Immanuel Kant's Formula Of Humanity

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Immanuel Kant introduces the concept of the Categorical Imperative in his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals as the supreme principle of morality. The supreme principle of morality, posits Kant, is a moral law that is universal, unconditional, and from where we can derive all morality; hence, it must be adequate to inform all moral conduct (G 4:417). In formulating the categorical imperative, Kant develops the Formula of Humanity, which is as follows; “so act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means” (G 4:429). The Formula of Humanity, then, is a candidate for the formulation of the supreme principle of morality. The Formula of Humanity…show more content…
Two are duties to ourselves - namely that of cultivating our intellectual talents and preserving ourselves (hence forbidding suicide), and two are duties to others, namely honesty in promises and helping them to achieve their own ends (G 4:29-30). I will discuss the plausibility (and implausibility) of two of these examples. First, to discuss the most plausible of these examples, I will assess our duty toward others to contribute to the fulfillment of their ends. This example encourages that we not only refrain from taking away from other’s happiness but that we actively and positively work to contribute to others’ happiness (G 4:430). I think that this is plausible and effective because, as Kant argued, if this standard was universalized - in other words, if everyone worked to contribute to their own, and to each other’s happiness and wellbeing - we can potentially actualize the virtues of harmonious and respectful coexistence. In relation to the Formula of Humanity, this example articulates the importance of respecting others’ ends as we would respect our own, and the treating of others as ends in of themselves and not as mere means or instruments to our own…show more content…
To illustrate the potential imprecision of the Formula of Humanity, imagine the case of a person who is terminally and severely ill and has been for a long time. This person then comes to the rational conclusion that they would like to refuse treatment that preserves and prolongs their life. The doctor, a proponent of the Formula of Humanity, now is confronted with the dilemma: is it morally appropriate to either a) respect the patient’s ability to make decisions that reflect personal autonomy and a rational capacity, or b) preserve life for the rational nature of humankind is infinitely valuable and an objective end in itself? This ties into the suicide argument which has been previously discussed, in which Kant affirms that “If he destroys himself in order to escape from a trying condition he makes use of a person merely as a means to maintain a tolerable condition up to the end of life” which is also precisely the case in this example (G 4:429). The potential conflict between the patient’s autonomy and rational capacity for making decisions versus the commitment to humanity as an end in itself, which must be preserved, presents a tension which is rather unclear to navigate. Additionally, in this case, the cold calculation of morality based on - and by virtue of -

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