Apr 30, 2020 in Research

Kant on Morality


The world has animate and inanimate things. The distinction between the two, as many scholars suggest, is the ability to move and soul possession. Dead matter lacks a soul and lacks the capacity to move. Plants for instance, though part of living things, do not possess a soul and are immobile. On the other hand, humans and animals are inanimate. A contentious issue surrounds humans' relationship to animals. Activists in the present world are fighting for animal rights. It has generating divergent views in many quarters, some pointing the move as a means to lowering human dignity while raising animal's status. This paper argues based on Kant's moral perspective. An assessment of his views on the concept of animal morality is the cornerstone of this discussion.

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Kant's view of things and persons

According to Kant, the world is divided into things and individuals. Persons have the highest standards above all because their actions are based on reason, rationality. Humanity serves as an end to itself. He explains that the actions of men are based on the laws they have legislated themselves, to guard their morality. Human beings do not merely serve as a means, but they are both the subjects and objects of their actions. On the contrary, things cannot be considered as an end-to-themselves. Kant is quick to highlight one important distinction based on rationality. Persons are beings whose actions emanate from reason; they possess a rational mindset. Beings whose existence is not under peoples' control, whose presence is dictated by nature, have a relative value to persons. Since they are irrational, ‘things' fit their description. Kant suggests that the two should co-exist under certain moral values and standards, though on different scale values, persons being on the high end.

Moral status of non-human animals

In a nutshell, Kant believes non-human animals should have lower moral status compared to human beings. However, many have criticized this assertion, on the view that it is retrogressive and a means of demeaning them. He justifies his argument by pointing out the effect of raising animals' moral status to the same equilibrium as that of humans. This move, according to him, will consequently downgrade people, yet they are the only beings whose actions is based on reason. His school of thought proposes that animals should not be accorded same rights as people. He believes humans have a responsibility to take care of animals, in the best way possible because it is human to do so. In other words, it is a means of showing what one would do to a fellow human. It, therefore, shows that animals are a ‘mere means' through which man can showcase his actions to others. Persons have rights because they can give consent before an action is done. In his ‘Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals' writings, he affirms that humans are animals who harbor the intellectual capability.

Animals cannot give informed consent. They have no ‘will' and execute duties as directed by humans. Such directions, as Kant observes, should be in line with society's acceptable morals. Animals should, therefore, be treated as a means because it is impractical to gain their prior consent. Based on this argument, animals rank lower to human beings on the good status scale. People are capable of logical reasoning, and morality comes in as a tool to set the limits within which such reasonable acts can extent. Without morality, human actions would sway to areas which the society considers absurd.

Morality of our practices towards animals as perceived by Kant

Kant revokes the attitude many have towards animals in different geographical jurisdictions. Though he firmly believes animals should be treated the same way as humans, he stands firm on the proposal that animals shouldn't receive the same treat as things. In essence, persons ought to treat animals with humanity, palliative care, and love. Animal cruelty has been on the rise in many areas, civilized nations included. Our food production system is unfair. Animals do not feature in the process. The way domesticated animals are treated in many developing countries, because of the high poverty level, is inhuman. Animals eat leftovers, unethical behavior. Kant wants animals to be treated ethically rather than juridical.

Our intuitions agree that animals are more than things. They can move, they have life, and are mortal just as humans. The clear distinction, as pointed out earlier is their lack of reason and ability to consent. Finding care for them includes the provision of adequate and quality food, provision of shelter, and recreation. Kant observes that this has been neglected in many places, and considered it immoral. Not only does it go against what animals deserve, but is inhuman in itself. Kant suggests legislation and implementation of laws curbing animal cruelty. The aim should be to tame such immoral acts, not to raise the moral rights of animals to the same level as humans. Kant tells us to value our humanity, because, from it, we draw the motivation to care for animals.

Personal perception of morality of our practices towards animals

Kant's assessment is justifiable. Caring for animals should be driven by their needs, but rather the desire to doing what's in line with humanity. It is what Kant proposes. This paper shares the same school of thought. Animal cruelty is immoral. It refers to the careless handling of animals and encompasses areas such as the provision of food, shelter, among others. As study reports, animal cruelty has been declining at a slower rate than it should due to the failure of implementation of policies geared towards animal protection. The same survey highlights a case in the Far East where hundreds of dogs were injected a toxic drug in a bid to reducing their increasing population. Not only is such an act unethical, but it goes against international policies on animal protection and environmental care. Kant made it clear that animals lack informed consent capabilities and their actions are purely based on humans' directives. All rational people, therefore, should apply their reason and do what the society considers moral to animals.

The morality of such practices, as illustrated above should be tamed through legislation and execution of implemented laws. Activists should not champion for the inclusion of animal rights in the constitution since this demeans the value of man. They should educate the society on the importance of animal care as being part of the moral fabric that binds the community together. Taking care of animals is everyone's moral obligation. Punitive measures should be set for those found on the wrong side of the law. Policies are meant to restrain man's activities and thoughts within a defined scope.


Kant classified world's existing matter into things and persons. Animals are not necessarily things since they possess many features that befit ‘persons' definition. Animals rank lower to humans on the moral status scale because they lack rationality and are used as means to achieving humanity. This paper is in agreement with Kant's assessment of practices in the society. Many man's activities towards animals are immoral. Legislative measures should be put in place and implemented to draw a boundary within which man's thoughts and actions may extent.


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