Global Justice, Foreigners, and Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Enlightenment
Assistant Professor of Political Science
New School for Social Research
65 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
For presentation at the International Society for the Study of European
14-18 August 2000
Kant's cosmopolitanism continues to be discussed in light of his theory
of international justice and thus is viewed either as a label that simply
describes his call for an international federation of states or as a description
of a humanistic political identity that eschews local or patriotic affiliations.
I argue in this paper, however, that Kant's account of cosmopolitanism
was a political response to the emerging global relationships between humans
from different societies, rather than a more generic commitment to a global
political identity or to a world-wide federation of states. Indeed, Kant
explicitly presents his theory of "cosmopolitan right" (Weltbürgerrecht,
or ius cosmopoliticum) as a norm of justice that is conceptually
distinct from his theory of "international right". The possibility of ethical
limits upon, and the rights of, non-governmental agents or quasi-governmental
bodies who cross boundaries are the fundamental issues that motivate Kant's
theory of cosmopolitan justice; thus, "cosmopolitan right" refers to the
conditions of justice that should obtain between states and foreigners
and between subjects of different lands. In light of this understanding
of cosmopolitan right, Kant criticized European imperialism and defended
non-European peoples against what he viewed as the arbitrary and destructive
powers that were being exercised by European trading companies, explorers,
and other travellers who visited foreign lands. The ethical debates surrounding
migration, asylum, and the globalization of commercial, cultural, and quasi-political
activities below the level of states are the closest contemporary analogues
to Kant's concern to justify "a right to visit" foreign lands, the right
to expect "hospitable" treatment as strangers and visitors to foreign lands,
and the right of individuals and societies to repel foreign individuals
and quasi-sovereign powers if they violate the conditions of cosmopolitan
right. For Kant, justice should not be theorized only at the level of the
state or at the level of inter-state relations; on his view, for true justice
to emerge, rights and obligations must also be formulated to protect host
societies in their interactions with foreigners and to protect those who
become foreigners as they cross borders.
Kant's Cosmopolitan Right(1)
In contemporary debates about the priority of ethical commitments to particular groups versus fidelity to humanity as such, commentators often tout Kant as the historical standard bearer of the cosmopolitan camp.(2) Strikingly, Kant himself believed that while every individual should indeed be a "friend of human beings as such (i.e., of the whole race)" (6: 472), such cosmopolitan sentiments on their own are generally too thin to motivate humane behaviour. As he notes in the Doctrine of Virtue (1797):
Now the benevolence present in love for all human beings is indeed the greatest in its extent, but the smallest in its degree; and when I say that I take an interest in this human being's well-being only out of my love for all human beings, the interest I take is as slight as an interest can be. I am only not indifferent with regard to him. (6: 451)
In his lectures on ethics from 1793, Kant expresses similar concerns in a discussion about "patriotism", "love for a particular group", and "cosmopolitanism".(3) He argues that group loyalty ("love for a particular group, or common obligation under a particular rule, to which there arises by custom a distinctive appearance") and cosmopolitanism ("a general love...for the entire human race") are both fraught with dangers. In considering "the love for societies, for orders of freemasonry, for the station one belongs to, and for sects such as the Herrenhuter [the Moravian brotherhood who in North America became known as the Hutterites]", Kant worries that such attachments "could be detrimental to the propensity for a general love of mankind" because, from the standpoint of any one member, "the class of men with whom he stands in no connection seems to become indifferent". Given the cosmopolitan understanding that many have of Kant's ethics, this should come as no surprise, but he then turns his sceptical eye toward the cosmopolitan: "the friend of humanity, on the other hand, seems equally open to censure, since he cannot fail to dissipate his inclination through its excessive generality, and quite loses any adherence to individual persons". (27: 673) As in the Doctrine of Virtue, Kant's concern is that in loving everyone generally, the cosmopolitan loves no one in particular. Kant suggests that the kind of loyalty that might avoid such pitfalls would be that of the "cosmopolite" who possesses "a moral sense with dutiful global and local patriotism" and who "in fealty to his country must have an inclination to promote the well-being of the entire world." (27: 673-674) This would stand in contrast, Kant argues, with the "error that the [ancient] Greeks displayed, in that they evinced no goodwill towards extranei [outsiders, or foreigners], but included them all, rather, sub voce hostes = barbari [under the name of enemies, or barbarians]". (27: 674) In his lectures on moral philosophy, Kant does not go on to elaborate the nuanced disposition he favours, to show more precisely how one might conceptualize loving humanity as such in addition to fostering local, particular ethical concerns and commitments. Just two years later, however, in the context of his political thought, he began to theorize just such a middle ground between the parochialism of local attachments and an empty cosmopolitanism. In articulating the idea of "cosmopolitan right", Kant seeks precisely to overcome the exclusion of foreigners from the fold of moral respect, while at the same time securing a space for nations and groups to pursue distinct ways of life.
"Humanity" and cultural diversity
Kant's theory of cosmopolitan right is informed especially by his understandings of humanity and of human diversity. Both of these aspects of his thought, however, are widely misunderstood. Since the primary purpose of this essay is to elaborate Kant's theory of cosmopolitanism, what follows is a brief synopsis of his account of the constitutive features of human beings, and his conceptualization of human diversity, though only to the extent that this will illuminate his understanding of cosmopolitanism.(4)
In Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Kant suggests that human beings are comprised of at least three fundamental strands: animality, humanity, and personality. Animality refers to those aspects of ourselves that we share with many other animals, and that are generally instinctual, such as the natural drive "for self-preservation", "the propagation of the species, through the sexual drive", and "for community with other human beings, i.e., the social drive." (6: 26) In these respects, according to Kant, humans express their animality.
In sharp contrast to the instinctual drives of humans' animality is the fact (on Kant's view) that humans can cognize and be motivated by practical reason alone. Humans, that is, are moral creatures, for they are beings who can understand and act upon moral ideas; thus, human beings possess personality (Persönlichkeit).(5) One of Kant's frequent assertions is that our status as persons is an utter mystery; it is beyond the realm of our meagre understanding to know how it is that we are moral creatures and how precisely our moral faculties motivate us to act. In Kant's terminology, this aspect of human beings is 'noumenal'. Much has been made of the 'metaphysical subject' that is allegedly being invoked when Kant makes such claims. In fact, Kant is quite clear in asserting, from the Critique of Pure Reason onward, that the concept of noumenon is simply a "name" that represents an "unknown something"--in other words, that noumenon is a "boundary concept" which refers only to the negative proposition that there are aspects of ourselves and of our surroundings that we can never understand, rather than the positive assertion that there is a metaphysical substance or essence at the core of our very being or in the world at large.(6) In Kant's ethical thought, then, it is our personality that marks us as moral beings; but as moral beings, Kant does not argue that we must respect the 'personality' of each individual; rather, he famously asserts the following: "So act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means." (4: 429) What precisely is this humanity, this middle term between animality and personality, to which Kant believes we should pay moral respect?(7)
For Kant, humanity (Humanität, Menschheit) and culture (Kultur) are fundamentally linked concepts. Humanity refers to what Kant views as the basic anthropological fact that humans are beings who create and/or sustain and transform desires, values, and ideals, inscribe their own meanings and idealizations of beauty on to the world, and draw upon memory, imagination, and skill in order to orient themselves and transform their surroundings. Given Kant's emphasis on culture and freedom as integral to the very idea of humanity, I call his view humanity as cultural agency. As Kant makes clear in Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History (1786), Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (1793), and the Metaphysics of Morals (1797), the uses of reason and freedom that humanity as cultural agency presupposes are embedded within and partly shaped by humans' social contexts. In sharp contrast to the typical (ostensibly Kantian) view of the rarefied human subject who stands free of all social and cultural attachments, Kant asserts that "humanity" refers fundamentally to the idea that human beings are situated within, and also have the powers to transform, their concrete, empirical surroundings. In our capacity as beings with humanity, we use our practical reason, not alone and free from all worldly influences, "but only as subservient to other incentives" (6: 28), incentives that are informed (as Kant contends in the Conjectures) by reflections upon our environmental and social surroundings. Kant writes that the contextual reasoning and freedom that animates cultural agency makes possible "human choice", a "freedom of choice" (or "negative freedom") that we possess as beings with humanity (as opposed to an "animal choice" that is driven by instinct alone, or enactments of our "positive freedom" that we make as moral persons when we act morally out of our commitment to moral duty alone) (6: 213). This sphere of constitutively human activity is simply "culture in general" (6: 392); all humans, simply because of their humanity, use their reason, freedom, memory, imagination, skill and other powers in order to extend and transform their cultural lives. Kant's universal moral injunction, therefore, is an appeal to all humans to respect their fellow humans' cultural agency.
