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The Kantian Foundations of Democracy (KanDem)

Alternative title: Kantiansk fundament for demokrati (KanDem)

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

This is the first large scale study of the theory of democracy of Kant and his followers in the 1790s. Kant’s political philosophy has recently been the subject of a surge of scholarly interest, yet scholars have ignored that he was the center of a large and productive research group known at the time as ‘the Kantian School’ in political philosophy. These philosophers included Heydenreich (1794), Bergk (1796), Reinhold (2005), Tieftrunk (1798), Feuerbach (1798), Erhard (1970), Maimon (1795), Forster (1965), Jakob (1794), Reimarus (1791), Schlegel (1996) and the early Fichte (1973). The Kantians were remarkable in seeking to develop a philosophical justification for popular sovereignty, both in terms of the political rights of citizens, and in terms institutions, such as voting, plebiscites and representative government. By contrast to Kant, many of them defended the extension of the franchise to workers and women. Providing original interpretations of Kant's concept of autonomy, they produced philosophical theories that remain of high interest, in particular in their views of how freedom requires political participation, on how democracy relies on a free public sphere and popular enlightenment, and in their sophisticated theories of collective action that sought to show how a people has a right to change its constitution, either through reform or revolution. Scholarship has largely neglected the Kantians. Kantian Foundations of Democracy aims to not just fill in a knowledge gap, but to show how these thinkers can help build a Kantian foundation for democracy. The analysis will be guided by four cross cutting questions: how did the Kantians justify (1) the principle of equal rights, (2) political rights, (3) popular sovereignty and its institutions, and (4) reform and revolution? The research will contribute to studies of Kant on the philosophical foundations of democracy.

This is the first large scale study of the theory of democracy of Kant and his followers in the 1790s. Kant’s political philosophy has recently been the subject of a surge of scholarly interest, yet scholars have ignored that he was the center of a large and productive research group known at the time as ‘the Kantian School’ in political philosophy. These philosophers included Heydenreich (1794), Bergk (1796), Reinhold (2005), Tieftrunk (1798), Feuerbach (1798), Erhard (1970), Maimon (1795), Forster (1965), Jakob (1794), Reimarus (1791), Schlegel (1996) and the early Fichte (1973). The Kantians were remarkable in seeking to develop a philosophical justification for popular sovereignty, both in terms of the political rights of citizens, and in terms institutions, such as voting, plebiscites and representative government. By contrast to Kant, many of them defended the extension of the franchise to workers and women. Providing original interpretations of Kant's concept of autonomy, they produced philosophical theories that remain of high interest, in particular in their views of how freedom requires political participation, on how democracy relies on a free public sphere and popular enlightenment, and in their sophisticated theories of collective action that sought to show how a people has a right to change its constitution, either through reform or revolution. Scholarship has largely neglected the Kantians. Kantian Foundations of Democracy aims to not just fill in a knowledge gap, but to show how these thinkers can help build a Kantian foundation for democracy. The analysis will be guided by four cross cutting questions: how did the Kantians justify (1) the principle of equal rights, (2) political rights, (3) popular sovereignty and its institutions, and (4) reform and revolution? The research will contribute to studies of Kant on the philosophical foundations of democracy.

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