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Kant's Society of Nations: Free Federation or World Republic?
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Kant's Society of Nations: Free Federation or World Republic? GEORG CAVALLAR 1. INTRODUCTION MOST INTERPRETERSDEALINGwith Kant's concept of peace agree that it is one of the more convincing and pleasing parts of his political theory. There is, however, disagreement about the characteristics and special features of this concept. Kant is praised for his advocacy of a society of nations. But did he have a free federation of sovereign states in mind or rather a universal state with coercive authority? Both models seem to be deducible from Kant's writings . Consequently, we have two different traditions of interpretation. Authors like Carl Joachim Friedrich, Howard Williams, Sidney Axinn, and Otfried Hbffe argue that Kant envisioned a compulsory, not a voluntary, world government.' Representatives of the second tradition are Karl Vorl ~inder, Julius Ebbinghaus, Roger Hancock, Walter GaUie, Georg Geismann, and Leslie Mulholland. 2 They claim that Kant proposed a free federation, The work on this article is part of a research program supported by the Austrian Fonds zur F~rderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung. I am grateful to Leslie A. Mulholland for helpful criticism. ' Carl Joachim Friedrich, Inevitable Peace (New York: Greenwood, 1969),45f.; Howard Williams , Kant's Political Philosophy (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986), 254-57; Sidney Axinn, "Kant on World Government," Proceedings of the Sixth International Kant Congress, Vol. I a, 2, ed. Gerhard Funke and Thomas M.Seebohm (Washington, D.C.: UniversityPressof America, 1989), 224 and ~49; Otfried H6ffe, KategorischeRechtsprinzipien. Ein Kontrapunkt der Moderne (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 199o), 27o-75. Thomas L. Carson, while claiming that Kant endorsed a free federation, contends that Kant sh0u/dhave advocated a "minimal" world government with a military monopoly; see "Perpetual Peace: What Kant Should Have Said,"Social Theoryand Practice 14 0988): 173, 179, 182-84. 9Karl Vorl~inder,Kant und der Gedanke des V6lkerbundes.Mit eineraAnhange: Kant und Wilson (Leipzig: F. Meiner, 1919),41 and 43;Julius Ebbinghaus, "Kants Lehre yore ewigen Frieden und die Kreigsschuidfrage," GesaramelteAufsi~tze, Vortrgigeund Reden (Hildesheim: C, eorg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung , 1968), 34-39; Roger Hancock, "Kant on War and Peace," Akten des 4. Interna- [461] 462 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 32:3 JULY 1994 with states having the right to leave it whenever they want to. In addition, they may even refuse to enter this federation. In this article, I will side with the second group of interpreters. The design of a free federation is more consistent with Kant's writings as well as with the spirit of his moral and legal philosophy. In the next section, I will investigate and criticize the unwarranted interpretation that Kant advocated a coercive universal state. Then I will oudine Kant's concept of a free society of nations, trying to reconstruct his arguments for this model (section 3)- Interpreting a seemingly awkward passage in Perpetual Peace, I argue that Kant cherished an additional modified concept of a free world republic (section 4). A final section points out that Kant ultimately criticized moral terrorism, the doctrine that moral goals such as peace can and should be achieved by immoral means (section 5). 9. A WORLD REPUBLIC WITH COERCIVE LAW? Kant favors a universal state with coercive laws in his published and unpublished writings before 1793. In an early reflection, written around 1764 - 1768, Kant sees a league of nations (Vt/kerbund) as "the ideal of international law." Like the other parts of public law, international law is in need of a "Leviathan or supreme power" (XIX, Refl. 6593).3 Apparently influenced by Hobbes, tionalen Kant-Kongresses, Teil II, ~, ed. Gerhard Funke (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 1974), 669 and 672; Walter Bryce Gallie, PhilosophersofPeaceand War:Kant, Clausewitz,Marx, Engels,and Tolstoy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 9 and 34; Georg Geismann, "Kants Rechtslehre vom Weltfrieden," Zeitschriftfftr philosophischeForschung37 0983): 38o and 383. It goes without saying that my distinction between the two traditions describes rather a tendency than two separate "camps." Accordingto Leslie Mulholland, Kant rejected a wOrldstate asimpracticable ; see Kant's SystemofRights (New York: Columbia University Press, 199o), 368 and 37o. See also his article "Kant on War and International Justice," Kant-Stndien 78 (1987): 25-41. Mulholland's account in Kant's SystemofRightais a...