The word "end" in this phrase has the same meaning as in the phrase "means to an end".
The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that rational human beings should be treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to something else. The fact that we are human has value in itself.
- If a person is an end-in-themself it means their inherent value doesn't depend on anything else - it doesn't depend on whether the person is enjoying their life, or making other people's lives better. We exist, so we have value.
- Most of us agree with that - though we don't put it so formally. We say that we don't think that we should use other people, which is a plain English way of saying that we shouldn't treat other people as a means to our own ends.
- This idea applies to us too. We shouldn't treat ourselves as a means to our own ends; instead we should respect our inherent worth.
- This can be used as an argument against euthanasia, suicide and other behaviours that damage ourselves.
- The idea also shows up in discussions of animal rights, with the idea that if they have rights, animals must be treated as ends in themselves.
Relevance of Kant on the debate of Euthansia.
Relevance of Kant as far as Animal Rights are concerned
Animal and human rights boil down to one fundamental right: the right to be treated with respect as an individual with inherent value.
Philosophers have a traditional way of expressing this:
Animals with rights must be treated as ends in themselves; they should not be treated by others as means to achieve their ends.
Kant on Religion
- Under influence of 'understanding'; Kant makes the choice to BELIEVE in two independent realities: a physical outer reality AND an inner reality of the dreams of our 'understanding ('preprogrammed' as 'moral' structure in our 'mind').
- And not to see reality as an all the time mutating system with internal reality as part of this reality-system . To realize why Kant believes in an 'understanding' 'mind' apart from body it is enlightening to consider Kant's opinion about the existence of 'god'.
- In Kant's view a 'god' is unexpendable as an internal moral lawgiver. Kant sincerely believes that humans can't survive without following the moral directives of some 'god' in a connected religion.
- Immanuel Kant believed that humans need religious addiction and the inherent isolation of 'understanding', because in Kant's opinion humans, although they survived awfully long, are not equipped to make sense of the physical reality of their environment. And in addition to that belief in the necessity of religion, Kant was sure that humans are ESSENTIALLY different from apes.