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Institute Colloquium: The Anti-sovereignty of reason

  • Tanner J. McFadden
Monday 30 May 2016
Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden


The Anti-sovereignty of reason:

Realrepugnanz, reciprocity, and republican resistance in Kant’s political philosophy.

This paper argues that Kant’s concept of realrepugnanz or real opposition, developed in his 1763 essay on ‘negative magnitudes,’ provides resources both for understanding the structure of his republicanism and for articulating a more contestatory politics than Kant himself allows. The paper first reconstructs the concept of real opposition as a thoroughly relational account of opposed forces or perspectives reciprocally acting on one another. Contrasting this relational conception of opposition to the substantive metaphysical conceptions which Kant critiques both in the ‘negative magnitudes’ essay and in the Critique of Pure Reason, the paper then argues that the turn to real opposition provides the logical underpinning for the critique of dogmatic authority that sets the terms for Kant’s republicanism. On this account, Kant’s defense of sovereignty appears as an attempt to cope with the plural, perspectival character of political judgment which ironically reintroduces dogmatic authority. The paper therefore asks whether the reciprocity central to real opposition can support an ‘anti-sovereign’ conception of politics—one that grounds political authority in contestation among our plural perspectives rather than seeking to overcome them.


J.J. McFadden joined the Leiden University Institute for Philosophy as a postdoctoral fellow in January. His research focuses on theories of freedom and agency in modern political thought, and he is currently at work on a book project titled The Weight of Freedom

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