In this masterful work, both an illumination of Kant's thought and an important contribution to contemporary legal and political theory, Arthur Ripstein gives a comprehensive yet accessible account of Kant's political philosophy. In addition to providing a clear and coherent statement of the most misunderstood of Kant's ideas, Ripstein also shows that Kant's views remain conceptually powerful and morally appealing today.
The most obvious way of settling disagreements peacefully is to take a vote. Yet, as Jeremy Waldron points out, the attitudes of philosophers and political theorists towards majority voting have ranged from indifference to hostility. Piled on top of all this scorn for legislation comes further scorn from social choice theorists, who insist that majority rule is useless as a means of making decisions.
I am grateful to Donald Ainslie, Lisa Austin, Michael Blake, Abraham Drassinower, David Dyzenhaus, George Fletcher, Robert Gibbs, Louis-Philippe Hodgson, Sari Kisilevsky, Dennis Klimchuk, Christopher Morris, Scott Shapiro, Horacio Spector, Sergio Tenenbaum, Malcolm Thorburn, Ernest Weinrib, Karen Weisman, and the Editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs for comments, and audiences in the UCLA Philosophy Department and Columbia Law School for their questions.
This paper responds briefly to four reviews of Force and Freedom. Valentini and Sangiovanni criticize what they see as the excessive formalism of the Kantian enterprise, contending that the Kantian project is circular, because it defines rights and freedom together, and that this circularity renders it unable to say anything determinate about appropriate restrictions and permissions. I show that the appearance of circularity arises from a misconstrual of the Kantian idea of a right. Properly understood, Kantian rights are partially indeterminate, (...) but not in a way that causes problems for the account. Ronzoni and Williams seek to broaden the reach of public right, arguing that Kant's abstract approach overlooks pressing questions of social and political life, (Ronzoni) and that public right should allow for democratic deliberation about purposes that go beyond the requirement that a state provide a rightful condition for its members (Williams). I argue that the Kantian view makes room for these factors, but that each must be understood in relation to the formal constraints of right. (shrink)
The 2008 meltdown in global capital markets has led to a renewed interest in questions of economic distribution. Many people suggest that the motives, incentive structures, and institutions in place were inadequate and, for the first time in a generation, public debate is animated by arguments about the need for greater equality. G.A. Cohen's new book resonates with many of the themes of these debates; he advocates a more thoroughgoing equality, even more thoroughgoing than that demanded by John Rawls in (...) his Theory of Justice; he also advocates for a political philosophy organized around the ethos that shapes ordinary life, rather than one restricted to the coercive institutions of law and the state. Were ordinary .. (shrink)
I argue that institutions charged with giving justice must understand responsibility in terms of norms governing what people are entitled to expect of each other. On this conception, the sort of responsibility that is of interest to private law or distributive justice is not a relation between a person and the consequence, but rather a relation between persons with respect to consequences. As a result, nonrelational facts about a person’s actions and the circumstances in which she performs them will never (...) settle the questions of responsibility that matter to institutions charged with giving justice. I show the significance of this way of thinking about responsibility by contrasting it with prominent conceptions of responsibility which suppose that its moral significance derives from the ways in which an individual person acts in the world. I demonstrate its power by focussing on cases in which responsibility is widely agreed to run out in ways that non-relational conceptions of responsibility cannot explain. (shrink)
In one of the few widely discussed passages in the Doctrine of Right, Kant makes the surprising claim that a shipwrecked sailor who dislodges another from a plank that will support only one of them is "culpable, but not punishable." Many commentators regard this passage as a sort of smoking gun that shows that, in extremis, Kant resorts to the very sort of empirical and consequentialist reasoning that he claims to do without.2 My aim in this paper is to defend (...) his analysis, by showing both that it can be generalized, and that it provides a satisfying account of the normative boundary between justification and excuse in the criminal law. After explaining Kant ’s remark in light of the context in which he makes it, my main strategy of defense will be to show how it applies not only to the specific example Kant considers, but also to cases in which a person responds to danger by damaging property, and those in which a person whose own life is not in danger breaks the law to save the life of another. I will also use his account to illustrate the difficulties with the leading alternatives. (shrink)
