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Kant's Non-Voluntarist Conception of Political Obligations: Why Justice is Impossible in the State of Nature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2011

Helga Varden
Affiliation:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Extract

In this paper, I present and defend Kant's non-voluntarist conception of political obligations. I argue that civil society is not primarily a prudential requirement for justice; it is not merely a necessary evil or a moral response to combat our corrupting nature or our tendency to act viciously, thoughtlessly or in a biased manner. Rather, civil society is constitutive of rightful relations among persons because only in civil society can we interact in ways reconcilable with each person's innate right to freedom. Civil society is the means through which we can rightfully interact even on the ideal assumption that no one ever succumbs to immoral temptation. Kant's account, therefore, provides ideal reasons to support the claim that voluntarism cannot be the liberal ideal of political obligations.

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Copyright © Kantian Review 2008

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