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Essay/Term paper: Kant

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Philosophy

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Immanuel Kant
By: Yonna Yelverton

Immanuel Kant was a man before his time. His philosophies, as outlined in
Perpetual Peace, paved the way for modern political relations. Unbeknownst
to his day and age, his insights were a revelation. They were seeds planted
and left unsewn for 120 years. As a first and second image theorist, Kant
mixes his liberal and realist views to paint a picture of "perpetual peace." His
essay outlines the actions that nations should take to achieve this lofty
objective. Through his layout of behavioral and philosophical ideologies, he
believes nations can truly live synchronically. The first section of Kant's essay
contains articles that specifically state the actions that nations should take to
enable them to establish a world peace. These six articles must become the
law of a nation endeavoring for peace. The first article applies to treaties of
peace. In the first article he explains that states entering into peace treaties
must resolve all problems that lead them to war. All parties must make
known their issues and work to rectify them. Thus, in the future, there will be
no circumstance that will lead them to war again amongst each other. The
second of these laws communicates the need for all independent nations to be
free from the seizure of another state. The next article is in complete
opposition to the realist theory. Kant explains that all nations need to
gradually dispense of their armed forces. He believes that armies held by
nations increase the tension of their rivals. This makes them increase the size
of their military. Here, Kant indirectly addresses the realist Prisoner's
Dilemma. He believes that international conflicts arise from mistaken beliefs,
as well as inadequate information and bad governments. As each side
increases their military, the more likely a war will start. Thus, the paradox of
the Prisoner's Dilemma. Kant argues that because humans have rationality,
they can break out of the Prisoner's Dilemma. This is a fundamental
difference between Kant and a traditional realist such as Morgantheau. The
fourth law is about a nation's debt to the others. In this law, Kant argues that
nations indebted to one another will cause war. He states in this article that if
a nation face bankruptcy, then the nations that have loaned it funds will also
be adversely affected. Also, sovereignty of a nation is another law that Kant
argues to be important to world peace. Nations, he says, must not interfere
with the constitution of another. He implicitly reaffirms the principals of the
Treaty of Wesphaylia - sovereignty and noninterference. In the final article,
Kant addresses war directly. He states that if nations are at war, then they
should refrain from doing things during the course of war that would cause the
other nations to distrust them in future times of peace. By this, he is referring
to the use of assassins and treasonous deeds. This concludes the first section
of his essay. The second section of "Perpetual Peace" is more in depth. Kant
gives us three articles that define what type of government nations must apply
to reach a perpetual peace. He begins this section by arguing that it is not in
man's nature to be at peace. He declares that the natural state of man is war.
He goes on to say: "...for the suspension of hostilities does not provide the
security of peace..." (111) However, it can be reached in a state of
lawfulness. Kant explains why republican constitutions are vital to ensure the
peace of nations. He reasons this by arguing that this is the only type of
government that guarantees freedom and equality of the people. Kant goes
on to state that the republican form of government is the most difficult to form
and maintain. But, he reaffirms that a republic is the type of government most
apt to achieve peace because it gives its people a voice, ensures
consequences for lawbreakers, and imposes a system of checks and
balances to divide the power equally amongst governmental bodies. Also, in
this article, Kant addresses the concept of sovereignty. Nations must not
interfere with the constitution of another because it may cause a war. In the
second article, Kant discusses his theory of a federation of nations. Wilson
referred to these ideas in his fourteen points. This theory encompasses the
ideas behind the creating of a League of Nations. This would help ensure that
every nation is pursuing what is in the best interest of world politics and not
just its own interest. This is Kant's liberal third image thinking at its height. On
this subject Kant explains: "A league of a special sort must therefore be
established, on that we can call a league of peace, which will be distinguished
from a treaty of peace because the latter seeks merely to stop one war, while
the former seeks to end all wars forever." (115) The third article is what Kant
calls the cosmopolitan right. This law deals with a nation's peaceful
obligations to visitors from other nations. The law states that if a person is
visiting another nation, then that nation should treat him kindly and show him
no ill will. He further elaborates on the rights of nations to chose whether or
not to give a visitor extended or permanent residence. He believes that the
more nations interact, the less likely it is for war to break out between them.
He closes his writings with two supplements and an appendix. At this point in
his essay, Kant turns to a more philosophical viewpoint. He discusses a man's
tendency to be in a state of war. Kant titles it the "Secret Article for Perpetual
Peace." The secret is that the government should consult with philosophers on
matters of the state without the knowledge of the people. He believes that
philosophers are essential to searching for and solving the problems of war.
He explains that people revere the government as wise and must keep the
consultation private. But, he would like to make it possible for the
philosophers speak freely to the public. The end of his essay is entrenched in
his liberalism. He argues that politics needs some sense of morality for a
nation to stay at peace. Again, he refers to man's natural state as a state of
war. In his appendix, he shares his view on how we can leave our natural
state for one of peace. This demonstrates how he turns a realist view liberal.
He sees the solution in the choices of mankind. He argues that people must
do what is right and make their decisions based on the good of the republic
to make peace become a reality. The majority of Kant's essay is based on
liberal theory. He relies heavily on second image theories with his beliefs in
republican constitutions. He sees the causes of war to be linked to the nature
of state and government. He believes that states should form a union and not
merely act on their own accord. Kant reiterates: "For the sake of its own
security, each nation can and should demand that the others enter into a
contract resembling the civil one and guaranteeing the rights of each. This
would be a federation of nations, but it must not be a nation consisting with
nations" (115) A realist would find it difficult to be drawn into this type of
contract. Their philosophy is strictly first image and deals only with power.
Kant disagrees with a philosophy based solely on power struggles. He argues
that if the state meets his long term needs, then man will act in ways that best
serve the state. This also opposes the realist ideology. For instance, realists
argue that men only make decisions that affect him on a short run basis. In its
very conception, a republican government is a long term undertaking. His
main connection with the realist theory is his admittance that the natural state
of man is war. He confronts this throughout his essay. "The state of peace
among men living in close proximity is not the natural state; instead, the
natural state is one of war, which does not exist in open hostilities, but also in
constant and enduring threat of them." (111) Kant argues that if we involve
morality in our decisions and choose what is right for our nation, then
perpetual peace will surely come. Throughout the essay, Kant offers his
views on avoiding war through compromising, problem solving, morality, and
a coming together of states to ensure peace. These ideals oppose the realist
thought because they do not place all the emphasis on war and power.
Instead, he focuses on the first image theories of the psychology of man and
relies heavily on second image theories of the nature of the state. Kant
stresses rule of law throughout his essay. He wants a governmental system
created whereby you have a society of laws and not of men. Kant starts out
at the first image as a realist by admitting the inherent warlike human nature of
mankind. As he moves to the second image he moves toward more liberal
beliefs. He sees the state as a means of implementing a moral society with a
structure that leaves no room for misbehavior. At the third image he becomes
quite liberal. If states can abide by laws, then they can work together in
harmony and morality. This is in sharp contrast with a classic realist like
Morgantheau who sees no room for morality in international relations.
However, Kant is not a naive liberal. For instance, he agrees with Thomas
Hobbes when he concurs that there is no law above the state. With this
knowledge in hand, he urges states to overcome their natural instincts and do
what will ensure a perpetual peace. Or else, he warns: "...the destruction of
both parties along with all rights is the result - would permit perpetual peace
to occur only in the vast graveyard of humanity as a whole." (110)

Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 1983.  

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