From the discussion on December 29:
Paul A. Rahe ... I do not mean to endorse Wilsonian internationalism. That doctrine, rooted in a distortion of the thinking of Immanuel Kant, is as mad as the doctrine embraced by the sect of libertarians that I am discussing. It supposes that there can be a war to end all wars and that the world can be made safe once and for all for democracy. The truth is uglier. In the international sphere, order does not spontaneously emerge. It is imposed. It is, moreover, fragile and temporary always, and “rational administration” within the international sphere of the sort envisaged by Wilson and his admirers is no more effective than “rational administration” of the economy. ·
James Gawron ;...As usual Dr. Rahe, you are informative, in-depth, and right on target. I have little to add or subtract and nothing to quibble about. However, you have inadvertently given me a homework assignment. As you know my hobby is Immanuel Kant.
Now for my essay.
Before I engage in the discussion of this issue I must make a general warning about the use of Perpetual Peace. Kant is one of the most systematic philosophers Western Civilization has ever produced. To pluck the most advanced mature concept like Perpetual Peace out of the context of the full Kantian system on which it is dependent and try to employ it properly is ridiculous. It would be akin to someone who had never learned Euclidian Geometry trying to apply Hilbert’s infinite dimensional Geometry properly.
It is important to understand the distinction between Right and Virtue. For Kant, Virtue is a moral end that is personal. Virtue does not justify the use of coercive force against others. Virtue is a Maxim followed for it's own sake. Right is a Law derived from Moral Maxims enforced by a Constitutional Government which holds Freedom as it's highest standard. As long as the United Will of All is expressed through a legitimate Constitutional Government, Right actually requires a society to coerce a coercer.
Again, I must issue a warning here. Kant does not introduce the concept of Right until the Metaphysics of Morals, his last major work. For someone to fully understand the distinctions between Virtue and Right, it would be very useful to have read the Critique of Pure Reason, the Critique of Pure Practical Reason, the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals and the Metaphysics of Morals itself. These are major works requiring a great deal of effort. This is a minimum. As I have said Kant is systematic. If you want a broader view, reading the Critique of Judgement and Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone will give you a sense of how Kant handles Aesthetics and Theology. Now that I have given two stern warnings I can proceed without guilt.
Let's introduce two additional concepts. The Kingdom of Ends and Perpetual Peace. At this point, I can simply guide you by telling you that Virtue is related to the Kingdom of Ends in much the same way as Right is related to Perpetual Peace. The Kingdom of Ends is an ultimate moral end where literally every intelligent being in the Universe has accepted the Categorical Imperative as their moral Maxim. I will allow the good Mr. Kant to speak for himself. Here is a quote, written in 1785 midway through Kant’s career, from Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, [Review of the whole argument.], page 106:
Now, a kingdom of ends would actually come into existence through maxims which the categorical imperative prescribes as a rule for all rational beings, if these maxims were universally followed. Yet even if a rational being were himself to follow such a maxim strictly, he cannot count on everybody else being faithful to it on this ground, nor can he be confident that the kingdom of nature and its purposive order will work in harmony with him, as a fitting member, towards, a kingdom of ends made possible by himself-- or, in other words, that it will favour his expectation of happiness. But in spite of this the law ‘Act on the maxims of a member who makes universal laws for a merely possible kingdom of ends’ remains in full force, since its command is categorical. And precisely here we encounter the paradox that without any further end or advantage to be attained the mere dignity of humanity, that is, of rational nature in man--and consequently that reverence for a mere Idea--should function as an inflexible precept for the will: and that it is just this freedom from dependence on interested motives which constitutes the sublimity of a maxim and the worthiness of every rational subject to be a law-making member in the kingdom of ends; for otherwise he would have to be regarded as subject only to the law of nature--the law of his own needs.
We can see from the above quote that all is not ‘peaches and cream’ even in the Kingdom of Ends. I will describe it to you in my own words. The Kingdom of Ends is an a priori (before any sense experience) concept existing in all intelligent being’s minds. Once the intelligent being is made conscious of the formal Maxim of the Categorical Imperative and can lock their Will onto it they will act in a maximally moral way. Their sole motive is the Dignity of Humanity, human life as an end in itself and never as a means. The fact that intelligent beings cannot rely upon these Maxims to be universally followed is irrelevant. Further, that the intelligent being can not expect the purposive order (purpose like behavior of Nature) to favour his expectation of happiness is also irrelevant.
