Immanuel Kant on Law and Justice
To be moral living human beings there must be a guiding action. This action varies depending on the degree of obligation: law, rule or maxim. A law should promote and protect the common good. Above all, a law must be just and reasonable to follow. A rule is a prescribed guide for conduct or action that indicates how we ought to act to behave in certain situations. Rules are not strictly legislated but are nevertheless obligatory guidelines for actions. A maxim is a general truth or rule of conduct. Immanuel Kant's political teaching may be summarized in a phrase: republican government and international organization. In more characteristically Kantian terms, it is doctrine of the state based upon the law (Rechtsstaat) and of eternal peace. Indeed, in each of these formulations, both terms express the same idea: that of legal constitution or of "peace through law.
Rechtsstaat is a doctrine in continental European legal thinking, originally borrowed from German jurisprudence, which can be translated as a "legal state", "state of law", "state of justice", "state of rights" or "state based on justice and integrity". It is a "constitutional state" in which the exercise of governmental power is constrained by the law, and is often tied to the Anglo-American concept of the rule of law, but differs from it in that it also places an emphasis on what is just (i.e. a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion or equity). In a Rechtsstaat, the power of the state is limited in order to protect citizens from the arbitrary exercise of authority. In a Rechtsstaat the citizens share legally-based civil liberties and they can use the courts. A country cannot be a liberal democracy without first being a Rechtsstaat. German writers usually place Immanuel Kant's theories at the beginning of their accounts of the movement toward the Rechtsstaat. Kant’s approach is based on the supremacy of a country’s...
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