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According to Kant Essay

According to Kant, states are “a standing offence to one another by the very fact that they are neighbors. ” This statement alludes to his assertion that international conflicts arise from mistaken beliefs as well as inadequate information and bad governments, such that just by being neighboring states, a war could already ensue. This is because of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. As some states try to secure themselves against their neighbors, each side increases their military and increases the chance that a war could ensue. Furthermore, Kant argues that nations indebted to one another will cause war.

He states in this article that if a nation faces bankruptcy, then the nations that have loaned it funds will also be adversely affected. Kant establishes the importance of a “law-governed relationship with external states. “(Kant, p. 47) This shows that there is this apparent antagonism between states similar to the antagonism within the states themselves. “Nature has thus again employed the unsociableness of men, and even of the large societies and states which human beings construct, as a means of arriving at a condition of calm and security through their inevitable antagonism”(Kant, p47).

Here the antagonism takes the form of wars and international conflict and again the conflict must historically result in autonomous constitution between states to limit the ‘evils’ that occur because of this antagonism. This proposition interestingly infers the possibility of a rational world peace as one of the aims of human nature. There is a real sense of universal principles of good or right by this stage of the argument, almost a faith in the human species as an essentially moral collective, and again there is this intent of nature for rationality to strive for these principles.

Kant gave us three articles in the second section of “Perpetual Peace” that define what type of government nations must apply to reach a perpetual peace. He begins this section by arguing that it is not in man’s nature to be at peace. He declares that the natural state of man is war. According to him “… for the suspension of hostilities does not provide the security of peace… ” (111) However, it can be reached in a state of lawfulness. Kant explains why republican constitutions are vital to ensure the peace of nations.

He reasons this by arguing that this is the only type of government that guarantees freedom and equality of the people. Kant goes on to state that the republican form of government is the most difficult to form and maintain. However, he reaffirms that a republic is the type of government most apt to achieve peace because it gives its people a voice, ensures consequences for lawbreakers, and imposes a system of checks and balances to divide the power equally amongst governmental bodies.

Also, in this article, Kant addresses the concept of sovereignty. Nations must not interfere with the constitution of another because it may cause a war. In the second article, Kant discusses his theory of a federation of nations. Wilson referred to these ideas in his fourteen points. This theory encompasses the ideas behind the creating of a League of Nations. This would help ensure that every nation is pursuing what is in the best interest of world politics and not just its own interest. This is Kant’s liberal third image thinking at its height.

On this subject Kant explains: “A league of a special sort must therefore be established, on that we can call a league of peace, which will be distinguished from a treaty of peace because the latter seeks merely to stop one war, while the former seeks to end all wars forever. ” (115) The third article is what Kant calls the cosmopolitan right. This law deals with a nation’s peaceful obligations to visitors from other nations. The law states that if a person is visiting another nation, then that nation should treat him kindly and show him no ill will.

He further elaborates on the rights of nations to chose whether or not to give a visitor extended or permanent residence. He believes that the more nations interact, the less likely it is for war to break out between them. Kant discusses a man’s tendency to be in a state of war. Kant titles it the “Secret Article for Perpetual Peace. ” The secret is that the government should consult with philosophers on matters of the state without the knowledge of the people. He believes that philosophers are essential to searching for and solving the problems of war.

He explains that people revere the government as wise and must keep the consultation private. He argues that politics needs some sense of morality for a nation to stay at peace. Again, he refers to man’s natural state as a state of war. He argues that people must do what is right and make their decisions based on the good of the republic to make peace become a reality. The majority of Kant’s essay is based on liberal theory. He relies heavily on second image theories with his beliefs in republican constitutions. He sees the causes of war to be linked to the nature of state and government.

He believes that states should form a union and not merely act on their own accord. Kant reiterates: “For the sake of its own security, each nation can and should demand that the others enter into a contract resembling the civil one and guaranteeing the rights of each. This would be a federation of nations, but it must not be a nation consisting with nations” (115) A realist would find it difficult to be drawn into this type of contract. Kant disagrees with a philosophy based solely on power struggles. He argues that if the state meets his long term needs, then man will act in ways that best serve the state.

