Comments on Immanuel Kant’s “To Perpetual Peace”

Comments on Immanuel Kant, To Perpetual Peace, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc., 2003), pp. 1-42.

This short paper was written for a seminar class response of ICU Peace Studies course so-called, ‘Ideas on Peace’ which conducted by Prof. Shin Chiba on Autumn 2013.

Immanuel Kant, "To Perpetual Peace"

To understand Immanuel Kant’s thinking, I think it is very substantial to keep in mind Kant’s categorical imperative maxim. Kant mentioned it on Appendix page 33, as follows: “Act so that you can will that your maxim ought to become a universal law (no matter that the end maybe)”. In my opinion, all concepts that Kant has offered were derived from this categorical imperative maxim, that is concept of three separation of law systems which are: Republicanism, Confederation and Cosmopolitan Right.

The categorical imperative maxim that proposed by Kant puts universal law as the foundation for every people action and relation, moreover as foundation among people in community as nation and international (global) citizen. ‘What we act so that we can will that our maxim ought to become a universal law’, means that our act and will should be acceptable and become every people’s will. “If you don’t want to be threatened by the others, so don’t threat the others first, otherwise if you want that every people obey the law and regulation, so obey the law and regulation first”. It is a very good and important point for the citizenship life (or nation, regional and global life), which every people realize what to do and with their own awareness obey the law and regulation for the common good. Common good could lead into the need of peaceful life for everyone. In my opinion, this concept indeed cultivated what Kant meant by the ‘Perpetual Peace’.

I’d like to emphasize the three separation of law systems by Kant. Firstly, the concept of republicanism that consists of separation of executive and legislative on government. It accords the principle of freedom of people, dependence concept one each other and the law of equality for people as citizen (p. 8). How if those principles compared to ‘state has to have moral entity’? How morality can play role in Kant’s concept of freedomdependence and equality? Deeper thinking would be needed to answer these questions. Secondly, is the concept of confederation. The right of nations should be based on a federation of free states (p. 12). Peace seeking confederation rather than world state, it is not centralized but rather the network-based. Kant emphasised the share of power. Thirdly is the Cosmopolitan right. Kant focused on discussion about citizen hospitality when he accentuated concept of cosmopolitan right. Hospitality is important since it guarantees people when they travel or live at other city or country. It also encourages people to respect other as they want to be respected wherever they are.

On the other hand, discussion on Kant’s Perpetual Peace mentioned by Richard Falk referring to Lester Edwin J. Ruiz said “… this demand for concreteness by reference to the Japanese peace constitution, which he views as a “translation” of Kant’s Perpetual Peace, an application of abstract ideas that is in Ruiz language ‘transformed into structure’”.[1] Kant’s Perpetual Peace has been underlying concrete peace constitution as it had happened in Japan, according to Ruiz. It shown that Kant’s Perpetual Peace indeed had significance influence on the political thinking even in the modern time.

Other point that I want to accentuate is Kant’s statement that says: “All action that affect the right of other man are wrong if their maxim is not consistent with publicity”, on Appendix p. 37. The word ‘publicity’ must be understood also in term of Kant’s categorical imperative maxim. Publicity does not stand alone by its meaning as publicity in common use, i.e. as publicity of actress, books, movies, politicians, etc. Publicity means how a action complies universal ‘deal’ maxim. On the other hands, perhaps this concept could be categorized on universalism or universality(?).

[1] Richard Falk, “Horizon of A Grand Theory of Peace”, on Yoichiro Murakami (Eds), A Grand Design for Peace and Reconciliation, (Cheltenham: Edwald Elgar Publishing Inc., 2008), p. 67.


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