XI KANT KONGRESS, XI Congresso Kantiano Internazionale

Kant's Perpetual Peace: Against Moralising Readings

Tom Bailey

Edificio: Palazzo dei Congressi
Sala: sala Diderot
Data: 23 maggio 2010 - 14:30
Ultima modifica: 13 aprile 2010


This paper takes issue with a natural way of reading Kant’s Perpetual Peace – namely, as presenting and defending a conception of justice that the essay’s readers, as political agents committed to justice, are to act on and realize. Specifically, it argues that in the essay Kant is concerned that our commitments to justice and our actions according to such commitments are themselves part of the currently unjust political condition, such that these commitments are in fact hypocritically inconsistent with our actual political behaviour. He therefore consider his readers not to be political agents genuinely committed to justice, and, in particular, considers precisely those of us who claim to be committed to justice not to be genuinely so committed. The paper identifies three kinds of hypocritical commitments to justice which Kant treats in the essay: the ‘insincere’, which involves our feigning to others such a commitment in order to pursue our own ends; the ‘sophistical’, which involves our convincing ourselves that others’ unjust actions exempt us from the duty to act justly; and the ‘sincere’, which involves our having a sincere commitment to justice that is not demonstrated by our actions. Besides the relevant passages of Perpetual Peace, in support of this reading the paper also appeals to Kant’s insistence on the indeterminacy of reasons in the Groundwork, to his conception of justice as a matter only of actions and not of reasons in The Metaphysics of Morals, and to his conception of progress as a hope regarding non-moral nature in The Critique of Judgement. In conclusion, some remarks on the broader significance of this reading are made.