Analyze the following statement, "Man and in general every rational being, should be treated as an end in himself , never merely as a means", what are the moral implications of that statement for humans, as well as nonhumans?
I'll start with animals.
From an article on Kant:
-- “[So] far as animals are concerned, we have no direct duties. Animals are not self-conscious and are there merely as the means to an end. That end is man.” He reiterates this point later by writing: “Our duties towards animals are merely indirect duties towards humanity”. --
My response to this is to cover old ground again, but there's just no way to avoid it. First, Kant is just reflecting the age-old attitude: we are just so great, so wonderful, so perfect, so much better than everything else in the world, just look at how wonderful we are!
Arrogance is a potential problem in anyone. Unfortunately, Kant didn't realize that. At least, not when it came to the human species. Agreed, he did not know about evolution. That was to develop later. But moralists throughout the centuries have indicated that animals can experience suffering and no moral person inflicts it. Intellectually, Kant was a giant. Morally...I don't think he was a very moral person. I know that's a controversial position. But I sincerely believe it.
Like so many philosophers, he got himself all wrapped up in self admiration about how clever he was. And in doing so, he forgot about reality.
Again, I acknowledge that he was unaware of evolution. He did not realize that all the wonderful elements of humanity that he thought was so perfect and so unique were inevitably the result of millions of years of evolution. They were present, in a less developed form, in many lower animals. Nevertheless, how could he ignore the obvious fact that animals did suffer? Answer, he didn't. He just said that animal suffering is no big deal. And that is the statement of a coldhearted, immoral and despicable man. Cruelty to animals, by the way, is one of the signs of a child headed toward a career of a serious crime, often including mass murder. Every elementary school counselor knows that. I'm not making it up.
Man as an end in himself? Sorry, but I think that's a rather silly statement. I agree that man should not be used or regarded as something merely to be used. That is to say, no human being should be regarded or treated as an object. But what does it mean to say man is an end in himself?
Does that mean we have no need to attempt to improve ourselves? No need to get an education? No need to keep learning? It sounds as if Kant is saying, I am a man, therefore I am perfect already.
To me, an end is something that you are working to attain. The end of your work at school is to attain a degree and use it to seek gainful employment which is helpful to your fellow human beings. So the end of a human being is too... What?
In the context of "men should not be used as objects", the statement makes some sense. But it doesn't make much sense at all when you apply it elsewhere. So I would say, he just never should've added that part of the sentence. That is pretty typical of so many of the philosophers. When they could say it nice, clean, and clear, they like to say it in the most convoluted, complex, and confusing way possible. I think it makes them feel smart.
It is much harder, it requires much more intelligence, it requires much more effort, to say a complicated thing in a clear way which actually expresses the concept. Making an idea as complicated as possible because you think that's what intellectuals do, is a misunderstanding of what an intellectual is. Intellectuals love ideas and learning. They don't love sending out clouds of complicated and confusing words. That's what the ignorant do to cover up their ignorance.
Okay, so I can't really call Kant ignorant. However, I will call him arrogant, self absorbed, and deeply concerned with making himself sound supersmart. Sometimes Kant reminds me of Wile E. Coyote. You remember, the SUPER genius?
Who was Kant trying to convince that he was a super genius? I have a suspicion it was Kant. I don't think the guy had enough faith in his own intelligence. Insecurity anyone?