Volume 44, 1998
Why Couldn’t Kant Be A Utilitarian?
In his essay "Could Kant Have Been a Utilitarian?", R. M. Hare tries to show that Kant's moral theory contains utilitarian elements and it can be properly asked if Kant could have been a utilitarian, though in fact he was not. I take seriously Hare's challenge to the standard view because I find his reading on the whole reasonable enough to lead to a consistent interpretation of Kant's moral philosophy. Still, I hardly believe that it is necessarily concluded from Hare's reading that Kant could have been a utilitarian. In this paper, I will first show that Hare's interpretation of 'treating a person as an end' as treating a person's ends as our own is reasonable, and so is his reading of 'willing our maxim as a universal law' and 'duties to oneself,' which is based on that interpretation. Then I will argue that Kant couldn't be a utilitarian despite the apparently utilitarian elements in his theory because caring about others' ends (of which happiness is the sum) is a duty. This is so, in Kant's view, not because happiness is valuable in itself, but because it is the sum of those ends set freely by each rational human being who is valuable in itself, that is, an end in itself.