Colonialism in Kant’s Political Philosophy

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Howard Williams


This article examines the controversy that has arisen concerning the interpretation of Immanuel Kant's account of European colonialism. One the one hand there are those interpreters such as Robert Bernasconi who see Kant's account as all of a piece with his earlier views on race which demonstrate a certain narrow mindedness in relation to black and coloured people and, on the other hand, there are those such as Pauline Kleingeld and Allen Wood who argue that the earlier writings on race are not wholly typical of Kant's approach and suggest that Kant's later discussions of colonialism in Perpetual Peace and the Metaphysics of Morals provide a better indication of Kant's progressive views on the treatment of non-European societies. The article draws attention to the very strong evidence of Kant's dislike for the pattern of European expansion to other parts of the globe and indicates that within Kant's writings there are the seeds of a wholly unconventional critical understanding of western colonialism that have yet to be developed fully. The article suggests that this critical understanding surpasses the unsystematic objections made to colonialism in post - modernist thought and also the critique proffered by the determinist Marxist account.


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How to Cite
Williams, Howard. 2014. “Colonialism in Kant’s Political Philosophy”. Diametros, no. 39 (March):154-81.
Special topic – Kant’s Moral Philosophy and Contemporary Practical Ethics
Author Biography

Howard Williams, Aberystwyth University

Howard WilliamsEmeritus ProfessorDepartment of International PoliticsAberystwyth UniversityPenglais,AberystwythSY 23 Howard Williams is Emeritus Professor in Political Theory at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, and member of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (Welsh language national college). He was appointed Lecturer in the Department of Politics in 1979 and received his personal chair in 1992. He is the author of Kant's Political Philosophy (1983); Concepts of Ideology (1988); International Relations in Political Theory (1992); Hegel, Heraclitus and Marx’s Dialectic; International Relations and the Limits of Political Theory (1996); Kant’s Critique of Hobbes: Sovereignty and Cosmopolitanism (2003), Kant and the End of War (2012) and is currently editor of the journal Kantian Review. He has been Visiting Professor at Halle University, Germany, 1998-9; Visiting Scholar at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 1998; Visiting DAAD Fellow, Humboldt University, Berlin, 2002; Visiting Professor, Krakow University 2006. In 2004 and 2006 he was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University. In 2010 he gave the Paton lectures at St. Andrews University and was a principal guest speaker at the 30th Anniversary conference of the Danish Philosophical Forum.He has been commissioned by Oxford University Press to write a book on the Kantian Legacy in Political Philosophy in a series edited by Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania.His latest publications include:‘Kant and Libertarianism’ in Mark Timmons and Sorin Baiasu Kant on Practical Justification, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2013, 269-283.  With Sorin Baiasu, Sami Pihlström, and Howard Williams Politics and Metaphysics in Kant, University of Wales Press, Cardiff 2011.‘Metaphysics and Politics in the Wake of Kant: The Project of a Critical  Practical Philosophy’ Sorin Baiasu, Sami Pihlström and Howard Williams ‘Metaphysical and not just Political’ in: Baiasu, Pihlström and Williams, Politics and Metaphysics in Kant, University of Wales Press, Cardiff 2011. ‘Natural Right in Hobbes and Kant’, Hobbes Studies, Brill, Leiden/Boston 2012, pp. 66-90.‘The Torture Convention, Rendition and Kant’s critique of pseudo-politics’, Review of International Studies Vol 36, No. 1, January 2010, pp. 195-215. ‘Is Just War theory merely for sorry comforters’, Annual Review of Law and Ethics, Volume 17, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2009, pp. 195-224.‘Kantian Perspectives on Intervention: Transcending rather than Rejecting Hobbes’, International Political Theory after Hobbes (eds. Raia Prohokvik & Gabrielle Slomp), Palgrave, Houndmills 2011, pp. 102-123.
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