Friday, 25 September 2009

Cosmopolitan Right (I)

Kant's third definitive article for perpetual peace concerns cosmopolitan right and, like the second definitive article, is expressed in one sentence. It reads: "Cosmopolitan right shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality" (Ak. 8: 357). It is the only one of the three definitive articles to immediately limit the conditions of the right it specifies and the nature of this limitation has proved controversial in subsequent treatments of Kant's topic.

Hospitality is defined here as "the right of a foreigner not to be treated with hostility because he has arrived on the land of another" (Ak. 8: 357-8). So the limitative right in question is treated in terms of a reference to the response of nations to individuals who are not citizens. However, even within the scope of the discussion in Perpetual Peace (not to mention the wider scope of the Doctrine of Right) this initial characterization is not sufficient to account for all of Kant's discussion. Despite this, it is worth treating this initial characterization and seeing the limits that are set to it.

The next point that follows from the initial characterization that foreigner's have a right not to be treated with hostility is an indication of the narrowness of this claim. Foreigners can certainly be turned away: this is not part of what is meant by treating with hostility. They cannot, however, be turned away if this means that doing so will lead to their destruction. Since this is the case there is here a certain sense of recognition of the right of refugees since, presumably, if turning them away will lead to their destruction then there would be two reasons why this would result. Either because they were not able to support themselves independently (economic reasons) or because doing so would result in them being the victims of attack or assault (broadly political reasons of personal safety).

Kant views the claim in question as one that does not encompass any right to be a guest. To be a guest would require some form of contract between the foreigner and those who he presented himself before. At this point it is also interesting that Kant is speaking here of the foreigner presenting themselves before individuals of the state they have arrived in, not of some responsibility of the government. So, although I just suggested a form of "refugee" status was being recognized, in the absence of specific reference to duties of the state, it appears this kind of right is one that is required of the individuals of the state to which the foreigner presents themselves or that this is the primary way Kant tends to think of the matter.

The foreigner has a right to visit only and this is described in terms of the right to present himself before society, which widens the area of his right beyond that of reference to particular individuals and does invoke some sense of a responsibility of the community to whom he is presented though again without reference to the state being given. The ground of the right of visitation is based on the claim that all human beings have a right to possession in common of the earth's surface, a surface which is intrinsically limited and on which we hence naturally find ourselves in proximity to each other.

After referring to this cosmopolitan right Kant next mentions the behaviour of those who are inhospitable, a discussion that has two parts, only one of which will be treated in this posting. This first part refers to the pirates of the Barbary Coast and the Arabian Bedouin, both of whom are regarded as robbers of others and hence as peoples who behave contrary to "natural right". This reference to "natural right" also implies that cosmopolitan right is a kind of right within the state of nature, a right one can claim of anyone else, which, if right, again makes clear it has no necessary reference to state or government conduct.

The right to hospitality is next indicated to be limited to conditions that make it possible to seek commerce with the inhabitants of a given area. This reference to commerce suggests that the right to hospitality is one in which the one allowed visitation rights is, by virtue of having been granted them, further allowed to request a right to buy and sell. This right evidently would provide those who are visiting with a means to establish a livelihood which may be one of the reasons for granting them the right to commerce. A further ground for this is suggested when Kant refers to the possibility of public law entering into the relations between different parts of the world so that finally the human race could come close to a "cosmopolitan constitution".

So the first part of the discussion begins by reference to an individual right held in relation to inhabitants of foreign countries not to be treated in a hostile manner. The second point that follows is that this entails a right to visit other areas and the third part is that this right of visitation includes a right to seek commerce (note only to seek this, not to have it granted). Hence the first part of the discussion at any rate is markedly narrower than rights claimed and granted widely within the contemporary world to individuals who are not citizens of a given area and in the contemporary world reference to governments is central whereas it appears to be missing from the first part of Kant's account. In the next posting I'll visit the second part of Kant's treatment of inhospitable conduct and how it involves a reference to governments.


Timothy said...

"This reference to "natural right" also implies that cosmopolitan right is a kind of right within the state of nature"

No, not necessarily. Natural right has two references for Kant. One is as you say. The second refers to what reason tells us should be enacted as positive law. The metaphysics of morals has a lot of examples of the second.

So natural right may speak of a right to visit, but this right might only become effective under the conditions of cosmopolitan right (that, the conditions of universal hospitality)

Also, I've wondered whether it is important that Kant does not say "cosmopolitan right is limited to universal hospitality"-- Kant says that cosmopolitan right is limited the conditions for universal hospitality. Does this mean that cosmopolitan right is only operative when there is universal hospitality? Or does this mean that any conditions needed to establish universal hospitality falls under cosmopolitan right? (compare: what are the conditions of domestic constitutional right?) If the latter, this might be pretty extensive depending on the circumstances, and especially in our world. It might explain how the specification of the content of cosmopolitan right could change without the essentials of the category changing. Of course, what constitutes universal hospitality is vague.

Timothy said...

"This right evidently would provide those who are visiting with a means to establish a livelihood which may be one of the reasons for granting them the right to commerce."

In Kant's situations, why would the locals want to give visitors the means to establish a livelihood? I can understand why contemporary states might want to (or should) allow for lawful way for long-term "visitors" to establish a livihood. This gets to the ambiguities of the word commerce. It is a right to trade (which implies the other has something). Or is it a legal capacity to be part of the local society, including its economy?

Gary Banham said...

Thanks, as always, Tim, for comments. You are right that I may have been hasty in assuming that what is meant by natural right is right within the state of nature although it fits in serious respects since states are in a state of nature with regard to each other.
Didn't occur to me to think about the use of the term "conditions" in the title.
The term "commerce" is intriguing in the way you suggest and the discussion as is stands is ambiguous for sure. I assumed the right to make a living as without it the visitor would have only very limited visitation rights but, again, Kant's text is here unclear.

Timothy said...

Gary - I've also posted some long comments on cosmopolitan right, related to the issue of limits and refugees on my blog Your comments are welcome.

Also, on limits and boundaries: do you degree with the translation "religion within the the boundaries of mere reason" (you mention this in a footnote in your book) because of the reference to boundaries, not limits? Or because of the word "mere"?

Gary Banham said...

Thanks Tim: I came over earlier but will re-check.
The Religion book translation that has boundaries in the title was one I adopted for convenience since its in the Cambridge edition. Do like the word "boundaries" though.

Timothy said...

Gary: In your book, you mentioned that you disagreed with the reasons the cambridge editor gave for the translation of the title as "Religion with the boundaries of mere reason". What was your disagreement? I suspect it had to do with the word "mere" rather than "boundaries"? But what the editor says about the distinction between boundaries and limits has some bearing on our discussion. Limits, the author said, provided a negation with no implication of space outside the ear, whereas boundaries implied/allowed a territory with a space outside.

Gary Banham said...

You are right Tim that it was over the word "mere" rather than "boundaries" that I had the problem since, as Di Givoanni himself says, the predominant meaning of "mere" in English is restrictive. No real problem with him altering "limits" to "boundaries". You are right that "boundary" is suggestive in relation to cosmopolitan right.

Timothy said...

Gary - I didn't mean to say "boundaries" was suggestive in relation to cosmopolitan right. I meant the non-use of "boundaries", and the use of "limited" (eingeschränkt), could be important.was suggestive in cosmopolitan right. See my post on the limits of cosomopolitan right:

Timothy said...

Actually, Kant does say that since the earth is not unbounded....

Gary Banham said...

So there is a reference to boundaries!