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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 31, 2015

Power, Protest, and the Future of Democracy

Colena Sesanker
Pages 33-49

De-Trivializing the Kantian Duty to Resist Oppression

An argument can be constructed from Kantian resources to the effect that we not only can, but must resist our own oppression according to the second formulation of the categorical imperative. This derivation of the duty from the Humanity formulation presents it as a fully moral categorical duty. Such a portrayal of our obligations in even the harshest of circumstances suggests that no circumstances can take our humanity away. On this Kantian view, it is possible to maintain a self worthy of respect no matter what. Such a view is saddled with difficulties, however. This paper addresses the ways that these difficulties can be successfully addressed and discusses the limitations of a more modest version of a Kantian account of the duty to resist oppression, advanced by Carol Hay. This paper will conclude that the more modest account cannot provide the hope for retaining our worth and the explanation of the injustice of oppression the way that a more straightforward reading of a fully moral obligation can and that the apparent difficulties of the more extreme view are surmountable.

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