Kingdom of Ends  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Kingdom of Ends is a thought experiment in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Kant introduced the concept in his work, the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (4:439). It proposes a world in which all human beings are treated as ends in themselves, rather than made use of as means to the ends of other people.

The nature of the concept

The kingdom of ends is a hypothetical state of existence that is derived from Kant's categorical imperative. A kingdom of ends is composed entirely of rational beings, which Kant defines as beings who are capable of moral deliberation (though his definition expands in other areas). In order to be a part of the Kingdom of Ends, these rational beings must choose to act by maxims that imply absolute necessity. It is from this point of view that they must judge themselves and their actions.

By the phrase kingdom, he means the "union of different rational beings in a system by common laws." These common laws, as established by the categorical imperative, are the laws used to evaluate the worth of an individual's actions. With this kingdom of individuals all living by the categorical imperative, particularly Kant's second formulation of it, our kingdom and all within it will treat all other members of this kingdom as ends in themselves, rather than as means to arriving at goals that one selfishly wants to accomplish for one's own purposes. This systematic whole is the kingdom of ends.

People can only belong to the kingdom of ends when they give universal laws unto it, and are subject to those same laws and all laws within. Such rational beings must regard themselves simultaneously as sovereign when making laws, and as subject when obeying them. Morality, therefore, is acting out of reverence for all universal laws which make the kingdom of ends possible. In a true kingdom of ends, acting virtuously will be rewarded with happiness.

In his writings on religion, Kant interprets the kingdom of God as a religious symbol for the moral reality of the kingdom of ends. As such, it is the ultimate goal of both religious and political organization of human society.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kingdom of Ends" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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