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A Kantian Perspective on Political Violence Author(s): Thomas E. Hill, Jr. Reviewed work(s): Source: The Journal of Ethics, Vol.

1, No. 2 (1997), pp. 105-140 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25115541 . Accessed: 08/10/2012 14:59
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(Received and accepted 5 June 1996) ABSTRACT. Rejecting Kant's absolute opposition to revolution; I propose a modified
Kantian on political from Kant's basic for reflecting ideas violence, drawing perspective some dubious in earlier papers, the but abandoning Developing assumptions. suggestions a model the core ideas of each of Kant's that combines for "moral essay sketches legislation" formulas complete of the Categorical procedure, decision not for deliberation, Imperative. Though only a framework and permissive, this excludes extremist prohibitive positions, a

about political violence. Despite Kant's hopes, the values implicit in his fundamental principle fail to support easy, inflexible solutions; but they place strong presumptions against
lawless coercion and killing, underestimating options, arrogant as dispensable, social order, persons undermining treating faith in one's own judgment, and reckless simplicity in

political thinking. KEY WORDS: categorical imperative, ends in themselves, justice, Kant, Kantian, kingdom
of ends, political, resistance, revolution, violence

on the morality of violence has long been position is a strong and principled advocate of "law and order" puzzling. That Kant is clear, and any of the forms of the Categorical Imperative, especially seem to provide basic arguments the humanity formula, against murder, wanton destruction of others' property, and rape, mayhem, kidnapping, Immanuel Kant's the like. By declaring human beings "ends in themselves," the humanity seems to prohibit calculated in the lives of human "trade-offs" are said to have dignity, an "unconditional beings, for ends in themselves formula worth" that "admits of no equivalent." to any revolutionary to scheme designed sharply opposed the lives of many in the innocents now to save or enhance upon first reading of the Groundwork's eloquent passages as ends in themselves, many students assume that Kant was and incomparable This sacrifice future. seems a few In fact,

he deplored war, Kant of course, he was not. Although a "just" war. And, whereas we might expect him to deplore capital punish ment, he is adamant in insisting that there must be no pardon, clemency, or even alternative punishment for murder.1 No matter how idealistic

about persons a pacifist. But, in endorsed killing


1 Kant admits two possible exceptions, neither of which is likely towin much sympathy
for Kant as humane regarding issues of life and death. The cases deserving of death

The Journal of Ethics 1: 105-140, 1997. 1997Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in theNetherlands.

106 killer's motive


may have been and even if, in the special case, no deterrent to is served, "he who kills must die."2 If it is morally purpose permissible case of capital punishment and in the contribute to state-endorsed violence, how Kant can justify this from his basic just wars, one naturally wonders one cannot help but suspect that any argument moral principles? Further, to premises to justify such (state endorsed) would that violence appeal to the state, at least in violence in opposition would also justify political Yet Kant, as we know, insisted that very special extreme circumstances. in revolutionary activities is always wrong. participating the in Kant's views about the use of violence provide to simplify, I shall focus upon a limited of my discussion, but, background set of cases of violence, with politically concerned motivated violence as being grossly when one's government it is perceived against unjust. Kant's position and arguments There are several reasons for discussing These tensions the matter is of some historical about this. First, of course, interest, for or explain the tension in Kant's views may shed some how we reconcile basic moral principles, his political light on how to understand Kant's or both. Second, anyone aiming to develop the most plausible philosophy, version of "Kantian" unresolved over many seeing more or political philosophy needs to face up to the and tensions actual work in Kant's contradictions, problems, in fact prove to be occasions for Such problems may years. moral clearly modifications that need theory (broadly) and perhaps most
should not impose

plausible moral/political and followers.3 Third,

where courts nevertheless

into any in the spirit and tradition of Kant identified important, the tensions
penalty are when a soldier kills

to be


the death

another in a duel to defend his honor and when a mother kills her illegitimate baby (it is
unclear a mother whether killing Kant thought her newborn these fully deserved infant, saying to be called Kant that reveals the illegitimate or good sense, (like contraband also known M. In the case of "murder"). more cultural (deplorable) as it were, infant "has, stolen that "no the commonwealth decrees can being remove married,, University Prussian can the [I.

than humanity prejudice into the commonwealth ignore mother's Kant, its existence shame when

merchandise), He that she gave (trans.) of Kant's

so adds, birth

... and

its annihilation/'

it becomes of Morals, after citations


The Metaphysics in brackets pagination.

Gregor to some

(Cambridge: works refer

Cambridge to standard

Press, 1991), pp. 144-145 [336]]. Hereafter I shall abbreviate this work by "MM" The
numbers Academy 3

2 MM,pp.

142-143 [333-334].

In an earlier of when,


(assuming, that paper sanction

how a plausible Kantian address the paper, I discussed type theory might if ever, the state is justified lethal violence in employing terrorists against to be grossly the terrorists' In for argument, immoral as well as illegal). activities set aside or other a Kantian the question ethics might in some whether forms of political violence [See "Making Exceptions instances without

I simply terrorism

Violating the Principle: Or How a Kantian Might Think about Terrorism," in C. Morris and R. Frey (eds.), Violence, Terrorism, and Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University

A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL ON VIOLENCE in Kant's moral within more the issues work are likely to be reflections of Kant's of deep conflicts

107 in common

debates Kant's general

If so, clarifying independently special terminology. and looking for a reasonable for addressing them framework ethical interest. is as follows. and political writings may be suggestive of ideas of

to delineate In Section I, Imake a few comments My plan to be, at least for purposes of this paper. what I take "political violence" In Section H, I review briefly a sample of Kant's actual arguments against and argue that these do not provide adequate reasons for political violence the strong position he takes. In Section III, I discuss what is needed to derive answers law formula of the Categorical famous universal from Kant's that a reasonable of it seems to rule suggesting Imperative, application out several extreme views on political violence, including Kant's own. In I review several problems with Kant's universal law formula Section IV, and I suggest reconstruction, a helpful respects humanity supplement In Section V, but cannot by itself serve as a moral decision procedure. I sketch a working of Kant's basic moral point of view that conception in Section VI, I consider briefly draws from all of his formulas. Finally, as a framework how one might develop this "legislative for perspective" about the issues of political violence, and I speculate about some thinking that Kant's formula of the principles preliminary arguments subtly policy that might steps towards project is to take some Kant's own inadequate seeing whether, despite political violence, Kant's basic moral principles, more emerge. In effect, my might support a more reasonable, flexible that seem to persist even on a sympathetic is in some


regarding and applied, regarding this.


What in general typically connotes exertion is political violence? Violence or abuse persons or things force tending to injure, damage, of physical of value.4 Paradigms of violence include bludgeoning, against people someone whipping, stabbing, shooting, and forcibly dragging against that
Press, 1991)]. Reprinted in my Dignity and Practical Reason in Kant's Moral Theory

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 196-225 (Hereafter I abbreviate the
first entry for "violence," p. 1306. The dictionary Dictionary, Collegiate use of physical the intentional force as a says "so as to injure or abuse," which suggests means to injure or abuse. This does not seem appropriate for violent the violent storms, in an epileptic etc. careless about of someone fit, wanton thrashing play with explosives, But it is sufficient for present purposes that political violence is intentional, that it employs latter as "DP/?")]. 4 Webster's New



to animals, to personal prop person's will. There is also, of course, violence etc. Often violence is a "violation" of a legal erty, to natural environments, or moral norm, as in assault, murder, mayhem, rape, torture, kidnapping, etc. But this is not always required because football, boxing, bull fighting, and hockey, which celebrate certain violent acts, are widely thought to be and legally permissible. Often unquestioned morally approval of the end that otherwise might leads us withhold the epithet "violent" from activities for example, qualify: consent) he removes life. his brother's knife when the slashing of a surgeon's (with full a live person's healthy kidney for transplant to save

to win I take it, has a political purpose, for example, Political violence, a political party, to bring an election, to force repeal of a law, to discredit to gain the power to make and enforce laws among a down a government, These cases, the ones of which we most naturally think, involve the group. or official power. But use of violent means against prevailing government some legal and some there are, of course, instances of state use of violence, of riots, public executions, not, as in war, suppression torturing private of criminals and suspects, breaking into of witnesses, forcible detention etc. Needless to say, there is also international citizens' files, personal temporary invasion to bolster or political violence of many kinds, conquest, undermine a ruling party, sabotage, assassination of foreign rulers, terrorist etc. For the violence to be "political," in each of these activities, embargoes, cases, I assume that the primary aim is not merely profit, revenge, personal

and the like, but at least in part to gain or retain control of legal and to express an ideology, to gain or assert a perceived institutions, political to characterize etc. It would be difficult violence precisely right, political to remove all doubts about borderline cases, but that is neither a enough grudge, one for present purposes. realistic standard nor a necessary In an earlier paper I discussed is a form of political terrorism, which and entirely on the extent to which but my focus was explicitly violence, to a legitimate state can permissibly in response exercise counter-violence the (stipulated) unwarranted switch my focus to violence violence national

Iwant to of terrorists. Now, however, used against the state, rather than (as before) across used by the state. To simplify, Iwill also set aside violence used by citizens within instead on violence borders, concentrating violence
to tend to injure or abuse, and to severe mental abuse is some political its purpose in order to draw attention extend goal. Many to moral similarities


the term "violence"

between this and physical violence; but, without objecting to that practice, I shall restrict my discussion to physical violence. Some might quibble that one might do violence by
up an utterly blowing initial characterization Surely, the typical case valueless garbage dump, or some other thing was only meant to say what of "violence" involves injury or damage to persons "without value," but my is "typically" or property, deemed connoted. valuable.



a state for political purposes at odds with their laws, government, or other powers. controlling Just as it is easy, after many successful years, to celebrate political revolutions from which we have profited, it is also easy to over-generalize to political violence by focusing attention on random slaughter of hostility terrorists. Some cases are obviously people by crazed ideological to evaluate than others. Bloody, wasteful, ineffective terrorist horrors easier are already before our eyes on TV daily. innocent Since Kant to fix our Kant's case takes an extreme easy thoughts on a relatively actual position was. What would itmay be useful stand on political violence, case that highlights how extreme the opposite extreme be, the best In outline, I suppose, it would have motivated violence against property,

for political violence? It would be politically or loss of vital resources. in death, mayhem, without It would resulting be directed against a government other political that was (or institution) and grossly unjust and oppressive, of heinous guilty deeply, persistently, these features.


to in its power and resolve and increasing past crimes against humanity avenues of reform would have continue on the same path. All nonviolent all reasonable exhausted, rejected. There appeals and compromises that the proposed is both evidence violence be strong convincing and likely to be successful in producing favorable necessary change. The in guarding against causing cautious would be well intentioned, protestors more damage than necessary. The property owners, the only ones liable been would to suffer be corrupt, undeserving from the damage, would significantly and their cohorts. A more just, less oppressive very tyrants regime would result from the change, and political stability based on respect for just likely the proposed violence may be laws would then become possible. Finally,

to justify if the ruling regime's initial claim to authority was dubious or moral grounds, on historical the let us assume though (for simplicity) violence is illegal.5 This particular combination of circumstances, political easier is an unlikely scenario; but it is not, like some philosophical an impossible or utterly fanciful one. The hard cases, "counter-examples," as of course, are not so one-sided. Cases become morally more difficult "best case" for political this paradigm violence is altered along various I admit, dimensions: means, likely the reformers, regime alternative predictable kinds of damage, degree of oppression, of expected of effectiveness, reform, the motives stability the desert of the victims, and clear title to legality of the and its laws.

