Kant’s Critique of Hobbes

Sovereignty and Cosmopolitanism

Author(s): Howard Williams

Language: English

Genre(s): Philosophy

Series: Political Philosophy Now

  • July 2003 · 208pages · 220x138mm

  • ·Paperback - 9780708318140

About The Book

In "Leviathan" (1651), Thomas Hobbes lays out the theoretical basis of the Westphalian Order - dominant in European politics from the treaty of Westphalia in 1648 until the end of World War II - in which sovereign and absolutist national states compete against each other for power and influence. In opposition to Hobbes, Immanuel Kant develops a theory of cosmopolitan right in which state sovereignty is matched with a gradually developing world federation of peaceful states. Similarly, Kant opposes Hobbes's self-centred moral theory with a moral theory which is based on self and the community. This study looks at the relationship between the two thinkers. It demonstrates the viable alternative to Hobbes' orthodoxy that can be found in Kant's political writings. It also shows how Kant anticipates the development of a world-wide political order and suggests that through Kant's political philosophy, the sovereignty of the individual state and cosmopolitanism (world-citizenship) can be brought into agreement.


'Williams' short book offers an extremely readable, carefully conceived, and often insightful comparative analysis of Hobbes's and Kant's political thought. The book should be especially welcome to those who are new to Kant's political writings...' (History of Political Thought, Vol XXV, No. 4, Winter 2004)


1. Introduction: Kant and Hobbes; 2. Revolution and Civil War in Kant and Hobbes; 3. Christian Garve, Kant and the German Enlightenment; 4. Liberty in Kant and Hobbes; 5. Hobbesian equality and Kant’s theory of equality; 6. Independence and Citizenship in Kant and Hobbes; 7. Political Change in Kant; 8. Perpetual Peace as a Response to Hobbes’s political philosophy; 9. Conclusion

About the Author(s)

Howard Williams

Howard Williams is Professor in Political Theory at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University and is the general editor of the Political Philosophy Now series.

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