Moggach, Douglas

Full Professor, recipient of the University Research Chair in Political Thought, and a Killam Research Fellowship, awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts. Research Interests: Political thought; History of ancient and modern political thought; German Philosophy; Contemporary political philosophy.

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Faculty of Social Sciences 55 Laurier Avenue East Desmarais no.9122, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1N 6N5
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613-562-5800 ext. 1714
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Research Description
Freedom and Perfection: Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals in Context I propose a study of the context, origins, and development of Kant’s political thought, with reference to its German Enlightenment sources. Despite new work on Kant’s political theory, its place within his critical philosophy, and its implications for current debates, much remains tentative in this field. No major study exists in English, and relatively few even in German or other languages, of many of Kant’s interlocutors, who are integral to the present research. The systematic context of Kant’s interventions in political theory is largely unclarified, and to this extent his genuine innovations in the theory of rights remain obscure. These include his distinction of pure and empirical practical reason; his trichotomy of welfare, right, and virtue; a new sense of spontaneity, distinct from other contemporary usages; and complex relations between freedom (in its external use) and moral autonomy. My contention is that these ideas are best understood in the context of the critique of perfectionist theories of the state stemming from Leibniz and Wolff, and elaborated by their followers throughout the eighteenth century. Transitional patterns will be traced through the works of other figures in the Kantian School, such as Hufeland, Reinhold, and Humboldt. The programme has four principal objectives: to study German Enlightenment sources upon which Kant explicitly draws for his own political theory; to follow, through his publications, lecture manuscripts, and notations, Kant’s engagement with these sources; to reconstruct the debates on law and politics which condition his theoretical interventions in the 1790’s; and to offer an interpretation of the 1797 Doctrine of Right in The Metaphysics of Morals as a critical response to this context. Yet to establish the context-responsiveness of its origins is not to consign the text to irrelevance for our own current purposes. Kant’s theory of right plausibly establishes a potential role for the state in removing hindrances to freedom, without succumbing to the critique of paternalism.