Kant's Theory of Juridical Duties and Their Legislation: An Examination of the Relationship of Law and Morality According to "Metaphysik der Sitten"

Dissertation, The Johns Hopkins University (1988)

Sven Arntzen
Telemark College
Kant has made an attempt in his Doctrine of Law to show that the principles of natural Law are a priori principles of pure practical reason. He considers this a necessary step towards establishing the obligating force of positive legislation within a legal system. It is not obvious, however, that Law, which recognizes external coercion as a possible incentive for the compliance with its duties, can be reconciled with pure practical reason, which through the categorical imperative commands that one fulfill duty from the idea of duty and so independently of inclination. Accordingly, it is not clear that there is a systematic and necessary connection between Law and morality for Kant and that he has succeeded in his overall objective of justifying positive Law. ;My dissertation is concerned with the question of how, according to Kant, pure practical reason can allow for juridical legislation, a legislation which admits of an incentive other than the idea of duty for the fulfillment of certain duties. I present criticisms of interpretations according to which Law with its external character cannot be reconciled with morality for Kant. I also discuss some interpretations according to which Law with its duties and legislation is justifiable from the point of view of pure practical reason, either as directly derivable from the categorical imperative or as a means for the realization and protection of the individual's moral freedom. I argue that such accounts do not succeed in explaining the possibility of external coercion for pure practical reason. I do maintain, however, that Law is reconcilable with pure practical reason for Kant, and I offer an explanation of how this is so: an examination of the different classes of duties shows that only juridical duties, or perfect duties to others, are such that reason must recongnize for them a kind of constraint other than free self-constraint and therefore must acknowledge the possibility of juridical legislation for these duties
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