Kant should be driving you crazy at this point. You are forced to believe in the Kingdom of Ends and fix your Will upon it because of it’s a priori status. On the other hand you have absolutely no guarantee that it will produce happiness for you. If you are going crazy at this point that is exactly the way Mr. Kant wants you to feel. Mr. Kant is pointing out the absurdity of morality without the context of one of his major meta-ethical postulates.
Gd is Kantian postulate #1. Gd is the Gd of Western Civilization. A transcendental supreme power that has created both all of nature and our moral souls. It is only by faith in the existence of such a creator that we can reconcile the absurdity of both our neighbor intelligent being’s bad behavior & the purposive but impersonal cold hand of blind nature, all to our own need for happiness. You do not need to be religious to understand Kant. But Mr. Kant intends to drive you to the conclusion that only by accepting Gd as a postulate can you make any sense at all of morality or society. I, of course, think Mr. Kant is correct, was correct, and will be correct about this. In a similar way Mr. Euclid is correct about Geometry, was correct, and will be correct. This is a very mature and difficult conclusion to come to. Do not think I am being flippant. I must state clearly what I think or you will get the wrong idea.
Now let us approach Right and Perpetual Peace. As we stated earlier Right is a Law enforced by a legitimate Constitutional Government. Right always requires the Government to coerce the coercer but also requires the Government to coerce no one else. Right was first fully introduced in 1797 in the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant’s final major work. Right is first formulated as Private Right. This is chiefly about property, contracts, and individual relationships. However, even here Right requires a legitimate Constitutional Government to make the deeds Conclusive. Without such Government the deeds are only Provisional. Right progresses through Private Right to Public Right were the function of the Government in relationship to the citizens of the republic are further delineated. Next, The Right of Nations is introduced. Here each Nation is treated as a person. Similar to Corporate Persons in corporate law. The Right of Nations covers the interaction of full Nation states.
Finally, in the very last pages of Kant’s very last major work, Cosmopolitan Right is introduced. This Right’s function is solely toward the possible union of all nations with a view to certain universal laws for their possible commerce. At this point I am going to let Mr. Kant speak for himself again. You must deal with Kant as Kant. Not as I interpret him for you. From The Metaphysics of Morals, Conclusion, page 123:
Now morally practical reason pronounces in us its irresistible veto: there is to be no war, neither war between you and me in the state of nature nor war between us as states, which, although they are internally in a lawful condition, are still externally (in relation to one another) in a lawless condition; for war is not the way in which everyone should seek his rights. So the question is no longer whether perpetual peace is something real or a fiction, and whether we are not deceiving ourselves in our theoretical judgment when we assume that it is real. Instead, we must act as if it is something real, though perhaps it is not; we must work toward establishing perpetual peace and the kind of constitution that seems to us most conducive to it (say, a republicanism of all states, together and separately) in order to bring about perpetual peace and put an end to the heinous waging of war, to which as their chief aim all states without exception have hitherto directed their internal arrangements. And even if the complete realization of this objective always remains a pious wish, still we are certainly not deceiving ourselves in adopting the maxim of working incessantly towards it. For this is our duty, and to admit that the moral law within us is itself deceptive would call forth us the wish, which arouses our abhorrence, rather to be rid of all reason and to regard ourselves as thrown by one’s principles into the same mechanism of nature as all the other species of animals. It can be said that establishing universal and lasting peace constitutes not merely a part of the doctrine right but rather the entire final end of the doctrine of right within the limits of reason alone; for the condition of peace is the only condition in which what is mine and what is yours are secured under laws for a multitude of human beings living in proximity to one another and therefore under a constitution.
