Kantian Journal

2016 Vol. 35. №4

Kant’s lectures on natural law: Justice and conscientiousness


The lectures on natural law delivered by Kant in the winter semester of 1784/85 have recently attracted increasing attention from Kant scholars. Dating back to the 1780s, they elucidate a number of important aspects in the genesis of Kant’s practical philosophy. Firstly, this relates to the formation of the Königsberg philosopher’s views on law. However, the lecture notes (especially the introduction) are of equal importance to understanding certain problems of Kant’s ethical concept and interpretation of the connection between ethics and law. An important role is played by the concept of Billigkeit, which is rather difficult to translate into the Russian language and is found in other Kant’s texts on practical philosophy. This term is usually translated as justice. However, there is another word in the German language — Gerechtihkeit — that has the meaning of justice. Moreover, such translation of Billigkeit creates a false connection with the realm of law, which Kant tried to avoid stressing the difference between Billigkeit and Gerechtigkeit. If Gerechtigkeit relates to external deeds subject to legal regulation and external enforcement, Billigkeit relates to tacit intentions and dispositions that cannot be controlled from the outside. This supports the thesis about the difference between ethics and law and the need for a more accurate identification of the place of natural law in the system of practical philosophy.

Download the article