Two theories of resistance in the German Enlightenment

History of European Ideas 44 (4):449-460 (2018)


ABSTRACTCan there be a legal or a moral right to resist the government? Scholarly interest in the right of resistance has rarely focused on German philosophy, which has often been considered unusually committed to authority. Yet, during the Enlightenment German philosophers regularly attempted to justify not just conscientious refusal but also revolution. This essay explores the two dominant justifications, which were based in Wolffian perfectionism and Kantian relational theory. It argues that we can best understand the complexity of these theories of resistance by exploring their contrasting views on the state’s purpose: providing material and spiritual welfare, or establishing freedom as independence.

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Reidar Maliks
University of Oslo

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