Voluntarism and Conventionalism in Hobbes and Kant

Hobbes Studies 25 (1):43-65 (2012)
Abstract
Kant's relation to Hobbesian voluntarism has recently become a source of controversy for the interpretation of Kant's practical philosophy. Realist interpreters, most prominently Karl Ameriks, have attacked the genealogies of Kantian autonomy suggested by J. B. Schneewind and Christine Korsgaard as misleadingly voluntarist and unacceptably anti-realist. In this debate, however, there has been no real discussion of Kant's own views about Hobbes. By examining the relation of Hobbes' voluntarism to a kind of conventionalism, and through a reading of Kant's most explicit discussion of Hobbes, in “Theory and Practice,“ 1 I argue that Kant's criticism of Hobbes is much more limited than it might first appear. Rather than rejecting Hobbes' voluntarism and conventionalism entirely, Kant ends up criticizing only Hobbes' understanding of the relation between these doctrines. The essay thus defends Schneewind's and Korsgaard's histories of modern moral philosophy, and raises doubts about realist readings of Kant's practical philosophy
Keywords voluntarism   conventionalism   Kant   Hobbes   original contract   constructivism   realism
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