Rachels, Ch 10: Kant and Respect For Persons


1.      Humanity as special and unique

         a.      Humans are essentially different

         b.      And better than all other creatures

2.      Humans have

         a.      An intrinsic worth (intrinsic value)

         b.      A dignity

         c.      A value above all price

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

         e.      We 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

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 the creators of the value of other things

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

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

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

         d.      E.g., value of car or chair dependent on its ability to serve some end of human beings

         e.      Problem: Animal desires can also create instrumental value in other things:

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

                   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 who have dignity (intrinsic worth) because we can

         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

         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


8.      This is the ultimate principle of morality

         a.      1st version is: Act only on principles 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 means:

         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

         a.      Thus one should never manipulate people

         b.      Or use people to achieve our purposes (no matter how good those purposes may be) unless they agree to such use

                   i.       Never treat them as having only instrumental value

         c.      Note the rejection of utilitarian (and 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 him 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 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 and then as an end in itself.