Law and Philosophy

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 291–317 | Cite as

In Defense of Kant’s League of States

Open Access


This article presents a defense of Kant’s idea of a league of states. Kant’s proposal that rightful or just international relations can be achieved within the framework of such a league is often criticized for being at odds with his overall theory. In view of the analogy he draws between an interpersonal and an international state of nature, it is often argued that he should have opted for the idea of a state of states. Agreeing with this standard criticism that a league of states cannot establish the institutional framework for international justice, others also suggest an alternative stage model interpretation. According to this interpretation, Kant’s true ideal is in fact a state of states, whereas the league is merely introduced as a temporary and second best solution. In contrast to both the standard criticism and the stage model interpretation, I argue that fundamental normative concerns count in favour of a league rather than a state of states. I also argue that Kant’s defense of such a league is consistent with his position on the institutional preconditions for just interaction in the domestic case because of crucial relevant differences between the state of nature among individuals and the external relations between states.



In addition to an anonymous referee, I would like to thank Kristian Skagen Ekeli, Ståle Finke, Øystein Lundestad, Reidar Maliks, Helga Varden and Audun Øfsti for valuable comments to earlier drafts of this article. Also, thanks to the participants at an internal seminar at the Department of Philosophy, NTNU, for comments on a very early draft, and to the participants at a colloquium at ARENA, UiO, for comments on a next to final draft.

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This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNorwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)TrondheimNorway

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