PHIL Seminar: “ Independence and Kant’s Positive Conception of Freedom”, Pauline Kleingeld, 3:30PM March 3 (EN)

Title: Independence and Kant’s Positive Conception of Freedom

By Pauline Kleingeld (Groningen, Philosophy)

Date: Thursday March 3, 2022
Time: 15.30-17.00

Zoom: go to

Abstract: The resurging interest in the republican tradition of legal and political theory has shed new light on Immanuel Kant’s conception of freedom and revealed that it is best understood along republican lines. The discussion of Kant’s republicanism to date, however, has focused heavily on what he calls the ‘negative’ conception of freedom, that is, on his definition of freedom in terms of the absence of something, as ‘independence’, ‘non-domination’, and ‘not being subject to another master’. What has received much less attention is Kant’s ‘positive’ conception of freedom as being subject to one’s own legislation. The relation between these two conceptions of freedom has not yet been examined at all. In this paper, I argue that Kant’s positive conception of political freedom plays a crucial role in his legal and political theory. The ‘innate right’ to external freedom in the (negative) sense of individual independence requires and is realized by freedom in the (positive) sense of collective self-legislation by the citizens. This result suggests that current Kantian republican theorists would do well to consider complementing their focus on independence with a stronger emphasis on citizenship and democracy.

About the speaker: Pauline Kleingeld is Professor of Ethics and its History at the University of Groningen. She is internationally renowned for her work on Kant, Kantian ethics, cosmopolitanism and its history. She also works on practical rationality and political philosophy, including feminist theory. She is currently working on the meaning of empirical psychological research for ethics and the question of how to justify moral duties. In 2020 she received the Spinoza Prize (worth €2.500.000.), which is awarded by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and is the highest scientific award in the Netherlands.