Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Eric Wilson

Second Advisor

Tim O'Keefe

Third Advisor

Christie Hartley


In this paper I argue for an alternative reading of the humanity formula that Kant presents in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. The standard reading takes “humanity” to mean the capacity for setting ends. I suggest this reading is problematic for it does not offer a satisfactory explanation for what it means to use humanity as mere means. My reading considers “humanity” as the capacity for appraising one’s maxims from the perspective of pure practical reason. On this reading, to use humanity as mere means is to look at one’s maxims from the wrong perspective, i.e., the perspective of happiness. Further, I argue that it is mistaken to take Kant’s claim about an end in itself as a claim about any ultimate value. Instead, the claim should be construed as a claim about the role of pure practical reason in moral appraisal, which should be understood in terms of Kant’s metaphysics of the mind.