5 which


a Thomistic not working I am obviously with "laws" are not even laws. unjust grossly











In several to civil late works Kant His discusses rebellion, revolution, invoked severe position Arthur in his later years, and embarrassed and resistance criticism from


his contemporaries, it evidence considered thetic commentators The content state command

rigoristic as well as later commentators. of Kant's

senility have been puzzled of Kant's position is clear

Schopenhauer and most sympa by it ever since.6 not obey a resistance"

to do what is evil to tyranny may be justified.7 Nonviolent criticism of unjust rulers is a to be encouraged.8 the outcomes and something Although generally right some revolutions seem to are always uncertain in advance, of revolutions in the (so-called) British promote progress. There was much Revolution of 1776, and the French of 1688, the American to Thomas Hobbes, Kant held of 1789 to admire.9 Contrary that all rulers are morally bound to have "inalienable rights" for a coercive Revolution Revolution that citizens

enough. One must in itself and so some "passive

respect. The state power is "the united will of the people." authority or political or geographic of any conventions Natural rights, independent constrain what any governmental boundaries, authority may legitimate and the in the Categorical reason, expressed Imperative ly do. Practical and rationally, over of right, take precedence, universal morally principle any individual or group's commands.10 that even the most and expect cruel

Moreover, and unjust

there is reason wars, revolutions,

to hope and

See, for example, MM, p. 133 [321-322] and p. 176 [371]; also H. Reiss, "Post script" in H. Reiss (ed.), Kant: Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1970, "When that when 1991), pp. 267-268. In T.M. Greene and H.H. Hudson (eds.), Religion within

C. Korsgaard,

I believe,

is a notable


the Limits of Reason Alone (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960), pp. 142n [154n], Kant
says, only come it is said [Acts, V, 29]: commands, statutory into conflict with duties which or transgression 130 [310]; God to obey God rather than men,' this means men can be legislators and judges, which regarding reason prescribes whose unconditionally, concerning the former must yield precedence alone can be the judge, 'We ought in Reiss (ed.), Kant: Political


to the latter." 8 MM, p. 84-85. 9 Kant


and Practice,"

Writings, the American


Declaration Louis his XVI state.

asserted reportedly of Independence

(falsely) does not

that James affirm

II "abdicated"

and He

that also

yielded "voluntarily" See Reiss, "Postscript,"

sovereignty pp. 261-622,

a "right" to revolution. to the Estates General and Kant, "The

and of

that thought then abandoned the Faculties,"


both in Reiss
of these though

(ed.), Kant: Political Writings, pp. 262 and pp. 182ff., respectively. None
however, beneficial, retract to rebel Kant's against of main is that point, which state authority. legal and of it is always wrong,

"glosses," sometimes


See MM, pp. 55-65 [229-241]. However, Kant held that the fact that the ruler's laws
contrary to the natural rights freedom equality citizens, does not

are unjust,

A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL ON VIOLENCE counter-revolutions to world ual progress the good news. But now for


to grad contribute throughout history will eventually and just republican government.11 All that is peace (which, is not really news to of course, No matter how oppressive writings).

the bad news

those familiar with Kant's political to be, one has no right and tyrannical one believes the state authorities or "actively," or to conspire to rebel, to resist violently to rebel against a and others, Kant does not recognize lawful ruling power. Unlike Aquinas the gross injustice of ruling powers as a condition that can deprive them of "lawful" authority. Again, no matter how self-serving, tyrannical, and nor a regime may have been, neither present revolutionaries murderous a later legitimate authorities have any right to punish the villains. Despite note hinting the contrary, Kant's persistent public position was posthumous that it is a perfect, juridical, enforceable law, that duty, backed by moral one do nothing active to overthrow or undermine a legitimate governing power, and his "natural standards (despite Kant refers law") were state power "legitimate" or Recht, for Hobbesian.12 virtually "Right," enforceable "right" which others have a moral but it is clear that Kant intends to say, not only of what constitutes

to legitimately and legal duty to respect; that one lacks a legally enforceable right to rebel but also that one lacks to rebel, no matter how tyrannical, and the moral freedom oppressive, murderous the lawful regime may be.13 stand? First, several prelimi does Kant take such an extreme Why an absolutist nary points may help to make his defending position even though they do not justify it. One is that Kant's understandable, in revolution were written condemnations of participation vigorous 1790's, when Kant was elderly and not long after the bloody reign of in France. These tended more most

in the terror

international violence that events, and the consequent to solidify the conservative of peace-loving tendencies followed, and it is at least to Kant's credit that, unlike throughout Europe; people he hailed the republican of the revolution and welcomed it as many, spirit contributing
authorize 11 citizens

to progress
to disobey

in history
those laws;


though unlawful).
a moral on the rulers



to repeal the laws [MM, pp. 129-133 [318-323]].

of the Faculties," See Kant's "Contest "Idea for a Universal pp. 184-190, pp. History," and 130, all in Reiss 50-53, Peace," (ed.), Kant: Political pp. 108-114 Writings. "Perpetual 12 and Kant, and MM, Reiss, [316-323]; pp. 127-133 p. 265, "Postscript," "Theory in Reiss Practice," (ed.), Kant: Political pp. 79-87, Writings. 13 or first part of MM The duties in the Rechtslehre, and law, concerned with justice Kant for calls in Kant's "juridical and but this does not mean that they are "merely legal" duties, are indirectly as well. all juridical duties "ethical duties" For fuller see DPR, Chap. references, 8, pp. 147-175. duties;"





Further, Kant had the Enlightenment's faith, which he claimed optimistic to be grounded in reason, that progress towards more just republican gov ernments (and eventually "perpetual peace") could and would be achieved and public fool of superstition, by the gradual overcoming prejudice, use of reason. Free speech, rational criticism, ishness by the increasing were he believed, nonviolent and public dialogue, education, available, means to the improvement Reform would most of political institutions. likely come from lawful rulers. This belief was That top down, not by violence from the masses against their

of course, by a questionable nourished, style of moral for us what our major duties is, pure reason can determine argument. This may make some sense of empirical are, independently investigation. when the "duties" are in the abstract form of the Categorical Imperative, in of how people data to be set aside are descriptions and the "empirical" fact behave, how warmly they feel about each other, etc. The procedure taken to mean that we can determine is highly dubious, however, when more substantive about political duties, e.g. affairs, without investigating are and how likely each is to achieve what our options its empirically that it is our duty to seek peace, argues abstractly for all deserving people, and, from "ought" implies justice, and happiness or to achieve ? ends are possible "can," he argues that these desirable so. It is a form of argument at least that we ought to believe that makes sense in some limited contexts but is obviously if it dangerous pragmatic intended result. Kaint to ignore strong evidence the efficacy of our against should cut both ways; efforts. "Ought" implies "can" that we cannot accomplish certain ends by certain from solid evidence means we should be able to infer that it is not our duty to do so, or even leads one generally dutiful (would-be) to try. Imention Kant's optimistic faith here, not to endorse it, but just as a factor that helps to see his thinking as more humane than it otherwise might appear. Kant's main against Hobbes' justice.14 divided view The line of argument, however, reverts to Hobbes' Kant bound arguments not accept by standards of contrary

Sovereignty, though, significantly, that the head of state is not morally rulers can and do commit heinous


acts of injustice,


T. Hobbes'


law of nature, and Original else,

"That men of Justice." but

Hobbes Sovereign

"the Fountain as well

as to anyone made

their Covenants made," performe in principle of course, applies is not bound in practice, since the Sovereign This, the performance See T. Hobbes, of which would

is for to the by the

social contract, ithas virtually negligible force. The one case it might bind a Sovereign is if,
gratuitously, of the other's a Sovereign a promise is not an not be harmful

to himself and the other party has already fulfilled what they promised (so that suspicion
noncompliance issue). Leviathan, I, Chap. 15.

