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Principles of Peace

Page history last edited by Peace Studies 12 years, 5 months ago

FrontPage     Resources     Concepts:Themes


Kant, Immanuel (1795) Perpetual Peace, ed. L.W.Beck (1957), Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs Merrill.


Section I

Containing the Preliminary Articles for Perpetual Peace among States

1.      No Treaty of Peace shall be held valid in which there is tacitly reserved matter for a future war. p.3 ……….

2.      No Independent States, large or small, shall come under the dominion of another State by inheritance, exchange, purchase or donation.

A state is not, like the ground which it occupies, a piece of property. It is a society of men whom no one else has any right to command or to dispose except the state itself. p.4 ……

3.      Standing Armies shall in time be totally abolished.

For they incessantly menace other states by their readiness to appear at all times prepared for war; they incite them to compete with each other in the number of armed men, and there is no limit to this. …. But the periodic and voluntary military exercises of citizens who thereby secure themselves and their country against foreign aggression are entirely different. p.5 …

4.      National Debts shall not be contracted with a view to the external friction of States.

This expedient of seeking aid within or without the state is above suspicion when the purpose is domestic economy (e.g. the improvement of roads, new settlements, establishment of stores against unfruitful years, etc.). But as an opposing machine in the antagonism of powers, a credit system which grows beyond sight and which is yet a safe debt for the present requirements – because all the creditors do not require payment at one time – constitutes a dangerous money power. This ingenious invention of a commercial people [England] in this century is dangerous because it is a war treasure which exceeds the treasures of all other states; it cannot be exhausted except by default of taxes (which is inevitable), though it can be long delayed by the stimulus to trade which occurs through the reaction of credit on industry and commerce. This facility in making war, together with the inclination to do so on the part of rulers – an inclination which seems inborn in human nature – is thus a great hindrance to perpetual peace. Therefore, to forbid this credit system must be a preliminary article of perpetual peace all the more because it must eventually entangle many innocent states in the inevitable bankruptcy and openly harm them. They are therefore justified in allying themselves against such a state and its measures. p.6

5.      No State shall by force interfere with the Constitution or government of another State.

For what is there to authorize it to do so?

      6.   No State shall during war, permit such acts of hostility which would make mutual confidence  

            in the subsequent peace impossible: such are the employment of assassins, poisoners, breach of

            capitulation, and incitement to treason in the opposing State. p.7


Section II

Containing the Definitive Articles for Perpetual Peace among States


The state of peace among men living side by side is not the natural state; the natural state is one of war. This does not always mean open hostilities, but at least an unceasing threat of war. A state of peace, therefore, must be established, for in order to be secured against hostility it is not sufficient that hostilities simply be not committed; and, unless this security is pledged to each by his neighbour ( a thing that can occur only in a civil state), each may treat his neighbour, from whom he demands this security, as an enemy. p.10


First Definitive Article for Perpetual Peace

The Civil Constitution of every State should be Republican


The only constitution which derives from the idea of the original compact, and on which all juridical legislation of a people must be based, is the republican. This constitution is established, firstly, by principles of the freedom of the members of a society (as people); secondly, by principles of dependence of all upon a single common legislation (as subjects); and, thirdly, by the law of their equality (as citizens). ….

The republican constitution, besides the purity of its origin (having sprung from the pure source of the concept of law), also gives a favorable prospect for the desired consequence, i.e., perpetual peace. The reason is this: if the consent of the citizens is required in order to decide that war should be declared (and in this constitution it cannot but be the case), nothing is more natural that they would be very cautious in commencing such a poor game, decreeing for themselves all the calamities of war. Among the latter would be: having to fight, having to pay the costs of war from their own resources, having painfully to repair the devastation war leaves behind, and, to fill up the measure of evils, load themselves with a heavy national debt that would embitter peace itself and that can never be liquidated on account of constant wars in the future. pp.11-12


