When others fail to comply : Kant on revolution, self-defence, and lying
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According to a prominent line of interpretation, Kantians must sometimes choose between leaving individuals defenceless against evil or developing strategies to mitigate the stringency of duties in the face of others’ bad intentions. The thesis reacts to this setup, which unduly privileges Kant’s early critical moral theory at the expense of his mature system. In particular, it vindicates the relevance of Kant’s legal-political philosophy by discussing three cases where others’ noncompliance seems to ground exceptions to duties: political revolution, self-defence, and defensive lying. In addition to considering neglected yet significant passages from Kant, it makes the following main contributions. Chapter 1 analyses Kant’s state of nature as a systemic, inter-individual problem of noncompliance, suggesting that Kant’s political solution (exiting the state of nature) leads to a different version of the problem, involving citizens and sovereign. Turning to political revolution, Chapter 2 introduces an issue affecting both restricted and unrestricted interpretations of its prohibition: while, for Kant, supreme de facto power is at least a necessary condition for a state’s legitimacy, such supremacy is never conclusively established. The chapter also discusses the role of lex permissiva in state foundation, arguing against employing it to justify revolts by introducing a test for principles of non-contingent moral progress. Chapter 3 focuses on self-defence. After examining it in connection to the alleged right of necessity, it explores its juridical and ethical dimensions, with a particular focus on the issue of moderation. It makes room for a narrow state-enforced limitation on defence of individuals’ rights vis-à-vis one another, and, together with Chapter 1, advances a Kantian analysis of violence as unilateral exercise of force or immoderate self-defence. Chapter 4 discusses in detail Kant’s arguments against lying and his 1797 essay On an Alleged Right to Lie. Together with Chapter 3, it highlights Kant’s different attitudes toward the morality of defensive lying and force, putting his verdict on Inquiring Murderer in due philosophical perspective. Building on Chapter 2, it provides an account of how a lie wrongs “humanity as such”, vindicating Kant’s commitment to the idea that progress must happen in principle and on principle.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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Embargo Date: 2024-07-10
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 10th July 2024
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