I argue that, alongside the already well-established prohibition against treating persons as mere means, Kant’s Formula of Humanity requires a prohibition against treating persons as mere things. The former captures ethical violations due to someone’s (perceived) instrumental value, e.g. exploitation, the latter captures cases in which I mistreat others because they have no instrumental value to me. These are cases in which I am indifferent and complacent towards persons in need; forms of mistreatment frequently suffered by the world’s poorest. I explain why we need the category of treating others as mere things and what the prohibition against such treatment entails. Prohibitions against treating as mere means and as mere things are both essential for understanding the specific nature and extent of our duties to the world’s poorest.
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I am grateful to Philip-Alexander Hirsch, Nora Kassan, Melissa Seymour Fahmy, Andre Grahle, Violetta Igneski, Garrath Williams, Corinna Mieth, Felix Pinkert and two anonymous Ethical Theory and Moral Practice referees for written comments on earlier drafts of this paper, and to Jens Timmermann, Melissa Seymour Fahmy, Oliver Sensen, Karl Ameriks, Corinna Mieth, Garrath Williams, Karen Stohr, Alessandro Pinzani, Reza Mosayebi, Sofie Moeller, Jacob Rosenthal, Mavis Biss, Lucy Allais, Melissa Zinkin, Luke Davies, Helga Varden, David Bakhurst, Hüseyin Kuyumcuoğlu, Ewa Wyrębska-Ɖermanović, Andre Grahle, Umut Eldem, Lucas Thorpe, Irina Schumski, Felix Pinkert and James Camien McGuiggan for discussion of my material. Material that fed into this paper has been presented at the conferences Kant and Poverty and Mere Means and Ends in Themselves both at the Ruhr-University Bochum, the work in progress seminar of the University of Bristol’s Department of Philosophy, the online work in progress seminar Homo Zoomenon, the annual Nederlandse Onderzoeksschool Wijsbegeerte (OZSW) conference in Tilburg, the Central Division Meeting of the APA at Tulane in New Orleans, Bogazici University Istanbul (hosted by the Turkey Kant Society), the workshop Kant in Progress in Bayreuth, and the summer school Exploring New Methods for Applied Ethics in Tübingen. My research was supported by a one term German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funded Guest Chair at the Ruhr-University Bochum, and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation Grant No. 075-15-2019-1929, project’Kantian Rationality and Its Impact in Contemporary Science, Technology, and Social Institutions’ provided at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (IKBFU), Kaliningrad.
© 2021, The Author(s).