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Categoricalism, Contractualism and Utilitarianism

Three schools of thoughts on morality and philosophy are Categoricalism, Contractualism and Utilitarianism. Each attempts to define ethical living and is one the building blocks of modern philosophy.

Categoricalism basically says if something is ok for me to do it, then it must be ok for the masses, or everybody. Conversely, is something isn’t ok for me to do, and then it follows that it isn’t ok for everyone as well. The concept of Catergoricalism comes from Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant, who was very influential on modern philosophy. The idea is that we should act as if everyone did the same and don’t put ourselves above other people.

Contractualism originated from the writings of Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher who wrote a booked named Leviathan. The concept of contractualism starts in the state of nature that is the time before ethics and according to Hobbs; humanity is in a war of all against all. Without contracts that define how we should act, all chaos would break out and everyone would be out for themselves without any consequences. Ethics are basically agreements that people have between each other that govern how they will act.

Utilitarianism is about how much happiness and suffering you create for everyone through your actions. Originating from the writings of English philosopher John Stuart Mill, utilitarianism states that which results in the happiness of the greatest number of people is the greatest good. Happiness is the end all that people desire and if they live by a moral code that focuses on creating happiness, they achieve the greatest utility. An example of utilitarian thinking and justification would be the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan that ended World War II. The amount of people killed was far less than would have resulted if we had to invade Japan.


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