In this paper, I will explain why Kant’s Principle of Humanity leads to the idea that we can only be held morally responsible for the things that are within our control by showing that Kant is correct, moral luck do not exist. Moral luck is when an agent can be correctly treated as an object of moral judgment despite the fact the agent is judged for factors out of their control.
Kant’s principle of humanity suggests acting in such a way that you treat humanity always as an end and never merely as a means. This principle describes the conduct of fully rational beings towards others and themselves. Since human beings are seen as rational beings this principle should describe the conduct of human beings towards themselves and others. To explain why Kant’s Principle of Humanity leads to the idea that we can only be held morally responsible for the things that are within our control one must have a clear understanding about humanity, means, and ends. Kant reference to humanity in this principle was not limited to Homo sapiens but all rational and autonomous beings, regardless of species.
Kant also reference the treatment of humanity as an end and never merely a means. To treat someone as a means is using them to achieve you’re your goals, while treating someone as an end is treating them with the respect they deserve. Kant argues that our ability to use reason and act independently are the reason everyone deserves some level of respect. Kant’s Principle of Humanity emphasizes rationality and autonomy. Being an autonomous person means being responsible for the actions you make, the goals you create, and the actions you take in pursing them. Kant believes a person can only be morally responsible for thing inside of their control. The actions other takes are of little significance when compared to the actions of oneself.
As an autonomous person you are responsible for your actions and the consequences that follows. For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. Newton Third Law of motion can be applied to the decisions made in life.
Everyday people are faced with decisions, both easy and hard. When faced with difficult decisions people weigh in the pros and cons before coming to final decision. By choosing one decision over another an equal reaction happens as a result, one that makes sense to us, but there can also be opposite reactions that occur that we did not see coming. In the case with moral luck, an action or decision depends on factors outside of our control. For example, 2 separate people decides to drive homes drunk at night. Driver A get home safely, while Driver B hits a pedestrian crossing the dark roads. If such a things as moral luck existed, then Driver B would be considered more blameworthy because they hit someone, while Driver A would be morally lucky.
Looking closely, both drivers made the decision to drive intoxicated and did not expect nor intend to hit anyone, yet Drive B was met with a factor that would be deemed outside of their control. This issue with moral luck is validating factors that are truly outside a person control. Every action Driver B has taken since deciding to drive home intoxicated has caused some kind of reaction that has lead him to that moment. The choices made by Driver B may have cause an unexpected result to occur, but it is Driver B’s responsibility as an autonomous person to take responsibility for his actions that improved upon the risk of such a thing happening. One might object here that Kant’s principle of humanity fails as people are not truly autonomous as there are actions beyond our control that influences the results of our actions. However, Kant argues people are autonomous as long as the person acts morally, out of duty. Kant concedes to the point the results of our actions are not fully within our control, but because of this they are morally irrelevant.
Kant principle of humanity leads to the idea we can only be held morally responsible for the things that are within our control. Which is why the concept of moral luck is flawed because of the factors outside of our control do not determine the morality of our actions.