Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Affirmative Principle of Publicity

The examples discussed in the previous three postings concerning international right are followed by a discussion which effectively transforms the terrain, a discussion that is oddly entirely omitted in Axel Gosseries' article on publicity. That this omission is very odd should become clear through critical exposition of the concluding paragraphs of Perpetual Peace.

The whole direct discussion of publicity in Perpetual Peace is included in the final section of the work, a section concerned with the agreement of politics and morals. The discussion of the negative formula of publicity is intended to demonstrate that some maxims that politicians might be tempted to adopt disagree with morals where morals is understood as doctrine of right. However the problem that we found of understanding the relationship between the negative principle of publicity and justice is one that Kant himself explicitly recognizes when he states that: "one who has decisively superior power has no need to conceal its maxims" (Ak. 8: 385).

If power is sufficient in strength then considerations of counter-productivity fail to apply since the actor in question cannot be subjected to sanction. Since this is so then they can freely and openly express maxims which are completely at variance with demands of justice as, indeed, it is apparent frequently takes place. What does this indicate?

It shows that there is not a rightful condition in existence, rather, internationally, there exists a state of nature. Whilst the state of nature is not conceived by Kant in the manner of Hobbes, as equivalent to a state of war, it is nonetheless true that the only right that operates in such a condition is a private right. For a public right to exist internationally would require the formation of something analogous to the state on a domestic level. In Perpetual Peace the image of what fits this analogue is the federation of states together, a federation whose formation would have to be compatible with the freedom of the states that have so federated.

Kant does not give any further picture of the federation in question but does state now the affirmative principle of publicity as that which would ground a true international public right. This principle is stated as follows: "All maxims which need publicity (in order not to fail in their end) harmonize with right and politics combined" (Ak. 8: 386). The point here is that if a maxim requires publicity to be successfully implemented then it has a structurally different relation to ends in general than a maxim that merely complies with publicity. A maxim that needs publicity to succeed must be one that can relate to the general end of the public, the end of their welfare. If welfare is understood as a condition of contentment then the basic question would be how to ensure that this is attained in such a way that politics becomes trustworthy.

The unity of the ends of politics with the general ends of the public is attainable, on this argument, through the adoption of maxims which, in their form, require maximum publicity. In so requiring publicity they must be related to the general end of the public as otherwise partial or complete secrecy would more clearly match their end. Since this is Kant's argument it follows that the negative formula of publicity that has been considered up to this point can give no more than private right but cannot secure the passage to public right, that is, the negative formula of publicity is structurally incapable of ensuring justice. For justice to be assured there has to be the adoption of the affirmative formula as it is the only one that can be the basis of ends worthy to be adopted. Given this argument the focus on the negative formula is false. Hence Gosseries' general article has selected the wrong formula for general testing of Kant's approach to publicity.

What follows from this argument is that the relationship between the affirmative principle of publicity and the supreme principle of right needs to be grasped for a clear sense of the manner in which Kant's political philosophy can be seen to be a philosophy of publicity. That is, it is not a political philosophy that has concerns with publicity as one topic amongst others. It is rather a political philosophy that is centred on publicity.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Publicity and Annexation

The final example of the relationship between international right and publicity that Kant considers in Perpetual Peace concerns annexation. In this example the situation is that a large state has crucial parts of its territory separated by the presence of a smaller state. The larger state has some existential interest in the area that the smaller state occupies. Hence is it not justified in wishing to suppress the smaller state?

Effectively this example is the pre-emption example once again. It has merely been presented in a different way. As with the pre-emption example, there is an act that is being undertaken regardless of a threat posed by the other state on the grounds of a perceived problem that it is thought to cause. Once stated like this it is obvious that Kant will rule that the maxim of suppression of the smaller state is not permitted. As with the other examples so with this Kant appeals to counter-productivity considerations. If the large state makes the maxim of its action public then there are two possible counter-productive results. Either smaller states will come together to unite against the larger state or other powerful states will intervene. On either consideration the act of the larger state will become self-frustrating showing again that publicity of the maxim will demonstrate reasons not to undertake action in accordance with it and hence that it requires secrecy to be undertaken which makes it unjust.

