Kant, moral dilemmas and means/ends

A moral dilemma is an actual moral problem — it isn’t a situation where you are trading one service for another, unless you think that the trade isn’t fair.  For example, you buy an old dresser at a garage sale, you find $500 in the bottom drawer.  You bought the dresser “as is” and if there was something wrong with it the person wouldn’t fix it for you — this time the “error” is in your favor.  Do you return the money?

Generally, in a moral dilemma there are good arguments on BOTH sides of the question. Often it’s a dilemma because one theory says you should do it and another says you should not.  For example, a utilitarian might argue that one healthy person without relatives ought to be sacrificed so that the lives of others may be saved by their organs — It’s a dilemma because deontology would argue that it’s using the person as a means only.

Kant’s theory is only concerned with YOUR motives for action — not whether or not happiness will be the end result etc.. So, if you are going to violate the means/ends formulation, you will need to argue that your motive uses someone as a means only — thus it’s not permissible.


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