies. The Kantian view of avoiding consequences helps profoundly in the decision making of ethical issues. These arguments make a Kantian view of philosophy more appealing than others.