A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL ON VIOLENCE to the natural rights of the citizens; but still citizens or morally, to rebel. Here is a sample.
... since a people must be regarded as already united under

113 legally

have no right,
a general




order to judge with rightful force about the supreme authority, it cannot andmay not judge otherwise than as the present head of statewills it to. (MM, p. 130)
The reason a people has a duty to put up with even what is held to be an unbearable abuse can never be regarded is that its resistance to the highest of supreme authority legislation as other than contrary to law, and indeed as abolishing the entire For a legal constitution. a to be authorized to resist, to contain that is, the highest would have legislation people same over him to whom it is subject. This is self-contradictory ... the

provision that it is not the highest and thatmakes the people, as subject, by one and the
judgment sovereign

people wants to be the judge in its own suit. (MM, p: 131) And even though this constitution may be afflicted with great defects and gross faults and be in need eventually of important improvements, it is still absolutely unpermitted and punishable to resist it.For if the people should hold that it is justified in opposing force to this constitution, however faulty, and to the supreme authority, itwould think that it had the right to put force in place of the supreme legislation that prescribes all rights, which would result in a supreme will that destroys itself. (MM, p. 176) To unravel all aspects of these, and similar, passages would require a long and detailed not serve my purpose here. which would exegesis, fail to establish concede that Kant's Commentators arguments generally his strong conclusion, and most of us, I suspect, will find that conclusion - that to in revolution is always immoral - repugnant. So I participate a more will only remark on the arguments briefly before trying to develop the issue. For this we need for rethinking promising Kantian "perspective" to basic elements inKant's moral theory. The background of the case against revolution is typical social contract some new twists. A state of nature, prior to legal theory strategy, with in which deeply self-interested order, would be a condition (though poten lived without and moral) people agreements, tially security, trustworthy as rational, autonomous, to develop the opportunity mutually respecting to turn back lack rights (Recht) actually beings. In a state of nature they would but they would have proto-rights enforceable, (or "ought to be" Recht) determined of freedom, by the rational ("natural law") principles equality, human The fundamental of justice is, roughly, that independence. principle as is possible each person is entitled to as much "external under liberty" a general system of laws that accord the same liberty to all.15 This carries as a necessary the idea that violations of the principle may and corollary and so coercion as "hindrance should be prevented; is warranted If one were in a state of nature, one would of freedom."16 15 MM, p. 56 [230]. 16 MM, p. 57 [231]. to hindrances have a moral



a pragmatic not merely reason, to join with others (forcing obligation, if necessary) to enter a civil order. How that actually comes about them, are drawn, for example, No political conclusions is of litde significance. an alleged actual or tacit "promise" to obey the ruling powers. What from as resting on the "united matters is the "idea" of a state, once established, will to make the de facto and the people" authorizing ruling power Kant believed that the only laws on their behalf.17 Like Hobbes, to the unacceptable of a state of nature, where indi alternative lawlessness of enforce

state in judge for themselves when to use force, would be a political which every question of ("external") and coercion can be answered liberty and effectively determinately, unambiguously, by a powerful authority to be acknowledged all citizens. Kant's belief was not based by presumed viduals for he argued that the very idea of a legal entirely on empirical grounds, of a supreme authority, the judgments of order presupposed the existence over and taking precedence which must be treated as definitively binding of everyone else. the judgments are evident The influence of both Hobbes Rousseau and Jean-Jacques Kant held that we must act under here, an unhealthy mix. Like Rousseau, as if) all citizens in a social contract, the idea that (it is just together, to the authority of the "general will" submit their private wills irrevocably the standard of justice for laws, for of the people. This, then, provides to be always aimed is supposed (perhaps, by definition) In effect, Rousseau construed the general will as good." if fully public spirited, what citizens do, or would, will (e.g., by voting) for the good of each and all, not making concerned factual errors, not the general will at the "common distracted and envy generated parties, religious superstitions, of wealth.18 But, like Hobbes, Kant also supposes that, by gross inequalities in order to have a lawful order, there must be a concrete person (or group), by divisive

head of state, that is presumed always to judge and speak unambiguously for the united will of citizens.19 to the head this set up, it seems there can be no lawful resistance Given of state; for "lawfulness" requires backing of the united will of the people, and that is presumed already vested in the head of state that revolutionaries to resist. But if, on the one hand, we understand the "united will" propose as an ideal moral standard, then why should we suppose (with Rousseau) that this can be identified with the actual legislation of any real person or
17 MM, Writings, 18 See 19 pp. 123-130 pp. 73-87. J.-J. Rousseau, [311-19]; The Social "Theory Contract and Practice" in Reiss (ed.), Kant: Political


L. Crocker

(trans.) seems

(New York: to shift


Books, 1970).
I say idealistic to contrast "unambiguously" and a concrete idea of a general with will. Rousseau, who between an



fallible, and often corrupt; and it is foolish to group? People are obviously If, on the other hand, presume, or act under the idea, that it is otherwise.20 as an ideal of justice but is a mere label the "united will" is not understood to their and acceptance for the habits of obedience citizens have accorded de facto should the fact that revolution rulers, then why, we wonder, contravene the united will of the people provide any decisive moral against revolution? Kant thinks i.e., with would reason

to suppose it is "self-contradictory" that one could justly, will a general policy of under enforceable legally right (Recht), for there to be for any reason, the political condition necessary mining, strong, rights. Given Kant's justice and (legally enforceable) full-fledged definition of justice and rights (as tied to enforceability by an absolute and undivided seem absurd to to destroy the only suppose right for legally enforcing available mechanisms is anything.21 This, however, a very limited conclusion, on Kant's very special definition of depending construing what I called justice and rights. That is, it depends on Kant's the presence of justice and rights (Recht) as presupposing "full-fledged" his claim seems plausible. authority), that one could have a legally enforceable It does an actual

the law. Neither undivided this special ruling power to enforce nor the limited conclusion that follows that its always implies the de immoral, or even unjust (in a nontechnical sense), to try to destroy in one's country. Moreover, in discussing both the facto "legal" system definition of morality and the idea of a pre-legal society, Kant himself the validity of moral standards, backed by reason, indepen acknowledges dent of any legal system. So, although more remains to be said, it looks from our brief sampling of Kant's arguments that it should have remained an open question for Kant whether it is ever morally right, and just (in a foundations nontechnical
20 My we, tendency in our


to rebel violently


a tyrant.

here is of complaint to "Utopian" thinking,

imperfect world, act. See my DPR, ideal conditions, would 4, pp. 66-75. esp. "Kant's Utopianism," Chap. 21 some further qualifications the argument be needed. To make For example, may tight, can we imagine a legal system a "liberty" that allowed the legal system right to try to destroy

a piece with my in several claim that Kant has a papers in the sense of drawing conclusions about how illegitimate should act from accounts of how more ideal persons, in more

on apparently if but only if one was thoroughly conscientious and convinced good evidence that the system had a legally unrevisable, but in fact easily that constitution replaceable, was oppressive to many and injurious to almost all? Here I am not supposing that the system that the conscientious have a "claim right" to the system's revolutionaries acknowledges full protection and cooperation in its revolutionary activities. That would be absurd. But

is it inconceivable that the system could acknowledge their limited liberty right by laws
providing punishment conscientious," that unsuccessful can once and arrested, revolutionaries, stopped were if they can prove the "justifying conditions" obtain (i.e., they had "apparently ...)? good evidence" legally avoid "thoroughly



If one


basic ideas about moral

or at deliberation plausible, to justify his rigid stance on but rejects Kant's least promising, attempts to law, then one must go back again to the basics of Kant's obedience in an effort to rethink the more theory, suitably reconstructed, specific finds Kant's is a large project, and here I can only This such an account might go. briefly how treat Kant's formulas of the Categorical Textbooks unfortunately issue for ourselves. ative as if they could easily be "applied" to answer all questions about whether separately a particular act is right at least with this optimism, as a decision sketch


procedure or wrong.

In the Groundwork, Kant encouraged regard to the formulas for which he supplied brief examples.22 But the examples have a very limited, illustrative purpose, and appear in the Groundwork in the main course of argument. When Kant turned almost as a digression to "applications" of the basic moral law in a systematic and serious way, and other political writings, he presents in The Metaphysics Morals i.e., of a more complex picture. The humanity to much more formula is appealed are less prominent, than the universal law formula, maxims general empir about human nature bear much weight, ical and teleological assumptions moral serves a guiding the the idea of hypothetical ideal agreement function, of current practices of duty are relevance is acknowledged, types more finely divided, and an important priority is developed between (legal matters of considerations of justice and (nonenforceable) ly enforceable) virtue. This late work is hardly a model of clarity and rigorous argument, some quite unconvincing for and, as we have seen, it contains arguments stands. Nevertheless, it provides precedents for some untenably rigoristic flexibility in applying Kant's basic moral ideas as well as some clues about that need to be taken into account. In what follows, however, complexities I am influenced by this later work but do not attempt to give detailed textual law formula.23 Although universal concern lies behind Kant's
HJ. Paton (trans.) (New York:

exegesis. Let us turn briefly to Kant's famous few would deny that some important
22 I. Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic


of Morals,

Harper & Row, 1964), p. 70 [402], pp. 89-91 [421] (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p. 70 [402], pp. 89-91 [421-424], 95-98 [427-430] (Hereafter I abbreviate this as simply
"Groundwork"). 23 I shall Here guish of nature." hope what Paton The speak calls loosely formulas of "the I and of both, will make universal la, the and to distin law formula," without pausing to "universal latter referring laws explicitly are unbelievably their relations, but I diverse, sense in abstraction from these scholarly

that my


interpretations remarks



A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL ON VIOLENCE the difficulties formula, been repeatedly pointed


have of using this as a moral decision procedure out by critics. Kant's defenders have shown great or supplementing the formula tomeet the objec ingenuity by "interpreting" The basic tions, but none, as far as I can tell, has been fully successful.

to assess the morality of problem, of course, is that the formula proposes a thought acts by submitting the "maxim" of each act to a test, involving and, though the outcome experiment; depends upon the maxim descrip we lack sufficient standards for determining, of moral tion, independently in a morally relevant way. Many famil intuition, how to describe maxims to Kant's formula can be met by insisting that the iar counter-examples is something other than the critic supposed. But "real" or "relevant" maxim if defenders of the formula the maxims repeatedly by redescribing they are simply an outcome initially the maxim description with a view to achieving intuitive or in accord with other (unmentioned) fend off alleged counter-examples suspect that proposed, we naturally

rewriting that is more

aspects of Kantian theory. Now I think there need not be anything wrong with supplementing the procedure in this way so long as the supplemen are up front and defended. Until recently, however, that has tary proposals rarely been the situation. in the end I suggest that we turn to a later formula of the Cate Although gorical Imperative how the universal let us consider for a moment for application purposes, law formula, under a sympathetic interpretation, would The relevant maxim of political violence. is not simply

or even as "the maxim of using violence violence" to a type of activity on allude vaguely These for political purposes."24 but they are not stated explicitly which one might have a policy, or maxim, as a policy that one could follow. We need to ask, what policy is meant? to achieve political Is it the policy of always using violence ends? That to use violence is unlikely. How about the willingness for political ends us something about the agent's dispositions, and Kant sometimes? That tells would but that willingness; require that one be ready to universalize as the maxim too little to be plausibly that guides regarded a particular act. (Compare: Could to go to "I am willing and explains Texas sometime" be the policy I am acting on when I book a trip to San it says no doubt

treat our problem "the maxim of political

sense of to make need to be stated definitely Maxims Antonio?) enough as doing, and why. Typically see themselves what agents this requires some finer specification of the details of one's circumstance, features that make sense of one's engaging in described activity now but not at certain other times. For
24 This, encouraged


a maxim

tendency allusion

be "to use violence

to achieve

it is etc.

