October 6, 2022

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An upside-down world of lasting peace

At the end of 1794, Frederick William II, King of Prussia, the entire European chessboard devastated by wars against revolutionary France, surrendered to the evidence: the second partition of Poland was inevitable. The army of Tsarina Catherine II reconquered Warsaw, and Plato was already expected in Krakow and Sadomir, partially occupied by the Prussians, to go to Austria. The Habsburg foreign minister, Johann Amadeus Franz de Paula von Thugot, did indeed agree with the Russians as long as he could take Bavaria instead of Belgium and that he would also get a surplus, at the expense of France or Venice. On January 3, 1795 the treaty was signed: part of it, to be also transferred to Berlin, granted Warsaw and the lands to the north to Prussia. The other side, kept secret from Prussia, secured the alliance between Austria and Russia in a possible war with Turkey. Warning in advance about the intentions of the two powers, Frederick William II decided to take the difficult step: sending Count Goltz (later replaced by Hardenberg) to Basel to negotiate an end to hostilities with the French. For freedom in Poland, Prussia abandoned the left bank of the Rhine and recognized the French liberties; A separate peace agreement was signed in Basel on April 5, 1795.

This is how things went a little over two hundred years ago: the bloody fields of Europe waited Napoleon’s entry into the arena.

How did Kant live those days? Perhaps Immanuel Kant was sitting at the desk looking out from the window of the only room at the bell tower at Königsberg, thinking. He was seventy-one years old, and library folders were lined up like soldiers on library shelves Criticism of pure reasonThe Criticism of practical reason and the Judgment criticism. In his hands the old philosopher turned and turned a small volume still wet with ink titled for lasting peace.

With this book, which bears on the title page an expository writing for philosophical projectKant raised his voice against political politics, and against the massacre of history. He did it the only way he knew, as a philosopher, by taking “the thing” by its roots; On account of the mockery of the court by the attendants and teachers in the palace, all bent on mentioning international politics.

The dwarves did not even dream of questioning the inevitability of war. On the contrary, they pretended to be strong spirits, accepting them in a masculine way in their living rooms. The giant no, he hated it; And it was precisely in that operetta that he removed the pleasure of painting an insidious portrait of those powerful spirits, which he called “moral politicians.” He wrote, by concealing moral principles contrary to the law under the pretense of human nature incapable of doing good (…), they make it impossible, in their regard to any progress for the better, and perpetuate the violation of the law. He continued, “…they give themselves the spirit of knowing men, without knowing man and what can be made of him (and this requires a higher point of anthropological observation)”.

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Well, what can be done with this man afflicted by constant struggles, Kant explained meticulously in The Project for Perpetual Peace. Who did not want to be, the philosopher hastened to point out, “Peace of the cemetery” is the result of the stagnation and prostration of subjects under tyrannical control. That peace was more humiliating than war.

The idea of ​​general and lasting peace has had a long history, which is inscribed in the Arian tradition. Charles Irene de Saint-Pierre and Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote about it, and the title of dreamers attracted the whole class of pacifists. To escape criticism, Kant I will reconsider the whole thing, giving the presentation of the project the unusual shape of an international treaty. Complete it with preliminary and final materials, confidentiality agreements and margins. The six raw materials were to provide the “necessary conditions” for this Elimination of the principal causes of war between nations.” In short, they have proved: that a peace treaty is not so if it is signed with “the tacit pretext of a future war”; that “no country can obtain another by inheritance, exchange, purchase, or gift.” Rather, Article 3 provides for disarmament: “The standing armies (permanent miles) should disappear completely over time”, while the fifth reminds us that “we should not contract public debts in view of a procedure to be explained abroad”.

After clarifying the initial conditions, the philosopher realized that “the state of peace among human beings living together is not at all a natural state.” In other words, it had to be established and supported by an enormous legal framework, as someone saw the League of Nations. Continuing to read the treaty, we come to the three specific articles, those that should guarantee lasting peace. First of all, “the constitution of every state shall be republican.” This is because “if citizens’ consent is required to decide whether or not to wage war (…) they will think for a long time before starting such a bad game.” A republican constitution is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for peace which also requires international order. Here the philosopher imagined a federation of free nations bound by a final peace agreement: wars were forever prohibited as a means of resolving international conflicts.

