Marx says of alienated labor that it does not "belong" to the worker, that it issues in a product that does not belong to her, and that it is unfulfilling, unfree, egoistically motivated, and inhuman. He seems to think, moreover, that the first of these features grounds all the others. All of these features seem quite independent, however: they can come apart; they share no obvious common cause or explanation; and if they often occur together this seems accidental. It is (...) not clear, then, how Marx's concept of alienated labor could possess the strong unity which he takes it to have. I defend a reinterpretation of the concept which explains this unity. The various features of alienated labor, I argue, all follow from a single, hitherto underappreciated feature of its formal motivational structure: the fact that such labor is motivated not by its product but by an incentive. (shrink)
In this article I draw on resources from the African philosophical tradition to construct a theory of human rights grounded on dignity that presents a challenge to the globally dominant, autonomy-based approach. Whereas the latter conceives of human rights violations as degradations of our rational nature, the former does so in terms of degradations of our relational nature, specifically, our capacity to be party to harmonious or friendly relationships. Although I have in the past presented the basics of the Afro-relational (...) approach, in this article I defend it from objections and also go on the offensive by arguing that understanding the human rights violations of torture and rape to be (roughly) behavior that treats innocent parties in an extremely discordant or unfriendly way is, if not more plausible than standard Kantian understandings, then at least a promising alternative to them. (shrink)
Kant famously claims that there is only a single supreme principle of morality: the Categorical Imperative. This claim is often treated with skepticism. After all, Kant proceeds to provide no fewer than six formulations of this purportedly single supreme principle—formulations which appear to differ significantly. But appearances can be deceptive. In this paper, I argue that Kant was right. There is only a single Categorical Imperative, and each of its formulations expresses the very same moral principle.
What explains why we are subjects for whom objects can have value, and what explains which objects have value for us? Axiologicians say that the value of humanity is the answer. I argue that our value, no matter what it is like, cannot perform this task. We are animals among others. An explanation of the value of objects for us must fit into an explanation of the value of objects for animals generally. Different objects have value for different animals. Those (...) differences depend on differences in animal natures and, in particular, on the diverse characteristic capacities of different animals. Once we invoke animal natures, there is nothing for the value of animality, including the value of humanity, to explain. (shrink)
In this discussion note, I aim to reconstruct and assess Korsgaard's recent attempt to extend her regress argument. I begin, in section 1, with a brief recapitulation of the regress argument. Then, in section 2, I turn to the extension. I argue that the extension does not work because Korsgaard cannot rule out the possibility--a possibility for which there is both empirical evidence and argumentative pressure coming directly from the original regress--that we value animality in ourselves qua animality of rational (...) beings. (shrink)
Many people find comparisons of the value of persons distasteful, even immoral. But what can be said in support of the claim that persons have incomparable worth? This chapter considers an argument purporting to show that the value of persons is incomparable because it is so great—because it is infinite. The argument rests on two claims: that the value of our capacity for valuing must equal or exceed the value of things valued and that our capacity for valuing is unbounded (...) in a very strong sense. After laying out this argument, I consider its implications for how we should regard each other. In particular, I suggest that it complicates efforts to understand morality as a system of principles. Instead, I propose that an aesthetic attitude, not unlike our experience of the sublime, is an apt response to humanity’s infinite value. -/- . (shrink)
Kant’s Formula of Humanity can be analyzed into two parts. One is an injunction to treat humanity always as an end. The other is a prohibition on using humanity as a mere means. The second is often referred to as the FH prohibition or the mere means prohibition. It has become popular to interpret this prohibition in terms of consent. The idea is that, if X uses Y's humanity as a means and Y does not consent to it, then X (...) uses Y's humanity as a mere means. There is then debate about the kind of consent that is relevant: possible, actual, or rational. In this paper, I argue against this interpretation. Section one sets up the consent account. Section two attacks possible and actual consent accounts on doctrinal grounds. Section three extends this doctrinal attack to rational consent accounts. Section four circles back to the original motivation for the consent interpretation. I argue that the consent account rests on a misinterpretation, and I conclude with a quick sketch of an alternative interpretation of the FH prohibition. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to show that, if Kant’s universalization formulations of the Categorical Imperative are our only standards for judging right from wrong and permissible from impermissible, then we have no obligations. I shall do this by examining five different views of how obligations can be derived from the universalization formulations and arguing that each one fails. I shall argue that the first view rests on a misunderstanding of the universalization formulations; the second on a misunderstanding of (...) the concept of an obligation; the third on a misunderstanding of the concept of a maxim; the fourth on a misunderstanding of the limits of action description; and the fifth on a misunderstanding of the universalization formulations again. (shrink)
