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Kantian Political Theory / Philosophy Today

Human Rights
Political Theory
Section Number
Section Chair
Sorin Baiasu
Keele University
Section Co-Chair
Howard Williams
Cardiff University

The Kantian approach in political theory/philosophy is one of the most dominant in contemporary debates. Consider, for instance, John Rawls’s later position: introduced in his seminal article “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory”, it attempted to avoid the problems Rawls had previously identified in utilitarianism and intuitionism (Rawls 1980); it was also meant to address some for the difficulties Rawls had earlier identified in Kant’s moral theory (which for Kant included both ethics and juridical/political philosophy) and in his own A Theory of Justice. (Rawls [1971] 1999). In particular, Rawls questioned Kant’s claim to a need for metaphysics, which political and juridical philosophy cannot do without, if they are to account for the moral necessity of principles of right and laws (for instance, in Kant RL 6: 355).

Kantian positions were also developed by many other contemporary influential philosophers. For instance, starting from his discourse ethics, Jürgen Habermas’s examination of legal norms in Between Facts and Norms (1996 [1992]) offers a constructivist account of legal normativity. This account tries to steer a path between legal positivism and natural law theory, in order to put forward a theory that can explain both the objectivity of legal norms and their capacity to be relevant in situations of pluralism characteristic for today’s modern democracies.

During the last three decades, debates around the Kantian approach have raged and continued to generate new Kantian positions underpinned by alternative Kantian views, such as constructionism (Krasnoff 1999), constructivist contractualism (Timmons 2003) or constitutivism (Korsgaard 2008). The proposed section will explore both significant Kantian approaches in political theory/philosophy and accounts of specific issues (such as, human rights, welfare, citizenship, property, human imperfection and legal legitimacy) which rely on Kantian approaches.

Panel List

Code Title Details
P072Contemporary Kantian Political Philosophers View Panel Details
P311Questioning Kantian Normative Theories and Assumptions View Panel Details
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