Juridical Laws as Moral Laws in Kant's Doctrine of Right

In George Pavlakos & Veronica Rodriguez Blanco (eds.), Practical Normativity: Essays on Reasons and Intentions in Law and Practical Reason. Cambridge: pp. 205-227 (2014)

Ben Laurence
University of Chicago
In this paper, I explore Kant’s discussion of juridical and ethical laws in the introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals as a whole. Following Marcus Willaschek and early Allen Wood, I pose a dilemma for Kant that I call “the paradox of juridical imperatives”, a dilemma that Willaschek and Wood hold Kant can only avoid by giving up his claim that juridical laws are categorical imperatives. I show how a set of interpretative issues concerning juridical incentives, the content of juridical laws, and the idea of an “indirect” ethical obligations, hang together, and must solved simultaneously in order to address the paradox. I argue, contra Willaschek and Wood, that we can dissolve the paradox, solving the network of issues satisfactorily and affirming the status of juridical laws as categorical imperatives, once we recognize that one can go wrong with respect to a principle while fulfilling the letter of its requirements. The picture that emerges is one on which we can straightforwardly affirm Recht as a moral concept for Kant, while simultaneously representing its distinctive character in his system of morality.
Keywords Kant  Doctrine of Right  Juridical  Ethical  Categorical Imperative
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