We are dealing, in 3.4.whatever, with the means as one of the apriori elements of action. In this post and the next I would like to distinguish between rules for the employment of means. I will distinguish between moral rules and legal rules. The latter follows from the former, but it is not always clear to those who think about both. What ends up being established by Kant (3.4.3) and Spencer/Rothbard/Hoppe (3.4.4) is the fundamental prohibition against the use of actors (agents of action) as merely means to ends. We will start with the Kantian formulation.
Kant says that the supreme rule for guidance of choice (will) is what he calls the categorical imperative. The name is important. First, the rule is categorical in that it applies to the will in all cases. A conditional rule (of if..then form) would only be applicable assuming the condition was met. Categorical rules apply in every case. Second, the rule is imperative in that it is a command. A command is a particular kind of rule. It is not a rule that describes how things do go (physics) but how things should go (morals). So, while the will may err, may take other courses, it, Kant says, should not.
The categorical imperative takes several forms in Kant and I will employ the form which specifically employs a terminology that matches the apriori element of action we are calling means. The following is a pretty accurate almost quote: Act only in a way that humanity, in yourself or others, is never treated as a means only, but always first and foremost as an end.
Kant’s recommendation is that you never employ a rational animal (humans being the only kind we are aware of at this point, and at best only manifesting that rationally to degree) merely as if it were a tool. Maybe the first question is “Why not?”. Why not treat a person like a tool? The reader should balk at the question in one sense. In another sense the reader should look closely at the history of aggression and warfare in which the powerful (rich) have laid waste to each other and often the poor as well. In our contemporary wannabe-utopia note that the rich are often used as a savings account for the well-being of the poor. So, the enslavement (use) of others is rather more widespread and endemic than we might initially think.
Why not enslave? Why not employ humans as tools? The answer lies in the definition of the human as rational animal. The animality allows for the instantiation or embodiment of the rational. But all is in the rational descriptor. The rational being self-directs according to the notion of laws. The rational being has the capacity for movement, but movement not merely directed by forces like instinct or urge. The rational being can self-direct according to grasp of law. So, this capacity must be respected in myself by me, and in myself by others, and by myself with others. If the capacity is respectable in me it is respectable in any other that has it.
Kant, famously, identifies four moral duties (rules) that follow from the categorical imperative. What has been rarely emphasized is the way these rules lay the groundwork for anarcho-capitalism. There has been all kinds of sneaking around and misappropriation of the Kantian rules.
- No suicide.
- No insincere speech.
- Development of talents when possible.
- Help others when possible.
The first is a non-aggression principle that emphasizes the self but is easily extendable to any other rational being! More broadly appreciated the principle recommends no self-destructive activity. It is wrong, says Kant, to aggress against the self. Why? Because the self would be merely using the self for its own satisfaction? Why would it be categorized as a nefarious using? Because the closer to the end of satisfaction the less of the self there is still operative. More fully, the self cannot desire both satisfaction and non-existence. I will not digress into the morality of euthanasia and duty to die. There are many fine distinctions, and there is much to be considered. But the principle could be summed up in the following way: “Don’t treat yourself as a slave to yourself.”
Second, don’t make lying promises. This principle is easily converted into a contract principle. It is after non-aggression is in fact established now, that by which we establish the continuance of non-aggression into the future and attempt to make the future more secure. We promise. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Don’t nefariously use people. The manipulation of the lying-promise is using the other as a means to other ends that they do consent to.
We will wrap up here. The first two principles are non-negotiable musts. The second two are more conditional. While it is possible to conceive of a state of things in which talent is not developed or each keeps to himself and only cares for himself, Kant says it is not possible to will rationally such a state of things. Indeed. But since both of these principles depend on the availability of means to be expended on the self in its development or others in charity they are in that sense dependent. While the categorical imperative requires helping self or others it commands to do so when you can. So, otherwise stated, “If you can, then you should help yourself or others.” The first two principles are no matter what the conditions are. Don’t initiate aggression. And, don’t promise to initiate aggression. The second two principles have to do with what to do positively once you have achieved some means and met costs. Develop yourself and others.
In the very idea of action is the notion of agency…choice…values…preferences…costs…means…ends. This agency is difficult to talk about without waxing poetic. We wax poetic when we talk of the self-directed direction. What Kant says is that when that is present there are rules about the employment of means. First, don’t initiate aggression against other self-directed directors. Second, don’t promise to not initiate aggression against other self-directed directors and not mean it.
The product? Everything good that is in consensual society–association, club, friendship, marriage (where consensual).The current associations called governments are doing everything in their power to force a kind of association and press against that which is consensual. They prick at the very source of what is good for the human when they trespass the limits of blocking initiated aggression. Unfortunately, the very monopoly-guaranteed status of government as there dependent on the non-trade related taking of the means of production from those coerced makes it a thorn in the side of those who must live under it.
How could Socrates…and Kant…and Spencer…And Hoppe…how could there have been a continued echo of the rules regarding rational agency for so many generations and yet the persistence of initiated aggression?