Gosseries' has replied to this example and mentioned considerations that he takes to count against Kant's case. One is that in actual cases like this it is often true that the larger state can count on other states not intervening, even if the maxim of their action is made public. This shows that there is not an inherent reason given by the nature of publicity alone for failing to undertake the action or, in other words, publicity of the maxim does not, as Kant thinks, render action in accord with it necessarily self-frustrating. What does follow from the example is that publicity of the maxim would render the existence of states more precarious since it would demonstrate that nothing guarantees their continuation. In the Groundwork examples Kant distinguishes between maxims that run into a problem due to the fact that they provoke a contradiction in conception from those that provoke a problem due to provoking a contradiction in the will. Amongst the latter examples are ones concerning a generalized maxim of non-beneficence.

Kant's argument pattern in this case looks as if he has taken the example to show a contradiction in conception but in fact if he has shown anything it is only a contradiction in the will. Posed this way it is possible to re-phrase Kant's example so that Gosseries' objection appears to have rather less bite. However he also poses a second objection to Kant's account which is based on an analogous situation. In the analogous situation we move to a domestic rather than international setting. Gosseries asks us to imagine a police raid on the Mafia and states that if the precise day of the raid was made known then the maxim of undertaking it would be rendered ineffective by means of this publicity but we would not, just because of this, take the maxim to be one that enunciated an unjust policy.

Gosseries' example is somewhat artful. By insisting on the exact day of the raid being revealed he has produced a counter-productive result. However the original example concerning annexation stated nothing concerning the timing of action in accord with the maxim so it is not clear why this analogous domestic one should do so either. A general police announcement that the raid would be undertaken would not, by contrast, have a necessarily counter-productive effect since a result of it could be to make the Mafia very cautious and unlikely to carry out as much brazen crime as previously. This is a more apt comparison. However the problem underlying Gosseries' second objection remains: what is the implied intrinsic connection between publicity and justice? We came to this question after considering the previous example of pre-emption and will return to addressing it in future postings after concluding the discussion of the role of the formulas of publicity by considering next the emergence and ground of an affirmative principle to replace the negative one with which we have been thus far concerned.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

International Right and Pre-Emptive Action

The second example of international right that Kant discusses in regard to publicity concerns pre-emption. The basic case, like with the example of promising, concerns the adoption of a maxim that is said to be impossible to sustain in the light of publicity.

The example is that there is a neighbouring power that has grown to such a size that should it take action against the countries surrounding it then it would easily defeat any one of them in a one-to-one combat. Given that this is so the question arises whether these surrounding smaller states can act on the assumption that they are in danger and thus pre-emptively join together in an alliance against the larger state even though the larger state has not as yet injured them? The example of pre-emption being considered is peculiar to an audience in the twenty-first century as to us the question appears to arise not with regard to smaller countries combining together against a larger one but rather with regard to larger countries asserting that there are good reasons for less powerful nations to be treated as a hazard. 

In this case when the maxim of the smaller states' pre-emptive alliance is put to the test of publicity Kant makes clear that the test would be one where the maxim underlying their alliance was affirmatively made known. In describing the case in this way Kant is not diverging from his treatment of the promising example as in that case also it was the fact that the maxim of the head of state was divulged that led to the counter-productive result. Similarly, in the case of the pre-emptive alliance, it is the making known the maxim underlying it that leads again to a counter-productive result. Should the maxim underlying the alliance be made known then the greater power will act first and will also, as a greater power, have means to break the alliance.

So the adoption of the maxim by the smaller states will prove counter-productive and it is the fact that it will that leads it to being described by Kant as unjust. The failure to meet the standard of publicity is indicated again to reside in the fact that the publication of the maxim will ensure that acting in accordance with it will defeat the purpose enunciated in it. It still appears somewhat curious to describe this as an indication that the maxim is "unjust" unless the implied suggestion is that there is some kind of equivalence between publicity and justice. If so, what kind of equivalence is this? The nature of the relation between publicity and justice is still somewhat elusive and will have to be returned to in future postings.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

International Right and Promising

After discussing the question of the "right" to rebellion in the context of the right of a state Kant turns next in Perpetual Peace to examples that concern the right of nations. In order to discuss this area at all it is necessary to work in accord with a "presupposition" of a rightful condition and the nature of this confirms the reading given in the previous posting of Kant's account of the problems with a "right" of rebellion. Here Kant points out that public right contains "in its very concept the publication of a general will". Since this is the claim that Kant makes here it surely follows that an implied appeal to this concept was made in the earlier discussion of rebellion.