Faculty of Law and Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto 1. INTRODUCTION The economic analysis of law has gone through a remarkable change in the past decade and a half. The founding articles of the discipline – such classic pieces as Ronald Coase’s “The problem of social cost” (1960), Richard Posner’s “A theory of negligence” (1972) and Guido Calabresi and Douglas Malamed’s “Property rules, liability rules, and inalienability: One view of the cathedral” (1972) – offered economic analyses of familiar aspects (...) of the common law, seeking to explain, in particular, fundamental features of the law of tort in terms of such economic ideas as transaction costs (Coase), Kaldor-Hicks efﬁciency (Posner), or minimizing the sum of the accident costs and avoidance costs (Calabresi and Malamed). In each case, they argued that the law of torts should be understood as a set of liability rules selected for their incentive effects, rather than as a set of substantive rights and remedies for their violation. These authors claimed to be able to explain most of the features of tort law and, where features were found that did not ﬁt with their preferred explanations, recommended modiﬁcation. Although they disagreed on important questions,1 each of the pieces seems to work a manageable structure into what strikes ﬁrst-year law students as an otherwise random morass of common-law judgments. Generations of legal academics were introduced to these works, and drawn into their way of looking at things. As a student studying ﬁrst-year torts with Calabresi at Yale, I had the sense that I was in the presence of greatness. (shrink)
Contemporary debates about "moral luck" were inaugurated by Thomas Nagel’s celebrated essay on the topic. Nagel notes that the puzzle about moral luck is formally parallel to the familiar epistemological problem of skepticism. In each case, the problem is generated by the apparent coherence of the thought that inner aspects of our lives are self-contained, and can be both understood and evaluated without any reference to anything external. Epistemological skepticism begins with the thought that my thoughts could be exactly as (...) they are without any contact with the world outside, where "exactly as they are" is glossed in terms of the grounds that connect those thoughts with each other and provide the basis for our confidence in them. In the practical case, the problem of moral or legal luck arises from the thought that the only basis we have for evaluating a person’s action is his decision to perform that action. The Kantian and post-Kantian response to epistemological skepticism is not to try to defeat the skeptic on his or her own grounds, but rather to show that there is something wrong in the way the problem is set up. Our ordinary ways of thinking about ordinary things, and other persons, are only in trouble if they rest on an unwarranted inference from something that is more secure. I will engage with legal luck in a parallel way: our ordinary ways of thinking about responsibility are only in trouble if they rest on an unwarranted inference from something more secure. I argue that the concept of a completed wrong is basic to law, and that aspects of human interaction on which luck-skeptics focus — blameworthiness and harm — are derivative. I frame the issue not in terms of moral significance, but rather in terms of the authorization of the state to use force, either to order the payment of damages in tort or to imprison criminals. In the first part of the Article I consider the case of tort liability for negligence, explaining the structure of a completed wrong and the correspondingly derivative significance of carelessness as such. In the second part I turn to the issue of criminal punishment. I offer a brief explanation of the state’s authority to punish, before going on to show that the basic case that engages this authority is the completed crime. I then show why the failed attempt also attracts punishment, even though it is a derivative case. (shrink)
Ronald Dworkin occupies a distinctive place in both public life and philosophy. In public life, he is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and other widely read journals. In philosophy, he has written important and influential works on many of the most prominent issues in legal and political philosophy. In both cases, his interventions have in part shaped the debates he joined. His opposition to Robert Bork's nomination for the United States Supreme Court gave new centrality (...) to debates about the public role of judges and the role of original intent in constitutional interpretation. His writings in legal philosophy have reoriented the modern debate about legal positivism and natural law. In political philosophy, he has shaped the ways in which people debate the nature of equality and has reframed debates about the sanctity of life. (shrink)
