Rachels, Ch 10: Kant and Respect For Persons

HUMANS ARE SPECIAL (According to Kant)

1.      Humanity is essentially different and better than all other creatures

2.      Humans (unlike other types of beings) have

         a.      Intrinsic worth (intrinsic value)

         b.      Dignity

         c.      Value above all price

                  i.      An absolute value not comparable to the value of anything else

         d.      Are irreplaceable; mere things are replaceable

3.      In contrast, animals are a mere means to human ends

         a.      They have no intrinsic value

         b.      Animals value is merely instrumental value toward human ends

         c.      The “traditional view” of animals Rachels talked about earlier

4.      Humans may not be treated as having merely instrumental value

         a.      While using animals for human ends is perfectly appropriate

         b.      Using humans as a (mere) means to an end is immoral

         c.      This is the essence of immorality



5.      One: Humans are creators of value of things

         a.      Because of our desires and goals, other things have value for us, in relation to our projects (instrumental value)

         b.      Mere things (including animals-who Kant felt can't have self-conscious desires and goals) have value only in relation to those human ends

                  i.      Their value involves being means to human ends, which give them their value (instrumental value)

                  ii.     E.g., value of car or chair dependent on its ability to serve some end of human beings, so too with animals

         c.      Problem: Animal desires can also create instrumental value

                  i.      Dog wants the bone or the water, that gives the bone or water instrumental value for the dog

                           (1)    Kant thinks desire not enough, need self-conscious desire

                  ii.     Even non-conscious beings like trees can create instrumental value: Water has instrumental value for the tree; it is good for the tree to get water.

6.      Two: Humans are rational agents (giving us dignity and intrinsic worth)

         a.      Freely make own decisions

         b.      Set our own goals

         c.      Guide our conduct by reason

         d.      Act morally

         e.      It is probably true that animals only do these things at a somewhat diminished level (though this is also true of some humans)

7.      Three: Humans (as rational agents) bring moral value into the world and nothing else does

         a.      Moral law is a law of reason so rational beings are the embodiment of moral law

         b.      Only way moral goodness can exist in the world is for rational creatures to apprehend what they should do and do it from a sense of duty

         c.      Only acting out of respect for duty has moral worth.

         d.      So if there were no rational beings, moral dimension of world would simply disappear

         e.      Unless one thinks (some) animals can act out of a sense of moral obligation or duty, it seems true that humans alone bring this type of value into the world

                  i.      Do monkeys have a sense of fairness?


8.      This is the ultimate principle of morality

         a.      1st version is: Act only on principles/rules that you can universalize

9.      2nd version: Always treat humanity as an end and never as a MERE means

         a.      "Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only."

10.    This involves:

         a.      Have a strict duty of beneficence toward other persons

         b.      Must strive to promote their welfare

         c.      Must respect their rights

         d.      Must avoid harming them

         e.      Must try as best we can to further their ends

11.    Treating humans as ends-in-themselves = respecting their rationality/autonomy

         a.      Thus one should never manipulate people

         b.      Never use people to achieve our purposes (no matter how good those purposes may be) unless they agree to such use

                  i.      Respect their intrinsic value and Never treat them as having only instrumental value

         c.      Note the rejection of utilitarian/consequentialist thinking

12.    Promise example:

         a.      Consider making a lying promise (to repay a loan you won’t be able to repay) to achieve purpose you deem good

         b.      But this is to use that person for your goals/ends

                  i.      You are using her as a means only

         c.      If you told the person the truth, then she can decide if those ends are worth it to her

         d.      She can make up her own mind

         e.      She can make the goal/purpose her own, if she chooses

         f.      Thus you are respecting that person's rationality and freedom, and letting her own ends determine what happens to her


Ch 10, Questions on Kant and Respect for Persons

1.      Why does Kant think humans are special? And in what way are they special, according to Kant? Do you agree with him?

2.      What reasons does Kant offer for thinking humans are special? It it true that these reasons apply only to humans and not other creatures?

3.      What does Kant mean when he says that morality requires us to treat humanity as an end and never as a mere means? Give examples of treating humanity as a mere means . Now given an example of treating a person as an end in him/herself.