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Immanuel Kant `To Perpetual Peace`


A common man, an intellectual, a philosopher and even a spiritual personality in his disposition at the secular level— are all conditioned by time. Their speech and writings strongly reflect the social life and beliefs of the era to which they belong. They mostly analyze and interpret what they see and experience.

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Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) or Immanuel Kant are no exceptions.

Kant and Hobbes: Where do they stand?

Before attempting to understand the views of Kant and Hobbes, one important problem with such mind-level intellectuals needs to be examined. All the arguments and counter-arguments are mind related problems. Their force lasts up to the mind-barrier only. Once the mind barrier is crossed, these philosophers will shake hands with each other, without any reservations. The inner world being the fountainhead of bliss, the communion with it paves the way for eternal happiness. Happiness of Kant and melancholy of Hobbes are the outcome of their own positive and negative thoughts respectively.

The desire for peace and eternal happiness so eagerly sought by either these philosophers (or thinkers as one may wish to address them), calls for thought control or mind control. No King, no Dictator, no President, no Chairman, no Military Dictator, no Philosopher can bring peace in his area (country) of governance, unless peace prevails in the hearts and minds of each citizen. It can be achieved by an individual only. From the point of view of relationship between the State and People, it is true that the people need to be basically sound and industrious. But, basic conditions also need to be created for the people to become basically sound and industrious. It is the two way traffic.

To control something, we need something more powerful than it. However, there is nothing but soul that is mightier than highly potent individual minds. Until now, our medical world has discerned out that sadness, melancholy, stress and depression (the qualities dearest to the heart of Hobbes) are related to imbalanced biochemical reactions. However, our physical world being supported by our psychological world, the whole range of biochemical reactions taking place in our body is linked with our thought pattern.

Only when our thought process changes (of the common citizen and the rulers) the action process will also change. So, when the thoughts are changed, the mind is changed; when the mind is changed, the man is changed; when the man is changed, the society is changed; when the society is changed, the nation is changed. When the Nations change for the better, world peace becomes the reality. It is in this context, all the texts, all the theories, targeting peace need to be understood.

1. Explain as concisely and precisely as possible how Kant weds a pessimistic realism to an optimistic idealism in his political teaching. The pages of human history daubed in bloodshed relating to the ambitious wars between the kings, violence under the flag of religion, territorial victories and defeats, ask the crying question. How to make this Planet Earth heaven-like? The answer is simple and direct. Eyes full of understanding, hearts full of love and the life that refuses conflicts—enough, these alone are enough. Kant said it long ago, in his own style. Traditions of historical thought are related to historical continuity.

There are certain timeless issues, to which all scholars swearing by any school of thought must apply. Some see contradictions in the views of the authors in Realism and Liberalism. The area of confusion is, “On the one hand, the issues of war and peace provide a basis for continuity while, on the other, these authors are used to furnish contemporary theories with philosophical roots that lie outside the definition of the discipline.

That is, Hobbes provides a theory of human nature and the state which underpin contemporary theories of power politics between states. Similarly, Liberals use the work of Kant to underline the domestic bases of international conflict and cooperation. In both cases, the attraction of the classics seems to lie in their holistic – or interdisciplinary – approach to social and political life which denotes a fundamental difference in the intellectual context of classical and contemporary theory.” (Classical…)

2. Specify exactly where Kant reveals his Hobbesian views.

“Establishing the concrete nature of the intellectual context of classical texts is, thus, important for any conscious reflection on the limits and possibilities of the definition of International Relations and its core concerns. And here again we find that the invention and use of classical traditions for the purpose of defining and structuring contemporary theoretical as well as political debates is often characterized by a lack of attention to specific historical continuities and discontinuities.”(Classical….).

Hobbes for Realism and Kant for Liberalism are often quoted. Many debates between these approaches are presented as ‘timeless.’ In the International politics their application is one of understanding to a particular situation, and the identical situation in two countries, may invite different types of response. Hobbes is known as the natural law philosopher. He lived during the most tumultuous period of the European history. The socio-political then prevailing had a profound bearing on his theories and as for his assessment of human nature, he was thoroughly pessimistic.

According to Hobbes, a human being is guided by self-interests, and if this craze is not properly checked, the consequences would be highly destructive. He will be at war with his fellow beings. The instinct for survival makes one give respect and take respect. One renounces one’s rights to secure them, one abhors violence to seek protection and guarantee from violence. “One of the interesting elements of Hobbes’s story is that concepts like morality, liberty, justice, property, etc. have no natural, intrinsic or eternal meaning.  They are pure social constructions.

As history has shown no set of values will last forever but will evolve as circumstances change” What Hobbes and Kant wrote is in an entirely different context of International Relations as applicable to that era. The importance of theories of Kant or Hobbes becomes less important sometimes, and the objective to be gained holds relevance. In the final analysis, economic or political gains are important, and the ‘timeless’ views of Kant go hand in hand with the Hobbesian views.

3. Exactly what makes him think that law and order are possible in international politics?

Globalization is the watchword for the twentieth century. Technological advancement and internet revolutions are pushing the concept of globalization very fast, prompting the politicians to move in that direction. They are left with no other choice. The views of the classical authors hold even well today and they play an important role in International Relations. Whether Kant believes in the relevance of his theories as for contemporary International Relations or not, the present day International Relations specialists do, and make intensive and extensive use and application of such texts. Realists quote Hobbes, and liberals Kant.


Hobbes saw laws as commands. He had his special ideas about the legitimacy of laws and power of governments. He is the ardent supporter of the rule of law. However, one notices latent similarity between their apparently dissimilar views, quite often. Sometimes, the mouth of Kant speaks, through the heart of Hobbes. In yet another occasion, the mouth Hobbes speaks through the heart of Kant. They seem to walk together on a parallel path.

References Cited:

Kant, Immanuel: Book: Perpetual Peace:

Paperback: 72 pages

Publisher: Cosimo Classics (November 1, 2005)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1596055499

ISBN-13: 978-1596055490

Article: Classical Theory in International Relations – Cambridge University Press

www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521866859;ss=exc – 35k –Retrieved on December 9, 2007

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