Juridical Law as a Categorical Imperative
M. E. Newhouse, “Juridical Law as a Categorical Imperative” in Ruhi Demiray & Alice Pinheiro Walla (eds), Reason, Rights and Law: New Essays on Kantian Philosophy, (University of Wales Press 2020), pp. 105-125.
15 Pages Posted: 23 May 2018 Last revised: 20 Apr 2020
Date Written: May 1, 2018
In Kant's legal and political writings, juridical laws are supposed to be categorical imperatives: unconditional rational requirements. But how can a statute passed by a legislative body generate an unconditional rational requirement for us to obey? I argue that Kant was right: juridical laws enacted by legislatures are categorical imperatives, and the external incentives that the state links to its legal commands (i.e. threatened punishments) play a critical role in making them so. Indeed, statutory commands must be categorical imperatives if they are to establish juridical laws, and statutes that fail to establish juridical laws do not obligate us to obey their terms.
Keywords: Kant, legal obligation, philosophy of law
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