Elijah Millgram (Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah)
Austrian Constructivism (or, What Was Kant's Formula of Humanity, Really?)
Abstract: Kant tells us that we are to treat persons always as ends in themselves, and never merely as means. That dictum is both opaque -- this is not a turn of phrase that wears its sense on its literal sleeve -- and obscurely motivated: is there any reason to do as Kant says, or is the demand merely high-minded piousness?
To address those concerns, I will consider an argument advanced by the so-called Austrian economists against socialist central planning. I will show how it can be extended and adapted into an argument whose conclusion matches a widespread reading of Kant's Formula of Humanity, and on which it makes sense as a social strategy. I will wrap up by suggesting an interpretation of the concept of a person, and I will indicate limits to deriving substantive guidelines for action from the Kantian dictum.