Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides)

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1. Introduction

But the point is that Kant suggests that, as soon as we decipher the internal mechanism and goal of nature, we can accelerate the dynamics of the necessity-structure of history. So, it is not the point whether his proposal is objectively true, but whether it can mobilize people.

Kant thinks that for this purpose he has to develop a kind of political ontology, namely a description of human nature where the political is an essential part of the human nature. This is why he considers necessary to detach the human being from the idea of metaphysical freedom and transcendence, namely from all that can lead individuals to relativize this life, this earth, and, consequently, make cosmopolitan activism unattractive.

So, in IaG he proposes to conceive the human, its history and destination within a framework of secularization and absolute immanence in order to make consistent and desirable his idea of ontologico-political cosmopolitanism. But Kant thinks that his proposal is even in the context of the Enlightenment original. This notion of cosmopolitanism is, to my view, what Kant thinks it has to be explained, since this is the point Schultz did not mention.

Furthermore, for Kant the opposition in the cultural struggle for the progress of humanity is not the theological opposition between the children of Heaven and the sons of the Earth, but the secularized antagonism between the last ones and the cosmopolitan, as we read it in his Reflections on the Anthropology. There is thus no another world for the cosmopolitan.

As Kant says at the end of IaG : it is all about convincing people to stop looking for the solutions beyond earthly existence. The political idea of a cosmopolitan order or of a praxis towards perpetual peace are essentially a result of the historical development of a natural disposition in the human being. In defining the oscillating nature of human beings at the beginning of IaG Kant does not situate individuals between animals guided by instincts and moral free beings, but between the former and the cosmopolitan as the individual who has grasped that the human is a nature creature destined to achieve a specific goal of nature : the establishment of international legal order as the basis for the total development of the potentialities of humankind.

Again: this life, this earth, are the limits. Kant talks in IaG about a cosmopolitan germ and a cosmopolitan disposition. Kant is, nevertheless, not a materialist. We can say that his ontologization of cosmopolitanism naturalizes cosmopolitanism and politics, but we also have to say that the nature of this naturalization is not the nature of the first critique nor the nature of the third one. As already said: nature is providence. The real subject of history is the humankind.

In the second critique this impossibility leads us to the postulate of immortality: we infinitely strive to the accomplishment of the task. In the article of the conclusion reads: because the realization of the whole task exceeds the limits and capacities of individual earthly existence, the individual cannot be the addressee of the summons.

Nature orders this task to the species. The species is immortal, we die. Our goal is not happiness, but self-sacrifice for the next generations. Another question: if the progress of humanity ordered by nature implies the cultivation of reason and the creation of institutions that guarantee freedom: is Enlightenment really an emancipation from nature or a free resolution to politically intervene in history in order to accelerate the hidden plan of nature? We have mentioned two main problems: the first one concerns the method: Kant works genetically and the whole argument is apagogical, a kind of demonstration Kant actually rejects in the theory of method of his first critique.

Fichte follows the Enlightenment credo that there is a religion in which all men agree. This universal religion, which constitutes the essence of every historically determined religion, is based on the premise that all rational individuals possess the same moral capacity and can understand the necessity and validity of universal moral principles. Unlike particular religions, conditioned through the Zeitgeist , history and culture, universal religion refers to a natural disposition of man to transcend the limits of given experience.

In the Kantian account, free world trade or free market economy is crucial for the development of the real conditions of possibility for legal cosmopolitanism. Kant understands free world trade as a manifestation of the antagonism that characterizes human beings and States. Like Kant, Fichte defends the idea of a cosmopolitan consideration of human history and destiny in teleological terms: there is a plan, there is a goal, there is providence.

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But Fichte is not as radical as Kant in secularizing the history and the destiny of humanity. Nature is for Fichte not the real name for providence. Human destiny goes beyond the limits of this life and this earth. This world is teleologically subordinated to a higher existence. Because the cosmopolitan point of view let people critically consider their own nation-state, laws and customs. This progress implies of course establishment of rational rightful international relations.

State action that is a hindrance to freedom can, when properly directed, support and maintain freedom if the state action is aimed at hindering actions that themselves would hinder the freedom of others. Such state coercion is compatible with the maximal freedom demanded in the principle of right because it does not reduce freedom but instead provides the necessary background conditions needed to secure freedom. The amount of freedom lost by the first subject through direct state coercion is equal to the amount gained by the second subject through lifting the hindrance to actions.

State action sustains the maximal amount of freedom consistent with identical freedom for all without reducing it. Freedom is not the only basis for principles underlying the state. The direct link to action comes when pursuing that autonomously chosen conception of happiness. Equality is not substantive but formal. Each member of the state is equal to every other member of the state before the law. Kant exempts the head of state from this equality, since the head of state cannot be coerced by anyone else.

