Concept of Happiness by John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant

The Prominent Moral Philosophers: John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant

The prominent moral philosophers are John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant. While they were around the same time metaphysical, they included different principles of happiness and ethics. Kant had faith in duty ethics and good will. In contrast with his mission to lead a moral life, Kant contended that happiness is not important. On the opposite, John Stuart Mill, the writer of The Greatest Theory of Happiness, is known for promoting the utilitarian thinking most people appreciate. Irrespective of their discord regarding what comprises a moral undertaking, Mill and Kant are key philosophers whose concepts regarding duty, morality is significant to evaluate analytically. In this way, it will be evident throughout the discussion that Kant thinks that not every individual deserves to be happy as it is not the purpose of morality and consequently disagrees with Mill.

Comparing and Contrasting Mill and Kant's Ideas

In various ways, Mill and Kant's ideas are similar and different particularly in their beliefs about how a moral value undertaking should be considered, the association amid the natural and moral good and the duty in the two instances. In this manner, Kant claimed, "for an action to be moral, it must be undertaken out of duty" (122). This contention is referred to as moral good or moral law that is law is an outcome of reason. Further, Kant identified that are two kinds of feelings sourcing from duty demonstrated in the categorical imperative. Fundamentally, the categorical imperative integrates being driven by maxims that may be regarded as universal laws and continually handing individuals as ends and not. Kant implied that moral choices founded on a greater ideal through acting on maxims that may be regarded as moral law. Nevertheless, the maxim should not be utilizable in the situation. In place of a maxim to being moral and utilizable for every individual otherwise, it is neither a moral law nor morally rational. The object is critical that it unswervingly connects to a sense of obligation. In this case, individuals make choices based on reason but on what best suits them. Therefore, for Kant, moral law and duty are linked closely in the quest to act ethically (Cahn 118). Conversely, Mill evaluates morality differently. Mill contends that the extent of happiness and suffering denotes morality of an undertaking. In this way, Mill argues claims that the outcomes of an undertaking determine its ethics. Mill supposes that an undertaking is good as far as it results in greatest extent of happiness to the largest number individuals (10). Contrary to suffering and pain, happiness according to Mill refers to joy and pleasure. According to Mill, happiness does not essentially spring from an individual's actions. Instead, if an action brings happiness to most individuals, it is ethical. The composition of the morality of an undertaking is its outcome according to Mill. The cause of an act may influence the agent initially but does not concern itself with the outcomes or its ethical standing. It conflicts the common understanding of the reasons behind a sense of care about the experiences of others (Cahn 45). Mill argued that human beings are keen to maintain morality despite its requirement to sacrifice one's happiness. Morals guide individuals to play their role to the extent that little harm occurs to the least number of victims if any. Such internal conflicting forces evidenced by feelings of guilt, regret or mental torture. Utilitarianism, as suggested by Mill posits that causes inner conflicts to an individual if they fail to observe the guiding moral principles. Consequently, one will opt to perform their duty as required by making a selfish decision that is regrettable afterward.

Kant and Mill's Views on Happiness and Suicide

Kant also had his concerns on the origin of happiness. He pointed out that it should not define what is ethical. For instance, some moral choices result in internal sacrifice and pain to individuals. Even though others may be pleased with such performances, it cannot surpass the pain it causes the performer of the duty. Kant sought to determine various forms of happiness and how complying with a moral duty would make one happy. He held happiness as a valuable product of nature. One cannot have it always for himself. Accordingly, rationality is also not the source of pain or unhappiness. Kant justified that reasoning is a just basic responsibility of a person in life and it does not guarantee one from evading or avoiding suffering. Thus, unlike happiness which is a natural good, goodwill is an ethical good stemming from rationality. Kant also presented his ideas concerning suicide (Cahn 156). He argued that taking own life is immoral since it is an individual's responsibility to ensure that they stay alive. However, living to safeguard a life also has no moral value except if the individual is unhappy throughout the lifetime. Accordingly, a person who does not commit suicide but watches over their life in such circumstance is considered to be morally upright. Therefore, the philosopher considered the notion of moral duty to be central in decisions of life, death, and suicide. For a rational man, Kant argued that an application of morals to issues of life would lead him off or into committing suicide. Therefore, he concluded that suicide is immoral since a person is an end and not a means. Furthermore, intentional suicide results from contradictory rationality that leads to immoral actions. John Stuart Mills presents a different perspective of the immorality of suicide. He argued that most situations where persons take their life result from immoral decisions. Mills claimed that life is very essential and one has to live irrespective of the state of their happiness (23). He referred the proposition to as the greatest principle of happiness. For instance, if anyone commits suicide, it results to unhappiness among its relations that surpass any joy such a person can experience. The sorrow expressed by the many well-wishers would outweigh the happiness one gains for killing himself. Kant's theory of suicide has some differences with Mill's thoughts on the topic. Unlike the former, that attributes it to unhappiness with life, the latter associates it with a push for happiness. A sober judgment clears away any thought of suicide considering the principle of utility. Considering happiness as the most important achievement in life would drive one farthest from suicide thoughts because it offers no happiness. Therefore, all cases of suicide are immoral based on the thoughts of both philosophers.

Differentiating Moral and Immoral Actions

On numerous occasions, the distinction immoral and moral is unclear. Kant develops a manner of distinguishing the two through pointing out to a maxim of a scenario and universalizing it. If the maxim is applicable globally or comprises part of an individual's obligations, "the undertaking should be considered as moral" (142). Conversely, Mill supposes a diverse manner of considering scenarios. In place of taking a universal standpoint and strict duty, he proposes the identification of the alternative that will result in ultimate happiness to most individuals. For instance, if the attempt of saving a child will result in more harm compared to good, an individual shall not save the child. In this regard, morality is about the effect that is bringing happiness to most individuals.


In conclusion, the views of Kant and Mill on happiness are compared to the attainment of the 'American dream.' Acquisition of property and material objects does not buy happiness as the people only chase after affective pleasures. Mill pointed out that attainment of pleasure was the core objective in pursuit of happiness. Its fulfillment is the greatest dream that can be attained among the list human wants. Then again, Kant's metaphysical argument opposed Mill's proposition. The philosopher justified his argument of a good will in his book, 'Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals.' Therefore, this study brings forth varied propositions of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mills on the role of happiness in life. It identifies the thin lines dividing rationality from logic and emotions from pleasures. Similarities and contrasts are drawn between utilitarianism and Kant's theory of morality. Both of them seek to understand the processes of making morally acceptable choices. Further, they measure morality and use rules differently. Similarly, moral duties are perceived in differing measures by Kant and Mills. For instance, Immanuel justified an action as ethical if it was someone's duty or a true course by all. Accordingly, an individual is deemed as moral if he or she does something that falls in their responsibilities and believes that the whole world would expect the same to be done.

Work Cited

Top of FormCahn, Steven M. Happiness, and Goodness: Philosophical Reflections on Living Well. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. Print. Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Hutchinson University Library, 1972. Mill, John Stuart. "Utilitarianism. 14." Digitalized under (1863).

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price