Summer 2023 Colloquium Series 2 June
Lucy Allais, Johns Hopkins/Witwatersrand::Private Property, Common Resources, and Public Markets in Kant’s Doctrine of Right
Friday June 2, 2023
Abstract: Kant’s political philosophy, published late in his life, starts with individual freedom: the claim that all humans have an innate and equal right to what he calls external freedom: being their own masters, exercising their capacity of choice for themselves, and interacting with others as equals, consistent with others having the same right (MM 6: 237). The first two chapters of the main work in which it is presented, The Doctrine of Right in the Metaphysics of Morals concern, respectively, private property and private contract. It might be thought that for theorizing justice in relation to such contemporary global crises as the climate emergency, a political philosophy that starts with individual freedom, private property and private contract is, at best, not useful, and, at worst, a central part of the problem. My aim in this paper is to question this thought. I argue that although Kant’s system opens with property this does not imply starting with fixed property bundles that are a constraint on everything that follows. On the contrary, as I understand him, Kant takes the need for property to be an inherently unstable point, raising problems that can be resolved only by the total system of justice (including international and cosmopolitan justice).