Second Definitive Article for a Perpetual Peace

The Law of Nations shall be founded on a Federation of Free States


Peoples, as states, like individuals, may be judged to injure one another merely by their coexistence in the state of nature (i.e., while independent of external laws). Each of them may and should for the sake of its own security demand that the others enter with it into a constitution similar to the civil constitution, for under such a constitution each can be secure in his right. This would be a league of nations, but it would not have to be a state consisting of nations. That would be contradictory, since a state implies the relation of a superior (legislating) to an inferior (obeying), i.e., the people, and many nations in one state would then constitute only one nation. This contradicts the presupposition, for here we have to weigh the rights of nations against each other so far as they are distinct states and not amalgamated into one. p.16


Third Definitive Article for a Perpetual Peace

The Law of World Citizenship shall be limited to Conditions of Universal Hospitality


Here, as in the preceding articles, it is not a question of philanthropy but of right. Hospitality means the right of a stranger not to be treated as an enemy when he arrives in the land of another. One may refuse to receive him when this can be done without causing his destruction; but, so long as he peacefully occupies his place, one may not treat him with hostility. It is not the right to be a permanent visitor that one may demand. A special beneficient agreement would be needed in order to give an outsider a right to become a fellow inhabitant for a certain length of time. It is only a right to temporary sojourn, a right to associate, which all men have. They have it by virtue of their common possession of the surface of the earth, where as a globe, they cannot infinitely disperse and hence must finally tolerate the presence of each other. Originally, no one had more right than another to a particular part of the earth. pp.20-1


First Supplement

Of the Guarantee for Perpetual Peace


The guarantee of perpetual peace is nothing less than that great artist, nature. In her mechanical course, we see that her aim is to produce a harmony among men, against their will and indeed through their discord. As a necessity working according to laws we do not know, we call it destiny. But, considering its design in world history, we call it ‘providence’, inasmuch as we discern in it the profound wisdom of a higher cause which predetermines the course of nature and directs it to the objective final end of the human race. p.24


Now we come to the question concerning that which is most essential in the design of perpetual peace: What has nature done with regard to this end which man’s own reason makes his duty? That is, what has nature done to favor man’s moral purpose, and how has she guaranteed (by compulsion but without prejudice to his freedom) that he shall do that which he ought to but does not do under the laws of freedom? This question refers to all three phases of public law, namely, civil law, the law of nations, and the law of world citizenship. If I say of nature that she wills that this or that occur, I do not mean that she imposes a duty on us to do it, for this can be done only by free practical reason; rather I mean that she herself does it, whether we will or not. p.29


Appendix I

On the Opposition between Morality and Politics with respect to Perpetual Peace


Taken objectively, morality is in itself practical, being the totality of unconditionally mandatory laws according to which we ought to act. It would obviously be absurd, after granting authority to the concept of duty, to pretend that we cannot do our duty, for in that case this concept would itself drop out of morality. Consequently there can be no conflict of politics, as a practical doctrine of right, with ethics, as a theoretical doctrine of right. That is to say, there is no conflict of practice with theory, unless by ethics we mean a general doctrine of prudence, which would be the same as a theory of the maxims for choosing the most fitting means to accomplish the purposes of self-interest. But to give this meaning to ethics is equivalent to denying that there is any such thing at all.

Politics says, ‘Be ye wise as serpents’; morality adds, as a limiting condition, ‘and guileless as doves’. If these two injunctions are incompatible in a single command, then politics and morality are really in conflict; but if these two qualities ought always to be united, the thought of contrariety is absurd, and the question as to how the conflict between morals and politics is to be resolved cannot even be posed as a problem. p.35


If there is no freedom and no morality based on freedom, and everything which occurs or can occur happens by the mere mechanism of nature, certainly politics (which is the art of using this mechanism for ruling men) is the whole of practical wisdom, and the concept of right is an empty thought. But if we find it necessary to connect the latter with politics, and even to raise it to a limiting condition thereon, the possibility of their being united must be conceded. I can easily conceive of a moral politician, i.e., one who so chooses political principles that they are consistent with those of morality; but I cannot conceive of a political moralist, one who forges a morality in such a way that it conforms to the statesman’s advantage. p.37


To make practical philosophy self-consistent, it is necessary, first, to decide the question: In problems of practical reason, must we begin from its material principles, i.e., the end as the object of choice? Or should we begin from the formal principles of pure reason, i.e., from the principle which is concerned solely with freedom in outer relations and which reads, ‘So act that you can will that your maxim could become a universal law, regardless of the end’?

