Friday, 16 October 2009

Philosophy and Perpetual Peace

The 2nd supplement to Perpetual Peace specifically concerns philosophy. Kant opens it by distinguishing between objective and subjective secrecy concerning public right. Objectively there is no ground for secrecy as the content of public right is intrinsically public, a point whose amplification we will later find when we turn from Perpetual Peace to the Doctrine of Right. However, the fact that this objective publicity is attached to public right does not entail that there cannot be a certain subjective secrecy attached to it. The subjective secrecy concerns the authorship of certain parts of what can be granted in terms of its content with Kant giving the example that a person may find it prejudicial "to his dignity to announce publicly that he is its author" (Ak. 8: 368).

However whilst the example of subjective secrecy that Kant initially gives concerns authors the discussion that he next opens does not concern them but rather focuses on readers. What he declares to be the "sole article" of this kind that concerns perpetual peace is that the maxims of philosophers concerning the conditions under which public peace is possible should be consulted by states that are arming for war. This "sole article" is understood to involve secrecy in the sense that rulers of states will not wish to make evident the reference to advice that emerges from their subjects. So, rather than openly acknowledging the use of such statements from philosophers it will rather be the practice of states to only tacitly allow the debates of philosophers to take place without indicating that they are in sense being guided by such.

The point about this so-called "secret article" is that it is aimed at making manifest the need for publicity concerning the philosophical debate over the nature of public peace! This "secret article" is also indicated to be based on "universal (morally legislative) human reason" (Ak. 8: 369). So not only is the content of the article officially public it is something indicated to be based effectively on the moral common sense of humanity.

After inserting a discussion of the way in which philosophy is subordinate in practice to other powers in the state Kant returns to the point that rulers should enable the class of philosophers to both exist and debate, not least because philosophers are, he states, incapable of forming seditious factions or clubs. Hence philosophers are not agents of propaganda.

This "secret article" can hardly be understood other than as a reversion to the statement of the first paragraph of Perpetual Peace where Kant argued that since the worldly-wise statesman looks down on the philosopher due to the latter's ineffectual ideas that they cannot consistently state that they face danger from such ideas! In articulating the need for such publicity for philosophy Kant doubtless had in mind the suppression many thinkers faced across Europe in the wake of the French Revolution. There is also ancient precedent as the Roman emperor Domitian exiled philosophers from his polity on the grounds that they were in fact agents of sedition.

The general importance of this "secret article" is the way it introduces the topic of publicity into the discussion of perpetual peace, hence paving the way for the turn, in the appendix, to the formulas of publicity that were discussed in previous postings.


Timothy said...

I read the "sole article" a bit differently. The secret part is not simply that philosophers are the source of the advice. Rather, the secret is that states, which are looking after their prudent interests, but also are concerned with their dignity, secretly say that the maxims of philosophers should be listened to. What is a secret is that states are the author of the permission to speak.

The "author" of the secret article is the state, not the "philosophers" (who are "authors" only in the sense they are writers).

However, at the same time, reason also commands the secret article (that philosophers should be listened to).

Interestingly, there is a sort of dialectic here. Prudence requires that states listen to their subjects, but their dignity does not allow that. One solution (not mentioned explicitly by Kant) too such a dialectic is the abolition of sovereign states. Indeed, this might be the reason why states would subjectively want such an article: they get their cake (prudence) and get to eat it too (dignity, i.e. sovereign state status, majesty, etc.).

Gary Banham said...

Thanks for this though not sure it conflicts with anything I said since I didn't claim the author of the article was "philosophers" but rather that the discussion focused mainly on the readers of the article rather than the author (whoever that is) of it. The reference to "reason" is fairly specific since morally universal legislation is referred to which indicates a reference to the categorical imperative I think. I agree there is a kind of dialectic of the sort you mention.

Timothy said...

You said:

"However whilst the example of subjective secrecy that Kant initially gives concerns authors the discussion that he next opens does not concern them but rather focuses on readers."

How does it focus on readers? Who are the readers?

Are you saying that sovereigns/states are the readers (of what philosophers advise)?

(If not this, i assume you are making some sort of reference to the public sphere, those who read books. If so, perhaps the sovereign is either the author of letting the public sphere occur AND/OR the author of even what comes out of it. That is, the philosopher can impute to the sovereign the permission to have let him speak (silence is consent) AND/OR we can go even further and say that the work of philosophers (and maybe readers) is authored by the sovereign. This does not mean the sovereign printed the words, just that it can be imputed to him in some fashion.

