Treating consenting adults merely as means

Samuel Kerstein

in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 1

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199693269
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732058 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies In Normative Ethics

Treating consenting adults merely as means

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According to the Mere Means Principle, suggested by Immanuel Kant, it is wrong to treat others merely as means. This paper explores sufficient conditions for an agent’s using another, but not merely as a means. An actual consent account, inspired by Robert Nozick, holds that the agent does not use the other merely as a means if the other gives his informed, voluntary consent to her use of him. A possible consent account, based loosely on work by Onora O’Neill, contends that the agent does not use the other merely as a means if it is reasonable for her to believe that the other can avert this use by withholding his agreement to it. The paper tries to show that possible consent accounts have an important advantage over actual consent accounts, but that both require significant amendment in order to be plausible.

Keywords: mere means principle; Kant; informed consent; voluntary consent; coercion

Chapter.  10714 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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