Public Reason: Vol. 2, No. 1, June 2010
Crooked Wood, Straight Timber – Kant, Development and Nature
Rafael Ziegler

Development is a widely used political concept, yet it receives relatively little philosophical attention. Conceptual clarification can draw on Kant’s writings on history and politics, which centrally include a theory of development. This theory posits developmental goals, and means of development, it presents these goals and means from a sophisticated epistemological perspective, and moreover a comprehensive perspective that includes human and non-human development. Via a discussion of the material transformations of Prussia during Kant’s time, and the resonance of this transformation in Kant’s writing – the “crooked wood” of the text, and the “straight timber” of Prussian “scientific forestry” – an argument is made for an extended theory of development that includes public reason as a means of development. It is argued that Kant’s reasons for a concern with development and the methodological spirit and scope of his approach remain pertinent, but that it is the spirit rather than the letter of Kant’s approach that can serve as a model for current theorizing.

Key words: development, public reason, sustainability, Kant, environmental history.


Ziegler, Rafael. Crooked Wood, Straight Timber – Kant, Development and Nature. Public Reason 2 (1): 61-76.