I am making the assumption here that you want the answer framed with
reference only to the passage you quoted; if this is not the case and
you require a more detailed and better referenced answer please do not
hesitate to ask for clarification. I promise that I will respond by
Monday! I have just finished a degree in which my major was
philosophy, so hopefully you will trust me as adequately 'qualified'
to give you an answer.
Anyways, on to your question!
1. What does the sentence "rational nature exists as an end in
itself" mean and why is it the grounding for the "Categorical
Kant thinks that "rational nature exists as an end in itself" in that
it is valuable in its own right and not merely because of what can be
gained from it. That is, each person's own free will and ability to
pursue goals of his/her own choosing is valuable in itself, and should
not be compromised by one's trying to use another as an instrument to
further their own goals. The Categorical Imperative is that one should
"act only on that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it
should become a universal law." The need for mutual respect of
autonomy provides, Kant thinks, quite an obvious basis for requiring
the Categorical Imperative to exist.
2. How does Kant make the transition from what holds for what "man
necessarily thinks of his own existence" to what "every other rational
Quite easily! I think that my capacity to be rational and decide for
myself is valuable. Every other rational being thinks the same thing -
no rational person is likely to give up his/her freedom of choice!
Hence, the need for a Categorical Imperative must be something that
*everyone* can agree to, and must require us to act in a way that
everyone finds satisfactory.
3. Why can Kant write that "all laws of the will must be derived"
from the categorical imperative?
The Categorical Imperative is a universal prescription for the way in
which people must act - such that they wish everyone else would act
the same way. 'All laws of the will' are created by individuals, we
all decide upon our own moral code and how strict or otherwise it will
be. All these codes must be derived from the Categorical Imperative
for the simple reason that moral codes must be universal. As Kant
says, to act morally one must act in a way that he/she would approve
of everyone else acting.
4. What role does the concept of "humanity" play in Kant's
'Humanity' for Kant is almost synonymous with 'rationality'. He
assumes that the essence of humankind is the rational factuly, and
that this faculty provides the basis for humans respecting each other.
This part of Kant's theory is a little holey - what of babies and the
severely retarded, for example, who are not rational? And, as we know
- and Kant probably didn't - monkeys and apes are highly rational as
5. What does Kant suggest by first establishing the "categorical
imperative" in this paragraph and then in the last sentence?
When Kant fist talks of the Categorical Imperative, he is trying to
establish the basis of such a law. What he comes up with is that it
must be universal (apply to everyone), it must be prescriptive (tell
us what to do or how to act), and it must be objective (not based on
emotion). Funnily enough, the law he comes up with requires us to act
in the same way as it is justified! I'll try to clarify that sentence:
a moral law must apply to everyone, the Categorical Imperative asks us
to act in ways that we would like everyone to act; a moral law must
tell us how to act; the Categorical Imperative asks us to tell others
how to act through our own actions; a moral law must be objective, the
Categorical Imperative asks us to remove our biases (what I want to do
being different to what I want you to do) and act in an objectively
The significance of the passage is enormous, it discusses the basis of
and the requirements made by the Categorical Imperative, and provides
all necessary justification (albeit in somewhat embryonic form). The
assumption that rational nature is to be valued in itself is a big
one, and not entirely uncontroversial. People from the Utilitarian
school of thought, for instance, would argue that the ability to feel
pleasure is of value, and so pain is to be avoided. On Kant's view,
you can hurt anyone or anything that does not have a rational
capacity! However, the idea that morality must be universal, objective
and prescriptive is a very important one, and is taken to be a 'given'
in modern day philosophy.
Some websites you might like to have a look at:
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - "Categorical Imperative"
"Kant's Ethics - Lexicon" (you'll find the discussion of the 'Kingdom
of Ends' useful)
Cheathouse - "Kant's Categorical Imperative. Description of how the
C.I. works" (please don't plagiarise!!! Reading the way that other
people phrase arguments is useful, though)
"Kant's Argument for the Categorical Imperative" (Set out in a
strictly logical point form)
As I mentioned above, I've framed my answer only with respect to the
passage you quoted. If you'd like me to clarify it with other
information included (such as the Kingdom of Ends, for example) please
let me know.
Clarification of Answer by
22 Nov 2002 04:30 PST
The third link comes up as an 'ad' because you have to register for
the service (at a cost, unfortunately) before you can access essays. I
just thought that if such a service would be useful to you - and the
essay 'linked' to would definitely be relevant to you - it might be
worth your while subscribing.
As you requested, some insights on Kant's "Kingdom of Ends" - from
people who are far more eloquent than me!