This open access book revises Kant’s ethical thought in one of its most notorious respects: its exclusion of animals from moral consideration. The book gives readers in animal ethics an accessible introduction to Kant’s views on our duties to others, and his view that we have only ‘indirect’ duties regarding animals. It then investigates how one would have to depart from Kant in order to recognise that animals matter morally for their own sake. Particular attention is paid to Kant’s ‘Formula (...) of Humanity,' the role of autonomy and the moral law, as well as Kant’s notions of practical reason and animal instinct. The result is a deliberately amended version of Kantianism which nevertheless remains faithful to central aspects of Kant’s thought. The book’s final part illustrates the framework’s use in applied contexts, addressing the issues of using animals as mere means, the ethics of veganism and vegetarianism, and environmental protection. Nico Dario Müller shows how, when furnished with duties to animals, Kant's moral philosophy can be a powerful resource for animal ethicists. (shrink)
Kant’s argument against suicide is widely dismissed by scholars and often avoided by teachers because it is deemed inconsistent with Kant’s moral philosophy. This paper attempts to show a way to make sense of Kant’s injunction against suicide that is consistent with his moral system. One of the strategies adopted in order to accomplish my goal is a de-secularization of Kant’s ethics. I argue that all actions of self-killing (or suicide) are morally impermissible because they are inconsistent with God’s established (...) nature and order. It is argued that the existence of God as the locus of moral value and duty in Kant’s moral system, and not belief in God, can explain the consistency of Kant’s injunction against suicide. A synergistic view is offered, which rests on three arguments: First, suicide goes against God’s authority. Second, suicide is inconsistent with our self-perpetuating nature. Third, suicide goes against the rational will. (shrink)
This chapter presents new findings about Maria von Herbert's life. Building on this, an interpretation is offered of what she means when she calls upon Kant "for solace ... or for counsel to prepare [her] for death". It is then argued that Kant's reply is more satisfactory than is commonly appreciated, as he explicitly defines the roles which he is prepared to adopt – that of a "moral physician" and of a "mediator" -- and thus the standards by which to (...) judge his reply. Having said that, his letter does not address what has been viewed as a challenge to Kantian ethics. It is a matter of dispute what exactly this challenge consists in. This chapter identifies the challenge and the terms in which it is most productively stated. Finally, it provides sufficient reasons to establish that a portrait that resurfaced in November 2016 does indeed depict Maria von Herbert. (shrink)
The chapter deals with the two most distinctive elements of the Introduction of the Naturrecht Feyerabend, namely the notions of an end in itself and autonomy. I shall argue that both are to be interpreted with regard to the aim of explaining the ground of right. In this light, I suggest that the notion of an end in itself counters a voluntarist conception like Achenwall’s with a claim whose necessity has a twofold ground: First, the representation of an unconditional worth (...) emerges as a structural element of the practical use of reason. Second, that representation concerns the necessary self-understanding of moral subjects. Finally, I argue that the other distinctive element, the occurrence of the notion of autonomy, is best understood as an application of that idea to a specific issue, which Kant addresses by showing that freedom is a self-regulating domain. (shrink)
This chapter presents arguments for two slightly different versions of the thesis that the value of persons is incomparable. Both arguments allege an incompatibility between the demands of a certain kind of practical reasoning and the presuppositions of value comparisons. The significance of these claims is assessed in the context of the “Numbers problem”—the question of whether one morally ought to benefit one group of potential aid recipients rather than another simply because they are greater in number. It is argued (...) that many of the popular approaches to this problem—even ones that avoid the aggregation of personal value—are imperiled by the incomparability theses. -/- . (shrink)
This paper discusses Kant’s prospect of ‘hope’ that entangles with interrelated epistemic terms like belief, faith, knowledge, etc. The first part of the paper illustrates the boundary of knowing in the light of a Platonic analysis to highlight the distinction between empiricism and rationalism. Kant’s notion of ‘transcendent metaphysical knowledge’, a path-breaking way to look at the metaphysical thought, can fit with the regulative principle that seems favoruable to the experience-centric knowledge. The second part of the paper defines ‘hope’ as (...) an interwoven part of belief, besides ‘hope’ as a component of ‘happiness' can persuade the future behaviours of the individuals. Revisiting Kant’s three categorizations of hopes (eschatological hope, political hope, and hope for the kingdom of ends), the paper traces out Kant’s good will as a ‘hope’ and his conception of humanity. (shrink)
We discuss Kant’s conception of beneficence against the background of the overdemandingness debate. We argue that Kant’s conception of beneficence constitutes a sweet spot between overdemandingess and undemandingess. To this end we defend four key claims that together constitute a novel interpretation of Kant’s account of beneficence: 1) for the same reason that we are obligated to be beneficent to others we are permitted to be beneficent to ourselves; 2) we can prioritise our own ends; 3) it is more virtuous (...) to do more rather than less when it comes to helping others; and 4) indifference to others is vicious. Finally, we explain how this represents a system of duties that gives our personal ends a moral standing without unacceptably moralising them. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss the problem of the Kantian line. The problem arises because the locus of value in Kantian ethics is rationality, which (counterintuitively) seems to entail that there are no duties to groups of beings like children. I argue that recent attempts to solve this problem by Wood and O’Neill overlook an important aspect of it before posing my own solution.
