July 29, 2020


What is morally wrong with discrimination? A Kantian analysisEach one of us is an end-in-itself, a citizen within a "kingdom of ends," as Kant put it. (Sam Ben-Meir, 29 July 2020, OpenDemocracy)

Kant's moral philosophy - or deontology ('deon' referring to duty) - maintains that what makes an act right is that it is done for the sake of the moral law. Consequences, intended or otherwise, are irrelevant in determining the moral worth of an action. What matters is whether the action is motivated by duty, which is to say, respect for the moral law.

Kant offered several formulations of the moral law which he described as a categorical imperative, as opposed to a hypothetical imperative. A hypothetical imperative says "If you want to accomplish x... then you must do y." A categorical imperative on the other hand says, "Do x!" Your ends, aims or desires are irrelevant. That is what makes it categorical: it is not conditional upon anything. It commands us all the same irrespective of empirical or psychological contingencies.

Two formulations of the categorical imperative are particularly important. The first is the principle of human dignity and it says, never treat another rational being merely as a means but always as an end-in-themselves. In other words, treat every human being as possessing intrinsic value and never simply as a means to your own ends. From this standpoint, slavery is wrong precisely because it reduces the human being to a mere object, a thing, an instrument for satisfying another's interests and fails to recognize their infinite and intrinsic worth as an end-in-themselves.

The point of chattel slavery being that blacks were not fellow human beings.

Posted by at July 29, 2020 12:00 AM