One of the crucial conclusions that follows from this understanding of humanity, as Kant explains in The Metaphysics of Morals, is that many of the distinctively human (i.e., cultural) choices that humans make cannot be judged or compared according to universal norms; intrinsic to moral judgement, for Kant, is an element of incommensurability.(8) Considering ourselves only as cultural agents, the choices that we make are morally indifferent; as Kant notes,
the preference of one state of determination of the will to another is merely [i.e., simply] an act of freedom (res merae facultatis, as jurists say), in regard to which no account at all is taken of whether this (determination of the will) is good or evil in itself, and is thus indifferent with regard to both. (8: 282, underscoring added)
Yet, such preferences might be oppressive and cruel; they might, in Kant's terms, use others simply as means for one's own ends. That is, given that we are also beings capable of moral reflection, not every exercise of our humanity is morally indifferent. Accordingly, Kant reiterates his argument that our choices need to be checked by the regulative idea of "a categorically commanding law of free choice [der freien Willkür] (i.e., of [moral] duty)", in order to prohibit actions in which oneself or others are used as mere things. (8: 282)
Nonetheless, there is a significant cultural space, as one might call it, that lies outside the bounds of what is absolutely prohibited and that remains, from the standpoint of a categorical morality, "morally permissible" or "morally indifferent". This does not entail that we have no standards at all to guide us within this cultural space; rather, this domain of action and deliberation is indeed subject to rules, values, and judgements, although they vary enormously over time and place (and even for the same individual), and are thus not universal in scope. By induction from one's varied experiences, Kant argues that it might be possible for an individual to form generalities in order to make choices within this wide sphere of morally permissible actions and judgements, but these generalities would be merely rules of thumb, not universal principles. Such standards are incommensurable, since there is no shared standard that exists to adjudicate decisively among them. As cultural agents, then, humans exercise what Kant describes as acts of freedom that are informed by our experience: res merae facultatis.(9)
An action that is neither commanded nor prohibited is merely permitted, since there is no [universal] law limiting one's freedom (one's authorization) with regard to it and so too no [moral] duty. Such an action is called morally indifferent (indifferens, adiaphoron, res merae facultatis). (6: 223)
Ultimately, within this 'morally indifferent' cultural sphere that partly constitutes us as humans, there are no universal ethical standards that allow us to compare various options according to cross-cultural norms or criteria; from a moral standpoint, then, the idea of humanity is closely linked to the fact of moral incommensurability. Kant's little understood account of humanity forms the moral and philosophical basis of the better known anti-paternalism of his political thought, which he famously extends to individuals in arguing that they should be given the latitude to make choices as they see fit, as long as such choices are not manifestly unjust or immoral. As we will see, Kant also applies his account of humanity, and concomitantly his anti-paternalism, to human groups, in particular to non-European peoples.
As one would expect, Kant's view of humanity as cultural agency influences his conceptualization of human diversity as well. The most salient differences among groups of humans and, more broadly, among nations turns not upon biological or environmental differences, but simply upon the different uses of the situated reason and freedom--the cultural agency--that define us as creatures with humanity. Kant deploys a tripartite sociological distinction among hunting, pastoral (nomadic herders), and agricultural (sedentary) peoples that had been used in earlier eighteenth century classifications of peoples in order to differentiate the vast range of human groups.(10) Unlike earlier thinkers who relied upon this framework, such as Montesquieu, Kant's delineation of global human diversity identifies peoples exclusively by their activities as cultural agents. This stands in contrast to two other strategies of coming to terms with the diversity of peoples that eighteenth-century ethnography presented: (1) dividing up the world's peoples according to a theory of biological or intrinsic ability (as race theorists would do en masse in the nineteenth century, following up the early development of the concept of race in the eighteenth century); (2) focusing on environmentally-induced characteristics (sloth, industriousness, and so forth) that were said to be engendered by various climates. Kant's account of humanity as cultural agency leads him to treat the most socially fundamental human activities, those around which entire societies are organized and shaped, as central to an understanding of the diversity of peoples. Accordingly, Kant presents hunting, pastoralist and agrarian pursuits as rationally chosen or sustained activities, not as biologically (i.e., instinctually or racially) or climatically determined practices. A crucial consequence of this view is that nomadic peoples do not lead the 'natural' lives of noble (or ignoble) savages, as opposed to the 'artificial' lives of the Chinese or the Europeans; rather, they lead lives as humans, as cultural agents, and thus they consciously continue to lead (and to transform) their lives as a result of distinctively human judgements (which are often, on Kant's view, incommensurable and, thus, are not often amenable to universal moral censure). The full significance of this, as I will soon show, is that in contrast to the four-stage theory of human diversity and development, which was especially popular in writings of the Scottish Enlightenment and used a similar system of classification (hunting, pastoral, agricultural, and commercial societies), Kant did not portray his three-part division as a hierarchy along which 'lower' societies ought to climb in order to reach the heights of European development.(11) Rather, Kant's account of human diversity attends to the plurality of distinctively human judgements--'culture in general'--that individuals and groups make differently, and for which there often exists no objectively valid, universal measure of superiority, moral goodness, or excellence.(12)
In his discussion of the political consequences of cultural diversity, Kant focuses on the tensions between agrarian peoples and pastoral peoples, those whose sustenance and way of life is based primarily upon the "sporadic digging for roots or gathering of fruit". (8: 118) Like Rousseau, Kant believes that the introduction of agriculture and the early growth of settled communities instigate profound consequences for people within such societies, including the rise of a variety of artistic, scientific, and other cultural developments and, concomitantly, the rise of a disturbing amount of social oppression and inequality. But Kant also describes the basic differences between entire nations who practise varying collective lifestyles and the resulting social tensions between these coexisting peoples:
Pastoral life is not only leisurely, but also the most reliable means of support, for there is no lack of fodder for animals in a largely uninhabited country. Agriculture or the planting of crops, on the other hand, is extremely laborious, subject to the vagaries of climate, and consequently insecure; it also requires permanent settlements, ownership of land, and sufficient strength to defend the latter. The herdsman, however, abhors such property because it limits his freedom of pasture. (8: 118)
The external conflicts between pastoralists (and hunters), on the one hand, and settled societies, on the other, create a situation virtually identical to that of a Hobbesian state of nature. In this case, however, rather than the pernicious atmosphere of conflict arising from individuals, or loosely organized bands of individuals, with different personal understandings of the danger or insecurity of others' behaviour, the Conjectures delineates the conflicts between nations (or peoples, Völker) that arise because of their differing collective ways of life. Kant argues that civil constitutions and the public administration of justice arose in part because of the specific internal social needs of agricultural societies, such as the need for a stable system of property relations and the desire to manage "major acts of violence" through public power rather than through acts of private vengeance. (8: 119) In addition to this, however, external relations among settled and non-settled peoples also provided an impetus to the political organization of agriculturally-based societies:
Where people depend for their livelihood on the cultivation of the soil (and on the planting of trees in particular), they require permanent accommodation; and the defence of such property against all encroachment requires a large number of people who are prepared to assist one another. Hence those who adopted this way of life could no longer live in scattered family units, but had to stick together and set up village communities (incorrectly described as towns) in order to protect their property against savage hunters or tribes of pastoral nomads. (8: 119)
Once such agriculturally-based societies gain strength, Kant suggests three alternatives for the ensuing relationship between settled and non-settled peoples. First, their conflicts might drive some nomadic peoples to the far reaches of the earth in search of safe territories on which they can practise their way of life. In Toward Perpetual Peace, Kant speculates that the peoples of the Arctic Ocean, such as "the Ostiaks or Samoyeds" must have been driven to such extreme terrain and climates by war. (8: 363-365) Similarly, agriculturalists felt compelled to "distance" themselves "as far as possible" from peoples who might undermine "the fruit" of their "long and diligent efforts". (8: 119) The second option is a somewhat voluntary assimilation: in short, hunting and pastoral peoples will choose to enter settled societies. The social oppression and injustice of settled societies might be overlooked by non-settled peoples given "the growing luxury of the town-dwellers" and thus they may "let themselves be drawn into the glittering misery of the towns". (8: 120) Third, Kant also mentions briefly the forced assimilation of non-settled peoples through the colonial activities of settled societies. Population growth, among other factors, impels settled nations to expand by force: "like a beehive, [to] send out colonists in all directions from the centre--colonists who were already civilized." (8: 119) Kant understood, in the early essay Idea for a Universal History (1784), the implications of such activities in his own day, though only later (in his writings from the mid-1790s onward) would he condemn them. The efforts of colonists in the past and in his own day, he implies, did not (and would not) spare peoples who led non-settled ways of life. Kant anticipates (here without judgement) that "the political constitutions of our continent...will probably legislate eventually for all other continents". (8: 29)
Anti-imperialism and Cosmopolitan Right
Since a number of non-settled nations in the eighteenth century were resisting the lure of assimilation and since the European imperial effort had not yet forcibly colonized all such nations, Kant recognized that the ongoing antagonistic relationships between radically diverse peoples constituted the global political reality of his day, one that demanded, on his view, not simply a conjectural history as he had once provided, but also an ethical analysis.