The juridical state is based for Kant on a pact but the difference between the one that establishes a state and that which would hold between states is demarcated as being that the former is based on coercive laws whilst the latter may be only a condition of continuing free association. It is the need for some kind of pact that takes us beyond the condition of the state of nature. The criterion of the doctrine of right is appealed to as a general basis of morals that politics should be governed by and the nature of this is taken to follow from the principle of publicity in some general sense.

After making these points in order to set out the notion of a right of nations Kant next discusses three examples, which we will treat to a posting each. The first example treats of promising in regard to the right of nations. One state has promised the other something and the promisor now wishes to be freed from this promise due to the assumption that fulfilling the promise will compromise the welfare of the promisor. The attempt to be released from the promise is predicated on a distinction alleged to exist between two elements of the personality of the state. On the one hand, there is the sovereign who is accountable to no further power within the state. On the other hand, there is the supreme official of the state, whose decisions are open to inspection within the state. The suggestion then would be that the latter can be released from the promise due to pressure from within the state so to do. Such a distinction, which would allow for promise-breaking, is then put to the test of publicity and the maxim is shown to fall foul of the counter-productivity test on the grounds that if it were to be made public as the basis of actions no other state would ever ally with the promise-breaking one.

The basic counter-productivity test here is clearly revealed in this case to be one that tests the purposes of adoption of a maxim. This can be seen if we compare the treatment of promising in international right to that given in general moral philosophy in the Groundwork. The examples in the Groundwork are given in the second part of the work and are iterated twice. The first set of examples occurs shortly after the categorical imperative is introduced for the first time in Groundwork II and after which it has been refined to refer to universal laws of nature. In the example of promising that follows this refinement Kant mentions the promising example as one that arises in relation to personal welfare as someone needs to borrow money and has to promise to pay it back. The difficulty in this case is that paying the money back at the time required is not within the promisor's means. So it follows that the maxim would have to be one of making a promise you know you can't keep and that, when universalized as a law of nature, turns out to be inconsistent with itself as it contradicts itself. The point of the contradiction is one of self-frustration or counter-productivity since the generalization of the maxim would abolish the very practice of promising. So the first treatment of the maxim in Groundwork II indicates the problem to be one that concerns the institution of promising. The acts of promising are not isolated but belong to a general practice and it is this practice that is endangered when a false promise is made.

The second set of examples in Groundwork II is in regard to the formula of humanity. This formula explicitly highlights the relationship between means and ends that was only implied in the universal law of nature formula. In bringing this distinction in Kant here connects it to using others as ends-in-themselves rather than only as means for ourselves. The discussion of false promising at this point hence picks out an immediate problem with adoption of a maxim permitting it since it would involve treating those who one makes a false promise to as only a means. The reason why it involves treating the other in this way is that the other could not agree to being responded to in the way that the false promising maxim would allow. 

The treatment of false promising in regard to the humanity formula requires us to look at the situation from the other's perspective and to see that if we saw things from their side we would not act as we are thinking of acting. The discussion of false promising in regard to the right of nations involves an appeal to the view of other nations in the same way but, unlike the formula of humanity discussion, it is an appeal to all others that is here made. So the discussion of false promising in the context of international right does not merely consider the parties involved but rather, like the discussion in the universal law of nature, considers a general effect, a practice. It is the practice that would lead to a counter-productive effect since the false promisor acts in such a way that the generalization of their maxim would render the adoption of the maxim itself impossible as the practice that he is operating within would cease to be operable. So counter-productivity is part of the discussion in the case of international right precisely in view of the fact that international right is treated as part of a general practice of right. The false promisor would be acting in a way that would put them beyond the minimal agreement that creates a federation and would thus be acting as an "outlaw state".

Monday, 13 July 2009

Counter-Productivity and Rebellion

Before we proceed to discuss the question of the first example of application of the negative publicity test (to maxims concerning rebellion) we would like to mention that in the interim we have corresponded with Axel Gosseries and that he has informed us that there is an up-date due later this year to his Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on "publicity". So it is just possible that these postings will help to refine the analysis in the next edition of the article.

After stating the transcendental formula of public right in Perpetual Peace Kant states that the formula is not only ethical but also juridical. The reason he makes this claim is that if there are maxims that absolutely have to be kept secret to succeed and which cannot be acknowledged without arousing a necessary and universal opposition then the latter must be based on "the injustice with which it threatens everyone" (Ak. 8: 381). This argument, whilst compressed, has two distinguishable elements. The first element is that a maxim that requires secrecy is, by virtue of that requirement, something that must be unjust. The fact that such secrecy is necessary shows that it could not withstand scrutiny and if it could not it must be in virtue of the opposition that would arise from something that could not withstand being exposed to the critical survey of a public sphere.

