Talk: Martin Sticker "Kant on Bullshit Jobs"


Martin Sticker's  talk Kant on Bullshit Jobs.

It will take place on THU 20.10.2022 15.00-16.30 at Seminar Room 3B NIG 3.Floor.  Below you can find the abstract:

Kant on Bullshit Jobs

The anthropologist David Graeber famously argues that there is currently a significant (and increasing) amount of bullshit jobs: “paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case” (Graeber 2019, 9-10). Graeber’s discussion of bullshit jobs uncovers and analysis a form of harm that is often overlooked in normative ethics and political philosophy, namely, inducing agents into a state of uselessness. Immanuel Kant might, at first glance, seem a strange dialogue partner for Graeber. After all, the austere Prussian extolls the ideal of work ethics and emphasis on (economic) independence that, we might suspect, are responsible for the rise of bullshit jobs. Yet, Kant thinks that it is essential, a duty even, for human beings to be a (truly) useful member of the world, and working a bullshit job is a way of failing this requirement. In fact, the phenomenon of bullshit jobs can help us understand better how to understand our duty to be useful for others or a means (albeit not a mere one) for them. My main claim in this paper is that agents are morally required to function as true means for others. I will propose that what it means for an agent to be a true means is to be a means to others’ ends regardless of whether the agent is motivated by respect for the moral law. I will call this the External Beneficence account of usefulness. One of the main reasons why bullshit jobs are morally problematic and harmful to workers and society at large is because they do not allow us to exercise external beneficence.