As for the philosophers, they make imaginary laws for imaginary commonwealths, and their discourses are as the stars, which give little light, because they are so high.Francis BaconThe article argues that Doyle's interpretation of Kant's first definitive article in Perpetual Peace is mistaken. I distinguish between Kant's pragmatic argument (his democratic peace proposition) and his a priori, or transcendental claim. Both are distinct from Doyle's approach which emphasizes institutional restraint and shared cultural norms. Doyle must be criticized for taking Kant's transcendental claims as statements that can be verified empirically. I propose that we drop Doyle's juxtaposition of liberal and illiberal as a fallacy of essentialism. Kant's distinction between republican and despotic is a methodological abstraction belonging to ideal theory (the system of rights). Kantian non-ideal theory (his political philosophy) sees the distinction among states as a matter of degree rather than kind. Kant favours an inclusive global federation encompassing liberal as well as non-liberal states, rather than an exclusive federation and ‘separate peace’ of liberal states.
In her essay (in Kantian Review 10 (2005), 82–111), Shell wants to demonstrate that 1. Kant's theory of the right of nations ‘can furnish us with some much needed practical help and guidance’, and 2. ‘Kant is less averse to the use of force, including resort to pre-emptive war… than he is often taken to be’ (p. 82). The first claim is unconvincing. The second one is in need of clarification. Shell turns Kant into a kind of realist and just-war theorist, into a liberal who is prejudiced against illiberal regimes. In the end, her Kant is closer to Locke, Vattel and other early liberal international lawyers than to himself. Almost all that is unique in Kant's theory of the right of nations gets lost. In this, Shell follows a general trend among some Kant interpreters: the interpretation is only loosely based on Kant; it claims to follow his ‘spirit’ and offers creative ‘Kantian perspectives’. Amidst interpretational creativity, Kant's texts more or less disappear in the mist.
Nowadays Kant's practical philosophy (including his political philosophy) is as highly regarded as his theoretical philosophy. This is an important development since the more constructive side of Kant's philosophy is to be found in his moral and political works. The main task of the Critique of Pure Reason is to clarify its concepts and to get rid of basic errors, and thus only ‘negative’. The moral and political writings, on the other hand, try to expand the scope of reason ‘for practical purposes’ (‘in praktischer Absicht’). Establishing principles of moral and political conduct, their main objective is not negative, but constructive.
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