The presentation of the argument has the following form. Firstly, Kant presents the need to distinguish between formal and material principles of practical reason. In so doing he formal principle is stated as the categorical imperative (Ak. 8: 377). The formal principle is next, unsurprisingly, presented as taking precedence over the material principle. The standpoints of the political moralist and those of the moral politician are next distinguished with the concern of the former presented as technical whilst the latter is moral. The former's problem is one of political prudence and all the concerns connected with this concept are stated to be as uncertain as the concern with happiness in general practical reason. By contrast, the problem of the moral politician is presented as requiring a search for justice as the precondition for peace.
The division between the two approaches is also then indicated to be the root of the alleged conflict between politics and morals. The conflict is based on seeing politics in a material manner whilst a formal approach to it, concentrated on the notion of public right, will accord with the formal approach to morals in general. This gives strong support to the suggestion that the Doctrine of Right should not be regarded as completely distinct from the general moral philosophy but rather as in some sense emergent from it as is suggested by the concluding argument of the first part of the "Appendix" to Perpetual Peace.