Tuesday, 13 October 2009

War and Peace

After stating the 3rd definitive article of perpetual peace Kant, as if being unwilling to conclude Perpetual Peace, proceeds to write two supplements and an appendix to the work though the appendix has been partly covered in previous postings on publicity. The first of the "supplements" concerns a supposed guarantee of perpetual peace that is said to derive from "nature" itself.

After a preliminary discussion of the meaning of such terms as providence and fate Kant proceeds to describe a sense in which nature has prepared persons for the possibility of peace. Three conditions are mentioned as permitting the arrival of peace: a) the possibility of people being able to live in all parts of the globe; b) the use of war to drive people to every part of the globe, even to places intrinsically inhospitable; c) by the use of war people are driven to enter into lawful relations.

In ascribing the three conditions given to "nature" in a general sense Kant is implying a teleological argument though one of a subtle kind. Hegel is well known for insisting on a "cunning of history" by means of which outcomes that none intended are produced but Kant in this passage implies a broader cunning that makes history itself possible. In some sense, if people can survive anywhere then it is because they have had to so survive. And what has forced this upon people if not war?

In making this observation Kant further indicates a basis for thinking of war as an instrument of moral progress. This point is furthered when he reflects on the means by which war has been forged, namely, in the first instance, by domestication of animals such as horses and elephants. Not only is this the case but the settling of people that is involved in the establishment of agriculture is the basis of peaceful relations between folk, a peaceful relation brought about by a passage away from "lawless freedom". This passage from "lawless freedom" is the means by which war forces lawful relations to arise. This is further specified in the movement from hunting, which permits the dispersion of family units, to agriculture, which implies rather their settlement.

War is subsequently referred to discussed as involving a "drive to honour" (Ak. 8: 365) that provides a motive to action all of its own. The desire to display courage provides war with a certain kind of dignity so that philosophers have been known to ennoble it. However this is not the key point that emerges from war. Rather, the decisive thing is the means by which it promotes the conditions of peace and public right. This will be the subject of a subsequent posting.

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