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Immanuel Kant on Human Rights - Dictionary of Arguments

Höffe I 306
Human Rights/Kant/Höffe: Kant is, what some interpreters wrongly deny, one of the founders of the modern theory of human rights. Although he does not represent
Höffe I 307
a catalogue of human rights, but speaks emphatically of an "original right" - for Kant by virtue of his practical rational nature – the right that "every human being is entitled to by virtue of his or her humanity" (Doctrine of Law, Introduction). He calls it the "innate, therefore inner mine and yours," which has clear precedence over the object of private law, the "outer mine and yours”.
Right to freedom: Kant derived the right of every human being from an element equivalent to the categorical legal imperative, the principle of generally acceptable freedom. According to Kant, every human being has a claim to freedom, if it can exist together with every other freedom according to a general law.
Criterion: This right to a generally compatible freedom has the rank of a criterion and is therefore in the singular. The question whether certain claims have the rank of human rights is decided by the question whether they meet the criterion of generally compatible freedom.
Negative rights: The corresponding human rights are primarily rights of defence against fellow human beings, and secondarily rights of defence against the state, which must not abuse the power it has established in favour of the law.
Kant not only developed the criterion for human rights, the principle of generally acceptable freedom. There are four negative liberty rights:
1) (...) the prohibition of privileges and the mirror-image prohibition of discrimination; instead, everyone is to be respected as equal with everyone else. The concepts of freedom and equality, which are often played off against each other, prove to be equally important.
2) (...) the right to be one's own master, and thus a personality of one's own right. It must not be degraded to the status of either serf or slave, but is rather empowered to determine its own life.
3) (...) the right, in legal terms, first to be regarded as blameless, positively said: as legally honourable. The contrary assertion is thus considered to be subject to the burden of proof, which in criminal law amounts to the principle in dubio pro reo (in case of doubt for the accused).
4) (...) the human right to do or not to do anything as long as one does not intervene in the rights of others, namely in their inner mine and yours.
I 308
Basic right of public law: every person has the right to a public legal status with its three dimensions: Everyone has the right, first, to live in a state, the nearer of a republic, second, with his state in relation to all other states in accordance with international law, and finally, seen globally, in a cosmopolitan relationship. >Cosmopolitanism/Kant.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
I. Kant
I Günter Schulte Kant Einführung (Campus) Frankfurt 1994
Externe Quellen. ZEIT-Artikel 11/02 (Ludger Heidbrink über Rawls)
Volker Gerhard "Die Frucht der Freiheit" Plädoyer für die Stammzellforschung ZEIT 27.11.03
Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-11-28
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