In a striking section of The Metaphysics of Morals, Kant ponders some of the moral issues that are raised by conflicts among peoples who practise different collective ways of life in the context of a discussion about the various uses of property. He dismisses John Locke's argument that one must mix one's labour with the land (for instance, through the practice of agriculture) in order to be able to claim it legitimately as one's own property. This agriculturalist approach to justifying private property was often used by British and French colonialists as a means to deny Amerindians any ownership of the land they occupied, on the view that they did not mix their labour with, and thus did not 'improve', the land in any manner.(13) Accordingly, such territory was considered to be res nullius, or 'belonging to no one'. It is significant, then, that Kant addresses this theory of property just before discussing conflicts between agrarian and non-settled peoples in general and the moral claims of European imperialists in particular. Kant presents the Lockean view in the form of a question before rejecting it swiftly:
in order to acquire land is it necessary to develop it (build on it, cultivate it, drain it, and so on)? No. For since these forms (of specification) are only accidents, they make no object of direct possession and can belong to what the subject possesses only insofar as the substance is already recognized as his. When first acquisition is in question, developing land is nothing more than an external sign of taking possession, for which many other signs that cost less effort can be substituted.(14) (6: 265)
The clearest aforementioned sign, in Kant's view, is the capability of defending such land; in short, if peoples are capable of actively resisting others' attempts to use or to occupy their lands, this itself constitutes a sign that they are the first possessors, regardless of whether they have cultivated or developed their lands.
Kant then moves to the issue of neighbouring families or peoples who practise different collective ways of life; can they, he asks,
resist each other in adopting a certain use of land, for example, can a hunting people resist a pasturing people or a farming people, or the latter resist a people that wants to plant orchards, and so forth? Certainly, since as long as they keep within their own boundaries the way they want to live on their land is up to their own discretion (res merae facultatis). (6: 266, underscoring added)
I described earlier how Kant uses the Latin juristic term res merae facultatis to refer to that part of the faculty of desire by which individuals exercise their cultural (or "negative") freedom in order to make distinctively "human choices", choices that result from our status as beings with "humanity" and that necessarily yield a plurality of perspectives and practices. Kant defends giving individuals a wide latitude to reflect upon their choices about happiness, value, beauty, work, which capacities they will cultivate, and other matters relating, broadly stated, to their cultural activities and judgements. Here Kant applies this anti-paternalistic idea of a pluralistic and experientially-situated freedom to groups, that is, to the collective ways of life of entire peoples.
Kant continues his argument by moving immediately from the topic of neighbouring peoples, who are adjacent to one another presumably because of much earlier migrations of the kind that he describes in the Conjectures, to the more immediately contrived encounters of European voyages of discovery and imperial activity. Kant notes that
it can still be asked whether, when neither nature nor chance but just our own will brings us into the neighborhood of a people that holds out no prospect of a civil union with it, we should not be authorized to found colonies, by force if need be, in order to establish a civil union with them and bring these human beings (savages) into a rightful condition (as with the American Indians, the Hottentots [of southern Africa] and the inhabitants of New Holland [Australia]); or (which is not much better), to found colonies by fraudulent purchase of their land, and so become owners of their land, making use of our superiority without regard for their first possession. (6: 266)
Kant contemptuously labels such rationalizations of European imperialism as "Jesuitism" and writes that "it is easy to see through this veil of injustice". He concludes bluntly that "[s]uch a way of acquiring land is therefore to be repudiated." (6: 266) Kant ultimately defends the freedom of societies, including those of hunting and pastoral peoples, to organize their most basic collective practices in the manner that they see fit and to defend their way of life against imperialists and others who attempt to alter them.
In order to understand more fully the nature of Kant's opposition to imperialism, however, one must examine his writings on cosmopolitan right (as set forth in Toward Perpetual Peace and The Metaphysics of Morals), the primary critical purpose of which is to condemn European imperialism. Yet, a crucial question immediately presents itself before one can investigate the concept itself: namely, to what domain of human activity does cosmopolitan right refer? Kant insists adamantly that the concept of right should be theorized at three conceptually distinct levels: the domestic, the international (rights pertaining to the law of nations), and the cosmopolitan.(15) Kant's political writings make clear that at each level one can formulate an ideal against which actual political practices can be judged and toward which we should collectively attempt to realize, however imperfectly. Thus, the idea of civil rights applies to the institutions and practices of individual states. The ideal against which actual regimes are judged is that of a "pure republic" in which public authority flows from the sanctity of the laws and not from the arbitrary power of any one group of particular humans (in its classic formulation, a government of laws, not of men), a regime in which "freedom [is] the principle and indeed the condition for any exercise of [public] coercion".(16) (6: 340) The right of nations (or right of states) applies to the relations among states. At this level, the regulative ideal against which present actions should be judged and towards which states should strive is a free federation of states eventually encompassing "all the nations of the earth." (8: 357) To whom or to what practices, then, does cosmopolitan right apply, if not to relations among individuals or relations among states? And what is the ideal of cosmopolitan right against which the relevant extant practices should be judged?
