Kantian Ethics Revision Quiz

Questions (answers below)

1. What Century did Immanual Kant formulate his ethical theory and what nationality was Kant?


2. What quote can be used to sum up his theory?

3. Distinguish between the categorical and hypothetical imperative and give examples.

4. Why is the moral law, according to Kant, categorical?

5. How many formulations does he give of the categorical imperative, what are they and why does Kant give them?

6. Explain the formulations of the categorical imperative – what do they mean?

7. How many example of the first formulation are they? and what are they?

8. What is the distinction between duty and inclination?

9. By doing our duty what do we achieve?

10. Give 3 strengths and weaknesses of Kantian Ethics.


1. 18th C and he was German.

2. ‘Two things, above all others, fill the mind with ever increasing awe and wonder: the starry heavens above and the moral law within”

3. The Hypothetical Imperative looks to an outcome e.g. ‘Do your revision and you will get an A’ and the Categorical Imperative is an absolute command which does not look to an outcome e.g. ‘Do your revision’.

4. Because it was hypothetical it would not be universal – so if it said be moral so you can go to heaven it would be changeable and not universal as some people may not wish to go to heaven.

5. Three: (i) Universalisability (ii) Means to an end and (iii) Kingdom of ends – these are three ways given to understand the same moral law – categorical imperative.

6. Universalisability – only commit to an action that if the rest of the world did would be logical and sustainable. Means to an end – do not use people as a mere means to an end, rather you should respect and give then the same respect you give yourself. Kingdom of ends – if as a lawmaker of the world you could put your action into legislation then the action is moral. 

7. 4 – 2 are perfect duties (contradiction in conception) – do not commit suicide and do not commit false-promising and 2 are imperfect duties (contradiction in the will) – fulfil your own potential and gives others happiness.

8. Duty is what we ought to do and inclination is what we want to do (they don’t always conflict).

9. Goodwill because we eliminate selfish interests.

10. See post on strengths & weaknesses. 

Strengths and Weaknesses of Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism Bentham – Act Utilitarianism Mill – Rule Utilitarianism
Strengths (Bentham 2 – 5 taken from Wiki answers ) 1. Easy to use – clear criteria and offers a systematic approach to ethics.

2. Utilitarianism cannot be faulted on its morals as it clearly seeks the happiness and fairness for the largest number of people, which has always been an important consideration in the works of government and other major powers, as well as in everyone’s everyday life.

3. Designed for global politics unlike Kantian ethics.
Also, it considers the consequences of all actions, which is key in building a civilized society. If people were not aware of consequences then there would be no deterrent to commit crime.

4. Also, it encourages a democratic approach to decision making, and minorities are not allowed to dominate.

5. It does not rely on any controversial or unverifiable theological or metaphysical claims or principals, so it is accessible to everyone.

1. Mill considers emotions a form of higher pleasure which is a strength because it can make the theory a little less impartial and allow more room for emotions. In the house on fire example (Bentham Weakness 3) Mill could possibly allow you to save your mother arguing  your emotions are a higher pleasure and since he gives no explanation of what to do if pleasures clash we could justice the saving of the mother.

2. Mill’s idea of creating generalized rules makes the theory more objective and provides us a means to creating universal rules.

Weaknesses 1. Difficult to predict consequences e.g. if you plan to hit someone you might predict that they will be upset because 99.9% of the time this is the result however, what if the person turns out to enjoy it and get pleasure out of pain – all you consequences are wrong!

2.Utilitarianism is a demanding theory as something as simple as buying an ice-cream can be deemed immoral because you know that the money could be spent elsewhere in order to get the greatest good for the greatest number.

3. Some critics argue it is too impartial – if a house was on fire and you could only save your mother or the world’s best sergeant you would according to the PoU (principle of utility) have to save the sergeant. No room for emotions. John Rawls advocates this criticisms pointing out that it could support a more dictatorial society just because it produces the greatest amount of pleasure.