This first argument appears problematic in some respects (e.g. what about the need for secret agents in combat?). However it is distinct from the second argument with which Kant has bound it up. The second argument is that a necessary and universal opposition is grounded on a sense of injustice with which others are threatened and that such necessary and universal opposition is closely tied to maxims that require secrecy. This is not to say that there might not be necessary and universal opposition to some maxims that do not require publicity as well but that such necessary and universal opposition, when related to the disclosure of a maxim that had required secrecy manifests the nature of the problem with the maxim in question. In a sense, the second argument, unlike the first, is not based on publicity/secrecy alone but ties it to a general test of opposition. 

After making these general comments Kant proceeds with his first example, which is connected to the topic of right within a state. This concerns the question of whether rebellion is a legitimate means for a people to throw off the oppressive power of a tyrant. Assuming that there is such oppression then clearly the people generally are suffering from injury and something that is wrong. Further, the tyrant would have no wrong done to them were they to be overthrown. Despite making these points Kant nonetheless states that it is wrong to seek for right by this means of rebellion and having adopted such a means there would be no ground for complaint on the part of the rebels if they were to be severely punished if they failed.

The basic reason that is used in the argument to show that the path to right cannot follow this strategy of rebellion concerns the ground of what Kant terms "the civil contract" (Ak. 8: 382). The question is whether, in the establishment of a civil contract, there could be reserved the public right to rebel. Should it be possible that the people could retain such a right then the sovereign would not hold the position of head of the state at all since this would rather be held, in some unspecified and unspecifiable sense, by the people instead. What is unspoken in the argument here is something like the following: prior to the civil condition there is not a general will; the establishment of the state secures the general will by means of the constitution of sovereignty; the reservation of a right of the people against the state cannot therefore be a general will right but must rather involve relapse to the state of nature; hence there can be no "right" to rebellion in the nature of a civil contract.

To this argument is added a secondary one where the principle of publicity is used in a different way. The point Kant now makes is that it follows from the appeal to the basis of the civil contract that appeal to a reservation to rebellion cannot be part of the civil condition so it cannot be a public maxim. Hence it can only be a secret one. At this point, however, he introduces a new consideration when stating that public acknowledgement of a maxim of rebellion would make the purpose of the maxim itself impossible. Hence it would have to be kept secret, not merely because, by virtue of the nature of the civil contract in general, it could not be made public, but because it would also be counter-productive to make it public. Thus there are two separate grounds given for why the maxim of rebellion is not one that could be endorsed as a right.

The two reasons for the transcendental formula of public right reappear in the examination of the first example. The suggestion of general opposition (or universal and necessary opposition) emerging to some maxims should they become public has been translated into a counter-productivity test. Conversely the suggestion that if some maxims require secrecy in their nature they are, simply by virtue of that, unjust has been related to the ground of the civil condition. In being translated in this way these considerations have altered their initial appearance. Whilst the suggestion that some maxims, simply by virtue of requiring secrecy, are, by that means, shown to be unjust, appeared insupportable initially, it fares better if understood as a ground for what could possibly be part of the social compact. Conversely, the reference to universal and necessary opposition, if understood simply as a question of counter-productivity, is less stable as a means for assessing right than initially appeared since all that need be meant here is that if others who had more power than oneself heard of certain maxims you would have placed yourself in prudential danger (the meaning of Kant's point that you could hardly complain on suffering severe punishment after making one's maxim of rebellion manifest).

The sovereign ruler evidently possesses great power and can crush rebellion so no maxim of rebellion could be publicly adopted in effect unless this power was already weak as otherwise the power will simply act in self-defence. Conversely, although Kant does not discuss this, it could be that the other circumstance in which maxims of rebellion could be uttered in public without attracting such a response from power as he envisages would be if those who uttered them were in fact not a threat to that power. This would be so if there was no sustained ground of support for those who uttered such views so no danger to the power. In itself this counter-productivity test appears, at least with regard to this example, to tell us nothing intrinsic about justice whilst, on the other hand, the appeal to the grounds of the public condition itself, does tell us something about justice, a point we will have to examine further in relation to the Doctrine of Right.

