Kantian Journal

2015 Issue №2(52)

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Kantian ethos in J. Rawls’s political philosophy



This article examines the relation between J. Rawls’s philosophical and political conceptions and I. Kant’s ideas and the intellectual and political tradition of the Enlightenment in general. The author defends Rawls’s approach to Kant’s works interpreting it as “discipleship”, the assimilation and intrinsic reconceptualization of Kantian ideas preserving the essence of the assimilated. Rawls justifies his own re-description of Kantian philosophy by using Kant's ideas. Transforming Kant’s ideas, the he implements Kantian ethos (spirit), which can be understood as the free use of reason. Using Rawlsian approach, the author attempts to defend Rawls from the accusation that he fundamentally misunderstands Kant. This defense is based on that the most important element of Kant’s philosophical legacy is the critical attitude (or ethos) rather than a specific concept (for instance, the categorical imperative). This article identifies the intersections between Rawls’s and Kant’s ideas, as well as their differences. Kant and Rawls have much in common. Rawls agrees with Kant that moral philosophy has to depart from commonplace human reason; the content of "political justice" can be an object of construction; construction presupposes the use of practical rather than pure reason; moral philosophy requires a complex concept of a person; the function of moral philosophy is the rational defense of reasonable faith. The main differences between Kant’s and Rawls’s include the understanding of practical reason; the concept of a person based on fundamental ideas originating from different sources (political culture in Rawls’s works and transcendental idealism in Kant’s); the understanding of rational faith.


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