Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Publicity and Annexation

The final example of the relationship between international right and publicity that Kant considers in Perpetual Peace concerns annexation. In this example the situation is that a large state has crucial parts of its territory separated by the presence of a smaller state. The larger state has some existential interest in the area that the smaller state occupies. Hence is it not justified in wishing to suppress the smaller state?

Effectively this example is the pre-emption example once again. It has merely been presented in a different way. As with the pre-emption example, there is an act that is being undertaken regardless of a threat posed by the other state on the grounds of a perceived problem that it is thought to cause. Once stated like this it is obvious that Kant will rule that the maxim of suppression of the smaller state is not permitted. As with the other examples so with this Kant appeals to counter-productivity considerations. If the large state makes the maxim of its action public then there are two possible counter-productive results. Either smaller states will come together to unite against the larger state or other powerful states will intervene. On either consideration the act of the larger state will become self-frustrating showing again that publicity of the maxim will demonstrate reasons not to undertake action in accordance with it and hence that it requires secrecy to be undertaken which makes it unjust.

Gosseries' has replied to this example and mentioned considerations that he takes to count against Kant's case. One is that in actual cases like this it is often true that the larger state can count on other states not intervening, even if the maxim of their action is made public. This shows that there is not an inherent reason given by the nature of publicity alone for failing to undertake the action or, in other words, publicity of the maxim does not, as Kant thinks, render action in accord with it necessarily self-frustrating. What does follow from the example is that publicity of the maxim would render the existence of states more precarious since it would demonstrate that nothing guarantees their continuation. In the Groundwork examples Kant distinguishes between maxims that run into a problem due to the fact that they provoke a contradiction in conception from those that provoke a problem due to provoking a contradiction in the will. Amongst the latter examples are ones concerning a generalized maxim of non-beneficence.

Kant's argument pattern in this case looks as if he has taken the example to show a contradiction in conception but in fact if he has shown anything it is only a contradiction in the will. Posed this way it is possible to re-phrase Kant's example so that Gosseries' objection appears to have rather less bite. However he also poses a second objection to Kant's account which is based on an analogous situation. In the analogous situation we move to a domestic rather than international setting. Gosseries asks us to imagine a police raid on the Mafia and states that if the precise day of the raid was made known then the maxim of undertaking it would be rendered ineffective by means of this publicity but we would not, just because of this, take the maxim to be one that enunciated an unjust policy.

Gosseries' example is somewhat artful. By insisting on the exact day of the raid being revealed he has produced a counter-productive result. However the original example concerning annexation stated nothing concerning the timing of action in accord with the maxim so it is not clear why this analogous domestic one should do so either. A general police announcement that the raid would be undertaken would not, by contrast, have a necessarily counter-productive effect since a result of it could be to make the Mafia very cautious and unlikely to carry out as much brazen crime as previously. This is a more apt comparison. However the problem underlying Gosseries' second objection remains: what is the implied intrinsic connection between publicity and justice? We came to this question after considering the previous example of pre-emption and will return to addressing it in future postings after concluding the discussion of the role of the formulas of publicity by considering next the emergence and ground of an affirmative principle to replace the negative one with which we have been thus far concerned.

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