Leibnizian Natural Law and Kantian Critiques

When:23 Feb 2016, 12:30pm - 2pm
Venue:Morven Brown 310 (map ref C20)
Who:Douglas Moggach (uOttawa)
Douglas Moggach

Abstract

This paper aims to examine Leibniz’s formulations of natural law, and to indicate the historical and systematic issues raised by Kant-inspired criticisms and appropriations of this approach. First, it will examine Leibniz’s accounts of the three principles of natural law, Neminem laedere, suum cuique tribuere, and pie vivere, and the subsequent treatment of these principles in Christian Wolff. The specific characteristics of Leibniz’s approach will be placed in the context of other German depictions of natural law, the neo-Aristotelian and neo-Stoic. The incorporation of these principles in a perfectionist ethic, with specific differences and similarities between Leibniz and Wolff, will be traced, and current readings of deontological elements in Leibniz will be addressed. The application of these principles in Wolff’s defence of enlightened absolutism, and his affinities with the political-economic theory of cameralism, will be briefly outlined.

The second part of the paper will refer to the complex interplay of Leibnizian and Kantian elements in the reflections of Hufeland, Reinhold, and Wilhelm von Humboldt on the right of coercion, the limits of state action, and the repudiation of absolutism. Systematically, it will examine Kant’s critique of Leibnizian perfectionism as a form of rational heteronomy, and it will indicate convergences in recent research between a more deontological interpretation of Leibniz’s natural law principles and a putative Kantian consequentialism.

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