Kantian Journal

2016 Issue №1(55)

How transcendental are Kant’s principles of public law?


This article presents a comprehensive analysis of the content, meaning, and scenarios of applying the transcendental principles of public law formulated in the second appendix to Kant’s treatise Toward Perpetual Peace. The author compares different interpretations of these principles by Russian and international researchers. The article strives to answer the question as to what type of ‘public’ is meant by these principles, whether these principles can serve as a priori criteria for selecting maxims, how efficient these principles are as empirical criteria for establishing legitimacy, and whether they can be characterized as ‘transcendental’. Kant’s discourse on publicity — a result of strenuous efforts presented in a number of writings and lectures — takes the reader to the area of empirical practices and anthropological observations capable of distorting the required purity of the form when taken together. In effect, they turn out to be either motives for searching for transcendental principles or example s targeted at a certain type of readers and political agents. Identifying the role of publicity principles in Kant’s system of law and their strict positioning is also a complicated problem raising new questions as to their acceptable and preferable application. The principles are explicated in the treatise on perpetual peace. However, this article demonstrates that, despite the dominant opinion, further comments and examples can be found in Kant’s later writings. Finally, the author considers a moderate interpretation that makes it possible to harmonise the publicity principles as (meta) principles of lawmaking and law enforcement with the core of Kant’s system of law and morals. This resolves the issue of direct efficiency of these principles, whereas the declaration of the formal character of the ‘doctrine of happiness’ dispels doubts over the implicitly a posterior and empirical nature of criteria introduced as formal and a priori ones.

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