WHO IS IMMANUEL KANT?
Immanuel Kant remains one of the greatest thinkers in this history of philosophy, writing about various topics, including modern rationalism, empiricism, morality, and world peace. Kant lived from 1704 to 1804, leaving behind a long-lasting legacy in critical philosophy. His most recognized is the “Critique of Pure Reason,” which primarily dealt with metaphysics.
ON PERPETUAL PEACE
One of Kant’s most notable works comes from his essay “Perpetual Peace,” which outlines what steps humanity must undertake to achieve Perpetual Peace. There are two sections relating to achieving perpetual peace, the first relating to peace among nations. For Kant, the end of the war will bring forth the beginning of peace without conditions or strings attached. For this reason, all standing militaries must be abolished. He further asserts that no nation should be able to be purchased by other countries for it reduces nations and people to “things.” National debt shouldn’t be acquired in connection with the foreign affairs of a nation, no nation can interfere with the government and constitution of another country without consent, and no nation at war should permit acts of war that would make trust after the war is over impossible. The second section deals with how each nation’s constitution should be republican, and the right of nations shall be based on an association of free and sovereign states that wish to work together. The third section deals with universal hospitality, meaning that all humans have the right to travel and explore the earth without fear and must be treated well by host countries.
ON KANTIAN MORAL LAW
Kant’s moral law deals with two primary principles; the idea of unsocial sociability and the categorical imperative. Unsocial sociability asserts that one needs to enter society to have one’s needs fulfilled, which contrasts with the human desire to be fundamentally free from restriction. In society, humans must conform to dominant values, which may contradict one’s beliefs. For example, humans want to act freely on impulse, like attacking someone who says hurtful things. However, one restricts themselves from doing so because they see the protection given to them by laws prohibiting assault. Kant details that, “Man inclines to associate with others, because in society he feels himself to be more than man, i.e., as more than the developed form of his natural capacities. Nevertheless, he also has a strong propensity to isolate himself from others because he finds in himself at the same time the unsocial characteristic of wishing to have everything go according to his wish.”
The categorical imperative argues that any ethical action is assigned universality. Kant highlights how ends do not justify the means if it means the categorical imperative will be violated. For example, if one was asked by a robber if there was anyone else in the house, and one’s child was in the place in secure hiding, Kant would condemn lying to the robber. The act of lying is unethical, regardless of the circumstances, for one should “act only on that maxim whereby [you can] at the same time will that it should become a universal law, acceptable to all rational beings.” The categorical imperative is functions based on the unification of humanity under one moral law.
INFLUENTIAL KANT QUOTES
“Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination.”
“How then is perfection to be sought? Wherein lies our hope? In education, and nothing else.”
“Look closely. The beautiful may be small.”
“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”
“Dare to think!”
“The busier we are, the more acutely we feel we live, the more conscious we are of life.”
“Genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.”
“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your person or the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.”
Perpetual Peace by Immanuel Kant