MMA fighting in a competition is not necessarily wrong and is often, as far as we can tell, permissible. Our argument has two premises. First, if an act does not infringe on anyone’s moral right or violate another side-constraint, then it is morally permissible. Second, MMA-violence does not infringe on anyone’s moral right or violate another side-constraint. The first premise rested on two assumptions. First, if a person does a wrong act, then he wrongs someone. Second, if one person wrongs (...) a second, then the first infringes on the second’s right. We then looked at Nicholas Dixon’s powerful Kantian argument that MMA fighting is wrong. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals ranks alongside Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics as one of the most profound and influential works in moral philosophy ever written.
It is often argued that Kantian and consequentialist approaches to the philosophy of punishment differ on the question of whether using punishment to achieve deterrence is morally acceptable. I show that this is false: both theories judge it to be acceptable. Showing this requires attention to what the Formula of Humanity in Kant requires agents to do. If we use the correct interpretation of this formula we can also see that an anti-consequentialist moral principle used by Victor Tadros to criticize (...) consequentialism is implausible. I go on to examine the version of John Rawls' theory that is used by Sharon Dolovich to develop a Kantian theory of legal punishment. This makes clear why punishment to achieve deterrence in the 'circumstances of justice' is morally acceptable. However, in at least one respect consequentialism gives us a more convincing understanding of the limits on the pursuit of deterrence than the Kantian theory does. (shrink)
Kantian ethics today is dominated followers of Rawls, many of them his former students. Following Rawls they interpret Kant as a moral constructivist who defines the good in terms of the reasonable. Such readings give priority to the first formulation of the categorical imperative and argue that the other two formulations are (ontologically or definitionally) dependent upon it. In contrast the aim of my paper will be to show that Kant should be interpreted firstly as a moral idealist and secondly (...) as, it least in a certain sense a particularist who takes morality to involve the exercise of recognitional capacities rather than following principles or rules. In claiming that Kant is a moral idealist we won’t mean to imply that he is an anti-realist, indeed we believe that he is a realist. Instead, by ‘moral idealism’ it is meant the position that maintains that to be moral is to instantiate an ideal. And so understood moral idealism can be seen as offering an alternative to both constructivism and utilitarianism. (shrink)
This article discusses the vice of self-centeredness, argues that it inhibits our ability to treat humanity as an end in itself, and that Kantian moral theory cannot account for this fact. After in this way arguing that Kantian theory fails to provide a fully adequate account of agents who live up to the formula of humanity, I discuss Buddhist resources for developing a better account.
