Kant Humanity Freedom


What we’ve been going over so far is only
the first way in which Kant looks at the fundamental principle of morality. But Kant is kind of like a scientist in his
approach to problems: he wants to see if the reasoning holds up to testing. So he goes back through the problem a second
time from a different angle (and, actually, a third, but we’re only going to cover the
first two), to see what we can learn from it. So, let’s review all of the central ideas
we’d gotten out of our reasoning the first time through. • The only thing good in itself is a good
will • The good will is ruled by duty
• Duty is properly ruled by reason • We recognize the right of reason to rule
our duty Now add this: when you encounter other people,
you recognize instantly, without knowing anything about them or even having to talk to them,
that they have the faculty of reason. That’s not the same as thinking they’re
rational, or that they’re using their reason well! You just recognize that they *have* the faculty. Now: you recognize that you have a duty to
reason, and you recognize that other people have reason in them. Put that all together, and you get the Humanity
Formula, and it says: “We should never act in such a way that
we treat Humanity, whether in ourselves or in others, as a means only but always as an
end in itself.” Treating someone as an “end in itself”
means that you have to always recognize a basic, fundamental value in every person merely
because they are a person. You can never treat other people as mere
objects for your own ends. We are to respect human beings because they
are persons and this requires a basic regard. Respect for people as ends-in-themselves doesn’t
mean that we can never use other people for our own ends – we use people for our own
ends all the time. When you take the bus you’re using the
bus driver as a means to your end of getting to your destination. When you take this class, you’re using me
as a means to your end of getting an education. The point is that you can’t treat the bus
driver as a mere means – you have to keep a fundamental regard for them as a person. Respect for people as ends-in-themselves also
does NOT mean that Kant says we have to pretend that everyone is equally talented, good, charming,
what have you. Treating a person as an end-in-herself is
treating her with what’s called recognition respect. Recognition respect is just recognizing that
all people deserve a fundamental dignity and value simply by virtue of being a person. This is different from appraisal respect:
appraisal respect is when you admire someone for her particular talents, abilities, or
achievements. When you listen to someone sing and think,
“wow, that person is a really good singer,” you’re giving them appraisal respect. Kant argues that the Categorical Imperative
demands recognition respect for all people. Just to be sure it’s clear: Kant sees both
the Formula of Universal Law and the Humanity Formula as two ways of expressing the same
rule. They’re both ways of expressing the Categorical
Imperative. Kant and Liberty
Kant points out another important thing in his discussion of reason and desire and moral
considerations. People have noted that the categorical imperative
is pretty hardcore – it’s very demanding of you. And we often experience the need to treat
other people as ends-in-themselves as a restriction on our own behavior. So in some sense we might think of these
moral rules as a restriction on our own freedom. Kant thinks that is really, really wrong,
and based on a very confused way of thinking about freedom. When we think of following these rules as
a restriction on our behavior, what we’re thinking is: I don’t get to do anything
I want. But it’s a mistake to think that freedom
means “having no restrictions whatsoever on what you do.” Remember what we said earlier about your desires. Your desires are not formed by you, really
– they’re formed at a very deep level by your circumstances, your society. Sure, you have a basic need for food, shelter,
and sex, but why do some people want a pizza while others want sannakji (Korean delicacy in which the
chef slices off a tentacle of a living octopus and brings it to the table still squirming)? So being allowed to do what “you” want isn’t really freedom – it’s being dictated
to by the accidents of your birth. What you have that’s your own is your reason. So it’s only by following the dictates
of your reason that you’re free – which for Kant means self-ruling. There’s no way to operate without any
governing principle – you’re being led by others, by your desires/wants, by something. So what makes you free is if you’re ruled
by yourself – that is, your reason. What Kant is developing here is the notion
of autonomy: self rule (from Greek auto: “self” + nomos: “rule”). Notice how this shows a profound interconnection between a deep appreciation for the necessity
of self rule and simultaneously the absolute necessity of respecting all other people as
fundamentally valuable in themselves. We often think of respecting and promoting
basic rights and freedoms for others as a constraint on our own freedom. What Kant shows is that the two are inseparable. The fundamental respect for persons as ends-in-themselves
is completely bound up in your own freedom. As soon as you recognize the right of reason
to rule you, you must recognize that all other reasoning beings exert this basic demand on
you. Both are tied together. And this recognition – that respect for
the rights of others is necessary for your own self rule – is a profoundly important
insight about morality. Go ahead and review your notes, review the video, email me with questions, and when you’re ready, move on to the next assignment!

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