Kant's Second Thoughts on Colonialism

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Kant is widely regarded as a fierce critic of colonialism. In Toward Perpetual Peace and the Metaphysics of Morals, for example, he forcefully condemns European conduct in the colonies as a flagrant violation of the principles of right. His earlier views on colonialism have not yet received much detailed scrutiny, however. In this essay I argue that Kant actually endorsed and justified European colonialism until the early 1790s. I show that Kant’s initial endorsement and his subsequent criticism of colonialism are closely related to his changing views on race, because his endorsement of a racial hierarchy plays a crucial role in his justification of European colonialism. He gave up both in the mid 1790s while he was developing his legal and political philosophy, and he adopted a more egalitarian version of the cosmopolitan relationship among peoples.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKant and Colonialism
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical and Critical Perspectives
EditorsKatrin Flikschuh, Lea Ypi
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191034107
ISBN (Print)9780199669622
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Kant
  • Colonialism
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • International Relations


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