Kant's Theory of Justice

Kant-Studien 79 (1-4):407-433 (1988)
Abstract
Following the tradition of classical liberalism, Kant's political philosophy and theory of justice focus on the relation between individual freedom, as the central value of political life, and the state, whose primary normative function is both to restrain and protect individual liberty. In this accessible interpretation of Kant's political philosophy, Allen D. Rosen focuses on the relation among justice, political authority (the state), and individual liberty. He offers interpretations of the ethical bases of Kant's view of justice, of the structure of his taxonomy of duties, and of his understanding of social welfare legislation. Arguing against the grain of much recent scholarly commentary, Rosen asserts that Kant's principles of justice are direct corollaries of the Categorical Imperative and that Kant does not support an absolute or even near-absolute duty of obedience to governments. He also maintains that Kant has principled and important reasons for repudiating a right of revolution and that Kant is not, as he is almost always taken to be, an advocate of the nightwatchman or minimal state. The Kant that emerges from Rosen's pages is an appealing and surprisingly modern philosopher, whose preoccupation with individual freedom still resonates in contemporary political and philosophical debates, and whose attempts to define the proper limits of individual liberty remain relevant even at the end of the twentieth century.
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