Kantian Journal

2015 Special Issue

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Duty and Coercion in Kant’s Republican Cosmopolitanism



This paper argues whether Kant’s cosmopolitanism entails a specific theory of coercion. I will especially tackle Kant’s account of international political order. First, I claim that Kant attributes a systematic role to the cosmopolitan right, what justifies considering this part of the doctrine of law as a necessary rational conclusion of the legal system, although its institutional embodiment differs from that required by the rights of states. I highlight that according to Kant states may not behave as individual citizens do, since they do not recognize any higher authority than themselves. Second, cosmopolitan law shows that coercion is not an insurmountable condition to fulfill legal obligations, since the cosmopolitan order depends on the moral equality among states, far from involving a hierarchy over governmental structure. Third, I will discuss that the only reason to perform an active role in the political sphere according to Kant stems from the statehood, so that to help other needy and less developed peoples and societies in order to boost that they achieve their autonomy as a state would not belong to the duties that a republic should abide to. Thus, the transformation of a human society into a republican civil union means according to Kant’s account of right the greatest contribution that a state could offer to enhance the cosmopolitan order.


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