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IDEAS AND ACTUALITY IN THE SOCIAL CONTRACT: KANT AND ROUSSEAU

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Abstract:

Patrick Riley has argued that Immanuel Kant was the 'most adequate' of the social contractarians. This reputation was built on Kant's reliance on ideas rather than actual consent to give the contract its legitimacy. The greatest advantage in his so doing was to limit the potential of tyrannical or despotic regimes. A danger resides in this approach, however: by ignoring actual consent, one may not get the compliance required to achieve these standards. In this respect, by interpreting Rousseau as likewise committed to ideas, Kant may be bettered by his Genevan predecessor, since Rousseau incorporates both ideas and actual consent. This combination serves the dual function of promising compliance to high ideas -- and in this respect Rousseau might actually be the 'most adequate' of social contract theorists.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Associate Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, University of Wisconsin --Stevens Point, Stevens Point, WI 54481, USA., Email: David.Williams@uwsp.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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