Formula of Humanity

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  • Write an essay on the paper topics described below.

Paper Topic: Famine Relief and Autonomy

Consider the following scenario:

Andreas is a U.S. diplomat trying to negotiate a deal with a deeply impoverished island nation (let’s call it ‘Necesitania’) that will include a generous aid package geared toward famine relief. He is considering two options. The first option is to condition the aid on the opening of a U.S. airbase on the island. Andreas knows the island’s leaders are effectively unable to refuse such a request, given the dire poverty of their people. Andreas also believes it will increase the net happiness of Necesitanians to have the base there: it is likely to employ many locals, and it will bring the island under increased U.S. military protection. However, Andreas also has a second option: just give them the aid with no conditions (outside of agreeing to properly use the funds), and let them decide about the airbase later—after their country has achieved economic stability and independence. Help Andreas make his choice by considering Onora O’Neill’s argument in “A Simplified Version of Kant’s Ethics: Perplexities of Famine and World Hunger.”

In your essay, make sure to:

  1. State and explain Kant’s “Formula of Humanity;”
  2. Present and explain Onora O’Neill’s Kantian argument that when we are giving aid to other persons (or nations), we should avoid doing so in a way that violates their autonomy;
  3. Apply O’Neill’s argument to Andreas’s case;
  4. Present, explain, and evaluate one objection to Onora O’Neill’s argument that Andreas should consider before making his choice (You may raise your own original objection or one we discussed in class, or one discussed by Onora O’Neill in her paper. Please do NOT use sources outside those assigned for the class); and
  5. Based on your analysis, say what you think Andreas should do and why.

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