Kant's non-voluntarist conception of political obligations: Why justice is impossible in the state of nature

Kantian Review 13 (2):1-45 (2008)
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Abstract

This paper presents and defends Kant’s non-voluntarist conception of political obligations. I argue that civil society is not primarily a prudential requirement for justice; it is not merely a necessary evil or moral response to combat our corrupting nature or our tendency to act viciously, thoughtlessly or in a biased manner. Rather, civil society is constitutive of rightful relations because only in civil society can we interact in ways reconcilable with each person’s innate right to freedom. Civil society is the means through which we can rightfully interact even on the ideal assumption that no one ever succumbs to immoral temptation.

Author's Profile

Helga Varden
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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