This formal equality is perfectly compatible with the inequality of members of the state in income, physical power, mental ability, possessions, etc. Further, this equality supports an equality of opportunity: every office or rank in the political structure must be open to all subjects without regard for any hereditary or similar restrictions. Independence concerns citizens as subject to laws they give themselves, i. While this principle appears to require universal democratic decision making for particular laws, Kant instead understands this principle on two levels, one of which is not universal and the other of which is not for particular laws.

At one level, that of participation in determination of particular laws, citizenship does not extend to all. Kant excludes women and children, weakly claiming that their exclusion is natural, as well as anyone who lacks economic self-sufficiency. Hence decision making is not universal.

At the second level, he claims that all members of the state, as subjects of the law, must be able to will the basic law that governs them. Hence decision making at this level is not for particular laws.


Cosmotechnics as Cosmopolitics

Particular laws, in contrast, are to be determined by a majority of the citizens with voting rights, as will be discussed in section 4. Kant provides two distinct discussions of social contract. One concerns property and will be treated in more detail in section 5 below. This original contract, Kant stresses, is only an idea of reason and not a historical event.

Any rights and duties stemming from an original contract do so not because of any particular historical provenance, but because of the rightful relations embodied in the original contract. No empirical act, as a historical act would be, could be the foundation of any rightful duties or rights. The idea of an original contract limits the sovereign as legislator. The consent at issue, however, is also not an empirical consent based upon any actual act. The set of actual particular desires of citizens is not the basis of determining whether they could possibly consent to a law.

Rather, the kind of possibility at issue is one of rational possible unanimity based upon fair distributions of burdens and rights in abstraction from empirical facts or desires. His first example is a law that would provide hereditary privileges to members of a certain class of subjects.

This law would be unjust because it would be irrational for those who would not be members of this class to agree to accept fewer privileges than members of the class. One might say that no possible empirical information could cause all individuals to agree to this law. If the tax is administered fairly, it would not be unjust.

Will Durant---The Philosophy of Kant

Kant adds that even if the actual citizens opposed the war, the war tax would be just because it is possible that the war is being waged for legitimate reasons that the state but not the citizens know about. Here possible empirical information might cause all citizens to approve the law. The possible consent is not based upon a hypothetical vote given actual preferences but is based on a rational conception of agreement given any possible empirical information.

The social contract is not a historical document and does not involve a historical act. In fact it can be dangerous to the stability of the state to even search history for such empirical justification of state power The current state must be understood, regardless of its origin, to embody the social contact. The social contract is a rational justification for state power, not a result of actual deal-making among individuals or between them and a government.

Another link to Hobbes is that the social contract is not voluntary. Individuals may be forced into the civil condition against their consent Social contract is not based on any actual consent such as a voluntary choice to form a civil society along with others. Since the social contract reflects reason, each human being as a rational being already contains the basis for rational agreement to the state.

Are individuals then coerced to recognize their subjection to state power against their will? A substantial difference between Kant and Hobbes is that Hobbes bases his argument on the individual benefit for each party to the contract, whereas Kant bases his argument on Right itself, understood as freedom for all persons in general, not just for the individual benefit that the parties to the contract obtain in their own particular freedom.

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Kant was a central figure in the philosophy of the Enlightenment. The private use of reason is, for government officials, the use of reason they must utilize in their official positions. The public use of reason is the use an individual makes of reason as a scholar reaching the public world of readers. For example, the same member of the clergy could, as a scholar, present perceived shortcomings in that very same doctrine. Similarly, military officers can, using public reason, question the value or appropriateness of the orders they receive, but in their functions as military officers, using private reason, they are obliged to obey the same orders.

One might expect from this emphasis that Kant would insist that the proper political system is one that not only allows individuals to think for themselves about political issues, but also contains a mechanism such as voting to translate those well reasoned opinions into government policy. One would be wrong.

Kant does not stress self-government. Despotism is their unity such that the same ruler both gives and enforces laws, in essence making an individual private will into the public will. Republics require representation in order to ensure that the executive power only enforces the public will by insisting that the executive enforce only laws that representatives of the people, not the executive itself, make. Kant does, nonetheless, think that an elected representative legislator is the best form of a republic Whether elected or unelected, the moral person who holds legislative power is representative of the people united as a whole, and is thus sovereign.

When Kant discusses voting for representatives, he adheres to many prevailing prejudices of the time He holds that a single individual or small group can themselves adequately represent the people at large simply by adopting the point of view of the people. Insistence on a representative system is not insistence on an elected representative system.

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Nonetheless it is clear that Kant holds that such an elective representative system is ideal. Republican constitutions, he claims, are prone to avoid war because, when the consent of the people is needed, they will consider the costs they must endure in a war fighting, taxes, destruction of property, etc , whereas a non-republican ruler may be insulated from such concerns. It is not a sufficient sense of possession to count as rightful possession of an object.

Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides) Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides)
Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides) Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides)
Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides) Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides)
Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides) Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides)
Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides) Kants Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim (Cambridge Critical Guides)

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