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  • Bernard R. Boxill (a1)


Kant claimed that we have a duty to seek peace, and encouraged a hope for peace to support that duty. To encourage that hope he argued that peace was reasonably likely. He thought that peace was reasonably likely because he believed that historical trends would create opportunities to implement his plan for peace. But authorities claim that globalization is undermining such opportunities. Consequently Kant's arguments can no longer sustain our hope for peace. We can sustain that hope by devising a new plan for peace that globalization will give us opportunities to implement. But in order to devise such a plan we need to sustain our hope for peace. We can sustain such a hope by reflecting on the value of peace because hope is sustained not only by the belief that the object of hope is likely, but also by the conviction that it is valuable. In this way we can perhaps sustain a hope for peace that will support our duty to seek peace. But the fear of war and compassion for the victims of war may also support the duty to seek peace. Kant ignored these opportunities to support the duty to seek peace because they could support only the duty to avoid war. But Kant never showed that the duty to seek peace—as he saw it—outweighed the duty to avoid war. I conclude that Kant's arguments lead us to endless war rather than to peace.



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1 Kant, Immanuel, Perpetual Peace, in Humphrey, Ted, ed., Immanuel Kant: Perpetual Peace and Other Essays (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983), 116.

2 Immanuel Kant, “On the Proverb: That May Be True in Theory, But Is of No Practical Use,” in Humphrey, ed., Immanuel Kant: Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, 87.

3 Caws, Peter, ed., The Causes of Quarrel: Essays on Peace, War, and Thomas Hobbes (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989).

4 Hoffman, Stanley, ed., The State of War: Essays on the Theory and Practice of International Politics (New York: Praeger, 1965).

5 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 125.

6 Kant, Immanuel, The Metaphysics of Morals, in Gregor, Mary J., ed. and trans., Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 491.

7 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 139.

8 Kant describes public right as “a system of laws for a people … which, because they affect one another, need a rightful condition under a will uniting them.” See Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, 455. The concept is discussed fully in Ripstein, Arthur, “Kant on Law and Justice,” in Hill, Thomas E. Jr., ed., The Blackwell Guide to Kant's Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2009), 161–78.

9 See, for example, Sherman, Nancy, Making a Necessity of Virtue: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

10 Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, 575, 576.

11 Nussbaum, Martha, Upheavals of Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 28.

12 Deigh, John, “Cognitivism in the Theory of Emotions,” in Deigh, John, ed., Emotions, Value, and Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 3971.

13 I do not mean that strong or intense hopes are the same as reasonable hopes. Strong or intense hopes may also be very unreasonable hopes.

14 Kant, “On the Proverb: That May Be True in Theory, But Is of No Practical Use,” 86.

15 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 112, 115, 118.

16 Ibid., 120–25. By “unsocial sociability” Kant refers to the tendency of human beings to enter society, but to want to dominate others once in society.

17 Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent, in Humphrey, ed., Immanuel Kant: Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, 36–38.

18 Ibid., 34–36.

19 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 124.

20 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Discourse on Inequality, in Gourevitch, Victor, ed. and trans., Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The First and Second Discourses Together with Replies to Critics and Essay on the Origin of Languages (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1990), 117–90.

21 Kant, “On the Proverb: That May Be True in Theory, But Is of No Practical Use,” 89.

22 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 124.

23 See Guyer, Paul, “Nature, Morality, and Peace,” in Guyer, Paul, ed., Kant on Freedom, Law, and Happiness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 418–22.

24 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 127–31.

25 Brown, Michael, ed., Debating the Democratic Peace (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996).

26 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 125.

27 Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent, 33–34.

28 This view is widely endorsed. See, for example, Day, J., “Hope,” American Philosophical Quarterly 6, no. 2 (1969): 89102.

29 Deigh, “Cognitivism in the Theory of Emotions.”

30 I am not reducing hope to these two components of it. See Philip Pettit's warning against doing this in Pettit, Philip, “Hope and Its Place in Mind,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 592 (2004): 152–65. As I have indicated, hope involves various imagining, planning, and motivation, and perhaps a lot more. For further discussion, see Bovens, Luc, “The Value of Hope,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (1999): 667–81; and Meirav, Ariel, “The Nature of Hope,” Ratio 22, no. 2 (2009): 216–33.

31 Michael Quinn seems to go even further, claiming that a captain of a ship can hope for its seaworthiness even if he is certain that it is seaworthy, given the magnitude of the consequences if he is mistaken. Though the truth of Quinn's claim depends on the special meaning he gives to the word “certain,” he is absolutely right that hope remains high if what is hoped for is highly valued or greatly desired, as long as its non-occurrence cannot be absolutely ruled out. See Quinn, Michael, “Hoping,” Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 7, no. 1 (1976): 55.

32 Although we disvalue what we fear, we do not fear everything we disvalue. Disvalued things can be disvalued for different reasons. When we fear something, we disvalue it because we think it is dangerous or somehow bad for us. But we need not fear things that we disvalue because they are ugly, disgusting, or contemptible, for example.

33 Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, ed. Oakeshott, Michael (London: Collier Books, 1962), 102.

34 Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent, 34.

35 Hobbes, Leviathan; see esp. chapter 13.

36 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 113.

37 I am referring, of course, to classical republicans like Rousseau. See Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right, in Cole, G. D. H., ed. and trans., The Social Contract and The Discourses (New York: Everyman Library, 1992). Although Kant referred to his favored state as a republic, it differed significantly from what Rousseau and other classical republicans referred to as a republic. Kant's so-called republic is more akin to what we would today call a liberal democracy.

38 Kennedy, George A., Aristotle on Rhetoric (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 1385b13.

39 Davis, David Brion, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), 411.

40 Davis, David Brion, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770–1823 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975), 45.

41 Kant, Immanuel, “The Contest of Faculties,” in Reiss, H. S., ed., Kant: Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 182.

42 Kant, Immanuel, “Review of J. G. Herder's Ideas for the Philosophy of the History of Humanity, Parts 1 and 2,” in Zoller, Gunter and Louden, Robert, eds., Immanuel Kant: Anthropology, History, and Education (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 142.

43 Immanuel Kant, “Beginning of Human History,” in Humphrey, ed., Immanuel Kant: Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, 58.

44 Hobbes, Leviathan, 241, 242.

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