Kant wird oft als einer derjenigen großen Philosophen angesehen, dessen Werk wesentlich zum jetzigen Verständnis der Menschenrechte und Menschenwürde beigetragen hat. Kant scheint, wenn man in seine Schriften schaut, jedoch keine Theorie der Menschenrechte im modernen Sinne gehabt zu haben. Bei näherem Hinsehen zeigt sich folgender Grund: Kant unterscheidet zwischen dem bloß privaten Recht, das dem positiven Recht untergeordnet ist, und dem öffentlichen Recht, das die begrifflichen Bedingungen einer jeden legitimen, legalen Ordnung darstellt. Der Inhalt des öffentlichen Rechts wird bei (...) ihm weder direkt aus einer freistehenden Moraltheorie abgeleitet, noch aus vertraglichen Übereinkünften oder dem positiven Recht. Stattdessen soll es aus den Ermöglichungsbedingungen einer rechtmäßigen Verfassung expliziert werden, unter der allein Ansprüchen auf (ein) „Recht“ irgendeine verbindliche Autorität zukommt. Wenn man diesen Ansatz ernst nimmt, kann man kaum eine Lesart bei Kant finden, die sich mit der modernen Auffassung von Menschenrechten vereinbaren lässt. Warum aber denken dann manche, dass Kant etwas zum modernen Verständnis der Menschenrechte beizutragen hätte? So lauten denn die Leitfragen der Erörterung: Welche Auffassungen in Kants Werk kommen einem zeitgenössischen Verständnis von Menschenrechten am nächsten? Warum jedoch können diese menschrechtlich vielleicht ähnlich klingenden Auffassungen Kants den heutigen Befürwortern der Menschenrechte doch keine Quelle oder Stütze bieten? (shrink)
In an earlier paper, Stephen Kershnar argued for the following thesis: An instance of trash-talking is permissible if and only if the relevant sports organization’s system of rules permits the expression. One person trash-talks a second if and only if the first intentionally insults the second during competition. The above theory sounds implausible. Surely, the conditions under which a player may insult another do not depend on what the owners arbitrarily decide. Such an approach doesn’t appear to be true in (...) the workplace, bar, or sandlot, so it is hard to see why it should be true in sport. With this general skepticism in mind, this paper evaluates Nicholas Dixon’s objections. Dixon rejects Kershnar’s argument because trash-talking conflicts with the internal value of a sport, violates a right, and degrades the person toward whom the trash-talking is directed. (shrink)
This book provides an entry-level introduction to philosophical ethics, theories of moral reasoning, and selected issues in applied ethics. Chapter 1 describes the importance of philosophical approaches to ethical issues, the general dialectical form of moral reasoning, and the broad landscape of moral philosophy. Chapter 2 presents egoism and relativism as challenges to the presumed objectivity and unconditionality of morality. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 discuss utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics, respectively. Each chapter begins with a general overview of the (...) characteristic theory of value and moral reasoning and proceeds to present a more refined account based on a prominent historical source (Mill, Kant, and Aristotle, respectively). It then discusses strengths and weaknesses of the theory from a contemporary perspective, including more recent developments, defenses, and critiques. Each chapter includes an appendix in which secondary, less prominent, or more complex issues are discussed. Chapters 6-9 address in detail a prominent area of applied ethics: 6. abortion, 7. assisted dying, 8. Biotechnology, 9. Animals and eating. Each of these chapters presents an introduction to the topic, including definitions, historical and contemporary developments and contexts, etc.; the various questions and issues involved; and an application of each theory from multiple points of view. Each chapter also includes a set of primary readings along with an extensive bibliography. Chapter 10 discusses four more areas of applied ethics: War, Torture, and Terrorism; Capital Punishment; Environmental Ethics; and Same-Sex Marriage. The treatment of these topics focuses mainly on the introductory material. While there is some discussion of the various ethical arguments, it is less comprehensive or detailed compared to other chapters. However, several primary resources are listed to supplement the discussion in the textbook. (shrink)
On the surface Kant himself seems quite clear about who is deserving of respect: The morally relevant others are all “rational, free beings” or all “human beings.” It is clear, however, that Kant does not want to identify “human beings” in this sense with members of a particular biological species, for he is explicitly open to the idea that there might be non-biologically human rational beings. Thus, for example he is explicitly open to the possibility of extraterrestrial rational beings, who (...) would not be members of the same biological species as us, but who would, presumably be worthy of respect. And it would seem possible that there are members of our biological species who are not “human” in the morally relevant sense. Given these facts, a Kantian needs to give some account of how we are to recognize who or what counts as “human” in the morally relevant sense. I argue that to be “human” in the morally relevant sense is to have the capacity for morality, and that this involves: (a) the capacity to recognize others as ends rather than merely as means and (b) the capacity to enter into relations of ethical community with us. I defend a position I name moral reliabilism. According to this position: (a) We have a quasi-perceptual capacity to directly ascribe moral status to various bits of the world around us. I will argue that this capacity is best thought of in Gibsonian terms as a capacity to pick up on certain types of social affordances; morally relevant others have the capacity to engage in ethical interaction with us, and recognizing the humanity of others involves picking up on this capacity. Those beings who are “human” in the morally relevant sense, then, afford interaction based on mutual respect. (b) We should assume as a postulate of practical reason that this capacity is reliable (although fallible). (shrink)
