Law and Philosophy

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 105–136 | Cite as

Permissive Laws and the Dynamism of Kantian Justice



If Kant’s theory of justice is known for one thing, it is for offering a vision of a perfectly just society that is utterly disconnected from the imperfect societies that we occupy. The purity of Kant’s account has attracted criticism from those who claim that if a theory of justice is to be practical, it must offer more than a vision of a perfectly just society. It must also explain how existing societies mired in injustice are to be brought into ever-closer conformity with the ideal that justice prescribes. In this essay, I will argue that this is exactly what Kant’s mature legal and political theory offers. To discern this feature of Kant’s theory, a neglected component must be integrated into his broader framework. This component is what Kant refers to in Toward Perpetual Peace as a permissive law of public right.


Legal System Public Authority External Object Original Contract Transitional Principle 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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