I would like to share today one of the most important thoughts that I came across in my philosophy classes at secondary school. Despite his peculiar personality and ritualized life (and some of his statements about women, such as ‘A woman is embarrassed little that she does not possess certain high insights; that she is timid, and not fit for serious employment . . . . She is beautiful and captivates, and that is enough.’), Immanuel Kant revolutionized philosophy. Concerned with issues ranging from aesthetic and transcendental to ethical, he formulated the categorical imperative which still carries tremendous relevance:
‘May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law.’
Self-reflection and individual contemplation on the right and wrong is here interwoven with the responsibility for others. In addition, ‘act so that you treat humanity, both in your own person and in that of another, always as an end and never merely as a means.’
Treating people with respect and not using them for one’s own goals is something that needs to be re-implemented in today’s society. Thinking of them as human beings that deserve kind (pure?untainted?) behaviour directed at them without seeking any ulterior motives, not attempting to coax money out of them, not complimenting them to get a favourable reference letter…can we still do that? In the world of unprecedented emphasis on network connections, fans, followers, likes and shares? Can we still be uncalculating?
Can we stop using the others?