I find,

is a very

by Kant's



and unfortunately students, among as "the maxim to maxims of lying,"



political goals if the goals are of very high priority and the violent means are necessary, to cost me nothing and predicted likely to be effective, to failing to achieve my goal." comparable This is not to say, by the way, that a policy or maxim must include a can simply refer to all of circumstance, for a maxim detailed specification at once. For example, Kant's "maxim of self-love" circumstances possible to is presumably the policy "always Reason) (in the Critique of Practical above to stating a do what best serves my own happiness." My objection in this simple form was not that this would of political violence maxim make to suppose too indefinite, but rather that it is unrealistic the policy to that anyone, no matter how reckless, has the unqualified policy "always use violence to achieve political ends, no matter what the circumstances"; to for there are often easier, less costly, and more likely effective means To be realistic, in a anyone seriously engaging to determine what he or she to use Kant's guideline effort conscientious upon a little thought, that there are many morally ought to do will recognize, in which political relevant features of the various circumstances violence achieve ends. might be used. As evaluating we cannot the morality Herman points out, if there is any hope of acts by testing their maxims, of our proposed then that pops into mind will be the that the first act-description Barbara the same

expect at the best (morally) most relevant way to express one's maxim.25 Arriving account of one's maxim may require prior deliberation, reflection on one's other moral commitments, rethinking when one's first attempts produce but bizarre results, etc. (This need not render the test empty or worthless, faith in the formula as a simple, moral decision it requires abandoning

On reflection, of all other moral considerations.) I independent procedure, can justify political violence that they assume, anyone seriously supposing to in a particular case will have a maxim of the form "I will use violence ... and_"26 achieve my political end if... and ... and unless Similar remarks apply to maxims of lying. That is, (1) "I will lie some to be a maxim, (2) "I will never tell a lie" is a it is not a maxim that accu possible maxim but, despite Kant's example, that most people act on (or endorse on reflection), rately reflects a policy and (3) "I will lie if... and... unless... and..." is the form of the maxims times" is too indefinite regarding


that most

of us act on and so should

of Moral Judgment that every (Cambridge: such maxim

be testing.27
Harvard University



B. Herman, esp. Chaps. I do not mean and I realize,

The Practice 7 and 10.

1993), 26 clauses 27

two "unless" of

to imply, of course, clauses. that Kant




two "if"




to maxims

in many


ways exceptions


not to take seriously that honestly and conditions seemed

of "building the possibility enough form part of our policies.

into the maxims"



not to say, however, to test is always the most that the appropriate maxim leads carefully, fully specified maxim. That proposal, unless supplemented to all sorts of familiar problems.28 are needed as well. to avoid other problems It qualifications as policies for example, that maxims, that one is actually clear, to facts of the situation, acting on, cannot include reference anticipating Various seems of the act, or underlying motives that are completely descriptions the awareness of the agent. Suppose a person is ignorant of the fact is about to shoot at a bear (instead of a deer), that both bear hunting hunting are illegal, and that she is driven to hunt by an unconscious beyond that she and deer need to

father. Although rebel against her vegetarian these facts may be relevant to the "objective of her acts, the person's maxim could not contain lightness" to these facts.29 As Onora Nell points out, this reference [O'Neill] any to what some call limits the application of the maxim testing procedure on lightness," or doing what good moral judgment prescribes "subjective the factors the basis of the facts as the agent perceives them.30 Furthermore, that count as making one "unable to conceive or will" a maxim as universal law need everyone

to be circumscribed. breast-feeding

the contingent For example, of impossibility their infants or having genuine French champagne

to tell a lie to a short, bald, obese, the maxim for example, Consider, freckled-faced, on a full moon to lie to such a tourist at 2:37PM. If willing in the first Tuesday then it seems one should find it easy to will of this maxim. the universalization That place, tourist everyone constraint were on willing the agent, to lie to such beyond a person on such an occasion no realistic imposes at hand, for the issue is unlikely to arise again. But turns on factors that are irrelevant both morally this maxim the case the intention. Because of these and other, of Kant's less obvious test from but a test her proposed reconstruction


of universalizing the process to the agent's formation serious problems, O. O'Neill specific,


of relatively

changed context-definite maxims

Press, 1975) University Press, 1989)]. Herman Cambridge (Cambridge: University (op. cit.) favors to the test to quite maxims of deliberation, as, in the process (as well specific applying some quite general but she requires be morally and that the details must relevant ones), effort trying to work out how one can determine moral relevance. spends considerable 29 as what good moral W^hat is "objectively be thought of, roughly, judgment right" may on the basis of knowledge are (whether of the facts as they actually would known prescribe of Reason to the agent utilitarianism right Kant, is what or not). typically, the agent In some theories, the objective from judges, the idea of the objective in e.g., right has priority; the subjective utility whereas right is what maximizes her perception of the facts, will maximize utility. For That is, the objectively utility) prescribe would (like maximum judges right act but rather if they

"ground" general, life-guiding on Principle (New York: Columbia

maxim-descriptions recent in a more

in her first book book

to a test of quite

Nell, Acting [See O. [O'Neill] and O. O'Neill, Constructions

the subjective right is the prior notion. arguably, as the achievement is not defined of a certain outcome of what rational moral

as something like the convergence understood the facts correctly. 30 on Principle, Nell, Acting pp.


120 for their anniversaries seems

THOMAS E. HILL, JR. of these permissibility be irrelevant. may psychological peculiarities to like for everyone to do what one happens irrelevant to the moral

Similarly policies. is not so much What matters but rather what


one can reasonably will as a policy for everyone. of averting a wide is crucial for purposes This qualification range of a respect it introduces in but of course (or exposes) counter-examples, the universal law formula itself is indefinite and open-ended. which Any reconstruction needs to draw from other aspects of Kant's theory plausible to fill out the conception These aspects in fact of "reasonable willing."31 are not neatly drawn together in any one place, but are progressively as well as in in later formulas of the Categorical revealed Imperative other discussions. That reason, in the broad sense and acknowledges humanity requires autonomy that is especially in itself is an assumption important even though it is law formula is first introduced. As John when the universal only implicit suggests, what reason, in this broad sense, "can" and "cannot will" that abstracts from various be best determined from a perspective may differences For example, the fact that a individuals.32 among personal are and obsessed with is rich, old, self-sufficient, person independence Rawls special circumstances that should not be allowed to fuel his that he "can reasonably will" a universal argument policy aid to the needy. The relevant conception of rational give self-serving to of refusing or reasonable required for morality, in each person as an end

or instrumental reason. is not simply efficiency willing A further point to keep in mind is that one's aim as a rational and is not simply to find amaxim that appears conscientious deliberator morally as universal policy when considered reasonable itself, in isolation from by other maxims, taken for of institutions and norms against a background be looking for a consistent and at various levels of generality, with policies, in the light of the others, and, if need be, modified (ideally) each considered set. A universal maxim with a broad view of the facts relevant to the whole granted without set of coherent question. revisable One should as a part of one set may not be when considered that appears reasonable as a part of another set, and universal maxims that would be acceptable one background of existing social institutions and norms might not against be so when applied to a different of this, one's first stab setting. Because
31 This in effect is what Herman attempts and the same of Moral Judgment, and others. O. O'Neill, T. Pogge, "Themes in Kant's Moral in her can be very said rich for and stimulating The work, reconstructive of C. efforts


Korsgaard, 32 J. Rawls,

Philosophy," The

in E. Forster




scendental Deductions
however, 50-52. rejects this

(Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989), pp. 86f. Herman,

interpretation. See Herman, Practice of Moral Judgment, pp.



a maxim and universalizing should not be taken as definitive, if its outcome is intuitively bizarre or suspicious. that especially Finding one cannot will a certain maxim as a universal law, one needs to ask why and consider, in a larger context, whether the blocking factor is morally significant. Or, finding that one apparently can universalize try, one needs to ask whether one's ability to do so depends taken for granted some morally dubious social conditions amaxim on first on one's having or attitudes that

should be reformed.33 There are at least two implications of this. The first is that we need to abandon any pretense that the universal law formula, by is a simple, fool-proof moral decision procedure that can crank out itself, of all other moral considerations. The answers, case by case, independently second is that, implication it is to be expected that one then go back, perhaps again in the light of many factors, if the universal will at all, is workable law formula first apply the test to an initial maxim and and again, to rethink and formulate the maxim until one finally including one's other maxims,

a policy statement that both (a) reflects an honest understanding to do and why and (b) one conscientiously of what one proposes judges to be a reasonable policy for the circumstances for anyone, despite whatever moral considerations there are.34 I used to think that the countervailing reaches one's initial maxim until one finds practice of "backing up" to reformulate an acceptable one was subject to two objections: that it always revealed a reliance on moral "intuition" contrary to the alleged role of the universal law formula as a guide and that it opened the way for us to "tinker" with our maxim
33 34 Kant's is "the" on What One





in a bad-spirited


to Herman's I say here owes much The Practice of Moral Judgment. to using the "back and forth" procedure here, I suspect, suggested one maxim, statement to suppose of the test seems that each act has exactly obstacle relevant description of past if we of what one does on an occasion. acts might do not know lead one

is that which

the assessment even

the matter,

But the main policy. point of Kant's to applications at least, is to guide conscientious to review a number of possible maxims important modifying prepared that one them until one to do and why, fully can reasonably endorse can find some honest reflective of what

too, concentrating Perhaps, to suppose there must be a simple fact of was "the maxim" this or that specified it, whether formulas of the Categorical with Imperative, regard deliberation on which account one it is prior to action. Here one might or act, rejecting one of how one sees what is

to be morally knows such relevant, that policy If one cannot find such an account, for anyone. or can only "construct" an acceptable maxim to relevant reference factors one by omitting to overlook, "wishes" then one must not do the sort of thing one initially proposed. In other a modified, one may do that sort universal cases, upon finding honest, maxim, acceptable of act, or something that it is because of some quite similar, but only on the understanding

unusual distinguishing factors. Here the latteract would be permitted but the case might not
for further cases that are similar in many salient ways. precedent in no way provides all the morally relevant materials for solving procedure diverse maxim it just gives the search a certain form. descriptions; be a useful This complex the problem of

122 to "justify" what we that the requirement perspective the second maxims morally relevant still may account

