Front Page Titles (by Subject) Kant On Property - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Kant On Property - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Kant On Property
“Kant's Theory of Property.” Political Theory 6 (February 1978): 75–90.
Kant's concern with the question of property and its appropriation, as well as his theoretical philosophy, can be understood only if we appreciate his politics. Two forms of appropriation are distinguishable: one form is the theoretical and epistemological, which concerns objects of knowledge; the other is practical and political, concerning objects of the will. Kant's thought, in this perspective, is an attempt to overcome the problem of alienation. The central theme uniting Kant's speculative philosophy and his politics is his perception of man as a stranger who must appropriate and transform a world which is “other” than him and not made for his purposes.
Man unifies the world through what Kant calls a “transcendental unity of apperception,” which, in turn, constructs an a priori act of synthesis. Thus, the world of flux is transformed into a rational order informed by the categories fabricated from our own minds. This theoretical property entails a right to use, but not to possess, objects which elude the grasp of our synthesizing power.
The next issue concerns the practical (or juridical) property—that over which one claims a right of exclusive use. Kant asks the question: how is this juridical possession possible? That is, what practical connection can exist between the human will and an object? He answers that juridical possession, like epistemological possession, requires a transcendental synthesis, but now it entails a unity of wills rather than of apperception. Therefore, this united, or general, will confers on men the right to appropriate. Individual appropriation arises from an a prior transcendental appropriation of the earth by all men as members of the general will.
Private possession of property presupposes an “innate common possession of the earth's soil corresponding to it.” Kant explicity denies the Lockean situation, in which individual possession of private property precedes the coming together of men to form a contract. Kant justifies private property not on grounds of utility, but of logical necessity.
This interpretation of Kant's theory of property integrates it with the rest of his philosophy and views Kant through a Hegelian perspective.