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The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

Richard Dean

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780199285723
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603938 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199285721.001.0001
The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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The humanity formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative demands that we treat humanity as an end in itself. Because this principle resonates with currently influential ideals of human rights and dignity, contemporary readers often find it compelling, even if the rest of Kant’s moral philosophy leaves them cold. Moreover, some prominent specialists in Kant’s ethics recently have turned to the humanity formulation as the most theoretically central and promising principle of Kant’s ethics. Nevertheless, despite the intuitive appeal and the increasingly recognized philosophical importance of the humanity formulation, it has received less attention than many other, less central, aspects of Kant’s ethics. This book is the most sustained and systematic examination yet of the humanity formulation. It argues that the ‘rational nature’ that must be treated as an end in itself is not a minimally rational nature consisting of the power to set ends or the unrealized capacity to act morally, but instead is the more properly rational nature possessed by someone who gives priority to moral principles over any contrary impulses. In other words, good will is the end in itself. This non-standard reading of the humanity formulation provides a firm theoretical foundation for deriving plausible approaches to particular moral issues. Contrary to first impressions, it does not impose moralistic demands to pass judgment on others’ character. This reading of the humanity formulation also enables progress on problems of interest to Kant scholars such as reconstructing Kant’s argument for accepting the humanity formulation as a basic moral principle, and allows for increased understanding of the relationship between Kant’s ethics and supposedly Kantian ideas such as ‘respect for autonomy’.

Keywords: autonomy; Categorical Imperative; end in itself; good will; humanity formulation; Kant; rational nature

Book.  288 pages. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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Table of Contents

Introduction in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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What Should we Treat as an End in Itself? in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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The Good Will Reading Meshes With Major Ideas of Kant's Ethics in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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The Textual Dispute, and Arguments in Favour of Minimal Readings in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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Is the Good Will Reading Just Too Hard to Swallow? in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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The Argument for the Humanity Formula in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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How Duties Follow from the Categorical Imperative in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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Kantian Value, Beneficence, and Consequentialism in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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Non‐Human Animals, Humanity, and the Kingdom of Ends in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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Would Kant Say we should Respect Autonomy? in The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory

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