Theses Doctoral

The Value of Humanity

Theunissen, L. Nandi

My dissertation is on foundational questions about the value of human beings. This is a Kantian topic but I develop a proposal in a non-Kantian framework. I argue that to be a Kantian in ethics is to be committed to rationalism, but that the foundations of ethics should take account of the nature of human beings and our circumstances in the world. I develop a non-Kantian theory in which the value of human beings is no different, metaphysically speaking, from the value of other valuable things. Human beings have value, just as anything of value has value: because we are capable of being good-for something or someone. Most fundamentally, I argue that we are capable of being good-for ourselves. I propose that human beings have value in virtue of a capacity for having final ends, and that the capacity for having final ends makes us valuable because it makes us capable of living a good life, a life that is valuable because it is good-for the person who leads it. I show how the value of human beings gives everyone reason to treat human beings in certain ways. In particular, I show how everyone has reason not to destroy the capacity of human beings to have final ends, and, more positively, to help others realise their ends.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Vogt, Katja
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 2, 2014