Appropriately Using People Merely as a Means

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There has been a great deal of philosophical discussion about using people, using people intentionally, using people as a means to some end, and using people merely (or just, or only) as a means to some end. In this paper, I defend the following claim about using people: NOT ALWAYS WRONG: using people—even merely as a means—is not always (prima facie or pro tanto or all-things-considered) morally objectionable. Having defended that claim, I suggest that the following claim is also correct: NO ONE FEATURE: when it is morally objectionable to use people (either as a means or merely as a means), this is for many different kinds of reasons—there is no one wrong-making feature that every morally objectionable using has in common. After discussing these claims, I use them to present and motivate what I call the “precaution” theory of norms against using people. I conclude by considering a few cases from the criminal law context—cases that are naturally described as using people—to assess the moral appropriateness of this kind of use in these cases, and to demonstrate how the theory applies to the real world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)777-794
Number of pages18
JournalCriminal Law and Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Law


  • Arrest quotas
  • Consequentialism
  • Deontology
  • Derek Parfit
  • Kantian ethics
  • Using people

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