In recognition of the heightened discovery, travel, and imperial activity of his century, Kant believed that a discussion of justice at only the domestic and interstate levels could not fully capture the newly emerging ethical problems of the modern age. Although his discussions of ancient trade routes, such as those that connected Europe to Central Asia and, ultimately, India and China, in Toward Perpetual Peace exemplify his understanding of the extensive history of commercial relations and activity between Europe and the non-European world, Kant also believed that the world of his day had become integrated to a degree that went far beyond past transnational relationships.(17) One can plausibly describe this aspect of Kant's thought, then, as an early attempt to grapple with the globalization of economic, political, and hence moral ties. Kant suggests that since the
community of nations of the earth has now gone so far that a violation of right on one place of the earth is felt in all, the idea of a cosmopolitan right is no fantastic and exaggerated way of representing right[.] (8: 360)
In formulating this new ethico-political category, Kant stresses that it rests not upon a preposterous and idealistic view of the international community, but rather responds to the actual global relationships that make the idea of cosmopolitan right a moral necessity. Cosmopolitan right is therefore
a supplement to the unwritten code of the right of a state and the right of nations necessary for the sake of any public rights of human beings and so for perpetual peace; only under this condition can we flatter ourselves that we are constantly approaching perpetual peace. (8: 360)
Kant affirms the importance of cosmopolitan right even more starkly in The Metaphysics of Morals, where he asserts that if we fail to secure a semblance of justice at any one of the three levels of human interaction (the domestic, international, and cosmopolitan levels), then "the framework of all the others is unavoidably undermined and must finally collapse." (6: 311) For Kant, the particular activities that have engendered not only the reality of a community of nations on the earth, but also the issues of justice at this cosmopolitan level are almost all related to European colonialism. Visiting foreign lands "and still more settling there to connect them with the mother country, provides the occasion for troubles and acts of violence in one place on our globe to be felt all over it." (6: 353)
In a discussion of the "right of nations" in the Doctrine of Right, Kant argues that the analogy between warring states in the international arena and warring individuals in a state of nature reaches its limit when one fully considers issues of global justice because
we have to take into consideration not only the relation of one state toward another as a whole, but also the relation of individual persons of one state toward the individuals of another, as well as toward another state as a whole. (6: 344)
Kant informs his readers that in this section (on the right of states), he will concern himself only with those features of international relations that are analogous to a hypothetical state of nature, leaving unanswered the question of when he might consider the non-analogous relationships he describes briefly above. We later find that he saves his discussion of non-interstate global relationships for his section on cosmopolitan right. It then becomes clear that cosmopolitan right concerns how individuals from one political realm ought to relate to individuals of another (foreign) realm, as well as how states and foreigners should treat one another--i.e., what visitors owe to foreign states, and what states, in turn, owe to such foreign visitors.
Along these lines, Kant explains in a footnote to Toward Perpetual Peace that cosmopolitan right refers to
the right of citizens of the world, insofar as individuals and states, standing in the relation of externally affecting one another, are to be regarded as citizens of a universal state of humanity (ius cosmopoliticum). (8: 349)
Although the emphasis here on being citizens of the world might appear to be a slightly different way of representing the domain of cosmopolitan right, in Kant's German this amounts simply to a description of the word used for "cosmopolitan right" itself, as Weltbürgerrecht is literally a compound of "world", "citizen", and "right". While Kant argues against an actual world government and instead for simply a voluntary federation of states, he believes that the complex interrelationships between states and foreigners raise issues of justice that can only be met by a separate category of justice, one that recognizes that the interrelationships among humans bind them together as fellow citizens of the earth, despite the fact that they inhabit different sovereign realms. Thus, as Kant makes a point of emphasizing, humans from different societies owe something to each other as a matter of justice, not simply as a matter of philanthropy or generosity, despite the fact that states and foreigners cannot point to a shared sovereign power that unites them all.
It should be clear, then, why a discussion only of interstate relations is insufficient for the purposes of discussing political justice at a global level. The language of justice--or, in Kant's terms, the domain of right--extends beyond the borders of any one state and, at a global level, involves more than just interstate relations. Kant's statements about cosmopolitan right suggest that it is not its global scope that distinguishes it from international right. Instead, cosmopolitan right is unique in that it attempts to articulate a normative ideal that attends to the ethical problems raised by increasingly common relationships between "[foreign] individuals and states", in contrast to the traditional purview of the 'law of nations' that pertains mainly to "states in relation to one another (ius gentium)". (8: 349) Presumably, even if the ideal condition of a voluntary federation of states were met, ethical problems would still be raised by the manner in which (for example) states and foreigners (or individuals from different countries) dealt with one another. Such foreign individuals might act as the agents of a state or they might simply be travellers of the kind who voyaged frequently in Kant's day, with no apparent intention of conquering lands, however much their information might have helped later colonialists. Bougainville, the eighteenth-century French explorer who circumnavigated the globe and whose travel writings inspired Diderot's dialogue about Tahiti and imperialism, seems to fit this latter category. In a book review of Bougainville's Voyage autour du monde, Diderot criticized Bougainville's travels for, perhaps unwittingly, laying the groundwork for what Diderot assumed would be French colonial activity in the South Pacific.(18) Diderot was, of course, prescient in this regard; indeed, Tahiti in the late twentieth century remains one of France's last colonial outposts. Yet, unlike Diderot, who proclaimed in his book review that Bougainville and every other European should simply leave Tahiti alone, Kant never, even for rhetorical effect, called for a prohibition against the development of transnational ties. Rather, his category of cosmopolitan right attempts to articulate an ideal with which one can both condemn European imperialism and encourage non-exploitative and peaceful transnational relations.
Kant understood, of course, that injustices often followed voyages of discovery and the commercial activities of trading companies, such as (to use one of Kant's examples) the British East India Company. Nonetheless, he argues that the "horrifying" abuses that transnational voyages have unleashed "cannot annul the right of citizens of the world to try to establish community with all and, to this end, to visit all regions of the earth." (6: 353) As he explains, cosmopolitan right should be limited to "conditions of universal hospitality" (8: 357), which include, for instance,
the right of a foreigner not to be treated with hostility because he has arrived on the land of another. The other can turn him away, if this can be done without destroying him, but as long as he behaves peaceably where he is [auf seinem Platz], he cannot be treated with hostility. (8: 358)
But why should we try to establish community with others at all? As we have seen, Kant's understanding of the transnational ties that were developing in his day (often unjustly because of 'hostile' Europeans) brought issues of cosmopolitan justice to the fore. In addition to the timeliness of theorizing cosmopolitan right in his day, Kant provides more fundamental reasons that suggest its enduring moral importance.
First, the finitude of humans' geography, that is, the very idea of a "globe", entails that individuals and societies cannot avoid interacting with one another. Humans do not live on an infinite plane along which they can spread without having to engage each other. Along these lines, it may be helpful to recall Kant's account of the social effects of war and the forced migrations that, on his view, originally populated much of the earth. At some point, Kant implies, whole peoples cannot continue to flee the injustices of persecution and settle in neutral, unoccupied territories. The globe itself poses intrinsic geographical limits to the strategies of mass exodus and national isolation. Since humans live on a "sphere, they cannot disperse infinitely but must finally put up with being near one another". (8: 358) This geographical argument, in combination with the political reality of increasing interconnectedness among peoples, presents the need for an ethical standard by which individuals and states can attempt to relate to one another in a non-exploitative manner. The relationships between far-flung peoples will take place not only at the realm of interstate relations, but will be fostered as a result of trade, voyages of anthropological and scientific study, and other forms of travel and contact. Kant's concept of cosmopolitan right seeks to attend to this complex global reality.
