Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Division of the Preliminary Articles

After detailing the 6th preliminary article and prior to moving to the 3 definitive articles Kant proposes a division of the preliminary articles. This division concerns the distinction between the "strict" articles that are required to be implemented at once and the ones that include latitude. Here I'll first mention the way the division demarcates the preliminary articles before reflecting on the principle by which the division is meant to be justified and whether Kant has applied it well.

The articles that are presented as "strict" and requiring immediate implementation are the first, the fifth and the sixth. The first is the one that most clearly related to principles of publicity ruling out secret reservations in the case of peace treaties. The 5th concerned the general rule of non-intervention in the constitution and government of other states and the 6th concerned dishonourable stratagems in times of war. The 6th article does relate to a publicity test though it is not primarily set out in terms of it whilst the 5th was found to be complicated both in including a mitigation and a mitigation of the mitigation.

The articles that would involve "latitude" in application and no necessary immediate action would be the second, third, and fourth, concerning the purchase of one state by another, the abolition of standing armies and the ruling out of national debt with regard to external affairs. The 3rd and 4th are the ones commonly thought to be out of date though I cast doubt on this assumption but the second on acquiring a state certainly could not be thought so.

The principle at work in Kant's distinction between the preliminary articles is between articles that require immediate implementation and ones that can be delayed though not indefinitely. The reason why delay can be given any room at all is not however clearly indicated with only one example treated as providing any reason at all. This is the example of the 2nd preliminary article on acquiring a state. Though such acquisition is not in accord with right there was a general public opinion which accepted it at the time says Kant. Even if this is correct it is unclear how it relates either to the article on standing armies or that on national debt. Further more, there is often support in public opinion for the use of the dishonourable stratagems of article 6 but this has not prevented Kant from placing these under the heading of "strict" articles.

It has to be said that this division of the articles is not handled in a way that either shows a serious ground for differential treatment of the specific requirements of the articles or why it is applied in the way it is. This account is perhaps one of the least satisfactory of the arguments in Perpetual Peace.


Tim Waligore said...

Gary- let me suggest a possible distinction based on publicity, and also peace.

Consider especially 1 and 2. For 1: Presumably, secret reservations to treaties were made in the past. Similarly, acquisitions of states through marriage, exchange, etc. were made in the past.
So why do Kant say 1 must be implemented immediately, but is more subtle about 2?
1 involves secret mental reservations: no one can know what these are. They can always be revived. Peace is impossible if they are forever revived.
2 involves acquisitions that were public. People know what these were. They were made in accordance with the rules of the time. Leaving in place the results of those acquisitions does not necessarily make peace impossible in the future (in fact, trying to undo it, at least immediately, may make it impossible).

3 involves standing armies - they are by nature public.

4 involves public debt. Again, public. By saying we allow them to continue, everyone knows what we're allowing to continue (for now). Progress can be publically checked.

6 makes peace impossible in the sense, perhaps, that the strategems are secret. There's more to say, and I'm not sure how 5 would fit in.

It seems in general that once you go down the road of 2, 3, and 4, it doesn't help peace and may harm it to stop things immediately. You are in the ditch and have got to get out.

However, for 1, 6, and I guess 5, the matter is different. Added to what I said above, any public acceptance of the immediate possibility pf 1, 5, or 6 would make everyone insecure. However, with 2, 3, and 4, states/leaders may make different judgments about when they should stop such tactics, or dismantle them. They make subjective judgments about when to delay implementation.

However, if 1, 5, and 6, allowed such subjective judgments about when to delay implementation, peace would forever be impossible; if you can bring up mental reservations at any time, I can't count on you to keep the public version of the treaty. If you can interfere with constitutions of other states at any time, you don't respect the state as an instrument of law (doesn't quite fit).

Perhaps the difference is that with 2, 3, and 4, other states can make judgments about your progress.

Gary Banham said...

Thanks very much for this: you make a much better case for the division that is manifest in the text of *Perpetual Peace* and it makes me wonder why Kant didn't do a better job (or make the considerations in question more explicit). I like the general argument concerning publicity here though would point again to his peculiar remark about "public opinion" which, unless construed in a specifically normative way, doesn't do the work Kant seems to want it to.
5, has, I think, some real specific problems that I want to return to in a future posting. There are a lot of questions about it. But thanks very much for this comment: I'll ponder it further!