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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Utilitarianism

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In recent months, the world has witnessed a global catastrophe that seems to only occur when human beings cannot see eye to eye. A catastrophe that has occurred repeatedly since the beginning of mankind. A catastrophe known by all as “war”. There are wars that are being created every day and there are wars that are being fought continuously. In every war, innocent people die and good people kill. As always, controversy surrounds war and the views of the people who believe whether it’s morally right or wrong. I will use examples of the United States sending Marines to Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s regime in order to better support the two ideas.


However, the decision to send in the Marines for the purpose of war has many different philosophical interpretations. One might send in Marines to calm the people, restore order, give food, supply medicines, or to just simply kill. I will attempt to give a Utilitarian and Kantian view on the subject of war and more importantly, the idea of sending in Marines for the sole purpose of killing.


Utilitarian generally view an action as “good” or “moral” when the action creates happiness for greatest amount of people or more accurately, the moral predicates the act. A utilitarian would view the action of sending in Marines as a potential righteous act or a plain act of aggression. If the United States sent Marines into Iraq in order to kill and to harm many innocent people then a Utilitarian would view that action as wrong or unjust. A Utilitarian viewpoint might suggest that Marines going into another country and killing people is immoral due to the fact that most people would not have any happiness to gain by hundreds of deaths. Marines killing soldiers or civilians would cause distress amongst nearly everyone including themselves. Utilitarian might also disagree with sending in troops if the objective is not to protect the Iraqi or American people. The United States might have ulterior motives (and most military objectives usually do) that only create happiness to those in power. For example, the United States may only be invading Iraq in order to seize oil fields or other installations. If this were to be the case, a Utilitarian view would suggest that the act is immoral since very few people would gain happiness and an exponential amount of people would be terribly hurt. If the objective were to still produce a democracy in Iraq regardless of ulterior motives then the Utilitarian view might still be a favorable one. The only people who might have anything to gain from the whole experience is the Iraqi civilians who would gain their freedom if all else aside.


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However, Americans and others might have something to gain as well. Americans would enjoy better security as well as the comfort in knowing that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. Americans may also enjoy the comfort in knowing that there are no longer plants in Iraq that are producing weapons of mass destruction. Americans would be elated to know that their oil and gasoline prices would fall due to the collapse of the Iraqi government. Iraqis who live in America or other countries besides Iraq would also enjoy their own happiness when they learn that their relative isn’t unjustly behind bars or even worse because of the Iraqi regime.


In summary, I believe that Utilitarian would find that sending in Marines to kill for the general welfare of the world as a positive move that would create happiness for all people in the long run. Utilitarian view bases their decisions on outcomes or consequences. With thought, one might find that the consequences of not taking Saddam out of power would lead to a greater and more devastating consequence than any other action taken against him.


In comparison, a Kantian view might suggest that sending Marines into Iraq is not the moral or right move to make depending on the mentality of the group or person who makes the decision. Kant would let nature take its own course unless otherwise governed by law. Kant believes in a categorical imperative, which is to say that there is an imperative that commands a certain conduct immediately, without having any other purpose attained by it. It does not concern the matter of the action, or its intended result, but by its principle from which it is itself a result. What might be good about the decision rests solely on the mental disposition and let the consequences be what it may. This is to say that Kant would not take action against Iraq or Saddam Hussein’s regime. Kant would rather let leaders do how they feel and let possible consequences become reality. It is as though Kant relies on fate rather than immediate actions to change a proposed outcome. Kant believes that if one feels it is his or her duty to do something then it is done in good will. If the United States feels it is their duty to enter Iraq and form a democracy from it then Kant would suggest that the action be done in good will or an appropriate manner. Kant does not care about the consequences as long as the action is performed under the duty of the actor. This is not to say that Kant does not disagree with any actions if they are believed to be someone’s duty. Kant believes the action is done in good will if the action is universal law as stated within his categorical imperative. Sending in Marines would be justified in Kant’s view if and only if it was the duty of America to do so. Kant’s problem is that he cares nothing about consequences and that’s something one must not overlook when dealing with millions of lives.


In conclusion, I believe that the Utilitarian view is the most plausible when applied to the sending of Marines to war. In my example, sending Marines to Iraq, it is easy to see that there is much more happiness to gain by having Marines sent in than if they were not deployed. After sending Marines to Iraq you would probably end up with a happy utilitarian and an Immanuel Kant who really doesn’t care one way or the other as long as it’s the United States’ duty to free the Iraqi people.





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