4.Utilitarianism is subjective – what is moral for one person isn’t the same for another implying that no such universal law system can exist.

5. Utilitarianism implies that everyone has a moral faculty (awareness that gives us a sense of moral judgement) and not everyone has this young kids, disables persons etc. This alienates people from the theory.

6.Bentham and Mill both commit a naturalistic fallacy according to G.E.Moore, just because something is desirable and produces a lot of pleasure does not imply that we ought to pursue that action.

1. Difficult to predict consequences e.g. if you plan to hit someone you might predict that they will be upset because 99.9% of the time this is the result however, what if the person turns out to enjoy it and get pleasure out of pain – all you consequences are wrong!

2. Utilitarianism is a demanding theory as something as simple as buying an ice-cream can be deemed immoral because you know that the money could be spent elsewhere in order to get the greatest good for the greatest number.

3. Utilitarianism implies that everyone has a moral faculty (awareness that gives us a sense of moral judgement) and not everyone has this young kids, disables persons etc. This alienates people from the theory.

4. Mill makes several elitist claims e.g. for example it is better to a dis-satisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig (comparing not so intelligent people to pigs), claiming that the higher your moral faculty the more difficult to find pleasure (as not so intelligent people are satisfied with almost anything). Yet what Mill fails to acknowledge is if through utilitarian values a pig can be satisfied then this devalues the intellectual ability of all humans.

5. Mill uses non-utilitarian values such as justice (supreme moral good) and from this we can infer that there are more important things than happiness and this inference destroys the foundation of utilitarianism.

6. As mentioned previously, Mill does not discuss what happens if rules/higher pleasure conflict. Adding to the ambiguous nature of utilitarianism.

7. Furthermore, given that the rules are generalized and formulated through experience this means that they are not absolute and can be broken. But it is difficult to see how one would know when an exception could be added and if we keeping using exceptions and don’t make Mill’s utilitarianism rigid then this some scholars imply collapse it back to act utilitarianism. E.g. the rule tell the truth unless a lie produces more pleasure isn’t that essentially Bentham’s form.

8. No two moral situations are exactly the same so how can rules based on past different (Albeit similar) circumstances helps us with new situations?

9. Moreover, Mill argues that a competent judge would always pick higher pleasures over lower pleasures yet this is not true for all circumstances e.g. if Mill was somehow stranded in a desert he would not pursuit poetry or imagination he would pursue drinking water – which is a lower pleasure- doesn’t this mean he has an infirmity of the mind?

10. Bentham and Mill both commit a naturalistic fallacy according to G.E.Moore, just because something is desirable and produces a lot of pleasure does not imply that we ought to pursue that action.

Quiz on Act and Rule Utilitarianism

Please find answers below.

1. What is the Hedonic Calculus and another name for it?

2. Distinguish between higher and lower pleasure giving examples.

3. Which utilitarian theory focuses upon the quantity of pleasure and which on the quality of pleasure?

4. What are 4 components of the hedonic calculus?

5. What does Bentham believe is the supreme moral good and Mill? Does Mill agree?

6. If you pick a lower pleasure over a higher pleasure what are you said to have?

7. What is Mill’s famous quote (hint. think pig)

8. How would you describe Utilitarianism?

9. What are three strengths of Utilitarianism (Act or Rule)?

10. What are three Weaknesses of Utilitarianism (Act or Rule)?



1. Felicific Calculus –  this is a calculation used by the universal hedonists to calculate how much pleasure an action produces.

2. Higher pleasure are those of the mind e.g. feelings, imagination and intellectual pursuits. Lower pleasures are bodily pleasures e.g. sex, drinking and eating.

3. Bentham’s Act utilitarianism focuses upon the quantity of pleasure and Mill’s Rule utilitarianism focuses upon the quality of pleasure.

