POLI305: Modern Political Theory Part 1

Locate, and explain the specific conceptual and argumentative content of,

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negative liberty, ie.

freedom from x





Freedom of the will (3)

Freedom of religion (125)

Freedom to pursue own welfare (13-14)

Self-ownership (48)

Economic mobility and advancement through talent, diligence or luck (47)


positive liberty, ie.

freedom to do y,

eg. to be happy,

moral, fulfill roles etc







Also ‘public use of one’s reason’ (18) which turns out to mean freedom of the scholar/press to express (19, 93-4), ‘thinking out loud’ (57), acting on the ‘spirit of freedom’ (58)

Enlightenment (17)

Being rational

Having a ‘rational appreciation of one’s own worth’ (18)

Intellectual independence

‘Autonomy’ ie authority to obey only laws to which consent is given (74)


Economic independence


Not about happiness (45, 52)










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socio-political equality of status

as subjects

as citizens                

as humans  



Equality of citizens as active co-legislators of the polity, however not everyone is a citizen because not everyone has the required ‘civil personhood’ (113-4),

Ie not women, children, illegitimate children (133, who lack even right to be kept alive), wage-laborers and anyone else materially dependent on specific others (49)


Equality of everyone as members and hence subjects of a polity.



Equality of humanity whence ‘the rights of humankind’ (104, 108), and prohibition on using them only as means, things, slaves etc but to the extent that what makes us human is that we are progressive and productive rational beings (77) he takes a potentially Eurocentrically dim view of the ‘idle and cowardly’ (17) with implications on how a rational European society might interact with a backward or developmentally delayed one (15)

political equality

direct participation  

indirect participation




Direct democracy is despotic.


Indirect, ie representative democracy is best.


Only citizens get to be active in this indirect sense.


Functional representation not discussed


legal equality

equality under the law

equal protection



As a passive matter, everyone is a subject of the state and equal under the law

economic equality

of opportunity           

of subsistence

of condition/outcome


Affirms legal environment consistent with the opportunity to act on the “right to work one’s way out of the passive [civil] condition to the active condition” (114) by becoming not just intellectually but crucially materially independent.


Liberty and Legal equality is consistent with wide gap between rich and poor (46, 48).  Still, State, not primarily private charity, should ‘provide the means of subsistence’ (124)


To expect more than that out of others, society, or life is to confuse happiness with right (55)









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independence interdependence intersubjectivity

‘civil independence’ (113) is optimal


‘unsociable sociability’ (6) not loving solidarity should be assumed






material interdependence ie economic globalization incentives domestic growth and perpetual peace (92)






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The most problematic politico-philosophical schools are ...


The nihilists, the misanthropes, the cynical yet empirical realists, the consequentialists, the political moralists, the revolutionaries, and the reactionaries (4, 5, 16, 59, 60, 61, 67, 95)

We can best know what we know by ...




Engaging in Transcendental Idealism,

Ie a priori reasoning, which ought to provide a standard or touchstone for pragmatic decisions in what is finally an unknowable or indecipherable empirical reality in the absence of the concepts and categories that human beings constructively impose upon it (6, 16, 45, 53, 56, 59, 101)

What is essential to human beings is ...




‘Reason’ (5)

Rational self-esteem (6)

Their potential for ‘enlightenment’ (14, 17)

‘The calling of every human being to think for himself’ (18)

‘Progress’ (21) or ‘Providence’ (85)

That they ‘emerge from their self-incurred immaturity through the courageous use of unaided reason’.

That they become ‘rational citizens of the world’ (4)

To act on ‘the end that their own reason makes into a duty’ (189)

Different from animals or angels, and if devils, then smart (ie not ultimately self-contradictory and hence self-destructive ones) (90-91)

Different from ‘living machines’ (102) or things

‘Out of the crooked timbers of humanity nothing straight can be built’ (9)


Ethics is best

determined through ...





The use of Transcendental idealism, i.e., reflection on the a priori features of ethics per se (101, 102, 111, 131), namely, that ethical reasoning must be universal and blind to the individual’s self-interest, or ‘doing right for its own sake’ (99)

The ‘categorical imperative,’ namely, ‘act so that you can will that your maxim [of action] should become a universal law (whatever the end may be) (100)

The test of ‘publicity,’ (105, 109), ie would you do it if everyone else knew you were doing it and could act or react accordingly? if doing it requires that everyone else know then it is almost certainly just

The notion of the ‘kingdom of ends’ (23, 128, 141), ie to not treat others only as means but always also as ends in themselves (as beings with their own legitimate ends)

Ultimately, ‘a universal philanthropic’ or ‘cosmopolitan point of view’ (60, 82)

Our recognition and regard for our own and the other’s human ‘dignity’ as creatures of reason which then motivates us to act on the ‘duty’ that that reason identifies (23, 87, 94, 148)

Non-naive commitment to duty: ‘Be ye prudent as serpents and as innocent as doves’ (94)

Overcoming ‘evil’ (103)


Being communal/self-sacrificing is ...


To be avoided because it involves compromising one’s independence.

However, one totally puts aside narrow self-interest in respecting mutual freedom of others.

The optimal polity is ...





One that takes the social contract of all of its members as its regulatory ideal (5, 6, 8), namely a Republic, with an effective separation of executive, legislative and judicial functions, powers, and institutions (76, 90, 112-7).

One in which, inasmuch as the ‘general will’ properly understood is the embodiment of what is a priori right (37, 102, 117), Right is made through freedom, ie law by representatives to whom citizens have consented (76).

One in which law, that meets the test of ‘publicity’ (104) is enforced with absolute retributive ‘equality of punishment’ (130), thereby containing and channeling the ‘antagonism’ that results from our ‘unsociable sociability,’ ‘warlike spirit’ (89), even ‘evil principle’ within (79) in benign and productive ways and directions.

One that behaves towards other states in ways consistent with the a priori notion of international right (67-, 139-)


Political violence or revolution is ...





Likely and even necessary yet, ethically speaking, absolutely wrong because in violently challenging a given political regime one acts on the maxim that all regimes can be overturned this way including the supposedly better one intended (11, 53, 63, 96, 105-6, 118-21, 137).

To be resisted because it is essential to be obedient to the status quo law that is, while also trying to do one’s duty in an incrementally reformist spirit of hope for better times to come (63, 149).

Bad because any constitution is better than the anarchy of no constitution (97)

Bad, however once it has happened you must now be obedient and loyal to the outcome of the revolution, ie the new status quo; and not become reactionary or conspire to return to the old one (10-11, 79, 87, 106, 121, 141-2)


The challenge facing Modernity is ...         





Globalism, ie that ‘the violation of right at any one place on the earth is felt in all places’ (84, 146)

That the human species make progress in the use of reason and begin to approximate the conditions for perpetual world peace. (12, 73)

To steer the antagonism of states, compounded by differences of language and religion (91-2), and resulting so often in war, towards the eventual realization of the irrational waste of life and resources involved (10-11, 79, 87, 141-2)

To reduce standing armies, debt burdens, and general bellicosity (69)

To end slavery and exploitative colonialism (79, 82-84, 127, 147)

To cultivate globalization because global trade incentivizes peace (92)

To establish Republics because if the people are involved in the decision to go to war, which puts themselves or loved ones in harm’s way, then peace is more likely (64, 75).

To achieve the ‘Cosmopolitan Condition’ of a World Federation of Republican States and perhaps, perhaps even, World Government.  This outcome is possible though perhaps never fully attainable, and is in effect the end of history (14, 80-1, 85, 109, 145)