This also opposes the realist ideology. For instance, realists argue that men only make decisions that affect him on a short run basis. In its very conception, a republican government is a long-term undertaking. His main connection with the realist theory is his admittance that the natural state of man is war. He confronts this throughout his essay. “The state of peace among men living in close proximity is not the natural state; instead, the natural state is one of war, which does not exist in open hostilities, but also in constant and enduring threat of them.

” (111) Kant argues that if we involve morality in our decisions and choose what is right for our nation, then perpetual peace will surely come. Throughout the essay, Kant offers his views on avoiding war through compromising, problem solving, morality, and a coming together of states to ensure peace. These ideals oppose the realist thought because they do not place all the emphasis on war and power. Instead, he focuses on the first image theories of the psychology of man and relies heavily on second image theories of the nature of the state. Kant stresses rule of law throughout his essay.

He wants a governmental system created whereby we have a society of laws and not of men. Kant starts out at the first image as a realist by admitting the inherent warlike human nature of mankind. As he moves to the second image he moves toward more liberal beliefs. He sees the state as a means of implementing a moral society with a structure that leaves no room for misbehavior. At the third image he becomes quite liberal. If states can abide by laws, then they can work together in harmony and morality. This is in sharp contrast with a classic realist like Morgenthau who sees no room for morality in international relations.

However, Kant is not a naive liberal. For instance, he agrees with Thomas Hobbes when he concurs that there is no law above the state. Furthermore, Kant agrees with Thomas Hobbes that war is the “natural state” meaning a state of peace must first be established. With this knowledge in hand, he urges states to overcome their natural instincts and do what will ensure a perpetual peace. Or else, he warns: “… the destruction of both parties along with all rights is the result – would permit perpetual peace to occur only in the vast graveyard of humanity as a whole.

” (110) According to Kant, “The history of the human race as a whole can be regarded as the realization of a hidden plan of nature to bring about an internally-and for this purpose also externally- perfect political constitution as the only possible state within which all natural capacities of mankind can be developed completely. “(Kant, p. 50) Kant argues that through trial and error in the various historical struggles of civil society (economy, leadership, wars) the perfect conditions of society will develop and, ideally, spread across the globe.

The ninth proposition follows from this suggesting that with a greater understanding of the rational intent of nature, or a philosophical understanding, a universal history might be constructed to predict the nature of the political enlightenment. Kant distinguishes that this model of historical freedom is not empirically observable but is a normative theory or philosophical idea, which provides more of an account of how things should be “if we assume a plan for nature, we have grounds for greater hopes” (Kant, p52).

There have been attempts to institutionalize this Kantian form of international relations to achieve perpetual peace (Kant), the most obvious is of course the United Nations. Kant predicts this kind of union of nations in the text “in which every state, even the smallest, could expect to derive its security and rights not from its own power or its own legal judgment, but solely from this great federation, from a united power and the law governed decisions of a united will. ” (Kant p47) Whether there is any progress occurring towards a certain rational goal is rather hard to determine.

It may be the case that in the western world there is a strong social push for moral progress, however it becomes problematic to measure this progress once opposing cultural contexts emerged. Next, some criticisms will be offered to explain the shortcomings of universal ideas of freedom. Firstly, because this model of freedom is rather abstract and speculative in nature, its empirical relevance is questionable. This model of freedom seems to have proven hugely influential in international politics.

However, there is certain corruptibility in its utopian nature because it lacks concrete applicability. It seems that the self-interest or antagonism of certain states has managed to override the normative universal authorities at times in recent history. References Kant, Immanuel (1983). Perpetual Peace. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Kant, Immanuel (1992). Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, translated with an introduction and notes by M. Campbell Smith, Bristol: Thoemmes Press. Kant, Immanuel. Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose”. Political Writing, 41-53


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