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Why Kant Could not Have Been a Utilitarian


In 1993, Richard Hare argued that, contrary to received opinion, Kant could have been a utilitarian. In this article, I argue that Hare was wrong. Kant's theory would not have been utilitarian or consequentialist even if his practical recommendations coincided with utilitarian commands: Kant's theory of value is essentially anti-utilitarian; there is no place for rational contradiction as the source of moral imperatives in utilitarianism; Kant would reject the move to separate levels of moral thinking: first-order moral judgement makes use of the principle of morality; and, relatedly, he would resist the common utilitarian distinction between actions and their motives because any correct description of an action must refer to motivation. The article concludes with the thought that any consequentialist theory based on pre-given ends (teleology) lacks the philosophical resources to distinguish between willing something as a means and as an end, leaving means only, and destroying transparency.

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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