Nonrational - "Kant on Duties Regarding Nonrational...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
“Kant on Duties Regarding Nonrational Nature,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplement, Volume LXXII (1998). Kant on Duties Regarding Nonrational Nature Allen W. Wood Kant’s ethical theory is famously (or notoriously) anthropocentric -- or rather, it is logocentric, by which I mean that it is based on the idea that rational nature, and it alone, has absolute and unconditional value. Kant takes the authority of the moral law to be grounded in the fact that it is legislated by rational will. The fundamental end whose value grounds the theory is the dignity of rational nature, and its command is always to treat humanity as an end in itself. Here the term ‘humanity’ is being used in a technical sense, to refer to the capacity to set ends according to reason. It includes the technical predisposition to devise means to arbitrary ends, and the pragmatic predisposition to unite our ends into a comprehensive whole, called ‘happiness’. ‘Humanity’ is one of the three original predispositions of our nature, along with ‘animality’, which includes our instinctual desires promoting our survival, reproduction and sociability, and ‘personality’ which is our rational capacity to give moral laws and obey them (R 6:26, VA 7:321-324). i ‘Humanity’ in this sense does not refer to membership in any particular biological species. (As a matter of fact, Kant thought it quite likely that there are rational beings on other planets; they would be ends in themselves every bit as much as human beings (in the nontechnical sense)(AN 1:351-368).) 1
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Even so, it might seem as though a theory of this kind would license (or even require) a ruthlessly exploitative attitude toward humanity’s natural environment and all nonhuman things in it. For if rational nature is the only end in itself, then everything else must count only as a means to rational nature and its ends. Nothing else could have a worth which might set limits on those ends or on the ways in which rational beings might choose to employ nonrational nature in pursuit of them. Some of Kant’s own statements, moreover, appear to be shameless endorsements of this ghastly inference from his logocentric theory. In his explication of the Formula of Humanity as End in Itself, Kant distinguishes persons -- rational beings possessing the dignity of rational nature as an end in itself -- from things, which, he says, “have only a relative worth, while persons, and they alone, may not be used merely as means” (G 4:428). A similar thought is found at the opening of Kant’s lectures on anthropology: “The fact that the human being can have the representation ‘I’ raises him infinitely above all the other beings on earth. By this he is a person … that is, a being altogether different in rank and dignity from things , such as irrational animals, with which one may deal and dispose at one’s discretion” (VA 7:127). And in his essay
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 05/08/2008 for the course PHIL 111 taught by Professor Steinbeck during the Spring '08 term at Bridgewater State University.

Page1 / 30

Nonrational - "Kant on Duties Regarding Nonrational...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online