I WISH to defend the claim that imagining what it would be like to be in "someone else's shoes" can serve to explain that person's actions. This commonsense view has considerable plausibility, but requires clarification to be philosophically defensible; discussions of explanation often assume that understanding requires a theory of the thing understood. If understanding requires a theory, then however much imagining what it would be like to be in another person's situation might sooth one's curiosity, it cannot provide real (...) understanding. I shall argue that imagining oneself in someone else's situation does more than that: it allows actions to be explained without recourse to a theory of human behavior. The resulting explanations are real explanations, not just some reassuring facsimile thereof. (shrink)
Criticism and sarcasm are interspersed with description and analysis throughout Marx's work. Most of the criticism is aimed at one or another side of a single target: what Marx sees as capitalism's pretensions of freedom, equality, and prosperity in the face of exploitation and recurrent crises. But the remarks on commodity fetishism in the first volume of Capital seem to be directed at a different target. Here Marx tells us that a commodity is ‘a queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties (...) and theological niceties.’ But instead of going on to reveal the nature of commodites-the task that occupies him for the preceding 30 and subsequent 700 pages-Marx takes the opportunity to explore their ‘mystical’ character. The passage repays careful consideration. It is one of the few places in his mature writings in which Marx returns to the tone of his youthful works. It is also the passage in which commentators have claimed to find grounds for attributing a doctrine of ‘false consciousness’ to Marx. (shrink)
Kant deploys analogies from private law in describing relations between states. I explore the relation between these analogies and the broader Kantian idea of the distinctively public nature of a rightful condition, in order to explain why states, understood as public things, stand in horizontal, private legal relations without themselves being private. I use this analysis to explore the international law analogues of the three titles of private right, explaining how territory differs from property, treaty from contract and the specific (...) form of status relations between nations. I conclude with a brief discussion of the ongoing relevance of these horizontal relations. (shrink)
In A Theory of Justice, Rawls makes almost no mention of the issues of justice that animated philosophers in earlier centuries. There is no discussion of justice between persons, issues that Aristotle sought to explain under the idea of “corrective justice.” Nor is there discussion, except in passing, of punishment, another primary focus of the social contract approaches of Locke, Rousseau and Kant.1 My aim in this article is to argue that implicit in Rawls’s writing is a powerful and persuasive (...) account of the normative significance of tort law and corrective justice. (shrink)
This book examines responsibility and luck as these issues arise in tort law, criminal law, and distributive justice. The central question is: whose bad luck is a particular piece of misfortune? Arthur Ripstein argues that there is a general set of principles to be found that clarifies responsibility in those cases where luck is most obviously an issue: accidents, mistakes, emergencies, and failed attempts at crime. In revealing how the problems that arise in tort and criminal law as well as (...) distributive justice invite structurally parallel solutions, the author also shows the deep connection between individual responsibility and social equality. This is a challenging and provocative book that will be of special interest to moral and political philosophers, legal theorists, and political scientists. (shrink)
The thesis of The Internationalists is that the Kellogg Briand Pact of 1928 fundamentally reshaped the international legal order. By outlawing war, the Pact replaced one basic norm of international legal ordering with another. Hathaway and Shapiro present their argument in the form of a narrative, including biographical details about the central protagonists and vignettes about key meetings. They present it all with an eye not only to the importance of particular characters, but also to sheer coincidence. Underneath the sweeping (...) historical narrative lies a serious, scholarly book with a central legal and philosophical argument. Hathaway and Shapiro use the history of international law from the seventeenth through the twentieth century to examine the nature of enforcement mechanisms, the relation between rights and remedies, issues of collective as opposed to individual responsibility, and—perhaps most strikingly—the changing status of neutrality. (shrink)
Multiculturalism is an increasingly important topic for philosophers, largely because of the practical problems posed by diversity. Traditional political philosophy had little to say about cultural difference, taking the existence of a shared language and culture pretty much for granted. The multicultural societies of the contemporary world make such assumptions untenable. Traditional questions of fairness and sovereignty find hard cases in such policy issues as immigration, education, criminal law, and freedom of expression.
