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When Kant in 1793 rejected a right of revolution, he was immediately criticized by a group of radical followers who argued that he had betrayed his own principles of justice. Jakob, Erhard, Fichte, Bergk and Schlegel proceeded to defend a right of resistance and revolution based on what they took to be his true principles. I argue that we must understand Kant's Metaphysics of Morals, which came in 1797, partly as a response to these radical democratic writings. Exploring this forgotten controversy reveals that Kant did not betray his own principles when he denied a right of revolution, because he did not mean that persons have an unconditional duty to obey. This becomes clear when we read the final developments of Kant's thinking on individual liberty and republican government in light of the radical critique.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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