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Gregory Salmieri: “Is Kant the Ideal Statement of Classical Liberalism?”

Anthem Foundation fellow and Rutgers University lecturer Gregory Salmieri has published an article, “Is Kant the Ideal Statement of Classical Liberalism?” in the October 2016 issue of Cato Unbound: A Journal of Debate.

The debate topic is “Immanuel Kant and Classical Liberalism,” which the journal’s website presents as follows:

Immanuel Kant is a famously difficult philosopher, but also undeniably an important one. It isn’t hard to argue that he belongs somewhere in the classical liberal tradition, but modern classical liberals are much more apt to cite the political theories of Locke, Montesquieu, Tocqueville, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. Among those who follow Ayn Rand, Kant’s reputation is low; Rand notoriously called Kant the most evil philosopher of all time, and many now share her evaluation. But is it deserved?

Our lead essayist this month is Mark D. White, who says we should give Kant much more credit than we are often accustomed to giving him: Explicitly or implicitly, we base our political theory on Kant’s, he claims. Is he right? Replying to White this month we have three other philosophers: Stephen R. C. Hicks, Roderick T. Long, and Gregory Salmieri.

Salmieri’s article offers a response to the lead essay, “Defending Kant’s Classical Liberalism” by Mark D. White, chair and professor in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Staten Island/CUNY in New York City. 

Here is an excerpt from Salmieri’s article:

By creating a gulf between morality and prudence, Kant undercut the moral basis for Lockean individual rights, and put in its place a moral framework that entails a different sort of society. Subsequent 19th- and early 20th-century liberals discovered much about the mechanisms of a market economy, and some of them did a great deal to extend freedom to women and racial minorities, but with regard to liberalism’s basic ideological orientation, I think the whole post-Kantian liberal tradition represents a series of steps away from a defense of genuine freedom.

As the debate moves forward, various responses can be tracked on the main debate page, here.

(Originally published on Objectivism: Who Needs It.)