Alternatively, the philosophers are the authorized publishers of universal reason. That is to say, what they come up with can be imputed to universal reason. Philosophers are like reason's minister. Further, state sovereigns authorize this by their silence. They can stop this if they PUBLICLY command philosophers not to stop.

Gary Banham said...

By the readers I meant the states really. The subsequent discussion is of the maxims of the philosophers and I understood the turn to be one towards the conditions of them being able to publish and be read.

Timothy said...

The reference to reason, is, I think, saying that the obligation to obey the secret article is already present in obligation by [Verplichtung] by universal (morally legislative) human reason, so that means the agreement of states with one another to consult their citizens does not need any special agreement.

This makes it a natural law -- it has force even without any actor publicly announces it as a law (in contrast, merely positive laws only have force if posited by an authority.) Kant says in the Metaphysics of Morals that natural laws can seen as obligatory through reason alone. However, such natural laws can also generally be posited.

So here Kant is saying that there need be no international agreement on arrangements for this article-- no such arrangements are needed for this article to have effect. This article binds states, even before there are international institutions.

Timothy said...

Also, I very much wonder if the "permissive law" relates at all to this. I am thinking of the PL in section 2 of the metaphysics of morals, which gives an authorization which we would not otherwise have had, to have something as our own because we have been the first to take into our possession.

Who authors this permissive law?

Does anyone?

Does Kant keep this a secret? If so, why? Because it is beneath the dignity to announce who/what it is?

Of course, it is not clear that allowing people to speak is a permissive law (more precisely-- states should give a hearing...)

Timothy said...


I believe the secret article was only added in the second edition of perpetual peace. It was a secret to earlier readers!

And what do you make of the reference to "kingly peoples"? Is that a reference to popular sovereignty?

Gary Banham said...

I agree that the reference to universal human reason makes clear that this secret article applies irrespective of the existence of international institutions. Don't you think this also indicates that it refers, in some sense, either to the categorical imperative or the supreme principle of right?

Gary Banham said...

Not clear why you raise the topic of "permissive law" here. What connection do you see? Like the notion that it was withheld from the first edition of the work!

Timothy said...

I invoked the permissive law for perhaps strange reasons. Here, in perpetual peace, the secret article keeps hidden the author of the law. It also refers to how the law is commanded by universal reason.

In section 2 of the metaphysics of morals, Kant talks about a permissive law. (I'm putting aside the discussion of the permissive law in PP, though that has interesting objective and subjective elements.)

However, how wills this law? Kant does not tell us who the author is, except perhaps reason. He does not say it is god, for example. Actually, perhaps he says that we will it as a presupposition each time we claim something as ours and exercise our freedom (that is, we will that it is possible to possess something as mine or yours, specifically, the first one to possess it gets it.

In both cases, we do not have an explicit higher institutional authority saying something that allows for an authorization we would not already had.

Rather, the silence is assumed to create an authorization, due to prudence, and also because of assuming states would find it beneath their dignity to seek advice of subjects. i wonder if something corresponds to the permissive law in MM. Who is the author that is not announced? Indeed, section 2 might also have to do somewhat with prudence, as the conditions of nature do not allow us to wait until all are in agreement before willing something is mine. otherwise, not property ever gets off the ground.

Interesting, suppose you accept what I said about prudence of states listening to philosophers, but not commanding it because it is beneath its dignity.

Timothy said...

"Don't you think this also indicates that it refers, in some sense, either to the categorical imperative or the supreme principle of right?"

I'm not sure. I'm a bit suspicious of applying the CI directly to the doctrine of right (or perpetual peace). Perhaps it is a CI, but I am not sure if it is the CI. As for the supreme principle of right: I assume you mean D in the intro. (or C?)

Timothy said...

Also, do you think all of the articles in PP relate either to the CI or the supreme principle of right? Or just the secret one?

Gary Banham said...

Still don't really see much point in invoking permissive law here.
With regard to the point about CI or the supreme principle of right: the reason I think a reference to one or the other is involved with specific regard to the "secret" article is due to the reference to morally universal reason here. The fact that it is invoked suggests CI but I am mindful of the problem of thinking through the relationship between CI and the doctrine of right and that's why I wondered whether, alternatively, the reference could be to the supreme principle of right.
By the "supreme" principle I was referring to the "universal" principle of right (C) at Ak. 6:230.