The Symbol of Justice: Bloodguilt in Kant

Kantian Review 26 (1):79-97 (2021)
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One of the more notorious passages in Kant occurs in the Doctrine of Right where he claims that ‘bloodguilt’ will cling to members of a dissolving society if they fail to execute the last murderer (MM, 6: 333). Although this is the most famous, bloodguilt appears in three other passages in Kant’s writings. These have received little attention in Kant scholarship. In this article, I examine these other passages and argue that bloodguilt functions as a symbol for the demandingness of justice. I then offer a sympathetic interpretation of the passage from the Doctrine of Right.

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Krista Thomason
Swarthmore College