Kant's Naturrecht Feyerabend, Achenwall and the Role of the State

Mike Gregory*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

89 Downloads (Pure)


Kant’s Naturrecht Feyerabend has recently gained more sustained attention for its role in clarifying Kant’s published positions in political philosophy. However, too little attention has been given to the lecture’s relation to Gottfried Achenwall, whose book was the textbook for the course. In this paper, I will examine how Kant rejected and transforms Achenwall’s natural law system in the Feyerabend Lectures. Specifically, I will argue that Kant problematizes Achenwall’s foundational notion of a divine juridical state which opens up a normative gap between objective law (prohibitions, prescriptions and permissions) and subjective rights (moral capacities). In the absence of a divine sovereign, formal natural law is unable to justify subjective natural rights in the state of nature. In the Feyerabend Lectures, Kant, in order to close this gap, replaces the divine will with the “will of society”, making the state necessary for the possibility of rights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-71
Number of pages23
JournalKant Yearbook
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • KANT
  • Achenwall
  • Political Philosophy

Cite this