Rawls: The Non-Formal Value Of Dignity

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This concept of personal autonomy harks back to Rawls’ interpretation, which places greater emphasis on the planning and deliberative features of personal autonomy that Rawls associates with Kantian empirical practical reason. As he explains, it “roughly parallels Kant’s notion of hypothetical imperatives.” Rather than focusing on the creative side of personal autonomy, Rawls highlights its dependence on principles of rational choice, such as “the adoption of effective means to ends; the balancing of final ends by their significance in our plan of life as a whole; and finally, the assigning of a greater weight to the more likely consequences.” For Rawls, personal autonomy is a kind of deliberative rationality given that his procedural formalism…show more content…
I begin with two accounts of Kant’s concept of dignity which includes a purely formal interpretation of the dignity of persons that I oppose as well as a non-formal version of dignity that I place at the center of a Kantian theory of value. Now let us begin our discussion of the formal account dignity. There are two different interchangeable ways that the dignity of persons or the idea of humanity as an end in itself occurs in Kant’s writings (Gr4: 435, KpV84). The first of these I label a ‘substantive account of dignity’ and the other a ‘formal account of human dignity’. A Formalistic Explanation of Dignity The formal conception of dignity lacks substantive value with requirements for rational action. It is rather simply another way of imposing submission to the universal law that all rational beings can accept. In the following passage it appears that Kant holds that the dignity of the person and the need to treat every person as an end is satisfied by ensuring that all people are treated in accordance with universal…show more content…
This process transforms a rational being into a legislative member of the kingdom of ends, which in Kant’s view constitutes the notion of a person (Gr428). One must possess both rationality and morality in order to be an end-in-one self and therefore enter the kingdom as an authentic legislative member. Such a person is to be distinguished from the person on the street, since the kingdom of ends is an ideal legislative body, the members of which are self-legislating beings or ends-in-themselves. Consequently, rational beings are not automatically members of the kingdom of ends; they are members when and only when they enact universal laws. This makes perfect sense; I am not a member of Congress just because I have the rational capacity to be a member of Congress. I must be ‘transformed’ by a process that vets my ideals and skills and ultimately officially declares that I am a

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