THOMAS E. HILL, JR. But now it seems clear wrong. "reasonable" from a reflection, advantages, largely takes care of

is morally suspect of "conscientious"

from personal abstracting of reformulating and the "back and forth" procedure problem; in order to have any hope of taking into account all the is essential factors. If an act appears e.g., "breaking under another more a promise


act-description, be permissible this factor

to be forbidden under one morally to a good friend," then it

as well

victim, despite its breaking is the relevant description begin to think about this. Now although matters,

that takes into complex maxim as another, e.g., "stopping to save an accident a promise to a good friend." Determining which task, but there are reasonable that needs ways to

is no easy more

there is much let us return

to be said on these to see what


pretative guidance, if any, we might draw from a sympathetic law for reading of the universal mula. What seems fairly clear is at least that two extreme policies regarding "I Consider first the maxim, political violence would prove unacceptable. or revolution in violent shall never engage resistance, rebellion, against in my state, no matter how tyrannical and oppressive the ruling powers inMM like (Kant himself something apparently accepted we apply this to an instance of "the best case scenario" this).35 Suppose and arbitrary earlier. Imagine: Horrible, described persistent oppression incessant torture, killing, and debasing of both citi rule persist, including avenues of reform have been exhausted. zens and foreigners. All peaceful they may be" A to replace of just and moderate citizens the ruler without conspiracy is already underway, and this is clearly necessary and authorization legal a more just, stable, and responsive is likely to establish Almost regime. to carry out the coup is minor prop the only violence necessary certainly the ruler erty damage removing (e.g., breaking down doors) and forcibly that alleged a priori and a few equally guilty henchmen.36 Now, assuming any surely in these conditions of what is morally relevant,

to our initial problem

proofs to the contrary fail (as argued earlier), reasonable person, with a basic understanding
35 I am


not obey state orders to do here that Kant's concession that we must supposing one can to sanction in itself was not meant but perhaps is immoral violent resistance, an order cases where to do something in itself immoral is not passively refusing imagine

on what an option. turns out to be "immoral It depends in itself," I suppose. For example, to stop a murder if doing nothing that one could prevent in itself, violent is immoral then one would to violently the murder. have resist a state order not to interfere with 36 to make I want, the particular further conditions could be Obviously, negative point

added. The point is that the absolutist policy almost certainly cannot be justified for all
conceivable variables. conditions. And, given this, we must pay attention to the many morally relevant

A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL ON VIOLENCE could not will and revolution. the absolutist maxim all violent resistance,

123 rebellion,


I should stress that the point here is not to suggest that revolu Again, is justified only in this (admittedly extraordinary) situation tionary violence on this case is useful that I call "the best case scenario." Focusing briefly it only takes a little reflection on an example like this to cast just because doubt on Kant's attempt to cover all instances of revolution and political no matter how distinct, under the same undiscriminating violence, to various morally bition. The lesson is that we must be sensitive of different circumstances. Once this is acknowledged dimensions is clear that we prohi relevant and it

assess all cases at a single stroke, then cannot morally the long, arduous task of distinguishing the range of cases where the rele vant factors are decisive such against political violence from those where violence is justified can begin in earnest. The other extreme maxim engage as more in political violence tomention, for contrast, is this: "I shall itwill result in more justice as well this leaves a range of cases undetermined (when to count as amaxim it is sufficiently determinate whenever Iwant

utility." Although

justice and utility conflict), an agent could act. The problem, on which is that the maxim however, hides the morally relevant factor that, as fallible agents, we never know with much certainty that an attempted revolution will in fact result inmore ? and we know this. The truth is that, though one may justice and utility

feel quite confident of one's predictions, from the deliberative standpoint one always acts on fallible estimates of consequences. So, to reflect this, like this: "I shall it seems, needs to read something the relevant maxim, in political I estimate it likely (to degree violence whenever engage ...) to result inmore justice and utility." This is not an insignificant change. If one universalizes imagines necessarily worlds second, many for themselves an infallible may one when the former, trying unqualified to conceive then the possible maxim, as a universal the maxim worlds law are

of greater justice and utility; but if one universalized the one imagines must the possible worlds include qualified in which well-meaning revolutionaries generate nothing but disaster maxim, and others.

One cannot reasonably that one is suppose of the consequences of political violence while others judge are what would happen be mistaken. The relevant consequences if not for

but often mistaken folk followed the maxim, ordinary, well-meaning, to declare what would happen if one were infallible and were allowed everyone one takes else when efforts will

revolutionary the constraint of endorsing the maxim for all others seriously who will estimate outcomes for themselves, the upshot is a strong moral in constructing one's maxim pressure to be cautious and carefully qualified

turn out for the best. When

124 regarding political famous successful following Let me persuasive influenced follows:
In your civil mostly universalizability but we need argument to go back


the good effects of a few celebrates History but it also records the horrors and injustices revolutions, some failed and some "successful." other well-meant attempts, violence. even it is not briefly a possible though objection, in the end. A defender of Kant's absolutism, still partly perhaps by Kant's a priori arguments against revolution, might argue as mention


above you assume to the idea of a state

the context of nature.


states and of ongoing was this Hobbes

to recognize in a state of nature would that persons have right, though he failed as well as prudential, reasons a civil order with an absolute to establish moral, prohibition on rebellion. Given the lawless conditions of a state of nature and the untrustworthy nature of human beings in such a condition, the right a social the only way to make they can escape and enforce that condition and create

the political conditions necessary for higher moral relations is for all to completely and
irrevocably as if all had everyone's of surrender and power contract judgments of justice to a

civil authority. Since thatwould be the rational will of all people in such a condition, it is
jointly made acceptance of policies they would that allowed to obey the powers that be. In a state of nature, or rebel under conditions them to resist that

they were left to judge would not in fact generate the stability needed and so, despite the
dangers tyranny, rationally accept the policy of no rebellion.

Continuing ly sketched extreme

the objection,



argument universalizability conditions agreement. ignored this (morally) prior (hypothetical) of how legal By treating the issue of rebellion without prior examination that argument failed to take authority could arise from a lawless world, account of the fact that the very existence of the state derives from that prior authorization. Now this argument

note that the previous might for allowing rebellion in certain

might give (on a certain reading of Hobbes), namely, an appeal to the fact that, as a subject in an ongoing to commitment state, one has already made an irrevocable to the Sovereign's laws and judgment for immediate self (except yield in borrowing this argument. For defense).37 But there are serious problems of unconditionally the moral possibility binding on Hobbes' it relies for another, dubious ideas that promises promises; under duress are still morally binding and that later generations, long after thing, the initial institution of to act for them. Moreover, real promise but a fictional having sovereignty, implicitly the idea of a social idea that serves certain authorize contract heuristic the Sovereign in Kant is not a one it presupposes

seems parallel

to that a Hobbesian

been party to a state of nature,

actual citizens

purposes. Not have not actually today

37 Notoriously the self-defense exception inHobbes is no constraint on the Sovereign, and it apparently applies only to fairly imminent lethal attack which death-averse human
beings cannot be expected not to resist.

A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL ON VIOLENCE made tomake at best such would the alleged prior commitment. given the special conditions that is now Even


if itwere a rational commitment of a state of nature, it is a commitment

an absolute

Further, rather than reaffirm open to reconsideration. commitment, anyone living in a more civilized world to consider commitment to more cautious, be reasonable carefully

qualified policies regarding resistance and rebellion. For it is far from clear that the only possibility of regaining civil order, upon removal of a tyrant, is for all to pledge never to resist civil authority or engage in political violence under any conditions. Kant, like Hobbes, seemed to assume, falsely, that all anarchy, however generations for a primitive period when will make brief, is equally bad and that living in civil order for - the same no deep difference to.how people will act state of nature as for every temporary transitional pre-social changes hands without legal authorization.38



some problems in applying Kant's universal considered law some suggestions about how some of these problems formula and made constru that, on a reasonable might be addressed, and then I argued merely law formula would warrant neither Kant's al, it seems that the universal So far I have violence against the state nor any very as a means to pro of using such violence permissive, unqualified policy and justice. But there remain many problems with using the moting utility to encourage Kantians to hold law formula, problems universal sufficient absolute prohibition more a combination of Kant's formulas. Prominent hope for constructing is that, although these problems the universal law formula implic among asks what maxims we can rationally will as universal law, it does not itly to that we are supposed itself specify the sense or standards of rationality context and outcomes on political

suggest that we are not to rely merely on or instrumental rationality, with no rational constraints on per means-end ends. Other aspects of Kant's missible moralized of stronger, conception reason are only gradually unfolded in the later formulations of the Categor the fairly obvious ical Imperative, and elsewhere. beyond Consequently, elimination of the most extreme maxims that regarding political violence one could I argued for above, there remains much in what indeterminacy rationally

use. Both


of Kant's

idea so

nature we is like a crooked for over which piece of wood, is that social structures (and time become better. morally Writings, pp. 46-47.]

I think here be made behavior

that human that the best not improve, in Reiss

can never so human [See "Idea

straight, in society)

can hope

for a Universal


that people (ed.), Kant:




are condemned Further, and partly as a result, Kant's claim that maxims as universal when they could not be conceived without contradiction laws trouble. Very few maxims invites endless (including Kant's examples) to adopt and act for everyone seem, strictly speaking, impossible logically are often intuitive for everyone on; and maxims contingently impossible on in special instances of "freeloading" although ly innocent. Moreover, social institutions reminder, the spirit of "Don't, if everyone can't" seems an apt it is hard to see any basic moral consideration behind the com to do it, it is wrong for everyone to let others go ahead of one in a

pletely general rule, "if it's inconceivable for you to do it." Consider the maxim queue, rather or never

to buy a house but to admire others', or to adopt a child than having a child of one's own. One can always avoid counter but my point is that intuitive results, perhaps, by rephrasing "the maxim"; no prima to be overcome facie moral in this way. consideration against the maxims that

there seems needs

Finally, may give essentially

until the first problem is solved, the universal law formula that moral deliberation the impression is a solitary activity, not with others. Each agent, it seems, is to calling for consultation

and then asking whether imagine everyone acting on the relevant maxim he or she can reasonably will this. Others come into account, but only in the agent's view of what sort of behavior on their part he or she could tolerate. in moral deliberation, is This fails to reflect the fact that practical reason, same in all (or a construction the from the reasonable reflections essentially of all). The later formulas of the Categorical this clearer. Imperative make to suppose to Kant's it is tempting Now for that shifting humanity the problems. suffice to resolve mula, or using that as supplement, might The to clarify Kant's I think, does help significantly formula, humanity standards of (moral) practical but it raises familiar problems of reason, own. Treated as a rather formal constraint, as Kant's argument in the its

to the fact that the formula usefully calls attention suggests, the faculty of reason which is to govern us, overriding mere inclination, in each person. So in fact, humanity is a shared faculty, (rational nature) to my ends, the when I ask whether I can treat another person as a means Groundwork test is not just whether I can will the corresponding maxim rationally by criterion of rational choice. The test is whether any agent-relative one, including my would-be victim, can assent to the action reasonably, some concerns. in a sense that abstracts from particular agent-relative In effect, a standard of in principle to all. I suggest, Kant introduces justifiability This does not mean that a judge may not sentence a criminal because he is to someone does not mean showing to go to jail, for "justifying" unwilling that the act in question accords with that person's personal preferences.