Gosserie, in his examination of this example, also points to the problem with the counter-productivity argument as being that it simply relies on power relations and provides no ground for assessments of justice. However the other part of the argument is read by Gosserie to turn only on the question of whether the sovereign is a chief who has absolute power. Whilst the point of the argument is certainly to state that if a reservation for rebellion is made part of the civil condition that the sovereign does not possess true power the reason for this concerns the relation between the state of nature, the conditions of a general will and the formation of public right as suggested above. These points will be returned to in future postings but they suggest that Gosserie has misread this part of the argument or, at any rate, not sufficiently attended to the assumptions of the argument when it is related to parallel Kant texts to which I will connect it in later postings.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Publicity (I)

The role of publicity in Kant's political philosophy is insufficiently examined. It is discussed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the topic of publicity written by Axel Gosseries, an article that can be accessed by clicking on the title of this posting.

Gosseries' article has certain problems. What it focuses on is the articulation in Perpetual Peace of the transcendental concept of public right which is as follows: " All actions relating to the rights of others are wrong if their maxim is incompatible with publicity" (Ak. 8: 381). The translation Gosseries uses gives "other human beings" rather than "others" alone but this won't be a difference I'll examine in this posting. What Gosseries leaves out however is a later formula from Perpetual Peace that Kant explicitly states is a transcendental affirmative concept of public right: " All maxims which need publicity (in order not to fail of their end) harmonize with right and politics combined" (Ak. 8: 386). In focusing only on the earlier negative formula and not the later affirmative one issues concerning the relationship between the two including the determination of different outcomes depending on which is used are left out of his discussion.

What Gosseries' article does do is distinguish between different kinds of publicity with hypothetical publicity described as involving ideal publics as opposed to actual publicity which would be concerned with non-ideal publics. The problem with this distinction, when applied to Kant's formulas of public right, is that it tends to break down. So the test that the criterion of the formula is stated by Gosserie to apply to is that of an ideal public but the specific examples that Kant considers, by contrast, are indicated by Gosserie, to be examples of non-ideal publics. The examples, which will be discussed in subsequent postings, concern whether there is a right of rebellion and three different questions concerning relations between states. The right of rebellion is also treated in Kant's Doctrine of Right and is the subject of a number of recent articles in both Philosophy and Public Affairs and Kantian Review

The relation between the apparent ideal public invoked in the formula and the actual public considered in the example is stated by Gosserie to involve the ideal public being a judge of the actual one. This suggests a connection of the considerations of publicity to the invocation of the role of the spectator in connection with the French Revolution in The Conflict of the Faculties, although this connection is not referred to by Gosserie. Quite apart from considerations about this specific example and the difficulties understanding Kant's treatment of it the notion of the distinction between the ideal and the actual public appears to be a difficult one. What Gosserie takes to be involved in the notion of an "actual public" is one that is capable of taking part in debates concerning something and whose capacity for debate is hence taken, in some sense, as given. The ideal public, by contrast, would appear to be a public whose capacity for reasoning is not bound by specific contingent characteristics and is capable of considering matters in a purely rational manner.

The confusions that are attendant on this distinction surely apply to most considerations of Kantian practical philosophy. After all, does the general appeal in Kant to universal laws suggest that such laws are currently appealed to in moral discourse? The argument of the first part of the Groundwork is surely affirmative and yet this does not prevent it from also being true, as Kant was well aware, that in cases of moral conflict there is a tendency to prioritize the content of certain kinds of commitment and to by-pass the nature of their form with the result that the conflict appears insoluble. So, in a fundamental sense, Kant must surely generally be suggesting that contained within the debates of actual publics is a form that is implicitly appealed to by them but which, if consistently held as a standard within them, would render them ideal publics. All the same, the ideal public is not distinct in kind from the actual public on this standard.

A further question concerns the status of the appeal to the publicity formula in Kant's work. Gosserie suggests at one point that it is the equivalent, in political terms, of the categorical imperative in the general moral philosophy. The problem with this suggestion is, that if it were true, one would expect it to be invoked at the beginning of Kant's primary work of political philosophy, the Doctrine of Right. However it is not the cornerstone of that work, rather, in that work, Kant refers instead to the universal principle of right which states: "Any action is right if it can coexist with everyone's freedom in accordance with a universal law,or if on its maxim the freedom of choice of each can coexist with everyone's freedom in accordance with a universal law". (Ak. 6: 230). This principle does not directly refer to publicity at all but is rather concerned to establish a relation between freedom and universal law, a relation that is also important in the general moral philosophy as revealed in the argument of Groundwork III and also the Critique of Practical Reason discussion of the "fact of reason". Since this concern reappears at the centre of the Doctrine of Right it is evident that there is a close relationship between Kant's political philosophy and his general moral philosophy. 