Second, Kant's account of property serves as the basis for an argument about the legitimacy of humans to voyage in pursuit of community with others. A key tenet of Kant's theory of property is that "[a]ll human beings are originally in common possession [Gesammt-Besitz] of the land of the entire earth". (6: 267) In other words, the territories that peoples possess today have not been owned permanently, but were originally held in common. Thus, there is a certain arbitrariness as to why certain people live on, and rightfully possess, particular areas of the earth. As Kant suggests in Toward Perpetual Peace, "originally no one had more right than another to be on a place on the earth." Hence, Kant's argument is that we should not presume from the simple fact that we legitimately possess a territory that this gives us the authority or the right to exclude others from it entirely. Given the ultimately arbitrary origins and, consequently, the equivocal status of our property, the rightful possessors of territories lack absolute authority over it; the individuals and governing authorities of nations, therefore, are under an ethical obligation to visiting foreigners who themselves possess a certain authority that demands ethical respect.(19) At one point, therefore, Kant refers to one aspect of "the right of hospitality" as "the authorization of a foreign newcomer". (8: 358)
In part, the authorization of those who roam from territory to territory derives from humanity's collective ownership of the earth's surface, if not its underlying land. There are also vast swaths of the earth's surface that are uninhabitable and that create ideal opportunities for travellers to seek community with other societies. As Kant argues, the "right to visit", or
to present oneself for society, belongs to all humans beings by virtue of the right of possession in common of the earth's surface.... Uninhabitable parts of the earth's surface, seas and deserts, divide this [global human] community, but in such a way that ships and camels (ships of the desert) make it possible to approach one another over these regions belonging to no one [die keinem angehörten] and to make use of the right to the earth's surface, which belongs to the human race in common, for possible commerce. (8: 358)
Kant's understanding of the legitimacy of travel stand in striking contrast to one of the prevalent views of voyaging and seeking out new lands and peoples in the tradition of Western thought. Even Diderot, though ultimately some kind of cosmopolitan at heart, as his reveries about cross-cultural learning, miscegenation, and community building evince, feared nonetheless that the very act of travel created corrupt and rapacious behaviour, for travellers who were too far removed from the moeurs of their homelands often became ferocious beasts abroad. Of course, Diderot's concerns about travel stemmed almost exclusively from his hatred of imperialism and the cruel domination of foreign peoples that ultimately resulted from travel in the modern age. But Diderot was simply giving an anti-colonialist spin on a theme with an ancient provenance; as Anthony Pagden has noted, the
disapproval of travel belongs to an ancient European tradition, one which locates the source of all civility--which is, after all a life lived in cities (civitates)--in settled communities, and which looks upon all modes of nomadism as irredeemably savage....Crossing the ocean was an act contrary to nature, for the gods--or God--had filled half the world with water precisely in order to keep humans apart.(20)
Set against this intellectual context, and unlike Diderot who often deploys (and thus seemingly endorses) a classic trope of this kind either to subvert it ultimately or to cast doubt on some other tradition, Kant unambiguously dispels this view of travel. With regard to oceans, for instance, he argues the following:
Although the seas might seem to remove nations from any community with one another, they are the arrangements of nature most favoring their commerce by means of navigation; and the more coastlines these nations have in the vicinity of one another (as in the Mediterranean), the more lively their commerce can be. (6: 353-354)
For Kant, nomadism per se is not evil or depraved. Though one can only speculate about such matters, Kant's fairly generous views of hunting and pastoral peoples in the light of most imperial discourse (for instance, the view that their collective lifestyles are fundamentally human and free and his defence of their legitimacy in resisting imperial subjugation and all coercive efforts to change their societies) may have something to do with his approval of the non-settled, nomadic voyagers whose travels created and strengthened a kind of global or transnational civil society, related to, but distinct from, the relations of states. Kant's theory of originally communal and traversable property together establish the authority of voyagers and, thus, the right to make community with others.(21)
Kant combines these two arguments of geography and property in a passage worth quoting at length. He writes in The Metaphysics of Morals that humans are enclosed
all together within determinate limits (by the spherical shape of the place they live in, a globus terraqueus [a globe of earth and water]). And since possession of the land, on which an inhabitant of the earth can live, can be thought only as a possession of a part of a determinate whole, and so as possession of that to which each of them originally has a right, it follows that all nations stand originally in a community of land, though not of rightful community of possession (communio) and so use of it, or of property in it; instead they stand in a community of possible physical interaction (commercium), that is, in a thoroughgoing relation of each to all the others of offering to engage in commerce with any other, and each has a right to make this attempt without the other being authorized to behave toward it as an enemy [simply] because it has made this attempt. (6: 352)
Kant's use of the Latin commercium indicates that although cosmopolitan right seeks in part to protect those engaged in market-oriented trade (commerce in the narrow sense), the concept of a right to visit is also intended more widely to refer to any possible interactions among individuals of different peoples. Kant's own language, in which he moves back and forth from Wechselwirkung (interaction broadly construed) to Verkehr (a term that he sometimes uses to denote contract, trade or market-based interactions, but that also means, more generically, dealings or contact), both of which are usually translated into English as "commerce", indicates the wide scope of Kant's understanding of commercial relationships. It would be a mistake, in other words, to treat cosmopolitan right simply as a kind of bourgeois right, to view it as a concept that Kant uses in order to legitimate an early form of global capitalism. Indeed, given the nature of Kant's attack on European imperialism, in many respects he uses the ethical standards of a commercial community (widely construed as cosmopolitan interaction) to attack the injustices wrought by the narrower, market-oriented sense of commerce, such as the exploitative, profit-seeking practices of voyagers and the actions of quasi-sovereign corporations like the British East India Company. The two senses of commerce, however, need not always be opposed. The "spirit of [market] commerce" and the related "power of money", both of which Kant marshals famously in defence of the idea of a realistic (non-naïve) belief in political progress, are selfish forces that (Kant wants his readers to hope) might engender a prudentially-oriented respect for cosmopolitan right, since the concept itself might not motivate individuals to abide by it. (8: 368) Here, then, we see Kant attempting to use market-oriented commerce in service of the broader idea of a just and peaceful commercium that the concept of cosmopolitan right demands.(22) But when the two are in conflict, Kant's anti-imperialist arguments evince the primacy of the latter, ethical idea of commercium.
Kant asserts emphatically that a right to visit is not a right to conquer or a right to settle. Cosmopolitan right "does not extend beyond the conditions which make it possible to seek commerce with the old inhabitants." (8: 358) Authorized visitors too are under certain obligations to foreign peoples (a visitor's authorization is not absolute, just as a state's authority over its land is not absolute) and, thus, inhospitality can flow in either direction. At one point, Kant criticizes some non-European practices such as those of the inhabitants along the Barbary coast "in robbing ships in adjacent seas or enslaving stranded seafarers, or that of the inhabitants of deserts (the Arabian Bedouins) in regarding approach to nomadic tribes as a right to plunder them". (8: 359) Nonetheless, he singles out European "commercial states" as particularly egregious offenders of cosmopolitan right given their imperial exploits.
If one compares with this [the idea of cosmopolitan right] the inhospitable behavior of civilized, especially commercial, states in our part of the world, the injustice they show in visiting foreign lands and peoples (which with them is tantamount to conquering them) goes to horrifying lengths. When America, the Negro countries, the Spice Islands, the Cape, and so forth were discovered, they were, to them, countries belonging to no one [die keinem angehörten], since they counted the inhabitants as nothing. In the East Indies (Hindustan), they brought in foreign soldiers under the pretext of merely proposing to set up trading posts, but with them [came] oppression of the inhabitants, incitement of the various Indians states to widespread wars, famine, rebellions, treachery, and the whole litany of troubles that oppress the human race. (8: 358-359)
In addition to his effort to defend oppressed people's resistance to imperial rule, Kant investigates some other responses to the horrors of European activity in the world. Given their cruel behaviour, Kant praises the restrictions imposed upon Europeans by China and Japan, much like Diderot (in the Histoire des deux Indes) had justified China's prohibition of Europeans. Kant writes that "China and Japan (Nipon), which had given such guests a try, have therefore wisely [placed restrictions on them], the former allowing them access but not entry [den Zugang, aber nicht den Eingang], the latter even allowing access to only a single European people, the Dutch, but excluding them, like prisoners, from community with the natives." (8: 359)(23) In a moment suggestive of his contextualized view of moral and political judgement, Kant praises the seemingly harsh restrictions in light of China and Japan's historical memory and political expediency.(24) Europeans had created such a pernicious historical record of foreign exploitation, in Kant's view, that non-European countries that had the ability to do so and were not already dominated from without were thus legitimately curbing European activities within their territories. Hence, actions that might prima facie violate the right to hospitality--in particular, the treatment of foreigners as virtual prisoners--become permissible in light of judgements of historical experience. Europeans, Kant implies, had worn out their welcome in much of the world long ago and, at least in some parts of the globe, were being treated accordingly.