to all insofar as they will take up is justifiability perspective - of sense. point of view practical reason, in the broad moralized Further, as I have argued elsewhere, Kant interprets treating humanity as an end in itself more substantively, as requiring a high priority on whatever the moral expresses, and honors It implies the nature of human as such, all price agents.39 and incomparable that persons, worth," above

preserves, promotes, develops, beings as rational, autonomous have dignity, an "unconditional and "without which

is not a quantitative value notion, by between the dignity of one person say, and ten, or a hundred persons. Although must have an important place at some level of consequences weighing all principles must ultimately be justified from a point moral deliberation, equivalent." Dignity one might justify trade-offs, the "greater" dignity of two, of view Now that counts although it raises obvious of consequentialism, of application. Will there questions us not be cases of practical moral where the theory makes dilemmas, refuse to take all our perceived options because each would fail to respect the dignity of someone?40 Are there not situations where Kant's absolute insistence on dignity will require us to refuse to take the emergency, life in extraordinary but intuitively saving actions, normally wrong justified I have argued elsewhere that the most promising circumstances? way of to apply the idea of human dignity, at least these problems is approaching in the first instance, not as a case-by-case test but independent moral as a value-guideline to be taken into account, with other aspects along at a higher-order of morality, level of reflection, where general rules are decided section that might I sketch for basic public institutions.41 Continuing that strategy, in the next that legislative and comment briefly on how perspective each person as having a worth that cannot be calculated. to critics this feature of Kant's ethics has long appealed

on political violence. This sketch help toframe moral discussion to the morality of a new Kantian of political violence, together approach with a speculative will have to serve as my remarks about its application, conclusion, perspective a definitive
39 40 moral


from the Kantian that reasonable deliberation has yet to be worked out. Indeed, to try to offer support answer at this stage would be premature, given the complexity

for the position

2. See my DPR, Chap. I discuss these "practical seems to

theory H.E. Mason (ed.), Moral

and the possible that Kantian dilemmas," "gaps" in a paper in "Moral and Residues," Dilemmas, Gaps, Dilemmas and Moral Press, (Oxford: Oxford Theory University leave, in DPR, without Aban


1996), pp. 167-198.

41 These objections is on how for purposes are taken up Chap. 10, "Making Exceptions

doning the Principle: Or How a Kantian Might Think about Terrorism." My focus there,
however, which, a state authority might (with violence) respond against are known of the paper, I assume to be immoral. cases of terrorism



of the issue and the still incomplete of the Kantian specification legislative as too often It would also be misleading, falsely suggesting, perspective. in a few quick Kantian have, that these issues can be resolved arguments strokes without worrying about empirical realities.


Kant's explicit idea of a "kingdom of ends" [Reich der Zwecke] is Kant's most use of a political model for deliberation about moral principles.42 are both authors for the titular head (God), all the members of to the laws. The Head, being a "holy will," fails to

Except the laws and subject

be "bound" by the laws only by the technicality that a holy will follows
and so cannot be said without pure rational principles any temptations are rational to be "bound" to them. The members and have "autonomy" to themselves; the will. So they are bound only by laws they legislate not merely to their laws as authoritative, from self they are committed interest or inclination, but from reason; they are free from threats and no laws without to tradition, etc.; they make sufficient is the starting and fall-back position). (so equal liberty They each of legislation have "private ends" but for purposes "abstract from they and so work with only the abstract idea that each personal differences" bribes, reason slavery has a (more or less ordered) set of private ends to pursue and the knowledge are a good bet to be useful, no matter what one's ends. that certain means from personal differences" need not be taken as implying an "Abstracting as thorough as that imposed by Rawls' "veil of ignorance," some sort of sincere effort to set aside personal tastes and but it implies attachments when these are morally irrelevant to decisions about particular abstraction to be considered.43 the general principles Like Rousseau's idea of the in contrast to "private wills," the perspective that one is to "general will," take up is that of a "representative citizen" concerned for the good of each
See Kant, Groundwork, [431-440]. pp. 98-107 the reconstruction of Kant's basic briefly summarizing in several and over a number papers trying to develop DPR, Chaps. 42 In the next few paragraphs that I have I am been



Perspectives "Reasonable

Regarding the "veil of ignorance," see J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), Chaps. 1, 3, and index, and Political Liberalism (New
York: Columbia for an analogous, on Moral Rules." and index. Regarding Press, 1993), pp. 22-28, my suggestion University see "A Kantian but different, Kantian condition, legislative Perspective


are of years. Particularly relevant on Moral in Philosophical 2, 10, and 11, "A Kantian Rules," Perspective 104 (1993), 6 (1992), and Kant," Ethics pp. 285-304, pp. 22-52, "Donagan's Social Philosophy and Policy Self-interest," (forthcoming).



though very much aware that individuals strongly value liberty, are "ends in themselves,9' Kant The members respect, and self-governance. this says, with dignity, above all price; and presumably they acknowledge the members and constrain their legislation together accordingly. Finally, universal laws" by their joint rational willing. Kant seems at times to have pictured this process "making universal laws" as what occurs when on particular or her maxims each person, his "universalizes" separately, "make occasions to the universal law formula.44 But it is better, I according think, to think of the "legislation" by along the lines already suggested of autonomous the metaphor of a community persons who together make laws for themselves, their problems, i.e., we imagine they meet, confront ends (abstractly considered), take into account both dignity and personal for laws, and then "pass" those laws reason. (and sufficient) the ideas of the Categorical that combines Imperative to always in a pos as candidates

review possible "bills" for which there is most A version of

the previous is the rational command versions, Kant suggests, to the universal conform laws that you and others would make sible/ideal moral

of ends.45 Since the Categorical is a basic kingdom Imperative as well for personal virtue and interpersonal relations principle must be thought of as matters of law and justice, the kingdom's legislators duties as for both areas, imperfect unenforceable "legislating" principles as perfect juridical duties. well It is obvious, idea of humanity this basic moral procedure: 44 I think, how this legislative the perspective incorporates as an end itself, for the legislators are stipulated to share the formal idea is expressed in their value. Moreover, to make and obey "laws" they can justify to each commitment

The "laws"made would be intermediate principles like "Never lie" or "Help the needy
between at by seeing above were the Categorical what maxims and particular Imperative judgments, one could will to adopt for everyone and they would and act on. E.g.,

sometimes," be arrived

if each member found thatallmaxims that theywould be acting on if they did not accept the
principles to conclude could condemned that they would conclude that "Never law procedure, then they are supposed by the universal not to act as those maxims be wrong direct. In that case, they are moral lie" and "Help the needy sometimes" laws. Note that, reason from personal if one member to has sufficient differences," person. At times Kant that the kingdom of

their "abstraction given a maxim, then so does every other condemn 45 there is some textual ambiguity. Again, see as that virtue legislating is duly members; the existence rewarded. in any of But case, at times use


ends would become actual only if everyone did his or her duty and ifGod cooperated to
it seems the that we are to think of ourselves does now not of as a guideline model legislative of ends in the first sense. At no time, as if the moral end to be produced,"


is the kingdom used noting, were "do whatever you can as a means is rather to conform to the laws

the kingdom as an "ideal

it is worth imperative command

to bring about a kingdom of ends." The that would be made such ideal legislators. by

130 other also (from


The complex idea of autonomy is are stipulated to have autonomy of the will, they are bound by no laws but what they agree upon together, and to abstracting from irrelevant private inclinations and they are committed attachments. particular The islators universal "make will law formula universal between as universal is mirrored insofar laws" by their rational willing. saying "Act only by maxims as the hypothetical leg To be sure, there that you can rea

their shared perspective). for the members incorporated,46

is a difference sonably

law" (FUL) and saying "Act only as permitted that you and all other rational agents would reasonably will by principles as universal laws under the conditions of the kingdom of ends" (FKE). that the indefinite idea of reasonable in the former However, willing given (FUL) needs explicidy of moral to be interpreted in terms of later Kantian ideas that are more out in the latter (FKE), for practical purposes the kinds spelled needed to apply each formula turn out, I think, to be deliberation the main track to clarify to the maxim to Kant's this interpretive one will then FKE point, let us

nearly the same.47 To digress from makes FKE essential does not.

review briefly some of the differences between FUL and FKE. (1) FUL
reference If we adhere on which to maxims, on maxims act whereas acts can be could easily idea that all intentional

(practically) by reference interpreted as follows: "Act only be reformulated

that you and all other rational agents would of the kingdom of ends." Moreover, laws under the conditions given the of precise maxim-description, the fact that FKE can problems persistent be stated to maxims may well be an reference (as initially, above) without to apply either In any case, since the full deliberations needed advantage. review of an indefinite number of potentially relevant formula require

permitted by principles reasonably will as universal

with an initial statement of a maxim considerations, starting deliberation is no short cut that can replace the thorough deliberation (as FUL demands) FKE makes this clear at once, for it needed for well-grounded judgments. tells us that "what relevant I propose to do" must as not act-descriptions what would adopt. Moreover, once they have been worked principles, in the legislative for adopting principles. procedure in a special law or principle (2) FUL brings in the idea of a universal in effect, one looks first at one's act (to find the corresponding maxim) way: legislators in conflict under all potentially the principles Kantian is morally relevant is given in the out out, or, if not, can be worked be cleared with

and then one tries to think of that act (specified by themaxim) as amodel

See DPR, Chap. 5.

But see footnote 23, above.

