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Using sentient beings as a means to an end

Is it ethical to use sentient beings as a means to an end, as the Borg from Star Trek do?

Amanda Krehbiel

on 16 August 2012

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Transcript of Using sentient beings as a means to an end

The Borg The Borg are a pseudo-race of cybernetic beings, or cyborgs, from the Delta Quadrant. No truly single individual exists within the Borg Collective (with the possible sole exception of the Borg Queen), as they were linked into a hive mind.
Their ultimate goal is perfection through the forcible assimilation of diverse sentient species, technologies, and knowledge. As a result, they are among the most powerful and feared races in the galaxy, without really being a true "race" at all. On their quest to achieve perfection the Borg take the lives of other species to the point of complete extinction. This raises the question:
Is it ok to use sentient beings as a means to an end? Bibliography "Borg - Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki." Memory Alpha The Star Trek Wiki. Web. 27 Dec. 2011. <http://en.memory- alpha.org/wiki/Borg>.
Class Notes
Kant, Immanuel. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. James W. Ellington. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981. Print.
Kessler, Gary E. Voices of Wisdom: a Multicultural Philosophy Reader. Australia: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2004. Print.
Solomon, Robert C. The Big Questions: a Short Introduction to Philosophy. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College, 2010. Print Immanuel Kant Definition of Sentient Being: According to dictionary.com, sentient means: having the power of perception by the senses; conscious

And being means: conscious, mortal existence; life

Therefore a Sentient Being is something that is both living and aware of themselves, as well as others. In his "Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals" Kant said that people should:
"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end."
In other words Kant is arguing that it is wrong to treat people as the stone on which they need to step in order to achieve something. Instead people need to be treated as ends in themselves, or things to be achieved (or bettered), in and of themselves. Kants Rationale Kant's justification for saying that humans should not be used as means to an end is his Categorical Imperative.
The Categorical Imperative states that for an act to be good it has to be able to be applied in a universal law.
If there was a universal law of using sentient beings as a means to an end everyone would be using everyone else for their own gain, which is impractical and therefore wrong. Counter Arguments Against Kant Kant's entire moral philosophy is based on the Categorical Imperative. The problem with this is that there are instances where individulized laws are warranted. In other words, a universal law would say it is wrong, but under specific circumstances it is an acceptable act. Resistance is Futile Ayn Rand The objectivists are going to argue that you should do what is best for you. You should do what makes you feel good and fits with your morals. If you don't want to do something, then don't. Sentient Beings as a Means to an End Rand is then going to argue that if it is best for you, and you want to, then it is ok to use sentient beings as a means to an end. The only exception is in the case of a Metaphysical Emergency (situations where other people's lives are in danger), in which you are required to help, so long as you can do it safely. Flaws with Objectivism's Argument Objectivism can be used to promote selfishness and justify wrong deeds. For example a woman could say, it was right of me to cheat on my husband because that is what made me happy.
Just because it makes you happy does not mean that it is alwasy ok to use sentient beings as a means to an end, especially if it is harmful to those that are being used. Utilitarianism (Bentham and Mills) The Utilitarians argue that good things promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people; they promote happiness and pleasure and limit pain and suffering, all at the same time. According to the Vulcans: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one or the few (similar to Utilitarianism). Relation to Sentient Beings According to Utilitarianism, as long as the end (from using sentient beings as a means to an end) promotes happiness and limits suffering for the greatest number of people, it is a good act. The Problem The people who are being used need to be considered as well. Should an act still be considered good if even one person is hurt? The greatest good for the greatest number could be murdering 49.9% of a population, to make room for the other 50.1%. When taken to the extreme, Utilitarianism can be very dangerous. Re-Cap Kant says using sentient beings as a means to an end is wrong (the Borg are wrong)
Ayn Rand says that if it makes you happy and matches your morals you can use sentient beings as a means to an end (the Borg are justified)
Bentham and Mills say that as long as what the Borg are doing is promoting happiness and avoiding suffering for the greatest number then using sentient beings as a means to an end is ok (It could go either way in regards to the Borg) What I Think There are different ways to use sentient beings as a means to an end. Not all of them are bad. The best way to explain this is to think about Biology. Mutualistic Symbiosis: both parties benefit

Commensalistic Symbiosis: One party benefits and the other is neutral

Parasitic Symbiosis: One party benefits and the other suffers Types of Relationships So? In my opinion, as long as the relationship between the sentient being that is being used as a means to an end and the user is either Mutualistic or Commensalistic, there is nothing wrong with it. However in the specific case of the Borg, they are parasitically using others as means to an end, which according to my philosophy is wrong. THE END
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