PSU PHIL 001 - Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems

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PG 538-544 Onora O'Neill: Kantian Approaches to Some Famine ProblemsOnline Simplified SummaryO'Neill's approach to the question of what affluent people ought to do for those suffering from famine differs substantially from Peter Singer's. Instead of giving a utilitarian account, which focuses strictly on the consequences of one's actions, she gives a Kantian, duty-based account, which focuses on people's intentions.She begins by briefly explicating one of the central claims of Kantian ethics, that one must never treat a person (either oneself or another) as mere means, but "always at the same time as an end. She explains that, according to Kant, the moral worth of one's actions is determined by the maxim (or intention) that governs the decision to act, not by the act's consequences. Using a person as a mere means involves an intention to involve the person in an action "to which they could not in principle consent. So, while one often uses people as means (e.g., when one uses a cashier to pay for groceries), this is usually done with the other person's consent. However, if one deceives the other person (by a false promise, for example), then the other person inprinciple cannot consent, for deception requires that the other person not know of the deceit, and consent requires an absence of deception.Not treating other people as mere means is a clear requirement of Kantian ethics; beneficent treatment of other people (e.g., by actively promoting their ends), however, is not a requirement. Where a utilitarian thinks that one must act beneficently when doing so will promote overall happiness, a Kantian thinks that one need not aim at overall good (i.e., overall best consequences) in one's actions. Acting beneficently may be a good thing to do, but one is only morally required not to treat other people as mere means. Applying Kantian ethics to famine circumstances, O'Neill argues that in a famine-stricken population, one has obligations not to cheat on any rationing scheme and to fulfill one's duties to particular people (e.g., one's dependents). However, for those living outside the stricken population, the requirements are less exacting. Outsiders are obligated not to take advantage of those stricken (with exploitative business deals, for example), and those whose work leads them to deal directly with people in stricken areas are obligated not to take advantage of their relative power. This study source was downloaded by 100000820816648 from on 03-24-2022 15:09:44 GMT -05:00 example, an aid worker who thinks that the best solution to famine is populationcontrol ought not distribute food according to who is willing to undergo sterilization, for no one could in principle consent to sterilization where the alternative is starvation.Textbook Key Points22: A simplified account of Kant’s EthicsCompares Kantian and Utilitarian approaches.Kant: Supreme Principle of Morality= Categorical Imperative. O’neill will provide implications of the formula of the end in itself. (Form of categorical imperative)23: The Formula of the End in ItselfKant: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own personor in the person of any others, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end.”Kant: Each of our acts reflects one or more maxims. Maxim of the act is the principle in which one sees oneself as acting. A maxim expresses a person’s policy, or principle underlying the particular intention or decision on which he/she acts. Whenever we act intentionally we have at least one maxim and can if we reflect statewhat it is. Right/wrong according to Kant looks at our maxims and not at how much misery/happiness act is likely to produce, and whether it does better at increasing happiness than other available acts.Kantian Ethics: Check that the act we have in mind will not use anyone as a mere means and if possible that it will treat other persons as ends in themselves. 24: Using Persons as Mere Means Using someone as a mere means involves them in scheme of action to which they could not in principle consent. Kant does not say that there is anything wrong about using someone as means, evidently we have to do so in any cooperative scheme of action. This study source was downloaded by 100000820816648 from on 03-24-2022 15:09:44 GMT -05:00 means= wrongEach person assumes that the other has maxims of his/her own and is not just a thing to be manipulate= rightThe person who is deceived is as tool- mere means- in false promisors scheme.A person who promises falsely treats the acceptor of promise as a thing not a person. In Kant’s view this making false promising wrong. Standard Ways of using others as means: 1) Deceiving them 2) Coercing them: Cannot truly consent to offer cannot refuse. Kant’s view: Acts that are done on maxims that require deception or coercion of others (Consent precludes deception and coercion) are wrong. When we act on such maxims we treat others as means rather than ends in themselves. 25: Treating Persons as Ends in ThemselvesDuties justice= most important in Kant’s view. When we fail in these duties, using others as means.Treat someone as ends= not use them as mere means, that one must respect each as rational persons with his/her own maxims. Beyond that one may also seek to foster others plans and maxims by sharing some oftheir ends.However, we cannot seek everything others want: numerous, diverse, incompatible, thus beneficence has to be selective. Thus, Justice requires we act on no maxim using others as means. Beneficence requires we act on some maxims that foster others ends, though it is matter for judgment and discretion which of their ends we foster. In making sure that they meet all the demands of justice, Kantians don’t try to compare all available acts and see which has best affects. Instead, they consider only proposals for actions that occur to them and check that these proposals use no otheras means. If they don’t the act is permissible.If Omitting the act would use another as means the act is obligatory. Once can usually tell whether ones act would use another’s as mere means, even when its impact on human happiness is thoroughly obscure. (VS Utilitarianism) This study source was downloaded by 100000820816648 from on 03-24-2022 15:09:44 GMT

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