Kant uses ‘wish’ as a technical term to denote a strange species of desire. It is an instance in which someone wills an object that she simultaneously knows she cannot bring about. Or in more Kantian garb: it is an instance of the faculty of desire’s (or will’s) failing insofar as a desire (representation) cannot be the cause of the realization of its corresponding object in reality. As a result, Kant originally maintained it to be antithetical to morality, which deals (...) with ‘ought implies can’. However, Kant’s notion of wish is not static. On the contrary, I argue in this article that Kant re-evaluated the capacity to wish as (to some extent) causally efficacious and, further, of moral relevance. This re-evaluation has not been discussed in the literature, yet has been lurking in plain sight in a subtle but decisive shift evident in two versions of a footnote from the *Critique of the Power of Judgement* (KU). (shrink)
In this volume Paul Formosa sets out a novel approach to Kantian ethics as an ethics of dignity by focusing on the Formula of Humanity as a normative principle distinct from the Formula of Universal Law. By situating the Kantian conception of dignity within the wider literature on dignity, he develops an important distinction between status dignity, which all rational agents have, and achievement dignity, which all rational agents should aspire to. He then explores constructivist and realist views on the (...) foundation of the dignity of rational agents, before developing a compelling account of who does and does not have status dignity and of what kind of achievement dignity or virtue we, as vulnerable rational agents, can and should strive for. His study will be highly valuable for those interested in Kant's ethical, moral and political philosophies. (shrink)
In a series of well known publications, Christine Korsgaard argues for the claim that an agent acts morally just in case s/he acts autonomously. Two of Korsgaard's signature arguments for the connection between morality and autonomy are the "argument from spontaneity" and the "regress argument." In this paper, I argue that neither the argument from spontaneity nor the regress argument is able to show that an agent would be acting wrongly even if s/he acts in a paradigmatically heteronomous fashion.
This collection features 10 essays on a variety of topics in Kant's ethics. Part 1 addresses questions about the interpretation and justification of the categorical imperative. Part 2 is concerned with the doctrine of virtue, while part 3 delves into various issues pertaining to Kant's moral psychology of evil.
Artificial intelligence and robotics is pervasive in daily life and set to expand to new levels potentially replacing human decision-making and action. Self-driving cars, home and healthcare robots, and autonomous weapons are some examples. A distinction appears to be emerging between potentially benevolent civilian uses of the technology (eg unmanned aerial vehicles delivering medicines), and potentially malevolent military uses (eg lethal autonomous weapons killing human com- batants). Machine-mediated human interaction challenges the philosophical basis of human existence and ethical conduct. Aside (...) from technical challenges of ensuring ethical conduct in artificial intelligence and robotics, there are moral questions about the desirability of replacing human functions and the human mind with such technology. How will artificial intelligence and robotics engage in moral reasoning in order to act ethically? Is there a need for a new set of moral rules? What happens to human interaction when it is mediated by technology? Should such technology be used to end human life? Who bears responsibility for wrongdoing or harmful conduct by artificial intelligence and robotics? -/- Whilst Kant may be familiar to international lawyers for setting restraints on the use of force and rules for perpetual peace, his foundational work on ethics provides an inclusive moral philosophy for assessing ethical conduct of individuals and states and, thus, is relevant to discussions on the use and development of artificial intelligence and robotics. His philosophy is inclusive because it incorporates justifications for morals and legitimate responses to immoral conduct, and applies to all human agents irrespective of whether they are wrongdoers, unlawful combatants, or unjust enemies. Humans are at the centre of rational thinking, action, and norm-creation so that the rationale for restraints on methods and means of warfare, for example, is based on preserving human dignity as well as ensuring conditions for perpetual peace among states. Unlike utilitarian arguments which favour use of autonomous weapons on the basis of cost-benefit reasoning or the potential to save lives, Kantian ethics establish non-consequentialist and deontological rules which are good in themselves to follow and not dependent on expediency or achieving a greater public good. -/- Kantian ethics make two distinct contributions to the debate. First, they provide a human-centric ethical framework