Kant, political liberalism, and the ethics of same-sex relations

Journal of Social Philosophy 32 (3):446–462 (2001)
  Copy   BIBTEX


I argue that there is nothing in Kant’s moral theory that legitimates condemnation of same-sex relations and that the arguments from natural ends Kant relies on in doing so are unjustified by the constraints placed upon morality to avoid the empirical determination of judgments. In order to make clear why same-sex activity does not contradict the requirements of the moral law, we need to understand Kant’s account of legitimate sexual activity. I provide this reconstruction in the first section, drawing upon the Lectures on Ethics and Metaphysics of Morals. In the second section, I critique the first kind of argument that grounds Kant’s assessment, that from natural ends. I show how it is based upon underlying teleological premises and raise doubts concerning Kant’s reliance on “regulative ideas” in making a consistent ethical theory. In the third section, I argue that same-sex activity that conforms to the conditions of the moral law, especially given the concepts of consent and reciprocity, are in conformity with Kant’s formal requirement of the law of pure practical reason, and therefore cannot justifiably be condemned on those grounds. Finally, I conclude with some discussion about Rawls and political liberalism. I hope to show how the present Kantian revival in ethical theory can place itself in opposition to the conservative and homophobic hysteria surrounding debates on political and legal issues such as same-sex “marriage.”

Author's Profile

Kory P. Schaff
California State University, Los Angeles


Added to PP

96 (#64,687)

6 months
33 (#48,575)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?