What are preferences and are they reasons for action? Is it rational to cooperate with others even if that entails acting against one's preferences? The dominant position in philosophy on the topic of practical rationality is that one acts so as to maximize the satisfaction of one's preferences. This view is most closely associated with the work of David Gauthier, and in this collection of essays some of the most innovative philosophers working in this field explore the controversies surrounding Gauthier's (...) position. Several essays argue against influential conceptions of preference, while others suggest that received conceptions of rational action misidentify the normative significance of rules and practices. This collection will be of particular interest to philosophers of social theory and to reflective social scientists in such fields as economics, political science and psychology. (shrink)
Property and sovereignty are often used as models for each other. Landowners are sometimes described as sovereign, the state’s territory sometimes described as its property. Both property and sovereignty involve authority relations: both an owner and a sovereign get to tell others what to do — at least within the scope of their ownership or sovereignty. My aim in this Article is to distinguish property and sovereignty from each other by focusing on what lies within the scope of each. I (...) argue that much confusion and more than a little mischief occurs when they are assimilated to each other. The confusion can arise in both directions, either by supposing that property is a sort of stewardship, or that sovereignty is a large-scale form of ownership. One of the great achievements of modern political thought is recognizing the difference between them. (shrink)
In Legality, Scott Shapiro introduces what he calls the “Planning Theory of Law.” Shapiro introduces the idea of a plan with examples from outside of the law. He then must provide an account of what is distinctive about law, such that the other plan-based social orders are not also legal systems. He gives two answers: first, a legal system is organized by a moral aim. Second, a legal system is self-certifying. I examine these in turn, and argue that each can (...) only characterize what is distinctive about law if the relevant moral problem that law aims to solve is itself specifically concerned with authority—that is with who gets to decide about what. Other forms of planning assign roles to people to solve problems that have nothing to do with authority; law uses role-based authority to solve a moral problem that is fundamentally about authority. (shrink)
This paper examines a style of political justification prominent in contemporary liberalism, according to which policies are legitimate only if they can be shown to be acceptable to all. Although this approach is often associated with neutrality about the good life, it is argued that liberalism cannot be neutral about questions of the role of various goods, such as work, play and community. The paper closes by exploring the implications and applicability of this account of justification to contemporary political practice.
Law students are usually told that the purpose of damages is to make it as if a wrong had never happened.3 Although torts professors are good at explaining this idea to their students, it is the source of much academic perplexity. Money cannot really make serious losses go away, and it seems a cruel joke to say that money can make an injured person “whole.” Worse still, if money could make an injured person whole, injuring someone and then paying them (...) seems just as good as not injuring them at all. (shrink)
Legal doctrine often focuses on means rather than ends. In an action for breach of contract, the court asks only whether promisor performed as promised, and takes no account of what either promisor or promisee expected to gain by the transaction. The criminal law inquires into how the criminal was trying to accomplish some purpose, not what the purpose was. Most crimes are committed to get money, a purpose of which the law otherwise approves. This focus on means is often (...) said to be superficial, and to be the manifestation of an underlying concern either with the ends sought by a person or the ends that are served by placing legal restrictions on which means a person may use, or the manner in which they may be used. In this paper Professor Ripstein takes up Kant's suggestion that 'right abstracts from all ends' to explain the law's focus on means rather than ends, exploring its application to both public and private law. (shrink)
Herbert Simon once observed that watching an ant make its way across the uneven surface of a beach, one can easily be impressed—too impressed—with the foresight and complexity of the ant's internal map of the beach. Simon went on to point out that such an attribution of complexity to the ant makes a serious mistake. Most of the complexity is not in the ant but in the beach. The ant is just complex enough to use the features of the beach (...) to find its way. (shrink)