Kant's Theory of Justice: Basic Elements and Political Principles

Dissertation, Cornell University (1989)

This dissertation is a study of the primary features of Kant's theory of justice, as well as of the principles which, in Kant's view, determine the functions and responsibilities of the just state. ;Chapter 1. The limits of freedom. Freedom is the central concept and value in Kant's theory of justice. This chapter explains the three a priori principles of justice which Kant believes ought to regulate individual liberty. ;Chapter 2. The justification of freedom. Kant's reasons for identifying justice with properly regulated freedom are examined in this chapter. His emphasis on the importance of freedom is shown to be a product of his ethical theory, his philosophy of history, and his conception of human nature. ;Chapter 3. Types of rights, duties & laws. Kant divides practical philosophy into two parts: ethics and the theory of justice. Both parts contain their own rights, duties and law. This chapter explains the main differences between ethics and justice, and then examines special characteristics of rights, duties and laws of justice. ;Chapter 4. Political legitimacy, obedience & revolution. Kant's understanding of the specifically political requirements of justice is considered in this chapter. Among the issues discussed are: the nature of the just state, the relation between constitutionalism and sovereignty, the proper limits of political authority, and whether rebellion is ever justified. ;Chapter 5. Justice & social welfare. Kant holds that strict justice requires only noninterference with the freedom of others. Justice does not, according to Kant, obligate the state to provide for the material needs of its subjects. Many interpreters have taken this as evidence that Kant is an advocate of the nightwatchman state. It is suggested in this chapter that such an interpretation is fallacious and that Kant believes the state has a moral obligation, not based on considerations of justice, to provide for the needs of its subjects.
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