‘A Kantian Justification of Possession’.
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In M. Timmons (ed.), Kant’s Metaphysics of Ethics: Interpretive Essays. Oxford (2002)
Kant’s justification of possession appears to assume rather than prove its legitimacy. This apparent question-begging has been recapitulated or exacerbated but not resolved in the literature. However, Kant provides a sound justification of limited rights to possess and use things (qualified choses in possession), not of private property rights. Kant’s argument is not purely a priori; it is in Kant’s Critical sense ‘metaphysical’ because it applies the pure a priori ‘Universal Principles of Right’ to the concept of finite rational human agency. This use implicitly involves a ‘Contradiction in Conception’ test, which I explicate in detail. The limited rights to possession and use justified by Kant’s argument suffice for his social contract argument for the legitimacy of the state.
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