Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Philosophy of Kant and Rawls

The latest issue of "Kantian Review" (December 2018) features articles on the philosophy of Kant and Rawls:

1) Universal Principle of Right: Metaphysics, Politics, and Conflict Resolutions
by Sorin Baiasu

Abstract: In spite of its dominance, there are well-known problems with Rawls’s method of reflective equilibrium (MRE), as a method of justification in meta-ethics. One issue in particular has preoccupied commentators, namely, the capacity of this method to provide a convincing account of the objectivity of our moral beliefs. Call this the Lack-of-Objectivity Charge. One aim of this article is to examine the charge within the context of Rawls’s later philosophy, and I claim that the lack-of-objectivity charge remains unanswered. A second aim of this article is to examine the extent to which, despite Rawls’s express intention to avoid reliance on Kant’s moral philosophy, supplementing Rawls’s political constructivism with some Kantian elements, in particular Kant’s idea of a universal principle of right, not only addresses some of the issues raised by the lack-of-objectivity charge, but also does so without compromising the ability of the Rawlsian account to accommodate the pluralism of conceptions of the good, which he takes to be a fact of modern democracies. I argue for a revised justificatory methodology, which combines Rawls’s MRE and Kant’s Critical Method.

2) Kant’s Contextualism [pdf]
by Katrin Flikschuh

Abstract: This article builds on David Velleman’s recent work on moral relativism to argue that Kant’s account of moral judgement is best read in a contextualist manner. More specifically, I argue that while for Kant the form of moral judgement is invariant, substantive moral judgements are nonetheless context-dependent. The same form of moral willing can give rise to divergent substantive judgements. To some limited extent, Kantian contextualism is a development out of Rawlsian constructivism. Yet while for constructivists the primary concern is with the derivation of generally valid principles of morality, Velleman’s Kant-inspired form of moral relativism demonstrates the indispensability to a Kantian approach of indexical reasons for action. I argue in turn that Velleman’s focus on the indexical nature of reasons for action must be supplemented by an account of agential reflexivity. The latter divides Kantian contextualism from Kantian relativism.

3) Principles of Justice, Primary Goods and Categories of Right: Rawls and Kant
by Paul Guyer

Abstract: John Rawls based his theory of justice, in the work of that name, on a ‘Kantian interpretation’ of the status of human beings as ‘free and equal’ persons. In his subsequent, ‘political rather than metaphysical’ expositions of his theory, the conception of citizens of democracies as ‘free and equal’ persons retained its foundational role. But Rawls appealed only to Kant’s moral philosophy, never to Kant’s own political philosophy as expounded in his 1797 Doctrine of Right in the Metaphysics of Morals. I argue here that the structure of Kant’s political philosophy, with its categories of the innate right to freedom, private acquired right and public right, can clarify the relationship between Rawls’s two principles of justice and his scheme of basic liberties and primary goods.

4) Kant and Rawls on Free Speech in Autocracies
by Peter Niesen

Abstract: In the works of Kant and Rawls, we find an acute sensibility to the pre-eminent importance of freedom of speech. Both authors defend free speech in democratic societies as a private and as a public entitlement, but their conceptions markedly differ when applied to non-liberal and non-democratic societies. The difference is that freedom of speech, for Kant, is a universal claim that can serve as a test of legitimacy of all legal orders, while for Rawls, some legal orders are owed full recognition even if they do not in principle guarantee freedom of speech. I explain Kant’s account of free political speech and argue that the defence of individual rights should be seen as its core feature, both in republican and in autocratic states. I then argue that a much-overlooked shift in Rawls’s development to Political Liberalism likewise ties his account of free speech in democratic societies to issues concerning rights and justice. In a next step, I discuss Rawls’s perspective on some non-democratic regimes in his Law of Peoples, regimes that he understands as well-ordered but which do not guarantee freedom of speech. I criticize Rawls’s account from Kant’s perspective and suggest to introduce a ‘module’ from Kant’s pre-republican thought into Rawls’s conception, aiming to secure a core area of rights- and justice-related speech. My claim is that under Kant’s view of autocratic legitimacy, an important extension of speech rights is called for even in non-liberal, non-democratic states, and that a Rawlsian account should and can adopt it.

5) Liberal Justice: Kant, Rawls and Human Rights
by Onora O’Neill

Abstract: Kant’s practical philosophy, Rawls’s theory of justice and contemporary human rights thinking are landmarks in liberal discussions of justice. Each forms part of a powerful tradition of political thought, and although their substantive accounts of justice diverge at many points, they also overlap in substantial ways. This article focuses not on their substantive claims about justice, or about other ethical standards, but on their differing views of the questions to be addressed, on their proposed justifications for standards of justice, and on a limited range of questions about interpreting and institutionalizing those standards.

6) War and Peace in The Law of Peoples: Rawls, Kant and the Use of Force
by Peri Roberts

Abstract: Where Rawls’s The Law of Peoples addresses war and the use of force then his position has often been identified closely with Walzer’s restatement of just war theory, as both positions appear to take nation-states, and the conflicts between them, to be the bedrock of the international system. On the other hand, Kant’s notion of a peaceful federation of states presents us with the notion of a world without war and where the international system is transformed. This article argues that Rawls’s account of the use of force is better understood if we read it with an eye to its resonances with Kant rather than with Walzer. Doing so rewards us with a clearer understanding of central aspects of Rawls’s account of just war and vision of international politics.

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