whereby human exist- ence and capacity are at the centre of a norm-creating moral philosophy guiding our understanding of moral conduct. Second, the ultimate aim of Kantian ethics is practical philosophy that is relevant and applicable to achieving moral conduct. -/- I will seek to address the moral questions outlined above by exploring how core elements of Kantian ethics relate to use of artificial intelli- gence and robotics in the civilian and military spheres. Section 2 sets out and examines core elements of Kantian ethics: the categorical imperative; autonomy of the will; rational beings and rational thinking capacity; and human dignity and humanity as an end in itself. Sections 3-7 consider how these core elements apply to artificial intelligence and robotics with discussion of fully autonomous and human-machine rule-generating approaches; types of moral reasoning; the difference be- tween ‘human will’ and ‘machine will’; and respecting human dignity. (shrink)
Kant realizes the principle of autonomy of the will as the sublime principle of morality. To him, if the principles we will are constituted by a being which poses universal laws, our "will or want" also acts autonomously and independently. Accordingly, moral laws are not only posed by humankind herself but she obliges herself to act according to the laws she herself has posed. Therefore, Kant takes autonomy into meticulous consideration in the realm of action and agency. With this in (...) mind, the current article analyzes this principle on the basis of three extant interpretations of autonomy that is individual, moral, and political autonomies; it elucidates these three kinds of autonomy while referring to their propinquity with Kant's. Ultimately, it comes in conclusion that whereas they have been grounded in different contexts, they do not mainly differ from Kant's autonomy of the will because of their commonality in the two meanings of "being free from dependence" and "capability to pose laws". For Kant, the autonomy of the will can be treated as some kind of moral autonomy: one must be bound/subjected to duties of morality in order to apply or act according merely to one's individual autonomy thereby the political sovereignty can also achieves its entire autonomy. (shrink)
Kant makes a much-unexpected confession in a much-unexpected place. In the Criticism of the third paralogism of transcendental psychology of the first Critique Kant accepts the irrefutability of the Heraclitean notion of universal becoming or the transitory nature of all things, admitting the impossibility of positing a totally persistent and self-conscious subject. The major Heraclitean doctrine of panta rhei makes it impossible to conduct philosophical inquiry by assuming a self-conscious subject or “I,” which would potentially be in constant motion like (...) other thoughts. For it rules out the possibility of completely detached reasoning which necessitates an unchanging state of mind. In this paper, Kaplama uses panta rhei to critically examine the philosophical shortcomings and contradictions of Kantian and Enlightenment ethics. In his examination, he specifically focuses on the teleological nature of Kant’s principle of freedom and ideal of moral autonomy which have dominated the Enlightenment thought. By doing so, he argues that it is essentially inaccurate to posit Überlegenheit (the state of being superior to nature) as the foundation of philosophical inquiry mainly because this would contradict the Enlightenment’s claim to constitute a rupture from classic and medieval metaphysics and would render Enlightenment a mere extension of Christian metaphysics. As in Christianity, Überlegenheit presupposes two separate realms, the actual (contingent) and ideal (pure) realms of thought and assumes that the transcendence commences from the level of the late metaphysical/teleological construction of the ‘subject’ who is completely persistent, self-conscious and immune to change. He then substantiates these points with reference to the philosophical roots of ethnic prejudice displayed by the post-Enlightenment colonialists and the missionaries in Fiji and the Pacific. This brief critical examination of the post-Enlightenment ethnocentrism will be conducted under the following three points: a) On the Enlightenment’s teleological and universalistic understanding of humanity and the concept of progress versus the Fijian concepts of the continuity of life, regeneration, and reproduction b) On the Enlightenment’s ideal of the free-willing and independent individual subject versus the Fijian ideas of 'the cord', reciprocity, and vanua, and c) On the Enlightenment’s (and Christianity’s) strict dualism between physics and metaphysics, nature and human mind, body and soul versus the Fijian bio-centrism, the sanctity of vanua and the cosmological concept of mana. (shrink)
Writers like Christine Korsgaard and Allen Wood understand Kant's idea of rational nature as an end in itself as a commitment to a substantive value. This makes it hard for them to explain the supposed equivalence between the universal law and humanity formulations of the categorical imperative, since the former does not appear to assert any substantive value. Nor is it easy for defenders of value-based readings to explain Kant's claim that the law-giving nature of practical reason makes all beings (...) with practical reason regard the idea of a rational nature as an end in itself. This article seeks to replace these value-based readings with a reading of the idea of rational nature as an end that fits better with the overall argument of the Groundwork. (shrink)
