Private Property in Kant's Rechtslehre

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The dissertation is comprised of three separate papers and an appendix addressing Kant’s social and political philosophy, especially the views in the first half of the Metaphysics of Morals. This part of the work is called the ‘Doctrine of Right’ (Rechtslehre), and it includes a description of a system of right based primarily in the idea of human freedom. The system of right itself is further divided along those rights which arise in the context of a civil union (public right), and those which exist prior to the development of any government, through the nature of humans alone (private right). It is in this latter kind of right that I am particularly interested, and which I spend most of my dissertation investigating. Per Kant, humans have only two natural, ‘private’ rights. The first is the innate right to external freedom, according to which others may not interfere with our body or the discreet actions we perform with it– so long as those actions do not themselves interfere with the innate right of others. The second private right we can have is to property in things which are not our body, which we use to extend our powers and make a wider range of actions possible to us. Kant thinks that the things which we can use to extend our power (and have as our private property) can be divided into three categories. The first (and most familiar) kind of thing we can have as our property are corporeal objects in the world: tracts of land, books, apples, and so on. The second kind of thing we can have are the promises of others to give us some object or perform some service for us, as in the case of contracts. The final thing we can have is something which Kant refers to as the ‘status’ of others, and this is the kind of relationship we have (or have historically had) with certain members of our household, such as servants. My dissertation is divided in accordance with these three classes, so that each paper takes analysis of a class of possession as entree into a discussion of Kant’s larger views. My first paper works through Kant’s deduction of merely rightful possession in the first chapter of the Rechtslehre, taking the corporeal object as the paradigmatic case of rightful possession. My second paper discusses the trans- formation of the property right from provisional to peremptory by means of the social contract. My third paper considers the case of the right to a person akin to a right to a thing through analysis of Barbara Herman’s 1994 paper “Could it be worth thinking about Kant on sex and marriage?”

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134 pages


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Kant; marriage; postulate; property; provisional; Rechtslehre


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Kosch, Michelle

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Manne, Kate
Markovits, Julia
Pereboom, Derk

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Ph. D., Philosophy

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


dissertation or thesis

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