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Round_2_Memo_2_KANT.pdf-Bowen H. McCoy’s “The Parable of
Page 1
Bowen H. McCoy’s
“The Parable of the Sadhu”
from a Kantian Perspective
In this memo I shall attempt to establish why the actions taken by the author and his
companions, as described in the reading
The Parable of the Sadhu
, were not ethical from the
perspective of the three formulations of Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative
If we see that the author and his companions’ actions were not congruent with the three
formulations, then we can conclude that they failed to act according to Kant’s categorical
imperative and therefore the actions were not ethical.
first formulation
of the categorical imperative of Kant asks us to “Act only on that maxim
by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Basically this
formulation asks us to examine what would happen if the principle of the action were a
universal law. One principle behind the actions (or inaction) of the author and his companions
can be phrased thus:
If one (observer) finds someone in a condition where the person is at the risk of death
without any help (that can be extended by the observer), then the observer should help
the person at risk as much as he or she can in his or her individual capacity WITHOUT
sacrificing their (the observer/helper’s) own goals, while handing them over to the care
of other individuals who, in the observer’s perception, might be in a position to help,
while the observer goes on to fulfill his or her goals.
We can see that the author himself was not ready to proclaim that this would have been a
universal truth or course of action when he did not give a full answer the question posed by his
companion Stephen: “I wonder… what you would have done, Buzz, if the sadhu had been a
welldress Western woman?” One can presume the answer that had it been a different person
than the sadhu, the author or any of the companion might have taken a different action than
what was done. Therefore, we can conclude that the Author and his companions failed to act
upon the first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative.
second formulation
“Always treating humanity in a person as an end, and never as a means
merely” talks about how people should not be utilized or used as “mere means” and rather
should be treated with respect and without coercion. We can see that this formulation was also
clearly violated by the author and his companions, when each of them decided to help the
sadhu only up to the level where it did not jeopardize their personal goal of reaching the
summit in time and chose to pass him on to others’ care. Thus when the New Zealander’s
handed the Sadhu over to the author, they used the author as
“mere means”
so that they can
get rid of the responsibility of taking care of the sadhu and can carry on with their personal
goal. The author himself and the others, under a variety of excuses, continued to dump the
sadhu on others’ lap without really taking consideration, consent or consultation of the party to
The actions regarding the Sadhu can be analyzed as categorical imperative as those actions were not
intermediary actions/steps/objectives done to achieve another objective (in that case it would have been a
hypothetical imperative)

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