Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Dose of Kant

Since in their endeavors men proceed neither merely instinctually, like animals, nor yet according to a fixed plan, like rational citizens of the world, it appears that no systematic [planmassig] history of man is possible (as perhaps it might be with bees or beavers). One cannot resist a certain [feeling of] indignation when one sees men's actions placed on the great stage of the world and finds that, despite some individuals' seeming wisdom, in the large everything is finally woven together from folly and childish vanity and often even childish malice and destructiveness. In the end, one does not know what concept one should have of a species so taken with its own superiority.
From Immanuel Kant's, "Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent" (1784), in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays

Collective Improvisation:
Kant imagined a centralized, ultimately rational state one day controlling all of human affairs. Yes, he talked about liberty, but it seems that he saw no contradiction between massive state planning and personal freedom. Needless to say, I would object.

But I also don't think that a systematic or plan-wise history of man will ever be possible: The very beauty of humans is that we transcend every plan we ever conceive.

Posted by Blogger Jason Kuznicki on 10/08/2004 08:29:00 PM : Permalink  

I've been doing some reading on Kant's theories about cosmopolitan law, and I'm under the impression that he backed away from his strongest claims about a "world state." According to the editors of this book, "he later came to fear it as a potentially 'soulless despotism.'"

He still dallied with the idea of a world republic, but most of his mature writings on the subject seem to have in mind a peaceful federation of states, rather than the specter of central planner you seem to raise.

On the question of a universal, teleological history ... well, you've got him there.

Posted by Blogger Caleb McDaniel on 10/09/2004 06:08:00 PM : Permalink  

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