Metamorphosis or Palingenesis? Political Change in Kant

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This article looks at Kant's attitude to political change by examining closely the contrast he draws between palingenesis and metamorphosis in his doctrine of right (1797). The article attempts to explain why Kant prefers the use of metamorphosis as an analogy and looks closely at his objections to the use of palingenesis. Here Kant's treatment of palingenesis is compared with the use of the term made by the eighteenth-century Genevan biologist Charles Bonnet. It is suggested that Kant's rejection of rebellion and revolution is connected to his advocacy of gradual, organic change as conveyed in the notion of metamorphosis. This notion is explored according to eighteenth-century and present scientific understandings of the term. The conclusion stresses the merits of Kant's approach to political change, and indicates why it might be superior to the conservative and revolutionary alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-722
Number of pages30
JournalReview of Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2001


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