Since we missed our tutorial today, here’s an exercise you might like to try:

[Strictly speaking, since we are dealing with specific actions and situations, this is applied ethics and not part of your syllabus. However, thinking about such matters can help us develop our understanding of theoretical ethics, in particular, over here, of the Utilitarian and Kantian theories].

Cinderella has been unfaithful to her Prince. She kissed another guy – only once, and it will never happen again, she promises! She was drunk on her newly obtained freedom and wasn’t thinking straight. This guy was a foreigner and already caught the plane home, and nobody else knows what happened. So there’s very little chance, if any, of her Prince ever finding out about the kiss – except through her. 

On the other hand, she feels she ought to tell him what happened. A relationship should be built on trust and honesty, not half-truths and deceit. She loves him very much and is looking forward to a long life of happiness with him. She certainly does not want to hurt him…

What can be said about this situation from:

1) A Kantian perspective

a. Think about what Cinderella’s true intentions are, why she wants/ does not want to tell the Prince what happened. What would be a ‘good will’ in this case?

b. What is Cinderella’s duty according to reason? Think about the Categorical Imperatives – the Universalizability Test, and Principle of Respect for Persons.

2) A Utilitarian perspective

a. What are the consequences of Cinderella telling/ not telling the Prince? How far ahead should she think? For example, should she worry about having caught herpes and passing it on to her Prince?

b. What would Cinderella conclude, do you think, if she made a decision based on the Greatest Happiness Principle?

Can these two perspectives be combined into one approach? Can you write a ‘maxim’ for Cinderella to follow which satisfies Kantian and Utilitarian criteria for moral actions?

Post any questions or answers here