The editors of Kant’s Doctrine of Right in the 21st Century introduce their new collection.
For a long time, Kant’s Doctrine of Right languished in relative neglect, even among Kantians. The work was best known for its uncompromising views on punishment and revolution, and for a seemingly limited and not particularly original emphasis on private property. Kant’s more interesting political claims were often said to be located elsewhere: in the third Critique (Hannah Arendt, Patrick Riley), or the structure of the critical project (Onora O’Neill). When John Rawls explained why his theory of justice could be given a ‘Kantian interpretation’, he drew on concepts found just in Kant’s moral philosophy, bypassing the Doctrine of Right entirely.
In recent years, however, there has been an expanding body of work on the Doctrine of Right, by writers like B. Sharon Byrd and Joachim Hruschka, Arthur Ripstein, Elisabeth Ellis, and Lea Ypi. Ripstein and Ellis, in particular, have sought to reframe the arguments of Kant’s text in terms more congenial to contemporary legal and political theory. But can Kant’s arguments really be applied to twenty-first-century political debates?
The authors in this collection of essays explore this question in different ways, by looking at different aspects of Kant’s text. What is distinctive about Kant’s conception of the social contract, or human rights? Can a Kantian political philosophy concern itself with poverty and welfare rights? Can a Kantian affirm a conception of civil disobedience? What kind of view should a Kantian have of international relations? Can Kant’s views on punishment be reconciled with a conception of forgiveness? What would a Kantian position be in contemporary debates about marriage?
The authors of this volume do not always agree with one another, but they always seek to be faithful to the text, and to understand what a political position grounded in the Doctrine of Right would look like in twenty-first-century terms.
Larry Krasnoff is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at the College of Charleston; Nuria Sánchez Madrid is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University Complutense of Madrid; Paula Satne is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Manchester.