There is still one last obstacle to overcome, which is the freedom of movement of peoples. Kant argued: If citizens are free within their republic, and if states are united by peaceful relations, what are the rights of a foreigner in another state? An intriguing concern, but not much, if one thinks of the philosopher’s passion for geographical issues. In fact every human has a “right of visitation”, because he has the common right of possession of land. “Which, however, being spherical, people cannot be separated by indefinitely isolating themselves, but must eventually succumb to meeting and coexisting.” Well, well, had it not been for the so-called civil states, and specifically the “merchant states of our continent,” I would have understood this right of hospitality as the right of victory. And the old man in Königsberg did not find it difficult to enumerate the victims of colonialism: “America, the countries inhabited by blacks, the Spice Islands, the Cape of Good Hope, (…) East India (Indostan)”. Hence the need for a final article establishing a “cosmopolitan law”: following the example of China and Japan, countries had to accept Yes to foreigners but with subtle restrictions that prevented invasion adventures. Republic, International Law, and Global Law; They are the three pillars of a policy aimed at lasting peace.

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Could this legal engineering be able to achieve the aims of the princes and the duality of the Jesuits? Kant was not Hegel, nor did he believe in absolute historical necessity. So it was not certain that the reasons for peace prevailed. However, there is an ally who helps humanity get closer to this end: Nature, or Providence, if you prefer, capable of drawing harmony out of men’s disagreements. And the instrument of this peculiar natural theodism which Kant used to establish his system, is precisely war. Thanks to natural resources, humans find their livelihood on Earth, Kant explained. But in search of these means, men wander, colonizing even the most inhospitable regions: think of the Laps, the Finns, and the Eskimos, which were the subject of studies at the end of the eighteenth century. Having to live side by side in a beautiful state of selfishness, each of these people feels a defensive need to organize themselves internally through common laws. And it turns out in the end that the republican form is the most effective organization when needed.

By fighting one another, some desire to subjugate others, but without final success, because whenever a people aspires to universal monarchy, the laws of this bloated state lose their power, turn to despotism, and from anarchy. Thus the second corollary of war is that peoples remain distinct, having different languages ​​and religions. Only then “the spirit of mercantilism takes possession of every people,” and the power of money drives nations to seek peace through international law.

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In the final section of the work, Kant is concerned with laying the foundations for moral and political agreement. For a stream of thought that wanted the two contradictory terms, he opposed the following Consider: How can we argue that morals do not apply in politics? Is morality a totality that can be used or forgotten depending on the circumstances? No really, Kant answers: “Ethics is itself a practice in the objective sense, as a set of unconditionally governing laws by which We have to act; It is obviously absurd to say that it cannot be applied.” The Kantian concept of duty leaves no way out, and morality is an inescapable practice. And the Those who repudiate it do not actually depart from morality, but simply adopt another one, Hypocritical of “so-called practical men”. Here again the enemies against whom Kant directs his arrows; They hide the reasons for their dominance behind three widespread sophist sayings: the first says “fac et excusa”, first do what you have to do, conquer, plunder, kill. Then “justification, after the truth, will appear easier and more elegant, and violence will be revealed.” The second principle, the super Jesuit, advises: “You fecisti, deny.” If you have done evil, be careful not to admit it, “But he asserts that the fault lies in the spirit of resistance of the subjects or even in the case of the conquest of a neighboring people, he asserts that the fault is due to the nature of man.” Finally, ‘Diff and Embra’. If among the people there are “some distinguished leaders who have elected you simply as their chief (Primbean Paris), you have to try to divide them among them and put them in conflict with the people.”

According to the logic of this policy that frames its own purposes over a particular interest, Kant opposes a political reformulation of the categorical imperative: “Act in such a way that you may desire your saying to become a universal law, no matter what purpose you propose”. Many interpreters have recognized the limits but also the historical grandeur of this Enlightenment view. Goya said that the sleep of the mind breeds monsters. The awakening of the mind, according to Kant, should have prepared for lasting peace. But a few months after the publication of the libel law, a daring French general, born in Ajaccio, took command of the Italian army…

This article was first published with the title “Peace is a Practice for a Pure Cause” Time Doctor On February 27, 1991.