Kant's formula of the end in itself: Some recent debates

Philosophy Compass 2 (2):244–257 (2007)
Abstract
This is a survey article in which I explore some important recent work on the topic in question, Kant’s formula of the end in itself (or “formula of humanity”). I first provide an overview of the formulation, including what the formula seems roughly to be saying, and what Kant’s main argument for it seems to be. I then call the reader’s attention to a variety of questions one might have about the import of and argument for this formula, alluding to some of the works in which philosophers have recently raised or tried to answer these questions. Then, for the bulk of the paper, I focus my discussion on two issues of contention: the identity of the “end in itself” that the formula refers to, and the relation between the value of the end in itself and the value of other ends. I do not attempt to argue for a particular position of my own regarding these issues. Instead, I explain a number of the more interesting or influential recent attempts to answer these questions, compare these approaches in various ways, draw implications from them, and raise concerns about some of them. I also suggest that an important link connects the question about the identity of the end in itself and the question about the relation between the value of the end in itself in relation to the value of other ends: How one answers these questions commits one to a position on the thorny issue of whether, how, and how fully, autonomy is manifested through empirical (not simply pure) practical reason.
Keywords Kantian ethics  formula of humanity  survey
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