Is perpetual peace possible?

0 26
Avatar for Jnavedan
1 year ago (Last updated: 2 months ago)

A brief analysis of Kant's thought on peace

The booklet entitled: On the Perpetual Peace of Immanuel Kant; published in 1795, exposes a political project for the establishment of peace in Europe and in the world. For the author, peace is an imperative of reason; in Kant's words, it is the categorical imperative that imposes the Moral Law (Conscience) as a duty: there must be no war. Therefore, individuals are obliged to overcome the nature of violence that prevails between states, for which they must constitute; a federation of states committed to the maintenance of universal peace.

This relatively short work is made up of two sections, two supplements, and two appendices. The first section contains six preliminary articles that stipulate the necessary conditions to achieve peace, and the second section presents three definitive articles for perpetual peace among the States. The supplements develop the following aspects: 

  • On the discrepancy between morality and politics from the perspective of perpetual peace; and 

  • Of the harmony of politics with morality according to the transcendental concept of public law. 

The philosophical essay culminates with two appendices. The first appendix develops the aspect of the disagreement between morality and politics with respect to perpetual peace and the second appendix deals with the harmony between politics and morality, according to the metaphysical concept of public law.

Generally; Kant exposes the idea that the precariousness of international law can only be overcome through an international organization, both regionally and globally; in other words, the idea that peace, ethically necessary, is linked to the organization through the federation.

In such a way that it becomes necessary to present a succinct synthesis of the booklet and the essence of Kantian thought at that time of his life; so as to propose, exhaustively, the following statements of the preliminary and definitive articles.

Preliminary Articles for Perpetual Peace Among States

  • "No peace treaty should be considered valid which has been concluded with the secret reservation about any cause of war in the future."

  • Another may acquire no independent State through inheritance, exchange, purchase, or donation.

  • Standing armies must completely disappear over time.

  • Public debt should not be issued in connection with foreign policy matters.

  • No state should interfere by force in the constitution and government of another.

  • No state at war with another should allow itself such hostilities as would make mutual confidence in future peace impossible.

These statements developed in the first section of the work; subsume the intended normative character of the author in search of the imperative of peace; that is to say, to avoid wars of extermination by means of States waiving the right to wage punitive wars against other sovereign States. Immanuel Kant was clear that war is the necessary means in the state of nature to assert law by force; and in this sense, to avoid it, he proposed necessary conditions that are based on prohibitive laws:

  • Non-interference in the internal affairs of another state through a mutual non-aggression treaty.

  • The dismantling of national armies.

  • The renunciation of states the right to wage punitive wars against other sovereign states.

Also, along with these necessary conditions for perpetual peace, Kant wrote three definitive articles of peace:

Ultimate Articles for Perpetual Peace:

The state of peace among men who live together is not a state of nature, but rather a state of war, that is, a state in which, although hostilities have not been declared, there is a constant threat. The state of peace must, therefore, be established, since the omission of hostilities is not a guarantee of peace.

First definitive article:

The civil constitution of every state must be republican

The republican constitution is one established in accordance with the following principles:

  • Of the freedom of the members of a society as men

  • Of the dependence of all on a single common legislation, as subjects

  • In accordance with the law of the equality of all subjects as citizens, it is the only one that derives from the idea of ​​the original contract and on which all the legal norms of a people must be based.

The purpose of the republican constitution is one in which the role of the state is to respect the rights of its citizens and not seek their well-being, since that is where it falls into despotism.

It must guarantee the freedom of its citizens to choose their happiness. In a democracy, according to Kant, despotism is when everyone decides on one, without giving their consent.

Second definitive article:

The law of nations must be founded on a federation of free states

People can be considered as States of individuals, who in their state of nature harm each other. In this sense, a federation of states guarantees a rule of law among them. But not a federation of people. That guarantees only the freedom of the states and that of other states without having to submit to public laws or coercion.

Third definitive article:

Cosmopolitan law must be limited to the conditions of universal hospitality.

Right of a foreigner not to be treated hostilely. This article is the source of the trade.

The author complemented the necessary conditions to claim perpetual peace, his optimistic approach, with the statements of the second section of the booklet; which is circumscribed in:

  • The establishment of a representative republican constitution for all the states, in which the executive power is separated from the legislature and according to which the sovereign governs under a legal body that the citizenry has consented to.

  • The constitution of the federal union or confederation of nations.

  • The creation of a universal right through which individuals become authentic citizens of the world.

The Kantian proposal of perpetual peace was set aside until the 20th century because it was considered to obey an unattainable utopian ideal. However, the development of the First World War and its repercussions made it clear that peace could not be preserved by the mere system of balance of forces.

Consequently, the rulers of the nations (mainly belonging to the victorious powers) took up the Kantian theses on peace and created, in the first instance, the League of Nations (SN) that failed in the objective of maintaining the international status quo and the peace by allowing World War II. At the end of the aforementioned war; The United Nations Organization (UN) was created based on the philosophical and legal approach that war can only be avoided or limited through the creation of an international organization for peace.

As a corollary to the synthesis of the Kantian pamphlet; It is opportune to remember that the spirit of the time that the philosopher had to live, both in the scientific field, marked by the rise of the mechanistic paradigm imposed by Newton; as for the convulsive sociopolitical evolution of the period of the illustration that derived in the events of changes such as the independence of the USA and the French Revolution; that they printed new directions to the western culture when impacting in the most representative of the estates and political forms of the time; and that in a certain way, at the end of the author's life, enhanced the optimistic wording of his utopia -which in the late census- he considers attainable; by virtue of the fact that for the author, conciliator of the rationalist and empiricist currents, war is unacceptable according to the categorical imperative of the moral law.

Without fear of being wrong in the interpretation of the work; the arguments enunciated in Kant's Perpetual Peace; expose a man aware of the validity of the Hobbesian problem: the selfish and quarrelsome nature of man in his natural state; that, however, proposed a political project based on the logic of human reason and that aspires to the end: the continuous progress of man and the establishment (albeit artificial) of peace through legal instruments of public international law.

Source: Image by  eon Pixabay 


227 years have passed since Kant's Peace essay was published, and still, the threat of war with its disastrous consequences hangs over the heads of the world's citizens.

To make matters worse! Now man, with all his rationality, can annihilate the planet itself.

Perhaps the philosopher of pure reason failed to consider in his essay what concerns the ambitions behind money as a manifestation of power. As well as, obviously, the emotional sphere of human nature.

Of course, I do not dispute the overwhelming logic of his arguments. Not in vain, he is a modern reference to universal philosophy, who proposed a formula to maintain peace among men.

I only hope that one day Kant's utopia ceases to be so, and the war is just a bad memory.



An original article by @Jnavedan

The thumbnail by  Pete Linforth on Pixabay 

Cover image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay 

I end by thanking all my colleagues in the community, who add value every day here. As well as all my sponsors for believing in the content I share with you

$ 10.59
$ 10.48 from @TheRandomRewarder
$ 0.05 from @Pantera
$ 0.03 from @Fexonice1
+ 3
Sponsors of Jnavedan
Avatar for Jnavedan
1 year ago (Last updated: 2 months ago)