Moral Ethics Essay

1288 words - 6 pages

Immanuel Kant believes that we act wrongly when we treat people merely as a means and not as an end in itself. According to Kant, “every rational being exists as an end in itself, not merely as a means to be used by this or that will at its discretion.” To treat someone as a mere means is to use that person for your own selfish purposes with no regard as to whether or not he/she wants to help you. When treating people as mere means they are being used as tools and when they are no longer needed they are abandoned and left alone. In many cases when people are being treated as mere means they are being misled in order to provide false consent to a plan of action. This is morally wrong because ...view middle of the document...

People may be misled by false information leading them to believe in a false truth. Due to their limited perspective on the truth, they may be led to consent to the scheme. However, if they knew the truth behind the scheme, then they would not consent to being a part of it.
One example that O’ Neill provides is when a bank issues a loan to a customer who knows that he/she will be unable to repay the loan in the future. The customer consciously recognizes that the money will not be repaid, but still proceeds to manipulate the bank into issuing the loan. If the bank were fully aware that the customer had no intention of repaying the loan, then the bank would never consent to the loan. Since the customer deceives the bank, the bank cannot in principle consent. The customer uses the bank as a mere means to further his/her own agenda. The customer falsely promises to return the money and “he who has it in mind to make a false promise to others sees at once that he wants to make use of another human being merely as a means.” Therefore, it is wrong to treat people as mere means because it requires manipulation and their consent cannot be properly given under such circumstances. By treating others as mere means “our acts are not only wrong but unjust: such acts wrong the particular others who are deceived or coerced.”
Kant’s claim that it is morally wrong to treat a person as merely a means and not as an end in itself has many advantages. However, it is not without it’s flaws. There are some cases where it may be morally acceptable to treat a person as a mere means. One counter example to Kant’s claim is when people keep friends/family in the dark in order to have a successful surprise birthday party. One could argue that in order to keep the surprise party a secret you would have to use your friend as a mere means. According to O’ Neill, “acts that are done on maxims that require deception or coercion of others… are wrong. When we act on such maxims, we treat others as mere means.” In this example, you are purposely manipulating and deceiving your friend and using him/her in order to achieve your own goal. However, most people would still say that it is morally acceptable to treat your friend as a mere means in order to have a successful surprise party. This example shows that there are certain cases where treating someone as a mere means is a morally...

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