Professor Arthur Ripstein

University Professors 2016
Faculty of Law & Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts & Science
Research Interests:
Political philosophy and legal theory


Arthur Ripstein studied philosophy at the Universities of Manitoba (B.A 1981) and Pittsburgh (MA 1984, PhD 1986), and joined the University of Toronto’s Philosophy Department in 1987. On his first sabbatical, he studied Law at Yale Law School (MSL 1994). His research has been funded by SSHRC continuously since 1995. In 1995-96 he was Laurence Rockefeller Fellow at Princeton’s University Center for Human Values; in 1999 he was appointed Professor of Law and Philosophy; in 2000 he held a Connaught humanities fellowship. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2010, awarded the University of Toronto Alumni Association’s Faculty Award in 2012, won a Killam Fellowship for 2016-18, and appointed University Professor in 2016.

One of the world’s leading political philosophers and legal theorists, Ripstein has been at the forefront of renewed interest in Immanuel Kant’s legal and political philosophy. He is the author of three books and more than eighty articles and book chapters. His first book, Equality, Responsibility and the Law (Cambridge 1998) explored situations in which responsibility and luck come together: accidents, mistakes, emergencies, failed attempts and social misfortunes. The book reoriented discussions of these topics, and was awarded the inaugural Canadian Philosophical Association Book prize in 2001. His second book, Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy (Harvard 2009), offers an articulation and defense of Kant’s idea of justice as a system of equal freedom, explaining its role in private law, constitutional rights, and the “police powers” exercised by states. Force and Freedom has reframed contemporary legal and political philosophy, has been the subject of multiple conferences and has been the principal text for many graduate seminars at the leading philosophy departments in North America and Europe. It was awarded the Canadian Philosophical Association Biennial Book Prize, 2011, making Ripstein the only two-time winner of the prize. His most recent book, Private Wrongs (Harvard 2016) draws on the same Kantian approach to explore the many ways in which individuals can rightly be held responsible for wronging others, including cases of negligence, trespass, intentional interference with the affairs of others, and defamation.

Ripstein’s current project will develop Kant’s idea that the very thing that makes war wrongful – the fact that which side prevails does not depend on who is in the right – also provides the moral and legal standard for evaluating the conduct of war. Ripstein will extend these Kantian ideas to understand the challenges raised by new and troubling forms of war, including wars of secession and wars involving loosely organized transnational organizations.

Since 2005 Ripstein has been Associate Editor of Philosophy & Public Affairs, one of the two top journals in moral, legal and political philosophy. Prior to that he was Associate Editor of Ethics, the other top journal in the area. He has also served as an editor of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and on the editorial boards of many other journals. His popular work appears regularly on Ideas on CBC Radio One.

Ripstein has been actively involved in university governance. He was Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Science, and of the tri-campus Graduate Department of Philosophy. (2011-14). He served on Governing Council, (2003-11) as well as its Academic Board, (1997-1999) Business Board, (2003-11) and Executive Committee (2004-11).