Deontology and Utilitarianism in Today’s world

Utilitarianism and Deontology have influenced the way many things in the modern world work. I view politics to be very similar to Utilitarianism. A lot of times in politics, politicians do things purely to get the most support from the public, which is very similar to trying to attain the greatest total happiness. Many politicians do things to get the public’s approval as well, for example, when Paul Ryan went to a soup kitchen before the most recent election to help clean dishes. It was fairly obvious that he was doing this for publicity, since he was surrounded by cameras, instead of making it just a nice thing to do. I feel that from a Utilitarian perspective, the act Ryan did would be seen as a good act, regardless of his motives. Kant, on the other hand, would have been very disappointed with him because his motives were to just get public approval, not to help out at a soup kitchen. Almost all political campaigns have examples like this, and I think Kant would not be happy with today’s politics.

On the other hand, Kant would be very impressed the military in our country. Since there is no draft in America, almost everyone who joins does so out of duty, and their motives are to help protect their country. This is exactly the goal of Deontology, and having a volunteer system as massive as the US military means that Deontology has had much influence in the way it is run. There is always the fact that people join for money, but there are so many other less demanding jobs that pay similarly that it isn’t much of an argument to say that they don’t join to fight for their country.

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One response to “Deontology and Utilitarianism in Today’s world

  1. saculb2013

    Utilitarianism and Kantism in the American Political System
    The premise of Utilitarianism is definitely prevalent in the American political system. I would agree that the political process and elections themselves have (at least theoretically) some very Consequentialist and Utilitarian aspects to them. I would go further to say that were the populous to vote using Deontology the elected officials would be far less effective and prone to making worse decisions.

    In theory, a voter either will vote for the candidate whom they believe will effect the best consequences for them individually (an egoist philosophy) or for the majority of the people in the country (Utilitarian). Either way the people vote, either for individual or aggregate consequenses, the candidate that wins the election would ideally represent the views of the majority of people in the nation. In this way democratic elections are Utilitarian. Furthermore, for politicians to maintain their position, they must do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in their constituency, or be replaced by a candidate who will effect greater results. Theoretically, because it is results oriented, Utilitarianism would provide more efficient elected officials. As a caveat, we don’t live in an ideal world and because of a bevy of factors, both throughout history and still today, there are candidates elected who do not carry out the Utilitarian view of ‘good’ depending on one’s personal beliefs on what specifically that good is, and the disparity between campaign promises, and actual political action.

    Deontology, and more specifically Kantism, is not as rewarding and beneficial in politics. A voter following deontology would judge the actions and policies of a candidate to be morally right and good as long as their intentions were good. Thus, if policies were enacted with good intention but had poor results, the people in a specific constituency, and even the entire nation could suffer as a result. Take for example American prohibition. It was originally enacted to curb crime, immoral behavior, and domestic violence, which are generally accepted to be negative aspects of society. Thus, Deontological philosophy would argue that prohibition was good. However in reality, because alcohol sales were illegal, organized crime flourished, causing arguably more problems than it solved, as alcohol consumption remained prevalent and crime increased, which would be considered a failure in the Utilitarian respect.

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