Applications of Categorical Imperative and the Greatest Happiness Principle in Law The concept of law in every society is substantially impressionable and must be debated upon and well thought of, taking all aspects of morals and ethics into consideration…
Two particular theories or principles that have been applied in law are Categorical Imperative (CI) by Immanuel Kant and the Greatest Happiness Principle (GHP) by Stuart Mill. Kant’s categorical imperative theory provides a way of evaluating the motives behind an action. According to Kant1 (27), an imperative refers to any proposition that declares a particular action or inaction as necessary. Obligations and duties are therefore derived from these imperatives. On the other hand, a categorical imperative refers to a requirement that is absolute and unconditional, and asserts its authority in all conditions. A violation of the categorical imperatives constitutes immorality. CI sets duty as an act done out of respect for the moral law (Kant2 54). In relation to this, the moral worth of an action cannot be derived from its consequences. This means that the source of moral worth of an action is the ground principle or reason under which an act is performed irrespective of the desired outcomes or all other aspects. From these explanations, an action can only be said to have moral content if it was done with an absolute regard of a sense of moral duty. Kant applies a deontological approach in his ideas. For example, an action is only termed as being moral if it possesses a certain universal value. A maxim refers to a ground principle of action or a ground rule. In Kant’s CI, a certain intention is merged with this maxim in order to become law. According to Kant, the duties, in this case the CI, are established by the law and a motivation to fulfill our CI is basically a respect of the state laws. This means that motivation to fulfill the outlined duties is an indication of the respect of whatever law that makes that action to be a duty (Anthony 29). On his part, Mill described justice as a component of law in terms of utilitarian functions. According to Mill utilitarianism refers to a standard of morality whose ultimate goal is to achieve happiness with the majority of the population (Mill 16). Mill summarizes utilitarianism through his principle of the Greatest Happiness. This principle holds that an act is correct if it tends to promote happiness and if it produces the reverse of happiness, then that action is wrong. Happiness here refers to the absence of pain and the achievement of intended pleasure. Pain and privation of happiness form the components of unhappiness (Mill 16). From the above explanation on utilitarianism, it is evident that in the Greatest Happiness Principle, it is not the happiness of the individual agent that matters. Instead, it is the happiness that will be achieved for all. Utilitarianism can therefore attain its goal, in relation to law, by cultivating the nobleness of the people so that all people are in a position to benefit from the honors of others. The principle of the greatest happiness requires that we shift our focus from our individual happiness towards ends and objects. An example of this is doing others good as noted by Brink (90). This means one should seek to improve the lives of others as a way of making them happy. The law usually outlines rules to be followed by a group of people and punishments that follow a breach of these rules. The Greatest Happiness Principle does not oppose the administration of corrective measures for those who break the law. Although the theory acknowledges that punishment does not bring the greatest happiness, it accepts that punishment is a necessary sacrifice whose end is a maximization ...
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