Thursday, February 12, 2004

And all the church bells of Königsberg rang

From Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch:

". . . there must be a league of a particular kind, which can be called a league of peace (foedus pacificum), and which would be distinguished from a treaty of peace (pactum pacis) by the fact that the latter terminates only one war, while the former seeks to make an end of all wars forever. This league does not tend to any dominion over the power of the state but only to the maintenance and security of the freedom of the state itself and of other states in league with it, without there being any need for them to submit to civil laws and their compulsion, as men in a state of nature must submit.

The practicability (objective reality) of this idea of federation, which should gradually spread to all states and thus lead to perpetual peace, can be proved. For if fortune directs that a powerful and enlightened people can make itself a republic, which by its nature must be inclined to perpetual peace, this gives a fulcrum to the federation with other states so that they may adhere to it and thus secure freedom under the idea of the law of nations. By more and more such associations, the federation may be gradually extended."

Today is the two hundredth anniversary of the death of Immanuel Kant, quite possibly the most intelligent man who ever lived, and probably the most influential thinker of modern times. We may not realize it, but we all live in an intellectual world largely constructed by Kant.