What is a both sufficient and necessary condition for not treating people merely as a means?

To me the meaning of a concept is equivalent to a sufficient and necessary condition with which to classify and analogous to the effective mass of matter/ beings in general (energy is equivalent to mass).

A concept as I see it exists and is well defined if and only if there is a sufficient and necessary condition with which to classify.

E.g Am I being used merely as a means when the government enforces building, environmental, competition, market, hygiene, tax, employment laws or when a civilian enforces/stands by an agreement/contract or when an employer just fires me because he is performing poorly financially? All these cases lack the hypothetical consent.

I am particularly interested in the metaphysical and ontological implications and its application in science/epistemology and policy making.


Henry Thoreau believed the government was using the people as a means to further the Mexican-American war (1846-1848) by charging a poll tax. Declining to be a means to an end Thoreau refused to pay and was jailed. His friend Emerson visited Thoreau in jail and asked, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" to which Thoreau replied, "Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?" Retribution was ineffective.

To not use people as a means is simply not to use them.

  • Upvoted. But didn't understand the retribution statement... Feb 26 '20 at 9:42
  • @Rusi-packing-up The OP seems to be concerned about people being 'used' by coercion, threats and penalties. I meant to point out that Thoreau wouldn't be used. The penalty and retribution was ineffective. Thoreau behaves as an end, not a means to an end. Feb 26 '20 at 12:51
  • Ah that-a-way! But it's arguable either way. Yeah Thoreau could not be strong-armed by jail. But we don't know how many others said: «Hell if even Thoreau's been jailed what about poor me?» And they quietly put their consciences on the attic and paid the killing-funding tax. Feb 26 '20 at 12:52
  • I guess they use themselves as means. The cost/benefit balance of conscience vs practicality would vary across people and circumstances. Feb 26 '20 at 13:03

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