While Kant does not rule out the legitimacy of making contact and developing reciprocal ties with peoples through travel, he insists that the right to try to establish community with others "is not, however, a right to make a settlement on the land of another nation (ius incolatus [right to inhabit]); for this, a specific contract is required." (6: 353) The people itself must allow foreigners to inhabit their land; as he suggests in Toward Perpetual Peace, even a right to be a "guest" requires "a special beneficent pact" that invites foreigners to become "members" of a household or, for that matter, of society in general. (8: 358) Kant understands, however, that the more pressing question in the context of imperial activity concerns whether radically different peoples, such as hunters or pastoralists, legitimately possess the lands they inhabit, and, even if they do, whether their use of such vast swaths of land is defensible. Accordingly, he considers a classic imperialist argument whereby a number of colonial settlements would be deemed justifiable because colonists simply become the neighbours of indigenous peoples; surely for this, the argument runs, no special agreement or pact of beneficence is necessary. Kant puts the question as follows: "in newly discovered lands, may a nation undertake to settle (accolatus [dwell near, as a neighbour]) and take possession in the neighbourhood of a people that has already settled in the region, even without its consent?" Kant responds:
If the settlement is made so far from where that people resides that there is no encroachment on anyone's use of his land, the right to settle is not open to doubt. But if these people are shepherds or hunters (like the Hottentots, the Tungusi, or most of the American Indian nations) who depend for their sustenance on vast open stretches of land [großen öden Landstrecken], this settlement may not take place by force but only by contract, and indeed by a contract that does not take advantage of the ignorance of those inhabitants with respect to ceding their lands. (6: 353)(25)
As inviting as "discovered" territory may seem to potential colonists, "vast open stretches of land" are not necessarily inhabitable by foreigners without indigenous peoples' consent, since its very vastness may be necessary for the basic sustenance of hunting or pastoral peoples. One implication of this passage is that individuals from settled societies are deceiving themselves by judging other peoples according to their own, ultimately conventional (in this case, agrarian) standards. Lands that appear to serve no purpose, on the European view, may very well be necessary for the collective lifestyles of whole nations. Such judgements, in other words, must be made in a manner that presupposes the rationality and freedom of indigenous peoples' land use, especially when that use relates to their basic survival. Given Kant's anthropological assumption that land use is one of the most fundamental social characteristics of a people, his defense of hunting and pastoral uses of land is an endorsement of the humanity (the distinctively human freedom, the cultural agency) of such peoples' collective ways of life. We have already seen that Kant does not hold the view that pastoralist and hunting peoples lead lives that are irrational or inhuman and thus that they have no right to their lands; rather, when peoples engage in such collective practices, he argues, their distinctively human (i.e., their cultural) freedom (res merae facultatis) must be respected. As we have just seen, the political criticism that such a view makes possible is taken up by Kant in his discussions of cosmopolitan right.
I have already surveyed the principal reasons why Kant finds Europeans' imperializing mission unjust, chiefly because it violates peoples' freedom to order their collective ways of life and because it oversteps the ethical limits imposed upon travellers according to cosmopolitan right, an ethical and political concept that he articulates precisely in order to scrutinize interactions between foreign peoples and voyaging individuals, including colonialists and members of potentially exploitative trading companies. Underlying all of this philosophically, I have suggested, are Kant's understanding of negative freedom and distinctively human choice (which for him are among the sources of "humanity" and "culture in general"), and his anti-paternalistic commitment to a wide latitude of judgement and self-determination. In addition to his positive defense of non-Europeans against imperial incursions, Kant dismisses two "specious [scheinbar] reasons" given to support the colonization of the New World: that "it is to the world's advantage, partly because these crude peoples will become civilized...and partly because one's own country will be cleaned of corrupt men, and they or their descendants will, it is hoped, become better in another part of the world (such as New Holland [Australia])." (6: 353) Kant's reply is swift and concise: "But all these supposedly good intentions cannot wash away the stain of injustice in the means used for them." (6: 353)
But why does Kant believe that the standard justifications of imperialism are "specious" and only "supposedly" good? In particular, why does Kant contend that the mission to civilize others is specious? To be sure, as we have seen, he abhors the coercion involved in such imperializing activities--the means of imperialism--as ethically unacceptable because of their intrinsic brutality and because they are a manifest affront to the idea that peoples ought to be allowed to make their own determinations as to how to organize their societies. But what of the ends of imperialism, especially the standard imperialist justification that "civilized" societies ought to civilize "primitive" peoples? Is the very goal of "civilizing" other peoples just or unjust? If the questions are put in this manner, then the answer can be drawn straightforwardly from Kant's anti-paternalism: just as individuals (or states) should not directly order others' life choices, groups of colonialists should not restructure the collective life choices of entire peoples. Thus, if human freedom is given its due, then there cannot be a duty to civilize others, just as there cannot be a duty to develop other individuals.
As discussed earlier, however, Kant justifies a moral duty to develop one's own human capacities. Is there, then, a corresponding duty for peoples to "improve" or "perfect" themselves? In the language of the eighteenth century, are hunting and pastoral peoples duty-bound to become "civilized" through their own internal efforts? How far does Kant accept the global diversity of peoples that he identifies? To flesh this out further, we can ask the following: while there is no just way for Europeans or any other nations to bring such changes about by force, should hunting and pastoral peoples themselves (through their own actions, and of their own volition) transform their lifestyles and practices into those of agrarian societies and institute the public administration of justice and rule of law, as described, for instance, in the Doctrine of Right? Kant did not address this question directly (incidentally, this itself is astonishing in the light of common eighteenth-century developmental accounts of New World peoples), but it is worthwhile to study the passages in his published writings of the critical period that shed some light on this issue. The general question, then, is whether these ways of life (hunting, pastoral, and agricultural) are commensurable--whether, that is, they can be ranked or ordered along some universal scale of value, such that an (allegedly) 'inferior' people ought to raise themselves to a 'superior' level of social and political development.
We have seen already that, in the
Metaphysics of Morals, Kant treats the decision to lead a hunting
or pastoral existence as an instance of distinctively human choice, i.e.,
of cultural agency. The fact that Kant employs the language of this form
of human freedom, e.g., res merae facultatis, to defend the viability
of such differences among peoples indicates that absolute moral judgements
about them cannot be made. Consequently, hunting, pastoral, and agrarian
societies are neither morally obligatory nor morally evil. As I argued
earlier, for Kant, choices at the cultural level involve relative or comparative
judgements that are based upon varying and partial understandings of experience.
If one chooses to continue a non-settled existence, this falls within the
range of judgements that a categorical ethics cannot prescribe or deny.
Judgements of this kind are morally neutral and thus are judged according
to standards of satisfaction and happiness that, for Kant, are inherently
plural. There are no universal standards of happiness, according to Kant,
with which one could definitively rank order morally neutral various ways
of life, whether they are individual lives or the most fundamental collective
practices (the most basic issues of land usage) of entire nations. The
three forms of group life with which Kant differentiates global peoples
are, thus, incommensurable; there is no universal value with which one
could rationally judge one against the other. This is the ultimate consequence
of Kant's claim about societies and how they should structure their most
fundamental collective practices (from hunting or herding animals to farming
and the sedentary, urban lives it makes possible): "how they want to live
on their land is up to their own discretion (res merae facultatis)."
(6: 266) Strikingly, by invoking the language of humanity, in his distinctive
sense of cultural agency, Kant affirms the ultimate incommensurability
of these collective ways of life.
Kant, who is most often presented as the arch-universalist of modern Western moral and political thought, ultimately attacks imperialism by denying the reach of universal standards; at the same time, this strategy rests in part upon the universal, cross-cultural concepts of the distinctively human reason and freedom that, on his view, lie at the heart of cultural practices. Kant's nuanced account of humanity and his accompanying understanding of moral and political judgement--one that comprises a commitment both to moral universalism and to a doctrine of moral incommensurability--animates, in a variety of intriguing ways, his account of cosmopolitan justice among European and non-European peoples. Through the inclusive concept of cosmopolitan right, Kant explicitly brings the peoples of the globe into the moral fold and, accordingly, defends the lives of peoples remarkably different from his own both as incommensurably 'other' and as similarly human. For Kant, as with Diderot and Herder (notably, two other prominent anti-imperialists of the Enlightenment era), the universal and particular features of humanity are deeply interwoven. What makes us different, in many respects incommensurably different, is what defines us as human--this, Kant implies, is what defenders of empire, in their quest to justify the profitable destruction and conquest of foreign societies, fail to comprehend. To respect the incommensurable pluralism of both individual and collective lives, either at home or abroad, is to respect our shared humanity. Such are the astonishing results of Kant's unusual understanding of "cosmopolitanism."
