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States of Nature and Social Contracts

The Metaphors of the Liberal Order

Kevin Dooley

This book examines the most significant metaphors of modern political philosophy: the state of nature and the social contract. Each of the main chapters is dedicated to the political theory of the different social contract thinkers and the ways they articulated the uniquely liberal view of equality and freedom. The last chapter, unique to most books that explore the social contract, highlights the recent challenges to these views. It is this balance between accepted contractarian ideas and their critiques that makes this book a unique contribution to the field of political philosophy.

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Chapter Four: Immanuel Kant: Green Lenses, Objective Truth, and Perpetual Peace


If one were to draft a list of the most significant philosophers of the modern era, Immanuel Kant could very well top the list. His imprint upon the academy is everywhere. His examination of the autonomous self, reason, knowledge, democracy, astronomy, physics, metaphysics, and morality have shaped the way scholars approach the traditional fields in the arts and sciences. While the other thinkers in this collection could be classified as political philosophers, one could argue that Kant was a philosopher and scientist who spent much of his efforts attempting to understand politics. He is to the modern world what Plato was to the ancient one. A thinker who rarely traveled and who believed that the keys to understanding political society can be discovered through philosophical engagement.

Like Hobbes, Kant is a challenge. His works are dense and require a deep philosophical disposition. As one scholar noted, “It has driven some of the finest philosophical minds to despair … and many of his readers have therefore chosen … a walk, in fresh air” after encountering his ideas.1 Kant is not for the faint of heart. He is complex in both sentence structure and ideology. Kant’s main philosophical ideas are found in three works: the Critique of Pure Reason (1787), the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and the Critique of the Power of Judgment ←77 | 78→(1790). Each book pertains to the autonomy of the self and the manner in which humans acquire and use reason to develop laws. For Kant, “human...

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