At the heart of Kantian theory lies the prohibition against treating humanity merely as a means. Two of the most influential interpretations of what this means are Wood's and O'Neill's. Drawing on these thinkers' ideas, Kerstein formulates two accounts of what is involved in the idea of treating a person merely as a means: the and accounts. Kerstein's attempt is to show that they are problematic. He introduces his to alleviate the problems they face. I argue that the end-sharing and (...) possible consent accounts are not vulnerable to Kerstein's criticism. However, they both face a shortcoming: they fail to support the Kantian conclusion that the prostitute and the servile person are treated merely as means. Through reconstructing these accounts, I surmount this difficulty. Moreover, my proposal helps Kerstein's own account overcome a problem he admits it has, without the need to resort to consequentialism. (shrink)
This book offers new readings of Kant’s “universal law” and “humanity” formulations of the categorical imperative. It shows how, on these readings, the formulas do indeed turn out being alternative statements of the same basic moral law, and in the process responds to many of the standard objections raised against Kant’s theory. Its first chapter briefly explores the ways in which Kant draws on his philosophical predecessors such as Plato (and especially Plato’s Republic) and Jean-Jacque Rousseau. The second chapter offers (...) a new reading of the relation between the universal law and humanity formulas by relating both of these to a third formula of Kant’s, viz. the “law of nature” formula, and also to Kant’s ideas about laws in general and human nature in particular. The third chapter considers and rejects some influential recent attempts to understand Kant’s argument for the humanity formula, and offers an alternative reconstruction instead. Chapter four considers what it is to flourish as a human being in line with Kant’s basic formulas of morality, and argues that the standard readings of the humanity formula cannot properly account for its relation to Kant’s views about the highest human good. (shrink)
Kantians are increasingly deserting the universal law formula in favor of the humanity formula. The former, they argue, is open to various decisive objections; the two are not equivalent; and it is only by appealing to the humanity formula that Kant can reliably generate substantive implications from his theory of an acceptable sort. These assessments of the universal law formula, which clash starkly with Kant's own assessment of it, are based on various widely accepted interpretative assumptions. These assumptions, it is (...) argued in this article, depend on misleading translations of key terms; selective attention to Kant's concrete examples; not taking seriously Kant's theoretical claims about the relations among his various ideas; and a failure to take into account Kant's idiosyncratic definitions of key concepts. The article seeks to right these interpretative wrongs, and finds that the universal law formula is not open to many of the standard objections. (shrink)
Surprisingly often Kant asserts that it is possible to behave in such a degrading way that one ‘throws oneself away’ and turns oneself ‘into a thing’, as a result of which others may treat one ‘as they please’. Rather than dismiss these claims out of hand, I argue that they force us to reconsider what is meant and required by ‘respect for humanity’. I argue that to ‘throw away’ humanity is not to lose or extinguish it, but rather to refuse (...) or otherwise fail to claim the respect that it authorizes one to claim. If I refuse or fail to make this claim, there is a sense in which I become a thing, and I leave others no choice but to treat me as such. This is compatible with their respect for humanity in my person. (shrink)
Does the fact that humans are vulnerable, needy and dependent beings play an important role in Kantian ethics? It is sometimes claimed that it cannot and does not. I argue that it can and does. I distinguish between broad (all persons are vulnerable) and narrow (only some persons are vulnerable) senses of vulnerability, and explain the role of vulnerability in both senses in Kantian ethics. The basis of this argument is to show that the core normative focus of Kantian ethics (...) is on the dignity that human beings have in virtue of their capacity for rational agency. This implies that the empirical conditions under which human beings can acquire, sustain, exercise, and develop their rational capacities are of core moral importance in Kantian ethics. This explains why human vulnerabilities, including the vulnerability of human bodies, are important in Kantian ethics, since rational capacities in human agents (and the bodies those rational capacities depend upon) are highly vulnerable in all persons (vulnerability in the broad sense) and especially vulnerable in some sub-groups of persons (vulnerability in the narrow sense). (shrink)
Kant’s Formula of Humanity (FH) is considered by many, Kant included, to be the most intuitively appealing formulation of the categorical imperative. FH tells us that to treat persons with dignity and respect we must always treat them as ends in themselves and never as mere means. One set of issues raised by FH revolves around how FH is to be justified or grounded and how it relates to the other formulations of the categorical imperative. This set of issues, though (...) important, is not our focus here. Instead, we shall focus on a different set of issues: how do we apply or use this formula in practice, that is, how does this principle work as a moral guide to what duties and obligations we have in particular cases? This paper will seek to answer that question by defending an interpretation and rational reconstruction of FH in terms of two subsidiary principles, the Mere Means Principle (MMP), which grounds perfect duties, and the Ends in Themselves Principle (ETP), which grounds imperfect duties. These two principles will then be applied to a number of examples to illustrate how they work. (shrink)