A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL VIOLENCE ON for everyone. permissive first to work


In effect, one's maxim into a universal itself is transformed until the procedure law or practice, the only law to be considered out a set of for everyone if, under any FKE, again,

is repeated. But FKE invites us (asKant did inTheMetaphysics ofMorals)

intermediate normative principles or maxim our act-description to see and only or required. But this feature of it is forbidden description, seems all to the good, for, as we have seen, whether any then to check or principle, in universal

given policy form, is acceptable ("can be willed") may well it is to be into which depend upon the context of other universal principles to take that into account; of FUL needs incorporated. Adequate application (3) FUL says "Act only on what you can reasonably will as universal law" and FKE says, in effect, "Do act on what you (and others) would law." First, the addition of "and others" in the reasonably will as universal in the kingdom of ends, changes latter, referring to other rational legislators or paradigm from yourself as a solitary deliberator to the explicit model an ideal legislative the "expressive" this changes value but, while group; and intuitive appeal, the thought processes required for each turn out not once one realizes to be significantly that willing different "reasonably"

FKE simply makes it explicit.

a shared faculty of reason that takes consulting the crucial factor into account impartially the rational wills of all. Second, law (in FUL) is just limiting what you "can reasonably will" as universal will" as universal law. In other what you and others "would reasonably in FUL means for Kant amaxim as a policy for everyone and wonders, words, when one conceives is not whether "Can I reasonably will this?" the relevant consideration it to choose is empirically, for you that universal psychologically possible unreasonable there is anything about choosing policy but rather whether it. And the legislative of FKE is simply a way of framing perspective this question. One can reasonably will the universalized maxim only if on it violates none of the universal that the everyone's acting principles on the rational legislators would adopt. Thus, the FUL seems dependent or at least the fuller specification FKE of the standards of reasonableness in FKE.48 that are more explicit 48 Notice that I have limited this last discussion tomaxims
laws. law Other maxims which fail What is not FUL are those for that these (without contradiction). in universal will" form So here not imply, reference accounts

that can be conceived as

cannot being be one's conceived we as "cannot

universal universal reasonably impossible. FKE does

to the standards

is "unreasonable," that so willing but that it is seem of reasonableness in FKE irrelevant.

logically impossible not follow FUL on

as far as I can see, that a maxim it is is condemned because simply to adopt and act on it, and so FKE for everyone does (on my reading) this. But this seems all to the good, the problems (mentioned given

earlier) about the logical impossibility aspect of the FUL test

132 The Kantian some important legislative


respects. on the consequences, or other specific features, exclusively by focusing case at hand, in isolation from the merits and demerits of the particular or permit of the general adoption of public policies that would prescribe the kind of particular act in question. As with rule-utilitarianism, ideally one would first try to find a coherent and consistent set of policies, rules,

is like that of rule utilitarianism in perspective can be made It rejects the idea that moral decisions

that one can justify from a moral perspective and principles appropriate actions then are regarded as morally if for the task. Particular obligatory the set of constraints from that perspective, demanded and by generated if not ruled out by such constraints. they are regarded as permitted The Kantian perspective, is not a form of utilitarianism, however, and, it must take into account consequences, it is not a form of con though as this is usually understood.49 Crucially, when reviewing and rules from the Kantian perspective, the "legislators" possible policies as an end must constantly honor the value of human dignity - or humanity as a simple, decisive in itself. The humanity formula here is not regarded sequentialism, to be "applied" directly to one's proposed acts, case by case. action-guide it is a basic value, or orienting attitude, that as legislators we must Rather, about rules. It commits us to try to find rules for adopt when deliberating a human community to regard each in which it is possible for everyone person utility, that invites as having, unconditionally, an "incomparable worth" calculated beyond his or her rather than a quantitative value ("price") trade-offs. Although it is a crucial part of the FKE, cannot be an all-inclusive direct guide for particular human worth a basic

the humanity formula on that level, it leaves acts (independently of a system of rules) because, us with too many unresolved conflicts. That is, as a direct guide to par it pulls us ticular action, the formula has "gaps"; in dilemma-like cases, very strongly towards opposite courses of action, without (by itself) giving advice as to which course to take. The hope is that many such conflicts can be resolved treating of FKE, by taking up the higher-order legislative perspective the humanity formula as specifying the attitude that they should

49 new

It is distinct, book, Kantian

for example,



the position D. Cummiskey and Oxford: (New York

1996). Most my Kantian preference

importantly, perspective, satisfaction,

"consequences" (though important) nor does this try to find a common denominator or whatever) fulfillment of rational autonomy,

University are not all that matters of value

adopts Oxford

in his

impressive Press, from

(pleasure, the maximization (or

other additive function) of which settles all moral questions. Some differences are noted inmy paper, "Making Exceptions without Abandoning the Principle: Or How a Kantian Might Think about Terrorism," reprinted inmy Dignity and Practical Reason inKanfs Moral Theory (Ithaca,NY: Cornell University Press, 1992).

A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL VIOLENCE ON and that try to maintain when legislating real world."50 sort of constraints are implicit in What we are aiming to work out rules justifiable to confine themselves like us, are willing or would accept, accept, from the Kantian fication certain they should try to foster

133 "in the

this attitude? First, as legislators to everyone else insofar as they, to the rules we conscientiously The justi moral perspective.

here proceeds that a not, as with rule-utilitarianism, by showing set of rules, if generally and taught, would result in the best adopted state of the universe, where goodness ismeasured by some prior standard.

to justify is to show acceptability to review to anyone prepared Rather, the issue with a certain ideal moral attitude, which consists of a complex to a desire to produce of concerns not all reducible future goods.51 These concerns include liberty, means, ical capacities, autonomous each person's life as a rational autonomous agent, the to live as such, his or her moral and phys and opportunity and social conditions that enable and encourage rational that human dignity is "priceless" and "without living. Given

these values trump various special interests that individuals equivalent," Some Kantians may regard these values as absolute, but in may develop. the real world occasions arise in which not all of even these most stringent to the extent a consci values can be simultaneously honored in practice values do not merely person would wish. The Kantian generate future goals to be worked for, they also call for appropriate responses now, one must not only of what may happen later. For example, independently entious work for a future with greater mutual also respect respect, one must now by constraining the means one is others as rational autonomous agents


It should way

a particular of

that attempts perhaps be noted that is merely because using formula. etc.,

to argue that one should not not treating them as a means,

treat a person them as ends

in in

themselves, often make implicit appeals torights, as if they existed prior to and independent
the humanity molestation, as a mere means application, forms human 51 be of sexual a false promise, rape, E.g., property by fraud, making gaining can be understood as rights so as treating someone violations, as opposed as human to their rightful claims That is not a bad beings. for practical but we need to remember that rights claims need to be purposes, the perspective reducible be from which we should decide what

justified and the humanity formula has the primary role of determining, along with other
the Categorical Imperative, there are and are not. rights inclined to add here concern "backward facie "not can

I am

that virtually any concern. E.g., Ross's "Prima


in any very meaningful to look in a way does

sense" like

because itmay a future-oriented might as one

be expressed,

of fidelity looking" principle act at each time so that the future

(or promise-keeping) not include you

who has broken his promise at this time" [See W.D. Ross, The Right and theGood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930), Chap. 2].





to use to bring a better future.52 And it is not an unqualified willing goal to human liberty over time, for all one's efforts towards this must maximize respect each individual's right to liberty now. to affirm, in abstract form, the prin though we may continue Clearly, in each person is priceless that "humanity" and without ciple equivalent, the more specific values implicit in this (somewhat vague) general idea are ones that draw us towards to work be a need in actual situations. There will different policies out adjustments, less-than-ideal tempo compromises, in our efforts to find the package of principles, rules, and

etc., rary policies, best respects the basic ideal of human that, all things considered, policies to a common Unlike Kantians have no pretense rule-utilitarians, dignity. can be made. of value in terms of which all such decisions denominator This means

out the that, contrary to what Kant himself thought, working for our world, a "metaphysics intermediate of morals," will be principles no easy task. Rather, the set we settle on will be complex, many sided, full that contain qualifications in need of principles and exceptions, constantly of revision, and no doubt always controversial.

we must acknowledge to these complexities, that the But, in addition are not all that must be considered. I have just mentioned basic values ends that are Each person, as an "end in himself," has a set of personal are the ends we adopt, ideally upon and morally rationally optional. They in the light of our particular preferences, reflection, loves, hates, hopes, our conception etc. Together of our "happiness," constitute fears, they or egoistic, is not necessarily which hedonistic it but, roughly speaking, is the life we would choose if relying solely on our desires as a particular individual. others, their ground Many and have of these values will cooperative is that they are what activities be shared by others, influenced with others as their object; by but

based on experience, Now part of valuing one who What (freely) own deliberation is permissible

the particular agent wants and chooses, at least so far as permitted and reason. by morality as a person, capable of morality each person but also in one's ends, is to give some weight adopts personal

to the permissible and conduct ends of others. personal is not given in advance of moral deliberation from the

out. but is one more thing that needs to be worked legislative perspective, That is, legislators must not only decide rules guided by their over-riding to the basic values described commitment above (life, liberty, respect, etc.) but, that assured, the basics, that they must work out principles, beyond and aid each person's pursuit of personal happiness. This is fairly protect

52 I try to explain and illustrate this point more fully in "The Message of Affirmative Action" inmy collection of essays, Autonomy and Self Respect (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991), Chap. 13, esp. pp. 201-211.



total or average happiness after basic of maximizing are settled, for Kantian moral principles, I assume, must express

respect for the equality and liberty of each more directly and constantly than policies based on utilitarian of preferences impartial agglomeration on the Kantian picture, will do. Besides, there is no measure of happiness
across persons.


ethics, like Rawls' theory of justice, as at least its tasks into stages. Both begin with "ideal theory," implicitly dividing a world more abstract and perfect than the actual asking us to conceive world and then showing us what principles would be adopted as reasonable saw clearly, and Kant at times more Rawls under those ideal conditions. It is helpful a derived from such ideal conditions,/e>r dimly realized, that the principles more ideal world (e.g., with strict compliance to its rules) were not guaran teed to be appropriate for our very imperfect world. These imperfections must be taken into account. For Rawls, the "original the theory in "stages," a legislative stage, stage, and a judicial more information this is partly done a constitutional position," stage, where by applying convention to see Kant's

about actual conditions.

