Kant and Rehberg on political theory and practice

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 30 (4):566-588 (2022)
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ABSTRACT This article examines the under-researched figure A.W. Rehberg in his exchange with Kant over the relationship between theory and practice in the philosophy of right. I argue that Rehberg raises, what I call, two problems of political matter which attempt to show that Kant's overly formal approach to political theory cannot justifiably determine political practice. The first problem is the problem of positive determinations of right, rather than merely negative prohibitions. Rehberg takes this to mean that Kant cannot determine us to a specific form of constitution. I argue that Kant's innovation of intelligible property functions as a response to this critique in that it provides the possibility of synthetic propositions of right a priori. Second, Rehberg insists that an a priori system of right cannot relate to already formed historical communities. Here Kant's response comes close to agreeing with Rehberg as Kant takes prudential or historical reasoning to harmonize with the demands of a priori right in order to applied to the sensible world. Kant, in this instance, comes closer to Rehberg by denying centralized enlightened monarchy and the reliance on natural and historical development for the application of right.

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Mike Gregory
University of Edinburgh

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