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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Kant and the problem of war

Final Activity Report Summary - KAPROW (Kant and the problem of war)

In the last two decades political philosophers and international relations (henceforth IR) scholars have widely debated the so called "democratic peace" thesis, i.e. the idea that liberal democracies are more pacific than authoritarian regimes. The history of the last two centuries suggests that democracies have rarely, if ever, fought wars against each other (although they have often waged wars against authoritarian states). The democratic states - this is the core of the thesis - have constituted a kind of "separate peace". The root of this thesis is to be found in the Kantian essay To Perpetual Peace (Zum ewigen Frieden, 1795) where the German thinker argued that the main cause of war is not the evil nature of mankind, as philosophers and theologians had thought for centuries, but the lack of just political institutions within and without nations.

With a series of famous articles published from 1983 to 1986 Michael Doyle placed Kant's intuition back to the centre of the international debate. Doyle used his sympathetic reconstruction of Kant's intuition to refute a central assumption of the realist school, namely that the external behaviour of states is completely independent of the moral commitments valid "within" and fully determined by the search of power (or security) in the anarchic international arena.

While it is clear that the jointly Kantian-Doyleian thesis (henceforth KDT) needs revisions and qualifications, research in this topic, despite an impressive numbers of publications, has not determined precisely their extent, i.e. whether it is possible to save the fundamental intuition that lies at the foundation of KDT. Research conducted by the applicant through his IEF Marie Curie Fellowship (Marburg Universität 02/2006-02/2008) has reached the following objectives:
1) An analysis of the Kant's original thesis that was reconstructed not only from the essay Perpetual Peace (1985), but also from other relevant political writings such as the Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose (1784), On the Common Saying: 'This May Be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice' (1792), The Contest of the Faculties (1798). Also keen attention was paid to the broader context of Kant's overall philosophy that is deemed essential for the full understanding of Kant theory of peace.
2) A clarification of how Kant's original thesis was modified in the hands of Michael Doyle.
3) An analysis of whether the democratic peace can be guaranteed by satisfying the "formal" conditions of justice or whether an adequate level of social security and a generally widespread education are also essential factors. In this regard, the project identifies Rawls' analysis of the democratic peace in The Law of Peoples as an extremely promising starting point
4) An assessment of the prospects of KDT as basis for imagining new forms of global governance. In this context, KDT was contrasted with two competing proposals: a) the cosmopolitan democracy of D. Held and D. Archibugi; b) the Plädoyer for a common European foreign policy by J. Habermas and J. Derrida.