Notes on Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” yo

Finally the last of the “Notes on Kant’s Essays!” It is not that I find the essays boring but I have two problems. The first is that I am having trouble with the voice that I want to use when writing. I almost want to use an academic voice but then I figure that I am not writing for professors. I am merely providing a resource for this blog/site so I have a base of talking about other things. It is like talking to no one and not myself because I am so unsure of the audience’s expectation. It is easier to write for oneself than it is for an unknown audience! I can say all sorts of nutty windbag things, but I doubt that would work for any one to stumble upon this. The second problem I face is that it is on the tip of really cool things; it is merely preparation for better and more exciting stuff I could be writing. I will try to keep this as short as possible.

Another quick note, I think the terrible drawing that I do are hilarious!

This is one of Kant’s most readably works. If you want a place to start, this would be it instead of the Groundwork for the Metaphysics on Morals. I actually think his second critique (Critique of Practical Reason) is easier to read then the Groundwork is but the second critique is far longer, but the shortest critique!

Perhaps it was Immanuel Kant’s age or the topic was crystal clear, because “Perpetual Peace” is easily his best written and clearest of the essays that I have written about. It almost makes me want to write clear and concise. Oh pipe dreams! This essay was written long after the essays I covered before; “Perpetual Peace” was published in 1795 while the other two were both published in 1784. This means that the man finished his trilogy of the critiques and several other works, while Napoleon was just a little general before he was traipsing around Europe like a tiny stallion.

The thesis of “Perpetual Peace” is the actual title; it is quite clear on his goal in writing this essay, both proscriptive and descriptive on the methods for continual long lasting peace. It is in the title. The essay is rather easy to read and I would just recommend reading that instead of this but I am still going to write. I need this little reference somewhere so I do not have to explain it mid-paragraph while trying to talk about something else.

“Perpetual Peace” has various clear axioms, like “Universal History” that I will put below. From the axioms alone one can deduce the intent of the article. These axioms are mostly rules. Here they are:

1.) No treaty of peace that tacitly reserves issues for a future ware shall be held valid.[i]

2.) No independent nation, be it large or small, me be acquired by another nation by inheritance, exchange, purchase, or gift. [ii]

3.) Standing armies shall be gradually abolished. [iii]

4.) No national debt shall be contract in connection with foreign affairs of the nation. [iv]

5.) No nation shall forcibly interfere with the constitution and government of another.[v]

6.) No nation at war with another shall permit such acts of war as shall make mutual trust impossible during future time of peace: Such acts include the use of Assassins, Poisoners breach of surrender, instigation of treason in the opposing nation, etc. [vi]

First definitive article – The civil constitution of every nation should be republican.[vii]

Second definitive article- The right of nations shall be based on a federation of free states. [viii]

Third definitive article- Cosmopolitan right shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality.[ix]

There are two funny things- well one is not funny at all. The forth rule is directed at England’s unlimited use of funds for its use of their National Bank.[x] The funny thing is a new definition for a camel- the ship of the desert.[xi] It really should be noted, “ our concern here is not with philanthropy, but with right”[xii]

The best form of government for peace, according to Kant, is republicanism. There is either republicanism or despotism (which he here include democracies.) [xiii] One of the most remarked quotes:

If (as must inevitably be the case, given this form of constitution) the consent of the citizenry is required in order to determine whether or not there will be war, it is natural that they consider all its calamities before committing themselves to so risky of a game.[xiv]

Though it should be noted that the use of public reason in this form of government would most likely exhaust the arguments for and against war. Kant is far from a thinker to just abandon concepts he had discovered or created. The “What is Enlightenment” essay fits nicer here than it did with “A Universal History.” Really I had not discussed this at all but his ethical philosophy saturates all these essays. In a state with a standing army or where it is not under a republican constitution, the soldiers are mere means to an end, their humanness is lost and their bodies become tools.[xv]For Kant the republican constitution is the best not only because it is optimal from international peace, but a peace that increases the rights of citizens- thereby maximizing internal peace.

Just as the essay “A Universal History” pressed the concept of confederation of states, this essay further stipulates the need. It is not a confederation or federation of states, where there is further government, but rather a collection of states that increase the right of each nation.[xvi] There still will be rules in this confederation but with litigation and policies these disputes can be settled. The definition of freedom is defined in a footnote by Kant “Freedom is the possibility of action as long as one does no wrong.”[xvii] Then a government can manage and reap the benefits for its peoples, as long it does no wrong towards another nation. The extra-national government is more like the United Nations, then the United States or the European Union. Essentially, a republic of republics. The Geneva Convention could be seen as a body and set of principles that came from this concept, as well.

The last right is the most interesting, hospitality;

In this way distant parts of the world can establish with one another peaceful relations that will eventually become maters of public law, and the human race can gradually be brought closer and closer to cosmopolitan constitutions.[xviii]

People of the world should be allowed to visit another country and be allotted permanent visitation to that country.[xix] Their sole right for this would be because all the surface of the earth belongs to man. [xx]Obviously this would transfer or expand ones citizenship of a country to a citizenship of the world. It is a strange and quite compelling argument for a sustainable peace. It is also quite interesting that this would be the last, and ergo the most salient of terms for Kant to seek perpetual peace. This, however, is fully inline with Kant’s humanism and his concept of rights.

I would like to digress for just a moment before I leave you. I have been using the word liberalism without really defining what I mean by it. I have a bit of a hard time describing that term because it has many connotations. I mostly mean liberalism in the broadest sense of the word. Liberalism for Americans usually means left and the rest of the world it usually means economic conservatism.

However the liberalism I am speaking of can really encompass both of those notions. The first part of liberalism is the use and practice of rights. This is obvious from Thomas Jefferson line: “We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”[xxi]The Declaration of Right of Man and Citizen is also a perfect example of liberalism. There is a certain transcendental idealist quality in liberalism, even today.

It is also a struggle to balance the individual and the society. This seems to be one of reasons for right in liberal thought. Usually liberal governments will have mechanism in place to balance various factions or powers.

It actually is more complicated then this. I just wanted to ensure that I was speaking in the historical and the most broadest way when writing about liberalism.

[i] Immanuel Kant Perpetual Peace and Other Essays. Translated Tad Humphrey “To Perpetual Peace A Philosophical Sketch” (Indianapolis: Hackett) 1983 p 107

[ii] Immanuel Kant p 108

[iii] Immanuel Kant p 108

[iv] Immanuel Kant p 109

[v]Immanuel Kant p 109

[vi] Immanuel Kant p 109-110

[vii] Immanuel Kant p 112

[viii] Immanuel Kant p 115

[ix] Immanuel Kant p 118

[x] Immanuel Kant p 109

[xi] Immanuel Kant 118

[xii] Immanuel Kant 118

[xiii] Immanuel Kant p 113-114

[xiv] Immanuel Kant p 113

[xv] Immanuel Kant p 108, 113

[xvi] Immanuel Kant p 117

[xvii] Immanuel Kant p 112

[xviii] Immanuel Kant 118

[xix] Immanuel Kant 118

[xx] Immanuel Kant118

[xxi] Thomas Jefferson The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America 1776

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