Open lecture: Kant and his Followers on Self-Determination

Keynote lecture at the international conference, Archives of Autonomy: Immanuel Kant and the Baltic Region (University of Tartu, 2-4 May 2024) Reidar Maliks, Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo

Should the state’s goal be limited to protecting our independence from domination, or should it also enable us to become morally autonomous beings? In this talk, I compare two different answers to that question. Supporting the first view, Kant limited the state to providing the legal independence that enables persons to enjoy their lives and possessions in a law-governed way, regardless of the purposes they seek. It should not matter whether persons choose to live a worthy life of intellectual cultivation and charity to others or pursue lazy and egocentric enjoyments. By contrast, his followers Fichte, Erhard, and Bergk, considered that politics should enable persons to perfect themselves by fulfilling moral duties and thereby become truly autonomous. Legally protected rights should promote enlightenment and democracy, enabling individuals and nations to become fully self-determining. In this presentation, I analyze the neglected idea of Kant's followers, explore how they could have derived it from Kant’s basic premises, and ask whether we have reason to endorse it.

  Open lecture 2 May 2024, at 10:30-11:30
by Reidar Maliks: Kant and his Followers on Self-Determination
in University Senate Hall (Ülikooli 18-204, Tartu)

Short bio of the speaker:

Reidar Maliks is a professor of philosophy at the University of Oslo, specializing in the history of political thought. He is currently writing a book on how Kant, in the 1790s, inspired a group of young philosophers who forcefully defended equal political rights and democratic institutions. The creativity of these thinkers, including Johan Benjamin Erhard, Johann Adam Bergk, and Friedrich Schlegel, can help us realize the full potential of Kant’s concepts of human dignity and freedom. Under preparation is also an edited volume, with Elisabeth Widmer, called Kant’s Early Followers in Political Philosophy, and previous publications include Kant’s Politics in Context and Kant and the French Revolution. He is the principal investigator of a research project called KanDem – the Kantian Foundations of Democracy funded by the Research Council of Norway. Maliks was awarded his PhD at Columbia University and did his undergraduate studies in philosophy at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Before coming to Oslo, he worked as a lecturer on social studies at Harvard University and as a junior research fellow at the University of Oxford. He has family roots in Pērkone, not far from Liepāja, in Latvia.

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