The permissibility of actions depends upon facts about the flourishing and separateness of persons. Persons differ from other creatures in having the task of discovering for themselves, by conjecture and refutation, what sort of life will fulfil them. Compulsory slavery impermissibly prevents some persons from pursuing this task. However, many people may conjecture that they are natural slaves. Some of these conjectures may turn out to be correct. In consequence, voluntary slavery, in which one person welcomes the duty to fulfil (...) all the commands of another, is permissible. Life-long voluntary slavery contracts are impermissible because of human fallibility; but fixed-term slavery contracts should be legally enforceable. Each person has the temporarily alienable moral right to direct her own life. (shrink)
Definition of the problem The creation and selection of children as tissue donors is ethically controversial. Critics often appeal to Kant’s Formula of Humanity, i.e. the requirement that people be treated not merely as means but as ends in themselves. As many defenders of the procedure point out, these appeals usually do not explain the sense of the requirement and hence remain obscure. Arguments This article proposes an interpretation of Kant’s principle, and it proposes that two different instrumental stances be (...) distinguished. I argue that the creation of “saviour children” is a form of instrumentalization that I dub “preemptive instrumentalization” and that it is categorically different from earlier forms of instrumental attitudes concerning human reproduction. Conclusion Critics are wrong to claim that Kant’s principle is either compatible with the selection of saviour siblings or too vague to serve as an ethical principle. (shrink)
In this paper I look at the connection between willing and believing for Kant’s and Kantian ethics. I argue that the two main formulations of the categorical imperative are relativized to agents according to their beliefs. I then point out three different ways in which Kant or a present-day Kantian might defend this position. I conclude with some remarks about the contrast between Kant’s legal theory and his ethical theory.
In this paper, I defend the possible consent interpretation of Kant’s formula of humanity from objections according to which it has counterintuitive implications. I do this in two ways. First, I argue that to a great extent, the supposed counterintuitive implications rest on a misunderstanding of the possible consent interpretation. Second, I argue that to the extent that these supposed counterintuitive implications do not rest on a misunderstanding of the possible consent interpretation, they are not counterintuitive at all.
Samuel Kerstein’s recent (2013) How To Treat Persons is an ambitious attempt to develop a new, broadly Kantian account of what it is to treat others as mere means and what it means to act in accordance with others’ dignity. His project is explicitly nonfoundationalist: his interpretation stands or falls on its ability to accommodate our pretheoretic intuitions, and he does an admirable job of handling carefully a range of well fleshed out and sometimes subtle examples. In what follows, I (...) shall give a quick summary of the chapters and then say two good things about the book and one critical thing. (shrink)
In this paper, I appeal to two aspects of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy – his metaphysics and ethics – in defense of abortion rights. Many Kantian pro-life philosophers argue that Kant’s second principle formulation of the categorical imperative, which proscribes treating persons as mere means, applies to human embryos and fetuses. Kant is clear, however, that he means his imperatives to apply to persons, individuals of a rational nature. It is important to determine, therefore, whether there is anything in Kant’s philosophy (...) that permits regarding embryos and fetuses as persons, since they lack the capacity for sentience (at least until mid-gestation), let alone rational thought. In the first part of the paper, I will illustrate why there are difficulties maintaining, from a Kantian perspective, that conception marks the genesis of a new person. Even granting that embryos and fetuses are persons, however, this alone would not entail the moral impermissibility of abortion rights, mainly because prohibiting abortion, and compelling women to gestate, violates the formula of humanity against them. Developing this thesis encompasses the second part of my essay. Finally, although I argue that Kant’s philosophy lends strong support to abortion rights, this does not thereby entail that it allows for the complete dehumanization of the human fetus. By appealing to the writings of Kantian scholar Allen Wood, I will argue that a fetus’ status as a potential person does render it worthy of some degree of respect and moral value. (shrink)
Julia Markovits develops a desire-based, internalist account of what normative reasons are--an account which is compatible with the idea that moral reasons can apply to all of us, regardless of our desires. She builds on Kant's formula of humanity to defend universal moral reasons, and addresses the age-old question of why we should be moral.