4. Any 4 from: (i) Remoteness (ii) Certainty (iii)Fecundity (iv)Purity (v)Intensity (vi)Duration (vii) Extent

5. Bentham believes the supreme moral good is happiness and Mill disagrees saying it is justice.

6. An infirmity of the mind.

7. “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied”.

8. Secular, Consequentialist and Teleological theory.

9 and 10. For list of strengths and Weaknesses see my other post.

Euthanasia: Sanctity of life vs. Quality of life

Sanctity of Life and Quality of Life in relation to euthanasia.


Euthanasia literally translates from the Greek as “good death” but it is more commonly defined as the intentional premature ending of life. There are four types.


Euthanasia can be one of two types; voluntary and involuntary


Voluntary = When individual requests for their life to be prematurely ended


Involuntary = When the individuals consent is not taken into account – even if the individual can make a consent.


There are two methods of terminating a life than can be classified as euthanasia


Active – this is when deliberate drugs are given to bring death


Passive – this is when drugs and other machinery on which the individual is reliant are withdrawn in order to hasten death.

What is the Sanctity of Life (SoL) argument?

The SoL argument states that human life is valuable in itself. According to SoL all life is worthy of RESPECT and REVERENCE and is intrinsically worthwhile. This implies all life is equal and we have a duty to protect it.

Ties with Christianity…

Christians sometimes use this argument to found some of the their ethics (particularly medical ones) because ‘the body is the temple of the holy spirit’.



The SoL principle is crucial to the catholic position. According to Natural Law any form of euthanasia should not be allowed because it conflicts the first primary precept of life – to live the supreme good. However, now it is recognised that not everyone can handle suffering physically and psychologically, it is impractical to assume that. So even though ‘suffering has a special place in God’s plan of salvation’ and it conflicts the primary precept, the Doctrine of double effect can be used to justify some acts. If the intention is to reduce pain by giving medication not to end the individuals life it can be justified as moral. The church distinguishes between ordinary and extraordinary means and euthanasia is an extraordinary means which can occasionally be used.



– Avoids ‘group’ pressure and power of using euthanasia for selfish reasons
– Includes Christian teachings of love and compassion


– Outdated – not practical for a world where world population is exponentially growing.

– It is unclear then when this extraordinary means can be utilised.


Quality of Life


The Quality of Life principle essentially uses the ideas about Personhood to argue when people are considered persons and their life is worthwhile living.


Daniel Maguire


Maguire who is a professor of Theology argues that saying that God creates life and can only destroy it implies that we are his property. He says that we intervene to save and preserve life  and there is no real difference between than and euthanasia because they both have the goal of ending life with a good death. 


Peter Singer


Singer says we should move away from the SoL ethic because it is leading to people having a low quality of life. An individual can judge them self whether euthanasia is appropriate and if they are in a position where they can’t consent someone else must do it for them depending on the quality of their life which could be measured medically. 

He puts forward five new commandments which he believes we should abide by:

1. Human beings do not possess equal worth

2. Accept responsibilities for the consequence for our actions

3. Bring children into the world only if they are wanted

4. Do not discriminate on the basis of species

5. Respect a persons wishes to live or die

Number 5 obviously tells us how Singer feels towards euthanasia.




– By focusing on the quality of life, we are approaching the topic more practically  in the 21st century.



-Individuals in Permanent Vegetative State and other forms of suffering can be sometimes seem as a life not worth living. But this has further implication such as that many disabled and handicapped people have a life which is also not worth living – this does not sit well with the vast majority of people.

The Right to Life & Euthanasia


Arguments for euthanasia

The Right to a Life 

As part of our lives we have a human right to live, this is also identified by most ethical theories such as Natural Law and Kant’s deontological theory of ethics. Dying is a part of living so the right to life prescribe a right to die. This means that people should be able to chose when to die and hence voluntary euthanasia should be allowed.

Just like we have a right to live, we also have a right not to be killed as it conflicts our right to live. This implies that other forms of euthanasia are perhaps immoral and dangerous. So there is a right not to be killed (taking life) but there is no right which says one must be saved – implying that passive forms of euthanasia are acceptable too.

