Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

David R. Mapel

Second Advisor

Robert Hanna

Third Advisor

Horst Mewes


Several scholars claim that Kant’s ethical and political theories are inconsistent. These “inconsistencies” become apparent when scholars attempt to apply Kant’s ethical and political framework to problems in international relations, such as humanitarian intervention (HI). Kok-Chor Tan argues that HI is an imperfect duty of benevolence (ethics), for example, while Carla Bagnoli argues that HI a perfect duty of right (justice). I argue the parties in this debate are misguided, though much of the disagreement is owing to a failure on Kant’s part to provide a robust conception of justice in the state of nature. First, I argue that to make Kant’s account fully consistent, a “provisional” duty must be included in his taxonomy. Next, I argue that HI ought to be considered a provisional duty of justice. I then consider whether HI can be a perfect duty of justice, that is, a duty that all actors are capable of fulfilling. This would require the institutionalization of a duty of HI. I argue that Kant’s permissive law authorizes the coercion of states into such an institution but that the United Nations Security Council should be the only agent to undertake the task of such coercion. Moreover, existing juridical institutions such as the International Criminal Court ought to be reformed and a United Nations led Rapid Reaction Force should be established to carry out interventions.