1. *Many thanks to the following for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article: Seyla Benhabib, Pratap Mehta, Anthony Pagden, Jennifer Pitts, Patrick Riley, and Richard Tuck. An earlier version of this essay was published in the journal Constellations, as part of a special section that I co-edited with Pratap B. Mehta on the topic of cosmopolitanism and political theory. (Sankar Muthu, "Justice and Foreigners: Kant's Cosmopolitan Right", Constellations, vol.7, no.1 (March 2000), pp. 23-45.)
2. 1For instance, see the essays in Martha Nussbaum, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), ed. Joshua Cohen.
3. 2"Notes on the lectures of Mr. Kant on the metaphysics of morals" taken by Johann Friedrich Vigilantius, beginning on 14 October 1793. Citations of Kant's writings are from the standard Prussian Academy edition (volume followed by page number). Immanuel Kant, Kants gesammelte Schriften, herausgegeben von der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1902-1983), 29 vols. I have quoted the following editions: Immanuel Kant, Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), trans. and ed. Mary Gregor; Kant: political writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 2nd edition, ed. Hans Siegbert Reiss; Religion and rational theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), eds. and trans. Allen W. Wood and George Di Giovanni; Critique of pure reason (Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 1996), ed. and trans. Werner S. Pluhar; Lectures on Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), eds. Peter Lauchlan Heath and J.B. Schneewind. At times, I have altered the standard English editions in light of my own translations in order to achieve greater clarity and terminological consistency.
4. 3 I elaborate these aspects of Kant's thought more comprehensively, in comparison with Rousseau, Diderot, and Herder, in my forthcoming book: Enlightenment and Empire: Humanity and Cultural Pluralism in Anti-Imperialist Political Thought.
5. 4 Kant sometimes uses the language of "humanity" to refer to this aspect of human beings, which can create some conceptual confusion for his readers. He very often, however, explicitly distinguishes personality from humanity. He sometimes uses the language of humanity to discuss what he often denotes only as personality because of his view that personality is "the idea of humanity considered wholly intellectually"; in other words, personality, like humanity, uses the powers of practical reasoning, yet in the case of our personality (i.e., as moral agents), on Kant's view, we draw upon and are motivated only by practical reason (6: 28), and thus we use the powers of our humanity in a rarefied, or 'intellectual', manner.
6. 5 As Kant writes: "The concept of noumenon is, therefore, only a boundary concept serving to limit the pretension of sensibility, and hence is only of negative use. But it is nonetheless not arbitrarily invented; rather, it coheres with the limitation of sensibility, yet without being able to posit anything positive outside sensibility's range." (A 255/B 310-311) To be sure, the idea that noumenon is a "boundary concept", a point that he makes repeatedly in various formulations, is often undermined by Kant's own language in describing noumena; in part, the difficulty arises in discussing noumena (which cannot be cognized by the categories of space and time) in terms that are not themselves spatial and temporal. This, of course, is impossible, so Kant tends to rely upon metaphorical language (e.g., that we may want to think of noumena and phenomena as two different "worlds", or that humans in their capacity as moral creatures are homo noumenon) that is often deeply misleading because of the seeming implication that "noumenon" is a metaphysical realm or essence when, in fact, the concept of noumenon is itself introduced in order to deny our knowledge of anything metaphysical. This is emphasized lucidly and succinctly by Kant himself--through the concept of a noumenon, he writes, one "acknowledges not cognizing things in themselves through any categories, and hence only thinking them under the name of an unknown something." (A 256/B 312)
7. 6I am indebted to Christine Korsgaard's incisive discussion of the version of Kant's categorical imperative that she calls the 'formula of humanity', although our readings differ in their scope, application, and in some interpretive details. See Christine M. Korsgaard, "Kant's Formula of Humanity" in Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), especially pp. 106-132.
8. 7For instance, Kant argues that when humans cultivate their distinctively human powers (those aspects of themselves that are labelled as "humanity"), no universal principle exists to let humans know how they should use their cultural agency: "No rational principle prescribes specifically [bestimmt] how far one should go in cultivating one's capacities (in enlarging or correcting one's capacity for understanding, i.e., in acquiring knowledge or skill [Kunstfähigkeit])....With regard to natural perfection, accordingly, there is no law of reason for actions." (6: 392) Kant also argues, in tandem with his anti-paternalism, that "the different situations in which human beings may find themselves make a human being's choice [Wahl] of the occupation for which he should cultivate his talents very much a matter for him to decide as he chooses [sehr willkürlich]." (6: 392) Given his understanding of humanity, Kant defends in such passages a form of freedom, or self-determination, precisely in light of the situated circumstances of actual human beings, not as a radical conception of autonomy that abstracts from social contexts. In addition, the diversity of human choice that Kant recognizes follows from his theorization of the diversity of contexts within which humans lead their lives; on his view, this is a diversity that must be incorporated, not eviscerated, by any proper account of ethical life. We will see the consequences of this view for Kant's understanding of non-European peoples and his criticisms of European imperialism.
9. 8Kant's use of this juristic term--res merae facultatis--refers to the faculty of human choice and negative freedom that are constitutive of humanity. Kant elaborates the relevant "faculty" accordingly: it is the "faculty to do or to refrain from doing as one pleases [nach Belieben]." This comprises what Kant calls "human choice", "a choice that can indeed be affected but not determined by impulses"; a choice, in other words, that is informed by our sensible surroundings, but not entirely driven by them. As he adds shortly thereafter: "Freedom of choice is this independence from being determined by sensible impulses; this is the negative concept of freedom." (6: 213) The domain of this 'negative freedom' (or cultural agency; again, I use the term because Kant himself links "Humanität" and "Kultur") is the cultural space within which we judge and act diversely--for instance, in our determinations of how and for what purposes we wish to develop ourselves.
10. 9Montesquieu, for instance, relies upon a similar division of peoples in The Spirit of the Laws (1748): "One difference between savage peoples and barbarian peoples is that the former are small scattered nations which, for certain particular reasons, cannot unite, whereas barbarians are ordinarily small nations that can unite together. The former are usually hunting peoples; the latter, pastoral peoples." He contrasts such peoples to those who cultivate their lands, use money, and are ruled by civil laws: nations policées, or civilized nations. Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), eds. Anne Cohler, Basia Miller, and Harold Stone, p. 290 (Book 18, Chapter 11).
11. 10Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson are perhaps the best known exponents of four-stage theories, although Pufendorf is an earlier source for these later developmental histories of civilization. See Istvan Hont, "The language of sociability and commerce: Samuel Pufendorf and the theoretical foundations of the 'Four-Stages Theory'", in The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), ed. Anthony Pagden, pp. 253-276.
12. 11Kant did not always hold this account of human diversity. It is clear that his anthropological understanding underwent an astonishing transformation; the manner in which he conceptualizes the plurality of humankind moves from an almost exclusive reliance upon the biological and hereditary concept of "race" to the sociological and activity-based concept of how peoples freely use the land on which they live, which I sketched above and which I examine further below. In his pre-critical period, and to a much lesser extent in the early years of his critical period (the years immediately following the 1781 publication of the Critique of Pure Reason), Kant developed a theory of race in order to account for the diversity of mores and, especially, for differences in skin colour and physiognomy. While the nineteenth century constitutes the preeminent age of race-based classifications, it is also clear that the roots of race theory lie in a number of writings of the eighteenth century, especially those by natural historians such as Buffon and Blumenbach, but also of late eighteenth-century philosophers such as Kant. See Richard H. Popkin, "The Philosophical Basis of Eighteenth-Century Racism" in Racism in the Eighteenth Century (Cleveland: Case Western Reserve University Press, 1973), ed. Pagliaro, pp. 245-262. See also Nicholas Hudson, "From 'Nation' to 'Race': The Origin of Racial Classification in Eighteenth-Century Thought", Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3 (1996), pp. 247-264.