Since the formulas of publicity are not stated at the opening of the Doctrine of Right as key to Kant's political philosophy and yet they do play a key role in the conclusion of Perpetual Peace two questions arise that will begin to be explored in future postings. Firstly, what is the role that the formulas of publicity play in Perpetual Peace and how does the use of them help Kant to establish there some key rules for political activity and are these rules, as Gosserie suggests, best understood as guidelines for justice? Secondly, what is the relationship between these formulas of publicity and the universal principle of right? This second question opens into a broader third one, namely, what is the status of publicity in Kant's general doctrine of right? 

The first question mentioned does however require considerable attention due to the fact that the formulas of publicity in Perpetual Peace are connected to the examination of the examples mentioned earlier so in specifying the role of these formulas it is necessary to look closely at the examples Kant gives and how he understands them. This is complicated further by the fact that the examples treated in Perpetual Peace are also discussed in other works so the discussion of the role of the formulas in Perpetual Peace cannot be taken as one that is only settled by discussion of that specific text as the relationship of it to other Kant works will also need to be examined.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Green Dam and the Great Firewall of China

It appears that, at least for the moment, the government of China has drawn back from vastly extending internet censorship. The development of software, to be installed on all new PCs manufactured, that would have blocked a host of significant web-sites and further interfered with the running of the machine when certain banned keywords were used at all, has, in the form currently developed, been dropped.

The software in question, Green Dam Youth Escort, was ostensibly designed to block pornography and hence protect immature minds from being corrupted. It is clear that this was not the main point of the software. On the one hand, there are presently existent a number of tools for parental control and the Green Dam in fact blocks them. It is even less effective than such existent tools since it is simpler to uninstall it. On the other hand, it was intended to include in its reach any sites that had gay or gay-related content, regardless of whether this included visual material or was primarily concerned with political campaigning. In any event, the Green Dam only works on Windows client applications, blocking Internet Explorer but doing nothing to Macs. Finally, not signposted within the public material surrounding the software, was its real rationale for being developed, namely, to extend control of political discourse.

There are three general points worth making about the development of Green Dam and its failure. Firstly, the development of it was a further reach of government censorship in the sense that it was intended to apply to specific individual machines. In this respect it marked a departure from the general Great Firewall of China. The general firewall acts as a filter on internet content overall and is not a device for spying on specific machines. The general firewall operates by two main mechanisms. These are tampering with the domain name system and blocking the internet protocol. The latter is the more important as it means internet connection can simply be terminated when a banned keyword is loaded. This happens by connection back to the remote server which is first blocked and then re-set.

The second point is that the reason why the Green Dam has failed is not primarily due to political pressure though that has arisen both within and without China. Rather, the software in question was intrinsically vulnerable. On testing it was discovered that it opened machines that had it installed to being turned into remote drones for malicious external users. This severely compromised the security of all machines that had it loaded and it was this that was the focus of complaints from the US and the EU. Hence its defeat was not undertaken in defence of free-speech but in defence of general trade specifications.

The third point is that the authorities in China continue to show the wish to censor both individual machines and the general internet. The clear reasons for this remain the same as always: to suppress dissent and retain control of the narrative as to what is understood as the right political view of any given event or situation. This censorious control is obviously not limited to China but, given the size of China and its increasing importance in global economic and political affairs, the acts of its government in this regard are especially significant. This clearly raises a question about human rights, particularly free speech. However the point that is worth stressing here is that free speech itself has changed its character in a situation in which the public sphere has become global. 

Kant's original argument in What is Enlightenment? that the freedom of the pen was the most important freedom can now be connected closely to his general argument that in the modern world violation of right anywhere can be felt everywhere. The reasons why violations of right can be felt everywhere are because the pen has been superseded as the means of communication by a force of publicity that is much greater than Kant would have expected. The global expansion of the public sphere enables transparent checking of sources, free flow of information and ideas with the potential for criticism of each and every political regime, a key point for anyone who wishes to argue for the need for societies to be open.

The centrality of such extension of the public sphere has also been at the centre of the continuing political upheaval in Iran where the general control of telecommunications has been challenged by the proliferation of contacts between netizens of different states. In terms of political struggle the campaign for internet freedom has hence become a central battle-ground.