Consent and the Mere Means Principle

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Kant’s Formula of Humanity can be analyzed into two parts. One is an injunction to treat humanity always as an end. The other is a prohibition on using humanity as a mere means. The second is often referred to as the FH prohibition or the mere means prohibition. It has become popular to interpret this prohibition in terms of consent. The idea is that, if X uses Y's humanity as a means and Y does not consent to it, then X uses Y's humanity as a mere means. There is then debate about the kind of consent that is relevant: possible, actual, or rational. In this paper, I argue against this interpretation. Section one sets up the consent account. Section two attacks possible and actual consent accounts on doctrinal grounds. Section three extends this doctrinal attack to rational consent accounts. Section four circles back to the original motivation for the consent interpretation. I argue that the consent account rests on a misinterpretation, and I conclude with a quick sketch of an alternative interpretation of the FH prohibition.
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Archival date: 2022-09-22
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