William Levine



Postdoctoral Fellow

Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
October 2021 – July 2022

Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
»Radical Kantianism and the Ideal of Emancipation in Modern Germany«

Project outline:
The book manuscript »Radical Kantianism and the Ideal of Emancipation« uncovers a tradition of 19th and 20th century Kantian political thought that argued for robust ideals of social and economic emancipation to be achieved through collective exertions of popular agency and social reform. I trace the history of radical Kantianism from its germs in Kant’s political thought to its reception and reinvention in successive crisis moments in Germany: from the early 19th century to its socialist revival post-1848, to its key role in debates within the early Social Democratic Party of Germany, and finally into World War I and the early Weimar Republic. Although the reception of Kant’s political thought, especially in the Anglo-American world, has largely been mediated by its reception among liberal thinkers like John Rawls, »Radical Kantianism« reconstructs the neglected ways that the tradition enjoyed a robust reception among a variety of socialist thinkers, including figures such as Hermann Cohen, Paul Natorp, and Karl Vorländer. As contemporary political theorists continue to interrogate the resources and possibilities of Kant’s ideals for liberal thought, recovering the history of Kantian socialism can deepen and enrich key debates in ethics, the theory of ideals, and social transformation. (William Levine)

Research partner:
William Levine follows the invitation of Professor Rainer Forst and the Justitia Centre for Advanced Studies funded by the Alfons and Gertrud Kassel Foundation.

Scholarly profile of William Levine


William Levine received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2019 with the thesis »The Movement is Everything: Radical Kantianism and the Ideal of Emancipation in Modern German Political Thought«. From 2019 to 2021 he was an early career fellow at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg of Göttingen University.

Main areas of research:
Political Theory, Kant, Neo-Kantianism, German Idealism, Realism in Political Theory, The Theory of Ideals, Normativity, Socialist Thought

Selected publications:
  1. »Heinrich Heine’s Critique of the Present: Poetry, Revolution, and the Rights of Life«, in: Political Theory vol. 49 (2) (2021).