"Kingdom of Ends: All maxims as proceeding from our own making of law
ought to harmonise with a possible kingdom of ends as a kingdom of
nature (G. 436) How one might try to show the equivalence
All action is with some end in view
Our ends are set by practical reason
This power of rational choice (freedom) is a power which we all have
As I have this power, I must view others as also having the power of
Fully rational choice (autonomy) is in the exercise of the good will
This is an end in itself (good unconditionally)
It is (negatively) an end which I should never act against in myself
or in others
It is (positively) an end which I should promote in myself and in
*The 'G' in this passage refers to the 'Groundwork of Metaphysics of
Morals', the number after it is the page.
"Kant's most well known contribution to ethical discussion is the
Categorical Imperative. These are ends in themselves and the basis for
all action (in contrast to Hypothetical Imperatives which are a means
to an end (E.g. If you go on a diet then you will lose weight) and do
not have to be followed (E.g. I do not have to go on a diet)). In
religious terms a Hypothetical Imperative could be 'If you obey God
then you will get to heaven' but a Categorical Imperative would be
'Obey God! It is your duty' (although it is conceivable that all
religious Categorical Imperatives are in fact Hypothetical Imperatives
but this would depend on one's presuppositions)'. Thus, according to
Kant, one does not question Categorical Imperatives as they are
fundamental truths of the universe.
In 'Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals' (1785) Kant offers three
progressive versions of the Categorical Imperative on which all moral
commands are based:
1. 'Act as if the maxim of your action was to become through your will
a universal law of nature.' (Formula of the Law of Nature)
2. '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
at the same time as an end.' (Formula of the End Itself)
3. 'So act as if you were through your maxims a law-making member of a
kingdom of ends' (Formula of the Kingdom of Ends)"
"Kant devises several categorical imperatives for which to follow, but
the scope of this paper focuses on two. The first has been called the
Principle of Humanity, or to "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 an end."7 The
second is the Principle of the Kingdom of Ends, or to "so act as if
you were through your maxims a law-making member of a kingdom of
The Principle of Humanity deals with the way in which we treat other
human beings. Out of respect for their rational autonomy, we treat
humanity such that we never simply see them as a means to an end.
Given the interdependent nature of humanity, it would be foolhardy to
say that we never would contact another person or seek their
assistance in completing some task of our own. However, Kant is asking
for a shift in attitude towards those persons, in such a manner as to
treat them as people with their own ends they wish to accomplish. They
are people, not robots to be used. Moreover, we should not simply
leave off at not treating people as means only, but to "further the
ends of others."9 This Principle relates to the Principle of the
Kingdom of Ends in such a way that if everyone treated everyone else
in the manner stated by the Principle of Humanity, we would see the
birth of a Kingdom of Ends, where we would be able to pass laws such
that it would make sense for everyone to follow them."
*The above passage provides perhaps the easiest method of
understanding the Kingdom of Ends. 'Ends' really means 'Ends in
themselves', so that the 'kingdom' would be constructed of people who
are respecting each other's humanity.
If you need more, just let me know!
Clarification of Answer by
23 Nov 2002 23:20 PST
Hello again georgemiron,
You don't need to appologise for requesting further clarification! *I*
am the one who feels bad that I didn't do an adequate job in the first
place - in your case I decided to answer what I knew for sure that you
wanted to know and leave the rest to such requests as these, so as not
to waste your time reading things you're not interested in. If you are
still dissatisfied with my answer after however many requests you feel
like making (I don't mean that in a bad way, you can make as many as
you like!), you are of course allowed to reject it or alternately to
withdraw the question completely.
As for the 'general significance' of the passage? It's the starting
point for Kant's whole philosophical scheme - he tells the way in
which he is thinking about the problem of morality, how he thinks a
moral code should be devised, and the things he holds to be 'self
evident truths' (i.e. the importance of humanity). If you're looking
to pick holes in Kant's moral theory, this passage contains all the
basic information on it, in its simplest and most undeveloped form.
The passage has had obvious implications for modern moral thinking,
and draws heavily on the past as well - did it strike you to be
equivalent to 'Do unto Others...'? With respect to modern morality,
Kant sees humanity and its implicit rationality as something akin to
all humans, regardless of race, sex, religion and any of those other
unimportant characteristics that tend to have 'innate characteristics'
unfairly associated with them. The need to respect each person's own
projects and decisions is also important in the medical field -
although it remains controversial in some cases - in cases where a
patient has made it known that they may wish for 'the machine to be
turned off' should their situation reach a certain point.
I hope your assignment goes well - I'll check back tomorrow (which
will be Monday here but still Sunday in the US) to see if there's
anything else you need from me.