Kant believes humans have the highest value in the realm of existence because they are the only beings capable of reasoning. He extends this theory to say that humans have the right to use other creatures in any way they see fit as long as they are serving an end to justify the means. Kant perceives humans as the most valuable creatures because other “animals” are not able to have desires and set personal goals. Modern science invalidates some of Kant’s views because some animals do in fact have the mental capacity to express desire (however Kant was not aware of this).
He thought that humans are entitled to respect each other and allow each other to act freely, utilizing the special tool of rational thinking that he believes is unique to the species. Kant’s core principle is the Categorical Imperative; essentially the concept that all people should treat others (as well as themselves) as an ends and never just as a means to fulfill goals/desires. People all hold an elite status in the universe and are obliged to recognize each other’s significance.
Lying and manipulation and are strictly forbidden according to Kant’s notions because they involve treating a person as merely a means to achieve personal satisfaction. A prime example of someone defying the Categorical Imperative: a person intends to go out with a friend and lies about their car being broken so they do not have to drive. This person strips deceives his/her friend into driving and lies to satisfy his/her ulterior motive.
If the person simply tells his/her friend the truth that they do not feel like driving, the friend is left to decide if he/she wants to take on the duty of driving based on his/her values and thought processes. Kant thinks humans are required to live up to their perfect duties. If one lies they are defying their perfect duty. Lying is a “contradiction in conceivability” and if it is applied on a universal standard then there would be no foundation for trust. Language itself would be flawed; people could no longer rely on others to be genuine.
Deceit is also never justified because it involves treating a person as only a means and denies the person the status of an end in his or her self. Kant didn’t think there is any context or circumstance where lying is acceptable, however if Kant was in a situation where lying could save his life, he would briefly abandon his rigid philosophy for self-preservation. Immanuel Kant devises an array of theories and maxims that revolves around the central belief in the Categorical Imperative.
Human’s intrinsic value lies in their reasoning and morality. Since they comprise the upper echelons of existence they must use their power cautiously and acknowledge that all other humans are their equals. According to Kant they can never, by any means, use other humans as mere instruments to achieve personal goals. People must also apply Kant’s theory to themselves and respect their own status as rational, mentally supreme beings.