Epilogue: Kant and Contemporary Cosmopolitanism
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165 Epilogue Kant and Contemporary Cosmopolitanism In every system of morality . . . the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it shou’d be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are currently different from it.1 The challenge Kant poses to contemporary cosmopolitanism lies in the completeness of his theory’s integration of politics and morality. Kant’s position presents an intricate response to the is/ought problem raised by Hume in the above epigraph. Kant does not deny what “is,” but rather begins his account of the relationship between “is” and “ought” by placing what “is” in a new context. Kant argues that what “is” may be regarded as what appears to be. Political life is conducted by reference to the knowledge gained from the observation of appearances , which in turn leads technical practical reason to develop prudence as a means of dealing with the requirement for judgment in an uncertain environment . Eventually, according to Kant, a modus operandi may emerge in which prudent statesmen motivated by self-­ preservation and a desire to create and preserve wealth will institute a regime based on right, which they obey initially out of interest as opposed to moral conviction. Kant’s hope is that over 166    kant’s international relations time human beings will become habituated toward moral actions as any other behavior would be imprudent as well as immoral. In this reading of the is/ought relationship, “is,” for Kant, is ultimately revealed to be primarily a preliminary, preparatory phase in the realization of what “ought” to be. Kant integrates the problem into the solution by bringing technical practical reason to its logical conclusion and probing beyond its limits using pure practical reason and belief. The coherence and completeness of Kant’s political project is due to its emergence concurrently with the development of the critical philosophy. The higher and lower anthropological perspectives of Toward Perpetual Peace represent the viewpoints of humanity and human beings respectively. The question then becomes which should be the point of orientation in relation to the transcendental object of mankind? Kant favors the higher perspective for practical purposes. Kant never loses sight of the fact, however, that nature and its incentives cannot be denied and must be accommodated within any attempt to address what it means to be human. The problem with mankind’s competing pictures of itself is that human beings are free to choose from incentives other than those of rational morality. That human beings consistently fail to choose rational-­ moral options and instead embrace political choices that are either amoral or immoral must be confronted and explained, which Kant ultimately does by reference to radical evil. It is Kant’s hope that the species might eventually come to a point where living according to the moral law, or approximating such a condition, is a universal norm, but recognizes that such a conclusion is not tenable for human beings acting according to technical practical reason. Kant’s hope in turn rests on a postulate that God has arranged matters such that salvation can be attained. The operation of the mechanism of nature offers no hope for anything more than temporary and contingent cessations of conflict. At best, prudent human beings operating within such a structure could create a peaceful and just international society that in all likelihood would eventually decline and fall back to the standard mean of human behavior. It is necessary to step beyond nature in order to subject nature to rational morality, but such a step cannot be taken by human beings acting according to insights gained within nature. For Kant, the answer lies in the idea of representing nature as purposive, i.e., we must believe that nature has an end or purpose and that our salvation is that end. Only such a belief can enable us to submit nature to rational morality. Finally, for nature to be purposive belief in God is necessary as the author of...


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