XI KANT KONGRESS, XI Congresso Kantiano Internazionale

Kant and the Right to Life

Alessandro PInzani / Thomas Mertens

Edificio: Facoltà di Agraria
Sala: sala Wolff
Data: 23 maggio 2010 - 17:00
Ultima modifica: 14 aprile 2010


In our present days, the right to life is widely discussed both in morality and in law. To mention a few examples: in assisted suicide cases, the issue is whether the bearer of the right to life can determine for himself or herself the moment of the ending of life or whether the right to life entails a duty to life, i.e. to its natural end; Abortion, though legalized in some countries, is seen by many as a violation of the sanctity of life and the right to life of the fetus, so they say, must be respected; On another level: does the right to life entail the duty on the part of states to provide essential healthcare? In war, combatants are often considered as having forfeited the right to life, in the sense that they cannot claim the right not to be killed.
In Kant’s moral and legal philosophy, the duty to respect one’s own life and that of others plays an important role. Yet, various passages in Kant’s work suggest that for Kant ‘life’ itself is not an absolute value. There seem to be instances in which Kant agrees with cases of violent death: Kant endorses the death penalty; his rejection of suicide is not absolute; it is justified for a state to put one’s soldiers at the risk of being killed in a war of national defense; finally there are the infamous case of infanticide and duel. In this paper, we aim to give a systematic account of these instances in the hope that we can thus shed a much needed ‘Kantian’ light on the contemporary issues relating to the ‘right to life’. What moral value must be attributed to the fact that humans have a life?