Kant's early writings on race have drawn increasing attention from scholars who have gone on to argue that this aspect of his thought should be integrated into any cogent interpretation of his moral and political thought. However, the irony of Kant's involvement in the early development of the discourse on race is that in his later years, when his view of cultural agency (i.e., "humanity" as a middle term between animality and personality) came to its fruition, the concept of race virtually disappeared in his published writings, surfacing only as a term of commonality: the "human race".
Race makes no appearance in the Critique of Judgement (1790), not even in its "Critique of Teleological Judgement", and plays no role in his discussions of human diversity and/or imperialism in the Conjectures (1786), Toward Perpetual Peace (1795), and The Metaphysics of Morals (1797). This is striking to anyone familiar with the later nineteenth-century discourse on imperialism in which non-European peoples were often described and assessed in light of the category of race. In his last published discussion of race, within a short essay entitled Über den Gebrauch teleologischer Principien in der Philosophie [Concerning the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy] (1788), Kant makes no arguments about either physical or cognitive superiority or inferiority in connection with human races. In the Anthropology, published late in Kant's life (in 1798) and based upon his hasty revision of lecture notes that predate the first Critique, he bypasses a detailed discussion of race by recommending a work by Christoph Girtenner. (See 7: 320-321) Susan Shell notes that Girtenner's Über das kantische Prinzip für die Naturgeschichte [On the Kantian principle for Natural History] (1796) is an application of Kant's hereditary theories to "nonhuman species". (Susan Shell, The Embodiment of Reason: Kant on Spirit, Generation, and Community (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 387.) My contention is that the more general trend in Kant's later writings that mitigates the role of the concept of race is his theorization of humanity as cultural agency and the accompanying concept of distinctively human freedom, both of which, I argue later, Kant applies consistently to all human peoples, including the hunting and pastoralist peoples of Africa and the New World.
This shift in Kant's attitude toward race theory is crucial, but neither it nor (incredibly) his anti-imperialism is mentioned in many treatments of Kant on race and non-European peoples. These blind-spots have led one such commentator to the following conclusion: "It is clear that what Kant settled upon as the 'essence' of humanity, that which one ought to become in order to deserve human dignity, sounds very much like Kant himself: 'white,' European, and male. More broadly speaking, Kant's philosophical anthropology reveals itself as the guardian of Europe's self-image of itself as superior and the rest of the world as barbaric." Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, "The Color of Reason: The Idea of 'Race' in Kant's Anthropology", in Anthropology and the German Enlightenment: Perspectives on Humanity (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1995), ed. Katherine M. Faull, p. 232. Obviously, I view such claims as manifestly untenable in light of an analysis of Kant's anti-imperialist writings and his considered judgements about the concept of humanity.
13. 12See Barbara Arneil, John Locke and America: the defence of English colonialism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996); James Tully, An Approach to Political Philosophy: Locke in Contexts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 260ff; James Tully, "Aboriginal property and western theory: recovering a middle ground", Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 11 (1994), pp. 153-180; Anthony Pagden, Lords of all the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 76-79.
14. 13A few pages later, Kant reiterates this argument: "The first working, enclosing, or, in general, transforming of a piece of land can furnish no title of acquisition to it....whoever expends his labor on land that was not already his has lost his pains and toil to who was first." (6: 268-269)
15. 14Most discussions of Kant's politics treat his account of cosmopolitanism as simply another way of describing his theory of inter-state, or international, relations; such readings accord with Kant's early uses of the term (for instance, in Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, 1784). Ultimately, however, from the mid-1790s onward in works such as Toward Perpetual Peace and The Metaphysics of Morals, Kant asserts that international right and cosmopolitan right are qualitiatively distinct domains of justice. For examples of the more standard reading that conflates Kant's concepts of international and cosmopolitan right, see the essays in an otherwise fine collection, Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant's Cosmopolitan Ideal (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1997), eds. James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann.
16. 15Cf. Critique of Pure Reason, B 372-B 374.
17. 16With regard to past relationships between Europe and Asia, Kant writes that "what the Romans called the Land of the Sers was China...[and] that silk was brought from there to Europe via Greater Tibet (presumably through Lesser Tibet and Bukhara, crossing Persia and so forth). This led to numerous reflections on the antiquity of this astonishing state [China] as compared with that of Hindustan, and on its connection with Tibet and through this with Japan". Kant goes on to complain that "the ancient community between Europe and Tibet...has never been rightly acknowledged" and thus attempts to "make plausible the early commerce of Europe with China across Tibet ([which occurred] perhaps even earlier than with Hindustan)." (8: 359-360)
18. 17Denis Diderot, Oeuvres Complètes (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1875), vol. 2, ed. J. Assézat, pp. 199-206; Diderot's dialogue is the Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville--see Denis Diderot, Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), eds. John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler), pp. 31-75.
19. 18Earlier in The Metaphysics of Morals, after having defended the "right to emigrate", Kant argues that the state "has the right to encourage immigration and settling by foreigners (colonists), even though his native subjects might look askance at this, provided that their private ownership of land is not curtailed by it." (6: 338) This is the non-pejorative sense in which Kant sometimes uses the term "colonist", as a foreigner who settles on a nation's territory by permission of the governing authorities, as opposed to colonists who simply "conquer" other peoples and their territories, which he condemns outright as a result of his theory of cosmopolitan right.
20. 19Anthony Pagden, European Encounters with the New World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), p. 157. While pilgrims were usually respected, Pagden contends that they subjected themselves to the hardship of a long journey "only in order that they may return home purified. Their objective is the return itself, not the journey."
21. 20Kant's emphasis on the importance of cross-cultural communication and transnational ties, which he uses ultimately as part of an effort to attack European imperialism, recalls nonetheless one of the strategies employed in defending European imperial rule. Kant, therefore, in the course of appropriating this older idea of commerce and communication, transformed its traditional political implications. For more on pre-Enlightenment uses of commerce and communication in the context of cosmopolitanism and empire, see Anthony Pagden, "Stoicism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Legacy of European Imperialism", Constellations, vol. 7, no. 1 (March 2000), pp. 3-22. See also the discussion of "natural partnership and communication" in Francisco de Vitoria, "On the American Indians" (1539) in Vitoria, Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), eds. Anthony Pagden and Jeremy Lawrance, especially pp. 278-284.
22. 21As I argue at length in my forthcoming book, such arguments about political progress constitute a narrative that Kant creates in order to convince his readers that such goals are not "chimerical" and that we should therefore work toward realizing them as best we can. They are not meant to be arguments that the world will necessarily work out for the best, and that we can relax and let "nature" do its work, a proposition that Kant rejects due to both his deep pessimism and his strong belief in the importance of human agency. As Kant notes, his arguments about progress and nature's "guarantees" create "an assurance that is admittedly not adequate for predicting its future (theoretically) but that is still enough for practical purposes and makes it a duty to work toward this (not merely chimerical) end." (8: 368)
23. 22Cf. Diderot, Political Writings, p. 175: "The Chinese may be bad politicians when they shut us out of their empire, but they are not unjust. Their country has sufficient population, and we [Europeans] are too dangerous as guests." This and other close similarities indicate that Kant was almost certainly influenced by Diderot's anti-imperialist contributions to Abbé Raynal's enormously popular and widely read multi-volume study, published originally in 1772, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes (Philosophical and Political History of the European Establishments and Commerce in the Two [East and West] Indies).
24. 23On some of the Chinese restrictions upon European, and in particular upon Portuguese, voyagers, see Urs Bitterli, Cultures in Conflict: Encounters between European and non-European Cultures, 1492-1800 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989), trans. Ritchie Robertson, pp. 133-154. For a discussion of the many Japanese restrictions upon Dutch and other European merchants, see The Cambridge History of Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), vol. 5, ed. Marius B. Jansen, pp. 87-111.
25. 24Cf. Diderot, Political Writings, pp. 175-176.