Without doubt it is the latter which has precedence, for as a principle of law it has unconditional necessity. On the other hand, the former is obligatory only if we presuppose the empirical conditions of the proposed end, i.e., its practicability. Thus if this end (in this case, perpetual peace) is a duty, it must be derived from the formal principle of the maxims of external actions. The first principle, that of the political moralist, pertaining to civil and international law and the law of world citizenship, is merely a problem of technique; the second, as the problem of the moral politician to whom it is an ethical problem, is far removed from the other in its method of leading toward perpetual peace, which is wished not merely as a material good but also as a condition issuing from an acknowledgment of duty. pp.42-3


… the solution of the second problem, that of political wisdom, presses itself upon us, as it were; it is clear to everyone and puts to shame all affectation. It leads directly to the end, but, remembering discretion, it does not precipitately hasten to do so by force; rather, it continuously approaches it under the conditions offered by favorable circumstances.

Then it may be said, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of pure practical reason and its righteousness, and your end (the blessing of perpetual peace) will necessarily follow’. For it is the peculiarity of morals, especially with respect to its principles of public law and hence in relation to a politics known a priori, that the less it makes conduct depend on the proposed end, i.e., the intended material or moral advantage, the more it agrees with it in general. pp.43-4


Thus objectively, or in theory, there is no conflict between morals and politics. Subjectively, however, in the selfish propensity of men (which should not be called ‘practice’, as this would imply that it rested on rational maxims), this conflict will always remain. p.45


… If we assume that humanity never will or can be improved, the only thing which a theodicy seems unable to justify is creation itself, the fact that a race of such corrupt beings ever was on earth. But the point of view necessary for such an assumption is far too high for us, and we cannot theoretically support our philosophical concepts of the supreme power which is inscrutable to us.

To such dubious consequences we are inevitably driven if we do not assume that pure principles of right have objective reality, i.e., that they may be applied, and that the people in a state and, further, states themselves in their mutual relations should act according to them, whatever objections empirical politics may raise. Thus true politics can never take a step without rendering homage to morality. Though politics by itself is a difficult art, its union with morality is no art at all, for this union cuts the knot which politics could not untie when they were in conflict. The rights of men must be held sacred, however much sacrifice it may cost the ruling power. One cannot compromise here and seek the middle course of a pragmatic conditional law between the morally right and the expedient. All politics must bend its knee before the right. But by this it can hope slowly to reach the stage where it will shine with an immortal glory. p.46




Selection from Kant’s The Metaphysics of Morals

Now our moral-practical reason pronounces its irresistible veto: There ought not to be war, neither that between me and thee in the state of nature nor that between us as states, which, though internally in a lawful condition, are externally, in relation to each other, in a lawless condition. For war is not the way in which each one should seek his rights. p.57



We can say that establishment of universal and enduring peace constitutes not just a part but rather the entire final end of jurisprudence within the limits of mere reason. Peace is the only condition under laws guaranteeing the mine and thine within a group of neibouring persons living together under a constitution whose rules are not derived from the experience of those who have fared best under it and whose experience, therefore, might serve as a norm for others. Rather, the rules must be derived by reason a priori from the ideal of a legal association of men under public laws generally, because all examples (which only illustrate and do not prove) are deceptive. Such rules, however, require a metaphysics, the necessity of which is carelessly conceded even by those who make fun of it.

This is seen, for example, when they say (as they often do), ‘The best constitution is one in which laws, not men, are sovereign’. For what can be more metaphysically sublimated than this idea which, according to their own assertion, has the most assured objective reality, and which is readily borne out by actual events? And this idea alone, if it is not taken in a revolutionary sense and made the basis of sudden change through violent overthrow of a previously existing wrong condition – this idea alone, I say, if it is sought for and realized by gradual reform in the light of firm principles, can uninterruptedly lead to the highest political good, perpetual peace. pp.58-9







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