Kant, Ripstein and the Circle of Freedom: A Critical Note

European Journal of Philosophy 20 (3):450-459 (2012)
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Much contemporary political philosophy claims to be Kant-inspired, but its aims and method differ from Kant's own. In his recent book, Force and Freedom, Arthur Ripstein advocates a more orthodox Kantian outlook, presenting it as superior to dominant (Kant-inspired) views. The most striking feature of this outlook is its attempt to ground the whole of political morality in one right: the right to freedom, understood as the right to be independent of others’ choices. Is Ripstein's Kantian project successful? In this research note I argue that it is not. First, I suggest that Ripstein's notion of freedom is viciously circular. It is meant to ground all rights, but in fact it presupposes an account of those rights. Second, I show that—independently of its inability to ground a whole political morality—such a moralized understanding of freedom is normatively unappealing
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