Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Kant and the moral necessity of civil society
by Augustine, Jacqueline Anne, Ph.D., University of Rochester, 2009, 166; 3381695
Abstract (Summary)

Kant's political theory has not received as much attention or analysis from commentators as is enjoyed by other areas of his thought. This appears to be due to one of two assumptions: either that Kant's political writings were merely tangential to his philosophical system, a kind of end-of-life dabbling in other studies; or that if Kant intended the political writings to be part and parcel of his overall philosophical project, he failed to demonstrate it as such. I argue that both assumptions are incorrect. There is good textual evidence that Kant intended his political writings to be taken as part of the whole of his philosophy, and throughout that body of work, the conceptual framework exists to make the connection evident.

Fundamental to Kant's philosophy is an examination and understanding of the nature of man. Kant's epistemology, ontology, and metaphysics all support the consideration of man qua noumenon and man qua phenomenon. In Chapter 2, I introduce the concept of reciprocity as the bridge between those two realms. Reciprocity is at work in Kant's earliest writings, as he argued in favor of a Leibnizian doctrine of 'living forces.' But reciprocity evolves for Kant in such a way as to avoid the 'pre-established harmony' that he believed undermined the very agency that a living force represents. Through historical and textual exegesis, I seek to illuminate the concept of reciprocity as bridging both the physical and metaphysical aspect of human action. With reciprocity as a 'dynamical' concept, I proceed, in Chapter 3, with a defense of the Kantian claim that the formulations of the categorical imperative introduced in the Groundwork are indeed equivalent. It is the claim of equivalency that shows the necessary connection of politics to Kant's ethical theory.

Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the content of Kantian morality, as derived by the categorical imperative. In particular, I wish to show that an individual's duties to himself and to others require him to be an active participant in civil society. Chapters 6 and 7 present the essential aspects of civil society according to Kant and the reciprocal nature of duty between citizens and their government. These requirements demonstrate the true moral necessity of pursuing a 'rightful condition.'

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Curren, Randall
School: University of Rochester
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Political science
Keywords: Autonomy and reciprocity, Civil society, Kant, Immanuel, Kantian moral theory, Kantian political theory, Moral law humanity, Moral necessity, Rechtslehre, Reciprocity
Publication Number: 3381695
ISBN: 978-1-109-42978-7
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