Kantian Humanity and Chimps
11/23/2017 4:00 PM
YER : Library Meeting Room
​​Kantian Humanity and Chimps on what it is to be human in the morally relevant sense

Dr. Lucas Thorpe
Boğaziçi University Philosophy Department

A Kantian needs to give some account of how we are to recognize what counts as morally relevant others. Paul Guyer has suggested that our recognition of morally relevant others is based upon an argument from analogy; we judge that some individuals are similar to us in relevant respects. I argue, in contrast, that Kant believes that we must assume, for moral reasons, that we have a reliable (quasi perceptual) capacity to recognize morally relevant others. Drawing on recent research in developmental psychology I defend a modified version of Kant’s account. This research suggests that, unlike nonhuman animals, healthy human infants develop a capacity to engage in joint cooperative activities. My suggestion is that what it is to be human (in a morally) relevant sense is to be a being we can engage in joint cooperative activities with. We have no criterion or principle to pick out which bits of the word are morally relevant others, for the only way we have of establishing whether a being is the sort we can engage in a joint cooperative activity with it to try and do so. I argue that this the capacity to engage in joint cooperative activities is not necessarily limited to language using animals, although it may be the case, as a contingent empirical fact, that only language using animals are capable of such interaction.​