Kant’s Political Philosophy

Philosophy Compass 7 (12):896-909 (2012)


Kant’s political theory stands in the social contract tradition, but departs significantly from earlier versions of social contract theory. Most importantly Kant holds, against Hobbes and Locke, that we have not merely a pragmatic reason but an obligation to exit the state of nature and found a state. Kant holds that each person has an innate right to freedom, but it is possible to simultaneously honor everyone’s right only under the rule of law. Since we are obligated to respect each person’s right to freedom, and can do so only in a state, we are obligated to submit to the authority of the state if we have one, and to establish one if we do not. In the first half of the essay I reconstruct this argument in more detail. In the second half I survey four points of controversy: What is the relationship between Kant’s political philosophy and his moral philosophy? How does the innate right to freedom support the postulate that we are permitted to acquire property and other private rights? How does the postulate support an obligation to found the state? How should we understand Kant’s views about political revolutions?

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,694

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

111 (#108,348)

6 months
6 (#117,251)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Kyla Ebels-Duggan
Northwestern University

References found in this work

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
The Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - Cambridge University Press.
Creating the Kingdom of Ends.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.

View all 45 references / Add more references

Citations of this work

Freedom and Poverty in the Kantian State.Rafeeq Hasan - 2018 - European Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):911-931.
The relational wrong of Poverty.Ariel Zylberman - forthcoming - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-17.
Innate Right in Kant—A Critical Reading.Katrin Flikschuh - 2022 - European Journal of Philosophy 30 (2):823-839.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations