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Kant, a Cosmopolitan in Königsberg: an Idea for a Local History with a Cosmopolitan Aim

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GEOCOSM (Kant, a Cosmopolitan in Königsberg: an Idea for a Local History with a Cosmopolitan Aim)

Reporting period: 2021-11-05 to 2023-11-04

One of the most influential political texts articulating a vision for a peaceful global order is Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace. The text was published in 1795 by the shores of the Baltic Sea, a region, which has resurfaced today as a place of conflict. However, the academic literature has for a long period adopted Kant’s thoughts and ideas without any regard for its historical context. Only recently a more critical perspective has emerged analysing Kant’s cosmopolitan vision through the lectures on geography that he developed and presented throughout his academic career. In order to engage with this new line of criticism this project seeks to return Kant’s cosmopolitan vision to its historical context in Königsberg. In doing so it presents a vision of a more worldly Kant engaged with tackling the political dilemmas of his era. The result is a reenvisioning of Kant’s political thought that can be responsive to the multiple dilemmas between political ideals and realities that we face in our own time.
The project has sought to been focused on a contextual analysis of Kant’s political writings. This task is two-fold as it seeks to reconstruct a context through the historical reading of texts as well as to analyse the intentions of the texts through the historical reconstruction. As the project focuses on the entire development of Kant’s intellectual life the emphasis has been to first identify relevant political concepts in Kant’s thought that can be analysed genealogically. The central concept pairs have been freedom-slavery; humanity-race; and republics-colonies. Second the task has been to locate conceptual shifts in relation to global and local political events and third to reconstruct the local discourse on these events relevant to Kant. Three major political events have served as corner stones for the analysis: the 7 year war, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution. Central results leading up to the completion of a monograph have been a comprehensive study of Kant’s stance to the American Revolution from a global perspective presented at the conference organised through GEOCOSM titled Critical Sources of Global Enlightenment; and a reassessment of Kant’s stance on slavery analysed through the lens of his friends and students. The later is being turned into an independent article.
GEOCOSM has provided a new approach to Kant’s cosmopolitanism, which unearths new, often overlooked or neglected contexts in the reconstruction of his thought. It goes beyond the state of the art not only in the scope of the various contexts that it reconstructs but also in the implications these have for the reassessment of his thought. The new image of Kant that the project depicts is a much more worldly image of a pragmatic thinker with changing views adapted to the political situation.
Critical Sources of Global Enlightenment