Friday, 11 September 2009

Peace and the Civil Condition

Prior to setting out the definitive articles of perpetual peace Kant first provides a bridge towards them in the form of a short paragraph and appended footnote. This opens the second section of Perpetual Peace as the discussion of the division of the preliminary articles and footnote on permissive laws closed the first part.

In the paragraph Kant points out that a condition of peace is not a natural condition as the state of nature is rather characterised by a constant possibility of war. This is a central point as, on the basis of making it, Kant argues that peace is something that has to be established or, in other words, it is an institution. The basis of it is something more than mere cessation of hostility, as Kant opened the whole discussion of perpetual peace by saying. To assure peace is to take away the relation to another of being an actual or potential enemy. Hence peace is a condition in which others no longer possess this status but are rather, in some sense, fellows with oneself.

The implication of this point is again drawn out in the footnote where Kant argues that actual wrong does not have to befall me for it to be the case that I can rightly respond to someone with hostility. Or, at any rate, this is the case in the state of nature. In a state of civil law there does have to be some wrong done to me for the relation of hostility to be justified, but this is not so in the state of nature.The civil condition is one in which there is a superior power between myself and others and the existence of this superior power ensures I have assurance that I am safe from others, an assurance that is the basis for ceasing to view them as enemies. By contrast, in a state of nature, where such superior power does not exist then there is only a relation to others in a general sense of hostility. Due to this there is the basis for coercion towards the creation of a civil condition.

Now the key point that emerges at this stage of the argument is that there are 3 ways in which a civil constitution can be specified:

1) with regard to the citizens of a state. This is the usual sense meant and the predominant concern of political theory. It shapes all the initial discussion in the Doctrine of Right.

2) with regard to the right of nations, that is, states in relation to each other. This is the central basis of international right. So it follows from the discussion to this point that there are institutional conditions for a civil peace between states. This is a central point that shows the ground for concern with international affairs in Kant's political theory.

3) with regard to the citizens of the world. Here Kant includes both individuals and states together in a general condition of a "universal state of mankind" (Ak. 8: 349). This is what he also terms cosmopolitan right. So the difference between international right and cosmopolitan right is that the former concerns the relations between states and the establishment of peace in relation to them whilst cosmopolitan right, by distinction, concerns the relations of individuals on a world scale in addition to the relations between states. It follows from the fact that Kant admits of the notion of cosmopolitan right that not everything of significance internationally concerns the regulation of inter-state relations alone but that there is still a ground for concern for the fate of individuals. The inclusion of this notion also suggests however that, just as states stand in a state of nature relation to each other on Kant's account, so, individual members of distinct states are in this relation with regard to individual members of other states.

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