Exploitation: Wrongfully Using Human Beings

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Karol Wojtyla

Human Beings are Not Usable Objects

In his book Love and Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla teaches “the personalistic norm,” which is an ethical principle for humanizing personal relationships. According to the norm’s negative formulation,

The person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and, as such, the means to an end.”

Human Beings are Not Throw-Away Things

Wojtyla’s point is that I may not use another person like I use clothing, such as a pair of pants or shirt. The value of clothing is instrumental, which is merely a means to an end. When my clothing is worn out or no longer useful to me, I throw it away or dispose of it. Then, in its place, I buy new clothing. However, I should not do that to another human being, because a human is a person, not a thing.

Human Beings are Not Merely Tools

There is a hierarchy (order of importance) of being. In other words, persons are more valuable than things. That is why persons should be loved and things should used rather than using persons as though they were things.

Therefore, ethically speaking, no one has a right to use other human beings, as if they were merely instruments or tools. Nor has anyone the right to use others to the point of wearing them out and, after that, tossing them aside like worn out clothing. Such moral acts violate the dignity or inherent value of human beings; a value that is irreducible, non–negotiable and non-exchangeable, because they are persons.

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