An End in Itself

One of the most important things I got from reading Immanuel Kant was the notion of the end-in-itself. Actually I already knew about this concept, we all do, we just forget. In his Metaphysics of Morals Kant tells us that to be moral we must treat all human beings, including ourselves, not merely as a means to an end but an end-in-ourselves.

This got me thinking about the interactions I have with people in my life. So often I walk into a store and forget that I am dealing with a human being not a vending machine. Certainly my intent is to buy something in the store but Kant is pointing out it is just not “right” to see the clerk as merely a means to my getting something I want to purchase any more than it is "right" for the clerk to see me merely as a means to make money. Kant grants that we need to use ourselves and others as means to ends, but he points out it is "wrong" to not at the same, time treat each other as an end.

I innately understand what Kant means because I know that, as human beings, we are ends in ourselves and to act otherwise leaves everyone feeling used and incomplete. I began to think more about all the things I do in my day that I treat as merely a means to an end. I realized that I would feel a lot more fulfilled if I did more things because I enjoy them, in other words, as ends in themselves.

It is easy to forget to treat others and ourselves as ends. We do jobs to make money to buy stuff. We take showers to get clean rather than have a restful bath. When we forget to do things we enjoy for their own sake, everything becomes a chore instead of a pleasure. No wonder we feel tired and unfulfilled a lot of the time. When we neglect ourselves in this way we tend to neglect others too and create habits that affect our world.

Kant goes on to describe a world where everyone always treats their self and others as ends-in-themselves. He calls this world “A Kingdom of Ends”. That sounds like a world I would like to live in.

~Michael Jenkins


  1. This article is total bullshit...It's all about the need to BE a separate self in this 3D world, and because there is NO seperate self in reality, the "person" who I "think" I am is a thought only... a fragile thought and wants to PREVAIL, at the expense of any other. EGO< EGO< EGO

  2. Hey, I think you've got a valid point about the separate self/ego, but I really enjoyed this article and the only thing I find egoistic is your attitude and calling it "total bullshit."

    I really enjoyed your article as always Michael. Keep up the good work. Peace

  3. Something tells me Anonymous is up to something fishy...

  4. my " bullshit" comment was made out of anger, my apologies for being so crass. In this "it's all about me, me, me culture" I expected more from an awakened person who still sees his fellow man as a vending machine, and seems to need a philosopphy to promote kind behavior. My attitude was egoistic. I do not believe it's possible to survive without one, I'm sure the wisest of sages still had some remnant of an ego.
    I enjoy your Blogs and posts Eric, and while I continue to awaken and strive to awaken others, I don't really think that this 3D world can be "fixed" it is corrupt by nature.
    Joe (anonymous)

  5. Thanks for the explanation Joe. I can see more where you're coming from now. I would like to think us "awakened" could live in a constant humble, kind, forgiving, loving, egoless state and never for a second treat our fellow men as vending machines, but I applaud Michael's honesty in pointing out this hypocrisy, and I must admit I've seen it in myself as well. For instance with Taxi drivers or Cashiers, my interaction with them more often than not involves no real "humanity" whatsoever, just rote robotic-like functionality, a means to an end. Making sure all means are an end in themselves is a good reminder to stay present, mindful, and compassionate at all times. Peace