From this quote we can see the great analogy of Virtue & The Kingdom of Ends to Right & Perpetual Peace. At this stage of analysis Perpetual Peace seems to be performing the same role for Right as The Kingdom of Ends does for Virtue. This analogic state of affairs is where many people leave off in their studies. This is exactly what Dr. Paul A. Rahe and Dr. Daniel Pipes were reacting to when they mentioned the dangerous misapplication of Kant. From this quote one would think that Nation States are forced by a priori moral requirements to obsessively pursue a world government no matter how negative the results. Also, we would assume that war must be avoided at any cost even National Suicide. This self sacrificial mentality would be psychologically irresistible due to the a priori roots of Perpetual Peace. Thankfully, Mr. Kant does not leave us with only this treatment. Once again it is important to remember the difference between Virtue and Right. Right not only justifies but requires the use of force to coerce a coercer. In this next passage direct from Kant’s mouth, Perpetual Peace will look a great deal different then the Kingdom of Ends. From The Metaphysics of Morals, The Right of Nations, $60, page 118-119:
There are no limits to the rights of a state against an unjust enemy (no limits with respect to quantity or degree, though there are limits with respect to quality); that is to say, an injured state may not use any means whatever but may use those means that are allowable to any degree that it is able to, in order to maintain what belongs to it. - But what is an unjust enemy in terms of the concepts of the right of nations, in which - as is the case in a state of nature generally - each state is judge in its own case? It is an enemy whose publicly expressed will (whether by word or deed) reveals a maxim by which, if it were made a universal rule, any condition of peace among nations would be impossible and, instead, a state of nature would be perpetuated.
Now we see that Right is no patsy. The description of an Unjust Enemy is over 200 years old and yet it immediately reminds us of Hitler. As predicted by the theory of Right an Unjust Enemy makes any condition of peace among nations impossible. Thus there is no limits to prosecution of a war against an Unjust Enemy. If this does not remind one of World War II, I don’t know what would. Now let us return to Kant verbatim. From The Metaphysics of Morals, The Right of Nations, $61, page 119:
Since a state of nature among nations, like a state of nature among individual human beings, is a condition that one ought to leave in order to enter a lawful condition, before this happens any rights of nations, and anything external that is mine or yours which states can acquire or retain by war, are merely provisional. Only in a universal association of states (analogous to that by which a people becomes a state) can rights come to hold conclusively and a true condition of peace come about. But if such a state made up of nations were to extend too far over vast regions, governing it and so too protecting each of its members would finally have to become impossible, while several such corporations would again bring on a state of war. So perpetual peace, the ultimate goal of the whole right of nations, is indeed an unachievable idea. Still, the political principles directed toward perpetual peace, of entering into such alliances of states, which serve for continual approximation to it, are not unachievable. Instead, since continual approximation to it is a task based on duty and therefore on the right of humans beings and of states, this can certainly be achieved.
From this quote we realize just how practical Right is. It is physically impossible for the Cosmopolitan Super State to project enough power to protect all of it’s citizen States. Thus, Actual Perpetual Peace is ultimately impossible. However, using the a priori idea as a guiding thread an Approximation to Perpetual Peace can be achieved. We are now far, far from the point of view of the peace at any cost obsessives that populate universities and the media in such quantity.
I hope this is useful in clearing up the misapplications of Kant. Dr. Rahe’s comment which I originally responded to talked about the absurdity of “rational administration”. He declared that “rational administration” is no more effective in the international sphere then it is in the economy. That Kant openly declares Actual Perpetual Peace to be impossible should put to rest hyper-rational fantasies. After all it is the Critique of Pure Reason. I think I have supported Dr. Rahe's thesis with my essay. Also, Kant is a great intellectual resource. One shouldn’t be frightened off by shallow and manipulative interpretations.
As a final note. You might have noticed that the two major problems with Perpetual Peace actually mirror the two major problems with the Kingdom of Ends but written very, very large. The Unjust Enemy is analogous to the problem of the behavior of everybody else when only you alone are willing to follow the Categorical Imperative. The Physical Inability of the Cosmopolitan Super State to Protect it’s Citizen States is analogous to the problem of a purposive but impersonal Nature not acceding to your need for happiness.
Perhaps Mr. Kant is still trying to drive us crazy to get us to accept the Gd Postulate. He’d even chase us into the global immanental realm of the Right of Nations to pin us down. I don’t mind. Do you?