Kant silhouette The political thought of Kant

Mika LaVaque-Manty


Although he is not primarily known as a political philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1802) remains a continuous -- and continually revived -- influence on Western political thought. He was one of the key figures in the German (and general European) Enlightenment, the legacy of which continues to be debated in the 21st century. He stands at a crucial nexus -- maybe even the origin -- of a German theoretical lineage whose later figures include Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. His liberalism closely informs two of the most important liberal theories of the late 20th century, those of Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls. Contemporary debates about deliberative democracy or the democratic peace can be quickly traced to Kant. And so on.

The purpose of this seminar is to offer a systematic introduction to the ideas behind that influence and to explore different approaches to Kant through secondary literature. We will first focus on Kant's political works and the theoretical and historical context in which they emerge, after which we will explore a variety of other theorists' interpretive approaches to Kant. The exploration of the secondary literature addresses the pedagogical goal of this seminar, viz. to introduce the participants to some of the styles and methods of research in political theory. Seminar assignments will also be geared to that end; assignments will incorporate the formats scholars practice in the profession of political theory: presentations, reviews, research proposals, etc. This isn't about form over substance, though; in this business, the two are inextricably connected.

Download a tentative syllabus in PDF format.

Updated Thursday, May 16, 2002.