philosophy wk 8 respect for persons

Learning Objectives

After you complete Module 8, you will be able to

Explain Kant’s reasons in support of the claim that humans are intrinsically valuable.

State and explain the second formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative.

Compare and contrast the utilitarian view of punishment with that of Kant.

Module 8: Kant and Respect for Persons

10.1 Kant’s Core Ideas

Human beings occupy a central place in the universe, according to Kant. They are intrinsically valuable, that is, they are valuable in themselves and not merely as a means to something else.

There are two facts about humans that support this judgment. You should be able to state both.

First, humans have desires and things that satisfy those desires can have value for humans

Second, humans are rational agents. They have free will and are therefore capable of making their own decisions, setting their own goals, and guiding their conduct by reason.

A second formulation of The Categorical Imperative: Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.

You should be able to explain the difference between treating someone as an end and treating someone merely as a means. A good way to do this is to learn the examples Rachels gives of each.

One of the ways we treat humans as intrinsically valuable is by respecting their decisions. Rachels says that on Kant’s view we should be wary of laws that aim to protect people from themselves such as seat belt laws. How can we respect people as intrinsically valuable by letting them hurt themselves?

10.2 Retribution and Utility in the Theory of Punishment

Recall from the Module 5 notes, I asked you to think about how a utilitarian approaches the issue of the punishment of criminals. In this section Rachels presents four utilitarian reasons in favor of punishing criminals. You should be able to state each.

10.3 Kant’s Retributivism

You should be able to explain why Kant believes that the utilitarian view of punishment is incompatible with human dignity. How is Kant’s retributivism compatible with human dignity?

Kant argues that punishment should be based on two principles:

First, people should be punished because they have committed crimes and for no other reason.

Second, the punishment should be proportional to the crime.