St Andrews Kant Reading Party 2018: Kant and Rawls

July 16, 2018 - July 19, 2018
Department of Philosophy, University of St Andrews

The Burn
United Kingdom


  • UK Kant Society
  • Scots Philosophical Association
  • Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development at the University of St Andrews
  • Aristotelian Society
  • British Society for the History of Philosophy
  • Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs


Brandeis University
Utrecht University
University of St. Andrews
University of St. Andrews

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It is our pleasure to invite you to the St Andrews Kant Reading Party 2018: Kant and Rawls. The St Andrews Kant Reading Party is an annual academic retreat aimed at bringing together scholars of various backgrounds and career stages to discuss and compare the works of Immanuel Kant and another prominent philosopher. The eleventh edition of the event will focus on the practical philosophy of Kant and Rawls. It will be held at The Burn in Angus ( from July 16-19, 2018.

Not only are Kant and Rawls two giants of moral and political philosophy, but their views are also connected in interesting and complicated ways. On the one hand, both are cherished as champions of enlightenment morality and liberal political thought, who wrote on such issues as social justice, the separation of church and state, and the various facets of human freedom. On the other hand, although Rawls repeatedly emphasized the tremendous inspiration he drew from Kant, differences between the two thinkers remain. These differences are reflected both in the two thinkers’ choice of philosophical method and in the normative conclusions they reach. At the methodological level, Rawls considered his approach an updated version of Kant’s, in the sense that it aims to be less metaphysical and more empirical, and therefore more fit for the scientifically-minded 20th and 21st centuries. Especially in his later works, Rawls emphasized that his theory of justice is addressed only at Western liberal democracies that already assent to the conception of the person as a free and equal rational being. At the substantive normative level, Rawls favours the large-scale redistribution of income and wealth through the state, should this be necessary to meet the conditions for a just distribution stated in his ‘difference principle’, whereas Kant is wary of such measures. Yet, it is far from settled how far-reaching the differences between Kant and Rawls really are and what we should make of them.

Our aim is to engage with the difficult works of the two philosophers, to illuminate their complex relation to one another, and thereby to gain new and deeper insights into some of the important moral and political issues of our time.

The Kant Reading Party involves a combination of discussion sessions, which are based on pre-circulated readings, and paper sessions, which give graduate students a chance to present work relevant to the theme of the event (see the Call for Abstracts below).

Potential topics for discussion sessions and paper presentations include:

(1)    Constructivism vs. Realism in Political Philosophy, Ethics, and Metaethics

(2)   Practical Reason, Autonomy, and the Justification of Morals

(3)   Reasonable Faith and the Highest Good: Religious or Political?

(4)   Contractualism: Can an Ideal of Interpersonal Justification Ground Kantian Ethics?

(5)   On Who Gets What: Property Rights and Economic Redistribution

(6)   Cosmopolitanism: What Do We Owe to Foreign Nationals?

(7)   The Relation Between Justice and Virtue

Outside the paper and discussion sessions, participants will have the opportunity to attend to their own work and engage in leisure activities in The Burn's drawing room, library and games room, or outdoors. Most likely, we will also organise a hike along one of the surrounding trails for those who are interested.

Participation Fees  

Invited speakers will be waived the entire participation fee (see the Call for Abstracts below).

The exact level of fees for everyone else will depend on the outcome of our ongoing fundraising efforts. But, on the basis of our experience from previous Kant Reading Parties, our estimates are as follows.

Faculty members: £140; Students: £70  

The fee covers accommodation and full board at The Burn, as well as transportation from St Andrews to The Burn and back. 

If you would like to attend, but child care duties make it difficult, please contact Janis Schaab ([email protected]). We will do our best to meet your requests, and a limited amount of funds is available to provide financial support.


Since the number of places is limited, the registration process is divided into two steps:

1)      Informal registration: send an e-mail including your name, institutional affiliation, and a brief expression of interest (2-3 lines) to Janis Schaab ([email protected]) by the 31st of May.

2)     Payment: selected participants will be given instructions on how to make the online fee payment. This counts as a formal registration.  

Call for abstracts  

Graduate students are invited to send anonymised abstracts of no longer than 750 words, as well as a separate cover sheet including name, position, institutional affiliation, and e-mail address to Kristina Kersa ([email protected]) by the 13th of May. Abstracts will be selected by blind review, and we aim to notify applicants by the 31st of May.

Papers should be suitable for a presentation of 40 minutes and related to the conference theme. We particularly welcome submissions that meet at least one of the following criteria: they should

a)      illuminate the relationship between Kant’s and Rawls’s views on any topic in practical philosophy,

b)     assess the comparative merits of the two philosophers’ views on any topic in practical philosophy,

c)      discuss a philosophical idea associated with Rawls (e.g., constructivism, liberal egalitarianism) and its relationship to Kant’s philosophy,

d)     discuss a philosophical idea associated with Kant (e.g., transcendental idealism, the doctrine of the highest good) and its relationship to Rawls’s philosophy, and/or

e)      interpret and assess Rawls’s reading of Kant’s philosophy.

For further guidance, see the list of potential topics for discussion and paper sessions above.

Please also specify if you would like to attend the event in case your abstract is not selected for presentation. If so, please include the information required for informal registration, as specified above.  

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Janis Schaab ([email protected]).  

With best wishes,

The organisers: Janis Schaab, Lucas Sierra Vélez, Prof. Kate Moran, Prof. Jens Timmermann  

The St Andrews Kant Reading Party 2018 is made possible by the support of the Aristotelian Society, the British Society for the History of Philosophy, the Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development at the University of St Andrews, the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, the Scots Philosophical Association, and the UK Kant Society.

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May 31, 2018, 7:00pm BST

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