Sunday, January 11, 2015

[PHI 2200] Was Kant a hypocrite?

Immanuel Kant is one of the dominant figures in the history of philosophy, particularly moral philosophy. Kant's ethics, also known as deontological ethics, is one of the three main theoretical approaches to normative ethics to this day (deontology, consequentialism, and virtue theory).

At the core of Kant’s moral philosophy is the notion of human dignity. As the second formula of the Categorical Imperative (AKA, the Humanity Formula) states: "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." Human beings must be treated as ends, not as means to an end, because they are rational agents. The source of our dignity and worth, according to Kant, is the fact that we are free rational agents who are the legislators of our own moral laws.

Unfortunately, it appears that Kant himself was a racist.

If Kant didn't think that all human beings are equal in dignity, does that mean that he was a hypocrite? If Kant was indeed a racist, does that undermine his notion of human dignity? Should we dismiss his moral philosophy because he could not live up to his own standards? [Similar questions can be raised about David Hume.]

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