Kant on Just War by Susan Shell

Shell, Susan Meld, “Kant on Just War and 'Unjust Enemies': Reflections on a 'Pleonasm'.” Kant Studies, January, 2005.


The following remarks are intended to help clarify Kant’s position on international right and, specifically, the so-called ‘right of war’. They are part of a more general study of Kant’s politics; but I also make them here in the hope that Kant’s view of international law (or right) can furnish us with some much-needed practical help and guidance. More specifically, I will try to show that Kant is less averse to the use of force, including resort to pre-emptive war, and far more attuned to possibilities for political catastrophe, than he is often taken to be. A greater appreciation for Kant’s actual position can, I hope, make a small contribution toward mending the growing rift between so-called ‘Kantians’ who underrate the need for force, and self-styled ‘Hobbesians’ who underestimate the power of moral principle.

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