THE LAW OF NATIONS OUGHT TO BE FOUNDED UPON A FEDERATION OF FREE STATES
From "Perpetual Peace"
by Immanuel Kant
Since, however, from her highest tribunal of moral legislation, reason without exception condemns war as a mean of right, and makes a state of peace an absolute duty; and since this peace cannot be effected or be guaranteed without a compact among nations, they must form an alliance of a peculiar kind, which might be called a pacific alliance (foedus pacificum) different from a treaty of peace (pactum pacis) inasmuch as it would forever terminate all wars, whereas the latter only finishes one. This alliance does not tend to any dominion over a state, but solely to the certain maintenance of the liberty of each particular state, partaking of this association, without being therefore obliged to submit, like men in a state of nature, to the legal constraint of public force. It can be proved, that the idea of a federation, which should insensibly extend to all states, and thus lead them to a perpetual peace, may be realized. For if fortune should so direct, that a people as powerful as enlightened, should constitute itself into a republic (a government which in its nature inclines to a perpetual peace) from that time there would be a centre for this federative association; other states might adhere thereto, in order to guarantee their liberty according to the principles of public right; and this alliance might insensibly be extended.
That people should say, "There shall not be war among us: we will form ourselves into a state; that is to say, we will ourselves establish a legislative, executive, and judiciary power, to decide our differences," -- can be conceived.
But if this state should say, "There shall not be war between us and other states, although we do not acknowledge a supreme power, that guarantees our reciprocal rights;" upon what then can this confidence in one's rights be founded, except it is upon this free federation, this supplement of the social compact, which reason necessarily associates with the idea of public right?...
At the tribunal of reason, there is but one mean of extricating states form this turbulent situation in which they are constantly menaced with war; namely, to renounce, like individuals, the anarchic liberty of savages, in order to submit themselves to coercive laws, and thus form a society of nations (civitas gentium) which would insensibly embrace all the nations of the earth. But as the ideas which they have of the law of nations, absolutely prevent the realization of this plan, and make them reject in practice what is true in theory, there can only be substituted, to the positive idea of an universal republic (if all is not to be lost) the negative supplement of a permanent alliance, which prevents war, insensibly spreads, and stops the torrent of those unjust and inhuman passions, which always threaten to break down this fence.
Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg, Germany. He spent his entire life there, studying at the university, and becoming professor of logic and metaphysics in 1770. His main work, now a philosophical classic, is the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), in which he provided a response to the empiricism of Hume. His views on ethics are set out in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), in which he elaborates on the Categorical Imperative as the supreme principle of morality. In his third and last Critique, the Critique of Judgment (1790), he argued that aesthetic judgments, although universal, do not depend on any property (such as beauty or sublimity) of the object. His thought exerted great influence on subsequent philosophy.
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