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Politics and Peace Tobin Siebers University ofMichigan To Perpetual Peace. Whether this satirical inscription on a certain Dutch shopkeeper's sign, on which a graveyard was painted, holds for men in general, or especially for heads ofstate who can never get enough of war, or perhaps only for the philosophers who dream this sweet dream, is not for us to decide. However, the author of this essay does set out one condition. . . . The practical politician must not claim, in the event of a dispute with a theorist, to detect some danger to the nation in those views that the political theorist expresses openly and without ulterior motive. ... By this clausula salvatoria, the author ofthis essay will regard himselfto be expressly protected in the best way possible from all malicious interpretation. (Immanuel Kant, Preface to Perpetual Peace) My goal is to work my way back to Kant's defensive preface to Perpetual Peace, the prophetic essay situated by many at the origin ofmodern conceptions ofpeace and international diplomacy. Suffice it to say for the moment that the following reflections are intended to reveal the epitaph in Kant's epigraph—the eternal repose residing in perpetual peace. Imagining relation One of the master ideas to come down to us from the eighteenth century holds that the imagination is central to all relations between self and other, however one might designate this otherness. The imagination is central to Adam Smith's idea of sympathy, and Kant uses it as a bridge to 86Tobin Siebers unify his critical philosophy. Whether referring to objects or other people, we require a faculty by which to extend understanding to them, and this faculty continues even today to be described as imaginative. Postmodern theorists, for example, conceive of human relations in terms of identity politics, but at the core of identification is the power to imagine, be it the power to sympathize or to conceive of a party different from oneself. In effect, then, relation is itself a function of the imagination. Moreover, no relation, I want to claim, exists for long that cannot be well imagined, for which some symbolic object or idea cannot be found. The four dominant modes of relation are religion, aesthetics, ethics, and politics.1 They deserve to be called modes insofar as they name different others to which the self (or another principal) may relate imaginatively. Religion is about the relation of goodness between subject and god called the sublime. Often nature, fate, or providence as personified forces or overarching systems are also called sublime. Aesthetics is about the relation of goodness between subject and object called beauty. Ethics is about the relation of goodness between subjects called character or virtue. Finally, politics is about the relation ofgoodness between communities called peace. Peace may seem at first glance to be an odd choice to name the relation of goodness in politics. A more obvious candidate might be the idea of utopia. But utopia comes into being as a concept only with Thomas More's treatise in 1516, and this late invention seems to exclude its being considered as the privileged good of politics. Moreover, the traditional opposition between ethics and politics exposes the unfitness ofutopia as a candidate for the political good. Ethics and politics are often at war because ethics does not want to sacrifice even one person to improve the relations among other people. Ethics strives for a wholly inclusive community, but it defines this community as a collection of autonomous individuals having value in themselves only as ends and never as means to an end. If ethics aims at a wholly inclusive community of individuals, then "utopia" may be described by rights as an ethical concept, regardless ofthe fact that Utopian desire seems to stress the wrong perspective on this community, coming as it does from the collective rather than the individual point of view. The ethical dimension of the Utopian is made obvious by the realization that a 1 I will not discuss cognition, although it is surely dominant, because its objects are various, whereas the modes ofrelation of interest to me here tend to represent their objects as being of a certain kind. Politics and Peace87 utopia...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 85-101
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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