Friday, July 07, 2006

Kant Kwote

The practical imperative therefore will be the following: Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in our own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end, and never simply as a means.
Immanuel Kant

Kant is stating that true morality is the recognition that neither we nor others are here on earth to be used as a means to obtain selfish ends, regardless of how often people are, in fact, treated this way. Kant has a point. Most human on human pain, I believe, comes down to this--regarding others as mere tools to achieve desires. Immorality comes from not seeing another, not truly recognizing his or her separate personhood or humanity. A mugging, for example, occurs only when a mugger does not see a full-fledged person, only a thing with money that he wants. Incest and rape derive from an inability to see a female for who she is but merely as an object through which to gratify one's desires for sex and dominance. Murder often occurs from seeing only something that stands in the way of one's goals, or worse, a means to some twisted, perverse power over life and death.

I believe that Kant is saying that each of us is an end in himself, that we are valuable just because we are--and that true morality comes from recognizing and treating both self and others as beings with inherent worth.

This doesn't mean that we need to play kissy-face with wicked souls. Truly, it is an act of valuing self and others to stand up to those who would use and degrade those weaker than themselves, giving them opportunity to see their error and mend their ways.

Or perhaps Jesus said it best: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."


At 7/07/2006 3:14 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

This doesn't mean that we need to play kissy-face with wicked souls

This is, I think, the most relevant section of your post today. Many liberal-minded people agree with everything but this, which is of course where moral relativity enters the scene.

At 7/08/2006 3:18 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

That may be true of some liberals, Andy, but most are fine with morality. What we tend to have a problem with is the authority behind the morality. There may indeed be objectively "wicked" souls, but I doubt the ability of any human to empirically indentify them.

This is usually where liberals come to have problems with traditional Christian morality - when the moral judgment is no longer a simple withdrawal from association (the core libertarian sanction in civil society) but rather the invocation of the state to back up the moral code. And who could possibly claim the State is moral, given the history of humanity?

At 7/09/2006 12:29 AM, Anonymous Andy said...

Ah, but that's just it. Why must a State be completely moral in order to still make reasonable moral judgments? Can we not say with a great deal of authority that the US is a more moral nation than North Korea or Iran?


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