all principles revisable by making about its conclusions when we seek "reflective with an even more idealized idea than Rawls,

each stage introduces he handles the problem (Partly, in light of our considered judgments Kant starts equilibrium.") the idea of a "pure rational of moral principles development

and systematic will;" but in his examples in The Metaphysics he actually draws upon many Morals, of (supposed) facts (some of which he acknowledges, others not). Clearly any empirical the style ethics must face and adjust to the gaps between plausible Kantian idealized mention Most of ends" and real world conditions. Here I will only "kingdom two necessary adjustments. it is far from clear that obviously, thought, despite what Kant who takes up his legislative will reach the same perspective is defined the more

everyone conclusions about moral issues. The more subtly the perspective are taken into account, and the more real relevant conditions

are likely to be. The perspective controversial particular conclusions helps a way of thinking that might be shared and enable those who to frame to reason together towards resolutions. But resolution is never disagree In hard cases there will always be some uncertainty about guaranteed. what is right, just as there will be for consequentialists. This may be seen as a problem of life, not of any particular theories, theory. Some

136 however,


ideal observer theories, yield bizarre conclusions e.g., certain on that ideal deliberators for example, might disagree: admitting in any area Firth's view, itwould follow that anything is permitted ideal observers where theory, as I see it, can avoid this disagree.53 Kantian as primary the individual's conscientious judgment as to problem by taking as a "bill" to the hypothetical recommend what she could sincerely group by even Roderick of Kantian one can, one judges others, they should all adopt when deliberating morally. Each person's act by such conscientious is to judgment. The idea of something obligation idea, or ideal, of being absolutely right or wrong would be a regulative what at best reasonable legislators. Practically, in earnest dialogue with this means maintain to act only by principles that in good faith as what

would all persons taking the legislative perspective will always be imperfect, namely, Our evidence, the however, agree upon. of reflective moral opinion to converge on certain standards when tendency then, does not depend upon universal agreement. application, is that, though it might point that must be acknowledged to imagine what principles would be reasonable if everyone everyone will. Real world ignorance, weakness of will,

reflecting well (by theKantian perspective) in the light of their conditions.

Reasonable A be useful know further

followed them, we have to modify these in the light of the fact thatwe
that not need for psychological selfishness, props, vulnerability shortsightedness, to social pressures, addictions, etc., are not features liability to chemical in Kant's kingdom of ends or even his idealized "idea of a social pictured but they are factors in light of which principles for a more perfect contract," To ask what think if more world need to be modified. would legislators ideal than our congressmen is a good moral heuristic, but to stick at all costs

to the principles

they would


their perfect




My thinking

aim here has been about

speculate what I conjecture. First,

to describe a reasonable Kantian perspective for we might the problem, not to resolve it. But, in conclusion, as to what conclusions we might expect. Here is for a moment

more definite some quite general guiding considerations, beyond controver will not be easy to determine and are understandably principles sial. There are so many factors to consider on which reasonable people may well include not only the empirical disagree. These background but many moral factors to take into account. predicted outcomes, ingly, since the issue is vitally important, there is need for ongoing and moral humility on this issue. 53 facts and Accord dialogue

R. Firth, "Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer," Philosophy and Phenomenon logical Research 12 (1952), pp. 317-345.



are unlikely to survive careful the most extreme Second, positions To say "Political vio reflection and dialogue from our Kantian position. of thinking less sensitive lence is always wrong" would reflect a mode to the importance of securing the conditions perspective and it would for liberty, justice, and the legitimate pursuit of happiness; the fact that, in our world, we cannot affirm full respect for all ignore acts of some. To say "Political unless we forcibly curtail the contemptuous violence priorities it serves a good end" would be to ignore the is justified whenever on "trade-offs" to the Kantian of value and constraints essential than our Kantian

perspective. Third, there are at least strong prima facie presumptions implicit in the For example, Kantian perspective. Kant's own rigoristic (A) posi despite human beings tion about property, it seems clear that killing and maiming is worse, other things being equal, than damaging property. And doing than damaging is worse irreparable damage to vital resources replaceable get their justifica property inessential to basic needs. Property conventions in which from their role in securing conditions individuals tion ultimately in a fair orderly way with and groups can pursue their permissible projects a minimum tage. They of conflict exist to make and through procedures possible good lives that tend to mutual for human beings, advan which is

the higher priority.

(B) Another specifically lence. Destroying unamenable implicit presumption against the grossly unjust to reason, is better violence is that political targeted than random political vio

for murder), then it of arbitrary wielders power rather than innocent citizens or rulers who are merely inept, vain, and unpopular. This is at least in the spirit of Kant's basic principle to hindrances to of right/justice, that authorizes the forceful hindrance and unpre freedom, especially when willful, flagrant, deeply destructive, ventable by other means. Tyrants, like any common criminal, were initially to a right to life and liberty equal to anyone else's under Kantian and so they cannot complain treat them as that those principles principles, "mere means." The only systems that can fully respect the humanity of all entitled will have to make deliberately that political violence directed too, there is a presumption (C) Perhaps, to force specific reforms from a government that resists all selectively is preferable, other things being equal, to revolutionary peaceful appeals for some forfeiting provision take away others'. their freedoms when they

people or blowing (as Kant thought in just war and state punishment are themselves murderous is better if the victims

the possessions of flagrant, violent oppressors, totally is surely better than targeting the goods of innocent at random. And, if killing is warranted up property

138 violence often


that aims to bring down the whole governing structure, for, most are ugly aspects of lawful gov and oppression it seems, corruption at the core that robs the whole ernments rather than rottenness system of like boils to be lanced with That is, they are often more any legitimacy.

to be put down by any means. surgery rather than rabid beasts precise is not just the persistent The problem fear, common among conservative reverts us to an awful "state of that revolution inevitably philosophers, with pockets of corruption nature." It is partly that lawful governments serve many often still retain some of their initial claim on our allegiance, of government, and can be "brought down" only of the rightful functions to the interests and contrary to the strong presumptive by acts damaging innocent people. of many rights violence used (D) Again, political from a Kantian perspective preferable as a "last to violence is presumably as a general strategy to be effective. Kant perhaps resort"

to be employed deemed whenever likely to calm, the prospects of reform from "top down" in response exaggerated and other intellectuals, criticism from philosophers but his reasonable I think, rightly holds as ideal the effort to settle our differences, theory, and other peaceful when possible, by rational dialogue, moral persuasion, means. does that will maximize doing anything more people will live rationally. At least part of the message is that, day treat with respect) a human to a point, we must presume present (and up for nonviolent moral reform, even in those who so far often act potential as if deaf to reason. more relevant for Kantians than utilitarians, consideration, (E) Another to join in political in wanting violence. Like thinkers as is one's motive diverse as Gilbert Ryle and Sigmund Freud, Kant doubted that each person access to one's motives. has infallible And yet why one is introspective is a morally It is of what one is doing. doing something important part difficult to us, and not every to be sure why joining a revolution appeals unselfish motive is acceptable from the Kantian perspec "high minded," the extraordinary of tive. If one adopted self-diminishing "impartiality" as one's dominant motive, for example, this could con act-utilitarianism Placing not mean an incomparable value on "rational nature" in each person the chances that some

lead one to accept murderous violence ceivably against a few for the sake in a procedure of "trade-offs" of the greater good of the many, calculated toKantian modes of thinking. One needs that would be stringently opposed to determine first that one has a right to be violent, which is a complex decision not turning entirely on future consequences. that there is still an important place in thinking I must emphasize (F) as I see it, for taking into account the numbers from the Kantian perspective,

A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE POLITICAL ON VIOLENCE or injured, the odds of and the is (empirically) necessary, and prevented. To think that these or else once said, ungenerously)54 to be killed theory that one assumes success, the likelihood of harm

139 that violence

and misery caused degrees are irrelevant is either madness (as I to be in the grip of a philosophical these matters in some other way there Probably

takes care of

progress of history). (e.g., in an after-life or the universal of Kantian is no barrier to the acceptance ethics greater than the opinion of that for Kantians "the numbers don't count," the empirical probabilities success are irrelevant, and we must blindly adhere to the rules for a more is in fact quite imperfect, even perfect world even though our own world such corrupt. It is true, of course, that Kant himself held certain principles, as "Never lie" and "Never actively as absolutes. take part in revolution," It have a more limited role is also true that Kant insisted that consequences to admit. For example, than many are prepared the fundamental not consequentialist; is moral principle Kant's procedure for identifying the "supreme moral principle" and justifying is, in a sense, nonempirical; one must refrain from doing something and he insisted that sometimes in ethics that doing it would promote more happiness. though one estimates the Kantian I have described, which Nonetheless, perspective arguably Kant's deepest moral allows us, indeed requires us, to captures insights, and "the odds" at some level of moral take into account "the numbers" that can be justified to all who fully reflection. We are looking for principles to each person; and when it is empirically impossible the lives and liberties of everyone, the only way to honor the basic preserve that fairly determine whom idea of equal dignity is to abide by principles to rescue and whom one must let go. The basic test is to follow whatever to our best judgment in full consultation with others, we choice principles, think each person, victim and survivor alike, could see as justified from the respect and value Kantian perspective. that "ten are worth No one, then, is treated as a mere means; no thought ten times as much as one" is invoked. Drawing straws even

for the last places on the life boat may be more mutually than respectful all drowning together. More needs to be said about this crucial point, but it I think, to suppose my modified Kantian perspective is a serious mistake, is not significantly different from consequentialism.55 is that the result of serious informed (G) Finally, my personal conjecture debates among conscientious persons taking the Kantian perspective would be quite conservative about political violence, to abandon peaceful means before undertaking 54 DPR, p. 215. 55 This theme is developed more Principle" inDPR, Chap. 10. great caution advocating in order to promote peace

in "Making Exceptions without Abandoning




successful fill and just results. We tend to celebrate revolutions without on the death and misery to individuals caused, just as we dwelling they than human tragedy. Moreover, celebrate wars with more focus on heroism the relevant policies we must earlier, because of human fallibility, our basic moral standards can never be simply "To end injustice, check by but rather "To resort to political war, and oppression by political violence" as noted some degree of and hopes, with expects, and oppression." To approve of the injustice, war, probability such as we latter, as a public policy for fallible and self-deceiving people The risks would be are, would not be easy from the Kantian perspective. act on such matters and one cannot conscientiously in ways enormous, that one knows one could not justify as a public policy for others. With violence will lessen faith in inevitable progress and too little tolerance for optimistic stance in principles, Kant himself went too far in his absolutist exceptions but I can imagine that his stance was at least violence, against political well-motivated of the (if not well argued) because of his deep awareness too much moral and human costs of unnecessary violence. as a means that one

Department University

of North

of Philosophy Carolina

at Chapel


Chapel Hill NC 27599-3125 USA