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Fundamentals of Metaphysical Morality

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In the first example with Cameron getting involved in the porn industry, it is clear that this is something that Kant would disagree. One of Kant’s arguments in the Groundworks for the Metaphysics of Morals makes a relatively clear objection to what Cameron’s consideration of getting into pornography. According to Kant’s second formulation of the categorical imperative, the Formula of the End in Itself, we are to act in a way that always treats humanity whether it be oneself or others, never just as a means, but always at the same time as an end. This can be interpreted that we should not use people as objects, but instead we should see their inherent dignity and the value that they have. By going into the pornographic industry, Cameron isn’t treating himself with this inherent dignity. He is turning himself into an object and therefore is not conducting himself properly.

Kant talks about when we act improperly, we are reducing ourselves to a thing. He calls this thing “An instrument of animal amusement.” He also mentions that since we are humans, and not things, and so by making ourselves into things we are dishonoring human nature in ourselves. This is why we are different from animals. We have an ability to rise above our instincts and make our decisions using free will. By choosing to go into pornography, Cameron would only be considering the ends to his issue (paying for college). Kant tells us in the second formulation of the categorical imperative that we need to also look at the means. I think Kant would say that to be involved in porn, he would be treating himself as an “animal.” Something to keep in mind in this scenario is that the Formula of the End in Itself does not only apply to how someone treats others, but also how someone treats oneself. Cameron is going against his duty because he is treating himself as a means, rather than an end.

If Cameron wanted to get money for college, he should be doing something that is going to benefit others and himself in a positive way. This could be as simple as working at a grocery store, where his duty is to help out the customers and in doing so, he is getting paid for doing his duty. By creating pornography, he is not helping anyone from a moral standpoint, but instead is only thinking about the money that can be made from doing it. There is really only one situation in which someone would have to go into pornography and this is if they are forced into doing so. Money is not something that forces us to do something, it is only an influence. The second situation with the student, Terry, is also a situation that Kant would argue is immoral. This situation is similar to the first situation in that the Formula of the End in Itself applies to this situation as well. The inherent value that all humans have to go against instinct and make decisions out of free will is something that Terry needs to understand. Everything else in the world happens out a mechanistic forces, which is what separates humans from everything else. This freedom is what gives us our inherent dignity that is valuable.

We as human beings have a moral responsibility to treat everyone in with the understanding that they also have this inherent dignity, and understand that we are all more than objects. Kant says, “The human being, however, is not a thing, hence not something can be used merely as a means, but in all his actions always be considered as an end in itself” (42). By watching pornography, Terry is objectifying other human beings and not looking at their inherent dignity. Terry is treating the other human beings that he is looking at as means for himself, with his end goal of supposedly helping his academic success. Kant believes that we are supposed to be actively helping others in keeping their dignity. By being someone who is proving views to a porn stars videos as well as sexually objectifying that person, Terry is not supporting them in retaining their dignity. In fact, he is doing the exact opposite, and the more views they get on their video or whatever it may be, they are probably more likely to continue making more. When we fail to help people in need, then we are not helping them maintain their dignity. Kant says that it goes against humanity as an end in itself “if everyone does not aspire, as much as he can, to further the ends of other”. Terry should be looking for something to do with his time away from studying that helps further the ends of other people.

He could be doing this just by spending time with his friends and treating them well or making a call back home to catch up with his family. I don’t think that Terry is using any sort of actual research that states that watching pornography can be a helpful distraction for studying, and either way, he is acting immorally. There are a lot of people in this industry that are there because they are someone who is struggling to see their dignity and Terry is basically reaffirming that they don’t have dignity, or they are not deserving of it. There are also a good amount of people in the industry that are forced into it and don’t want to be a part of it. By watching, this only helps the people that force people into the industry and this is something I’m guessing Terry isn’t thinking about. Also, when someone is watching pornography that usually means they are masturbating as well. If this is the case for Terry, he is also treating his own body as a means to an end. In doing so, he is making himself an object and therefore is not paying attention to his own dignity.

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