New (Kant) Book: Force and Freedom

During the morning life agenda setting meeting, Shahar mentioned this book to me and an accompanying review by Allen Wood:

Arthur Ripstein, Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy, Harvard UP, 2009, 399pp., $49.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780674035065.

Reviewed by Allen Wood, Stanford University

One sunny spring day nearly forty years ago, I was sitting in an open air café in Ithaca, New York, having coffee with Hans-Georg Gadamer. He was already over 70, and I was still in my twenties, having just published my first book on Kant. So our conversation, which consisted mainly of youth listening to the superior wisdom of age, centered on the current state of Kant scholarship. Gadamer said that the biggest single lacuna in Kant studies was the absence of a really good book on Kant’s Rechtslehre. It ought to be a book, he declared, that did not start out from Kantian ethics, but instead expounded Kant’s theory of human rights, law and politics authentically, solely on the ground of Kant’s concept of Recht: external freedom according to universal law. Gadamer told me I should write such a book — a recommendation I found flattering, but I also immediately (and silently) dismissed, partly because my principal interest in Kant was precisely in his ethics, but chiefly because I thought it could be done properly only by someone who had much more knowledge of law than I had, or ever intended to acquire. Since then I have read many good books on Kant’s legal and political philosophy, many by people I know and respect (one of them even based on a doctoral dissertation I supervised). Until now, however, I have never found the book Gadamer thought so badly needed to be written. But this book finally appears to be it.

The rest is here.

Looks like a good exegetical study of Kant’s Rechtslehre, although from Wood’s summary it’s hard to see how anything in this book is really new, i.e. how it goes beyond the simple presentation of Kant’s ideas (which is what Wood himself is, of course, well-known). I do want to read it though, especially since it seems to be paying attention to Kant’s progression from the discussion of the private right (property) to the public right. Before that book arrives, I wonder if there’s any interest in reading Hardt/Negri’s Commonwealth in any sort of organized way?



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