Taking the Law into Our Own Hands: Kant on the Right to Revolution
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CitationKorsgaard, Christine M. 2008. Taking the law into our own hands: Kant on the right to revolution. In The Constitution of Agency, 233-262. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Originally published in Reclaiming the History of Ethics: Essays for John Rawls, eds. Andrews Reath, Barbara Herman, and Christine M. Korsgaard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
AbstractKant condemned revolution as a violation of a duty of justice, yet was a supporter of the French Revolution. This chapter defends Kant's view that revolution is a violation of a duty of justice by appeal to the fact that in order to be just, revolution would have to accord with the general will, and the government speaks for the general will. The chapter then explains Kant's paradoxical attitude by appeal to the distinction between duties of justice and duties of virtue. The duties of justice require us to obey the powers that be, because only in the political state can human rights and freedom be realized. But the virtue of justice requires us to make human rights our end. When a political society itself violates human rights, the virtue of justice is turned against itself, and the person who makes human rights his end may be driven to take the law into his own hands.
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