Just War, Regular War, and Perpetual Peace
Kant-Studien, Vol. 1, 2016, Forthcoming
16 Pages Posted: 3 May 2015
Date Written: February 1, 2015
Kant’s Doctrine of Right concludes with the claim that “morally practical reason pronounces an irresistible veto: there is to be no war, neither war between you and me in the state of nature nor war between us as states, which, although they are internally in a lawful condition, are still externally (in relation to one another) in a lawless condition; for war is not the way in which everyone should seek his rights.” This opposition to war is paired with a discussion of right in war, with respect to each of going to war, the conduct of war, and the behaviour of the victorious party after a war. My aim in this paper is to explain how Kant can have a conception of right in war, against the background of his more general view that war is by its nature barbaric and to be repudiated entirely. Right cannot be decided by war, but it is possible to “find a right in a condition of war,” if we suppose it can decide a dispute, and so in another sense resolve a question of right. The morality appropriate to war reflects the fact that it resolves a dispute independently of it merits. It is this morality, rather than the restriction of war’s effects, that provides the appropriate standard for evaluating the conduct of war; it also provides the only basis for law governing war.
Keywords: Kant, war, Doctrine of Right
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