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Kant’s Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative

The Categorical Imperative by Immanuel Kant gives us a guide to which things are obligatory and which are forbidden. Kant considers this as the center in the concept of moral philosophy. This concept was introduced in another one of Kant’s works, the “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals”. The second formulation of the Categorical Imperative states: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end. ” This basically is based on the concept of fairness.

Although a person with hopes, desires and so on recognizes his importance as an end, he should also realize that what is special about him being a rational being also makes everyone else around him special, and they too, should be seen as ends themselves. One must look at people as ends-in-themselves, instead of looking at them only as a means to his ends which are, after all, not in any way more important than anyone else’s. Kant defines objective ends as “motives” and subjective ends as “incentives”. As it has always been believed, every action has an end. People act for the sake of an end or another.

Indeed, everything is done for a reason. A student studies because he wants to pass his exams, a father works to be able to provide for his family’s needs, a lawyer lies in order to protect his client. These are just examples of acting for an “end” (Dodson, 2003). Kant emphasizes that everyone has an equal right to all the good things that nature has provided. These good things, however, were not shared out by God. He left the “sharing” for people to take care of. Therefore, while one enjoys his blessings, he should also put in mind that everyone else has to experience this happiness.

Everyone has as much right as he has and they should never be deprived of it. The idea then is that everyone is intrinsically valuable. One should not look at people as valuable because he or she satisfies his own goals or purposes, but rather look at a person as valuable as himself. As long as a businessman respects the rights of his workers, gives them their hard earned money on time, and gives wages according to what his workers rightfully deserve, he is presumably using his people as an end and not as a mere means.

When one uses people just so he could “create” more money from them, he is taking advantage of the service his people are giving him. This then can be considered as using people as a means to a particular end. Although some people may disagree agree to this, because “using” people is tantamount to making them as a “means” to a particular end, the factor of labor production can be considered as an end in itself when it answers to giving people jobs for them to earn a living and giving them the wage that they deserve.

Another example is when someone steals money his friend. This shows that he is only using his friend as a means to his end. So instead of stealing, he should rather ask permission from the person and borrow money from him. This will show that he respects his friend’s humanity. But then again, borrowing is something, but returning it is another. If a person borrows something that he does not intend to return, he is also violating Kant’s second formulation.

The second formulation only shows that people should look at one another as important as much as they all look at themselves as important. It is significant to remember that one cannot live without the other, and so people all ought to give as much as they expect to be given, care as much as they want to be taken care of and love as much as they want to be loved in return. Reference Dodson, Kevin. “Kant’s Socialism: A Philosophical Reconstruction. ” Social Theory and Practice 3(2003): 7-8.

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