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Ethics Social and Political Philosophy Colloquium

When:We 18-05-2022 15:15 - 17:00
Where:Omega, Faculty of Philosophy

Nicholas Vrousalis (Erasmus University, Rotterdam)


Interdependent Independence: Kant's Political Philosophy of Work


Kant’s theory of citizenship replaces the French revolutionary triptych of liberty, equality, and fraternity with freedom (Freiheit), equality (Gleichheit), and civil self-sufficiency (Selbständigkeit). The interpretative question is what the third attribute adds to the first two—what does self-sufficiency add to free consent by juridical equals? This paper argues that Selbständigkeit adds the idea of interdependent independence: the independent possession and use of citizens’ interdependent rightful powers. Kant thinks of the modern state as an organism whose members are agents possessed of rightful (productive) powers, whose interdependent mode of exercise independently of unilateral permission matters for right. The empirical form of that ideal, according to Kant, is a republic of independent commodity producers. I will show that this reading of Selbständigkeit can consistently explain Kant’s disenfranchisement of women, wage labourers, and landless farmers; that it offers a robust alternative to influential republican, libertarian, and proprietarian interpretations of the Kantian state; and that it can buttress an original account of community as productive interdependence.