Public Reason: Vol. 10, No. 2, 2018 & Vol. 11, No. 1, 2019
The Moral Source of Kant’s Concept of Right
Ewa Wyrebska-Ðermanovic

In this paper, I argue in favour of dependency of Kant’s concept of right and his entire legal theory on the general concepts of Kant’s practical philosophy, i.e. his account of practical freedom and moral law, categorical imperative, autonomy and his theory of agency. My arguments are directed against claims that Kant’s legal theory can preserve its normative potential without being grounded in his ethics. While presenting my interpretation I address the most common objection to the dependency thesis, i.e. I aim at showing that Kant did provide some evidence to justify the use of coercion in the theory of right without the latter being independent of his demanding ethics of moral motivation. I investigate the distinctions in Kant’s Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals to conclude, that the conceptual justification of right as coercion lays in Kant’s version of the Ulpian duties of right. I argue that the dual obligation towards humanity both in oneself and in others results in the necessity of creating a rightful condition and therefore makes space for legitimate institutional coercion. In the last step of the argumentation, I show that innate right to freedom, which in Kant’s legal theory is the basis for the entire structure of rights, is inconceivable or purely arbitrary in abstraction from Kant’s practical philosophy as developed in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and the Critique of Practical Reason.

Key words: Kant’s concept of right, autonomy, agency, coercion, dependency.


Wyrebska-Ðermanovic, Ewa. 2019. The Moral Source of Kant’s Concept of Right.Public Reason 10 (2) - 11 (1): 93-110.