Aquinas and the Kantian Principle of Treating Persons as Ends in Themselves

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Aquinas and the Kantian Principle of Treating Persons as Ends in Themselves

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Title: Aquinas and the Kantian Principle of Treating Persons as Ends in Themselves
Author: Shields, Daniel P.
Abstract: This dissertation addresses the question of whether and on what terms Aquinas would accept Kant's principle that one must always treat all persons as ends in themselves, and never merely as means. This question is of considerable interest given the wide contemporary acceptance of Kant's principle and yet it has, to my knowledge, never received as sustained a consideration as I will give it. To answer this question I make a distinction between a finis cuius and finis cui. A finis cuius is an end in the sense of a value that is to be attained, and a finis cui is an end in the sense of someone for whom a value is to be attained. Aquinas holds that one must treat persons as ends in both of these senses. Nevertheless, no created person is a supreme finis cui or an ultimate finis cuius. For Aquinas, God is the end of the natural law and all of the moral life is ordered towards Him. "Love God with all your heart" is the primary precept of the natural law. Aquinas does not mean that the whole moral life is ordered towards one's own personal happiness with God. Such a view would involve always using other persons as mere means. Rather, God is to be loved as both the supreme finis cui and the ultimate finis cuius. God offers Himself to man as a common good and must be loved as such. This means that one must love other persons as fellow participants in the common good and as those for whom the common good is intended. This is to say that one must treat his neighbor as a finis cui. Aquinas further holds that one must love one's neighbor as oneself, that is to say, with the love of friendship. This requires valuing the other person as a finis cuius--thus wanting to be in community with him--in addition to willing his good as a finis cui. Such love perfects a natural tendency purposefully implanted in man by God and is necessary if the community is to flourish.
Description: Degree awarded: Ph.D. Philosophy. The Catholic University of America
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1961/10285
Date: 2012-06-01


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