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Kant's Political Theory

Interpretations and Applications

Edited by Elisabeth Ellis

Publication Year: 2012

Kant’s writings on politics were seldom viewed as having much importance by past interpreters of his thought, especially in comparison with his writings on ethics, which received the lion’s share of attention (along with his major works, such as the Critique of Pure Reason). But in recent years a new generation of scholars has revived interest in what Kant had to say about politics. This volume of essays offers a comprehensive introduction to Kant’s often misunderstood political thought from a position of engagement with today’s most pressing questions. Covering the full range of sources of Kant’s political theory—including not only the Doctrine of Right, the Critiques, and the political essays but also Kant’s lectures and minor writings—the volume’s distinguished contributors demonstrate that Kant’s philosophy offers compelling positions that continue to inspire the best thinking on politics today. Aside from the editor, the contributors are Michaele Ferguson, Louis-Philippe Hodgson, Ian Hunter, John Christian Laursen, Mika LaVaque-Manty, Onora O’Neill, Thomas W. Pogge, Arthur Ripstein, and Robert S. Taylor.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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p. c-c

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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p. v-v

List of Abbreviations

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pp. vi-viii

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pp. 1-24

The study of Kant’s politics is undergoing what Patrick Riley has called “a remarkable renaissance.”1 Recent years have seen a flowering of interest in Kant’s politics among social scientists, political theorists, philosophers, legal scholars, historians, and many others. Among political scientists, research on transnational organizations, the democratic peace hypothesis, just war...

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Chapter 1: Kant and the Social Contract Tradition

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pp. 25-41

The fundamental idea of the social contract tradition is that consent or agreement can justify basic social and political institutions: just societies are based on the consent of the governed, unjust societies are not. As is well known, the tradition has had many forms, notably in political philosophies of the early modern period and in the luxuriant variety of contemporary...

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Chapter 2: Kant and the Circumstances of Justice

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pp. 42-73

Kant lies outside the primary canon in the history of political philosophy, in part because his writings on the topic are frequently opaque, even by the standards of his other writings.1 That opacity often leads readers to take him to hold positions that are not importantly distinct from those of others in the natural law or social contract traditions. So he is sometimes compared,...

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Chapter 3: Is Kant’s Rechtslehre a “Comprehensive Liberalism”?

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pp. 74-100

Beginning in 1985, John Rawls repeatedly emphasized that modern, pluralistic societies should be structured in accordance with a political conception of justice.1 In doing so, he has insisted that his own liberalism should be understood as political, in contrast to the comprehensive liberalisms of Kant and John Stuart Mill.2 While this refinement in Rawls’s position has...

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Chapter 4: Realizing External Freedom: The Kantian Argument for a World State

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pp. 101-134

The central thesis of Kant’s political philosophy is that rational agents living side by side undermine one another’s freedom so long as they remain in a state of nature. The claim is primarily intended as an account of the legitimacy of existing states: it entails that a state is justified in imposing the rule of law on individuals sharing a territory, because doing so amounts to preventing...

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Chapter 5: The Progress of Absolutism in Kant’s Essay "What Is Enlightenment?”

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pp. 135-149

In December 1784, Immanuel Kant published his essay “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” in the Berlinische Monatsschrift (BMS). The question that Kant was answering had been posed the previous December in the BMS by Johann Friedrich Zöllner, who was writing to defend the role of clergy in marriage ceremonies against a proposal to make them...

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Chapter 6: Unsocial Sociability: Perpetual Antagonismin Kant’s Political Thought

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pp. 150-169

While Immanuel Kant is not widely seen as an important political thinker on a par with Aristotle, Locke, or Rousseau, his work has had a tremendous influence on the past fifty years of scholarship in political theory. His insistence on the imperative of setting laws that could command universal consent inspired John Rawls’s attempts to establish the basic principles for a...

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Chapter 7: Kant’s Political Thought in the Prussian Enlightenment

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pp. 170-207

This chapter provides an historical account of Immanuel Kant’s political and religious writings by situating them in the context of the Prussian Enlightenment. “Enlightenment” or Aufklärung was the term adopted by protagonists during the eighteenth century to name a series of cross-cutting public debates over the reform of Prussia’s religious and political constitution...

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Chapter 8: Kant on Education

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pp. 208-224

Kant’s late Pädagogik (1803) is one of his many too often overlooked works. Its contribution to Kant’s moral and political philosophy is significant: it addresses one of the fundamental problems of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment— how to foster people’s civic independence—and so enriches our understanding of Kant’s theory of autonomy. Kant had a lifelong interest...

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Chapter 9: Kant, Freedom of the Press, and Book Piracy

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pp. 225-238

Immanuel Kant is known for calling for intellectual freedom and freedom of the press in his famous essay of 1784, “What Is Enlightenment?” In Theory and Practice he called the press “the sole palladium of the people’s right” (TP, 8:304) and in the best interest of princes (8:302), and in his lectures on anthropology he called it “a great [grosses] means of testing the...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 239-252


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pp. 253-256

Back Cover

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p. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9780271055671
E-ISBN-10: 0271055677
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271053776
Print-ISBN-10: 0271053771

Publication Year: 2012