Monday, 2 November 2009

Sophistical Maxims

The next stage of Kant's argument in the "Appendix" to Perpetual Peace discusses the maxims that are adopted by those opposed to taking concepts of right seriously in politics. Kant reveals the conduct of these to be guided by three "sophistical" maxims. These are worth examining and listing in connection with the principles advanced by Kant himself.

The first is taking any opportunity to take possession without any sanction to do so. On these grounds the politicians in question can seize land from others and give justification for this afterwards. The key thing here is that the conduct is undertaken first and arguments advanced for it after. However, given that what Kant means here is that any argument is only allowed in the context of the facts having been first established in the way one wishes, what this really amounts to is a strategy of making the "facts on the ground" the basis for discussion independently of any analysis of the reason why the facts are what they are. Precedents for such a strategy are not difficult to find in the practice of states. The examples given here violate the 2nd preliminary article.

The second example is adopting the maxim of blaming the people for your own crimes or, alternatively, stating, as in the first case above, that human nature is to blame. The first strategy is calculated to either stir up rebellion in the people or instil despair whilst the second relies on the familiar "realist" view of humanity that denies the right of a transcendental perspective on humanity. Further, both are in violation of the positive principle of publicity.

The third example is one of adopting a general policy of divide and rule whether within your own state or in external states with the point being one of promoting power over right. This is clearly in violation of the positive principle of publicity though here Kant points out that it is only the failure of the maxims in question that really defeats those who adopt them.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

I like the facts on the ground analysis very much!