It is easy to argue that active euthanasia is immoral because it is essentially killing but James Rachels (American philosopher) argues that passive was much worse. He says this is because it is long and drawn out, it brings about more suffering than necessary for the sane result – a dead patient.

Many people are frightened of accepting euthanasia because they believe it is a slippery road towards devaluing people’s lives. However, if we look at places like Netherlands and Switzerland where euthanasia is practiced the value of life is not low, not like Nazi Germany! Helga Kuhse (an Australian utilitarian and bio ethicist) advocates this view.

Patient autonomy 

John Stuart Mill would support voluntary euthanasia as he supports the argument that people should have a right to make their own decisions even about death.

Ethical Responses to Euthanasia


Act: Bentham would use the hedonic calculus to work out what the right thing to do is. Often in cases of euthanasia the pain is so great that Bentham would be for it as euthanasia is produces the greatest good for the greatest number.

Rule: Mill would agree with euthanasia because he held firm beliefs in the sovereignty of individual. He would however, look at each situation individually, e.g. Thomas Hyde who has the same condition as Steven Hawking ALS  would say that even though the body is dead the brain isn’t which is a higher pleasure and so the act of euthanasia would not be acting on the GHP.

 Singer – Singer was very much in favor of the QoL argument saying we should replace the outdate SoL principle with 5 new commandments:

  1. All humans do not possess equal worth
  2. We should take responsibility for out actions
  3. By saying humans are greater than animals we are committing specism 
  4. Bring children only in this world if they are wanted
  5. Respect a persons wishes to live or die

The last commandment particularly forces us to accept euthanasia as a morally permissible act.


In order to work out Kant’s response to the ethics concerning euthanasia we must explore how they would fit in with the three formulations of the Categorical Imperative.

1. Universalization

It would be absurd to say it is logical to universalize a law such as ‘I should help X die’ as that would imply that everyone is being helped to die. A claim like ‘ I should help X die if they are in  terrible pain and request to do so’ makes more sense if you are a Kantian and wish to embrace euthanasia. The problem is euthanasia is essentially form of suicide [assisted] and Kant gives the example of suicide being a perfect duty – something we should in no circumstances do.

2. Means to an end

By committing euthanasia we may be using the ill patient as a means to an end so we may be using it to cut costs, use the medical equipment etc for someone else, to be free of constantly visiting the hospital etc and Kant would say this is wrong. Some scholars however argue that euthanasia uses a person as an end in themselves because one is respecting their wishes. However, the problem is Kant clearly states that suicide is an immoral act and lists it as a perfect duty.

3. Kingdom of ends.

Here Kant says we should as though we were making the maxims into laws of nature and obviously euthanasia could not be a law of nature because it is unnatural and hence immoral.

Natural Law

Natural Law follows similar principles to the SoL principle. One of the primary precepts is to live – life the supreme good. This implies that secondary precepts which are absolute can be formed such as do not kill or commit suicide. As euthanasia is clearly a form of killing or suicide then Natural Law ethicists would be against it. However, it isn’t as absolute as Kant because the principle of double effect exists. If you overdose a patient with morphine with an intention to reduce pain and suffering but the by product is death – this can still justify euthanasia.

Situation ethics

A Christian God is personal one hence each situation should be looked at personally bar an legal rules and regulations. In many of these situations the most loving thing to do is to commit euthanasia and hence euthanasia can be accepted as a situation ethicist.

Religious Ethics


    • Job “God gives and God takes away”
  • Countless passages on SoL 
  • The body is the temple of the Holy Sprit 

All these hint towards a case against euthanasia


They see abortion and euthanasia as murder and hence it is immoral.

They believe in the strong SoL principle.

Church of England

    • Weak SoL
  • Recognises that in some situations it is necessary

Salvation army 

Direct challenge to Mill because they believe in the sovereignty of God.