Kingdom of Ends
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The Kingdom of Ends (German: Reich der Zwecke) is a thought experiment centered on the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Kant introduced the concept in his Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (4:439). The thought experiment proposes a world in which all human beings are treated as ends (meaning treated as if they and their well-being are the goal), not as mere means to an end for other people.
The Kingdom of Ends is a hypothetical state of existence that is derived from Kant's categorical imperative. A Kingdom of Ends is composed entirely of rational beings, whom Kant defines as those capable of moral deliberation (though his definition expands in other areas) who must choose to act by laws that imply an absolute necessity. It is from this point of view that they must judge themselves and their actions.
Though the term is usually translated as "Kingdom of Ends", the German word "Reich" is perhaps more appropriately translated as "realm". Kant uses it to mean the "systematic union of different rational beings under common laws". These common laws, established by the categorical imperative, are the gauge used to evaluate the worthiness of an individual's actions. When all the kingdom's individuals live by the categorical imperative—particularly Kant's second formulation of it—each one will treat all of his fellowmen as ends in themselves, instead of means to achieving one's own selfish goals. This systematic whole is the Kingdom of Ends.
People can only belong to the Kingdom of Ends when they become subject to these universal laws. Such rational beings must regard themselves simultaneously as sovereign when making laws, and as subject when obeying them. Morality, therefore, is acting out of reverence for all universal laws which make the Kingdom of Ends possible. In a true Kingdom of Ends, acting virtuously will be rewarded with happiness.
In his writings on religion, Kant interprets the Kingdom of God as a religious symbol for the moral reality of the Kingdom of Ends. As such, it is the ultimate goal of both religious and political organization of human society.
- Stephen Palmquist "'The Kingdom of God is at Hand!' (Did Kant really say that?)", History of Philosophy Quarterly 11:4 (October 1994), pp.421-437.