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Immanuel Kant’s Political Thoughts

Humans should have the courage to use their own Reason

Evaluating the above notion have many dimensions to understand, but in the light of political philosophy it suggests that every man perceives a particular opinion about attaining or retaining freedom. Since no person on earth likes to get involved into violence or conflict, he seeks various means to resolve the issues he prioritizes. Disputes or violence are not natural phenomenon, because no society agrees to be violent or against any other nation, unless there is a reason, which most probably escorts to freedom or independence. A prolonged violence turns into war, which no nation wishes upon one another, unless the concern of privilege arises, which nature has given to every strong individual, to rule the weaker.

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War does not decide the fate of the victorious nation, nor the right is decided, but through peace-keeping strategies, war is brought to an end. Since every treaty is not necessarily a peacemaking strategy, it somehow acts as a suspension of hostilities which is conducted in order to minimize hostilities. So, every treaty itself is seen as a means to initiate or end revolution. What Kant believes is that every individual in the society possesses the means for brainstorming or contemplating upon the causes to use his own courage, and before indulging in any kind of revolution, man must use his own skills to analyze his dimension or plan of action.

A man is free to act in the society, but it depends upon his will hos he justifies the sense of independence to himself or his conscience. There is a lack of effort on one’s behalf that obstructs him from taking a course of action, where cowardice hinders the process of receiving appropriate guidance from one’s own conscience, man finds it easier to have things done automatically rather than making an effort to do them oneself.

Kant’s ‘courage of reason’ is among one of the main characteristics that a man pursues towards freedom, which he perceives to be an idea that constitutes the most combative aspect of his moral and political philosophy. Kant presents two distinctive idea of freedom and while differentiating between the negative and the positive conceptions of freedom, he most often refer to what he calls as the negative transcendental idea of freedom (Flikschuh, 2000, p. 50).

The negative conception confines freedom as a practical being’s independence determined or achieved by the causality of nature, whereas the positive conception believes in following the principles of pure practical reason alone. Many theorists believe that what Kant has reflected through most of his works is the idea of freedom, whatever it takes to acquire, and irrespective of which course of action, man adopts.

On the other hand, Kant has devoted himself to the systematic construction of transnational peace, for which he emphasizes the objective that to utilize one’s capability of attaining freedom is the right of every society. As a liberal political theorist, Kant portrays on the mutual benefit of compatible relations between states in the international state of nature would, while thrusting the civilizing process onto the global platform.

Kant believes that if a society is reluctant to use its own power to attain freedom, a perpetual peace between individual states cannot be acquired, because mutual peace is driven by incessant competition whereas violence to attain freedom is not desirable but possible. Thus the crux of the above notion is that Kant’s argument favors an identification of a process of civilization, which is shifted upward but in a gradual manner because a man with the passage of time is getting indolent and is hardly influenced by principles of nature (Buchan, 2002).

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It is important to recognize is that Kant’s concept of using courage escorts us to autonomy, formulated primarily in a political rather than in a metaphysical context. Determinism is not a problem for Kant to take or decide an action, but the main problem according to Kant that hinders man from taking into action is the lack of will or oppression. Freedom is not attained without sacrifice and devotion, so injustice is the main threat to freedom, which is not of natural order, because man in nature is not coward.

As if to thrust the metaphysical issue aside, Kant believes that the subjugation of one person by another is the greatest evil, far more unbearable than the yoke of necessity (Beiser, 1992, p. 30). Human can resign to the misfortunes of fate, but to suffer direction by another’s will or to retain other’s dictatorship is the worst enemy of oneself.

On a collective level when a human does not believe in his own decision, and shows no courage to confront challenges, no society can seek freedom without contemplating upon his own reasoning to believe. Therefore terms like independence, war, armies standing idle is a vague and an endless idea that continues menace in the name of eagerness that let the societies to be ready at all times prepared for war, because the societies lack the courage to believe in what their conscience says but possess the guts to compete with each other in the number of armed men, and even without limits.

For this reason, Kant suggests that peace is more expensive than that that of war that does not lasts long, but have consequences in the form of a standing army which itself poses a cause of offensive war waged in order to relieve the state of this burden (Kant, perpetualpeace).

The political implications of Kant’s new ethics poses new challenges in the extremism where the entire social and political hierarchy reflects a moral design, and that perfect justice is possible through political awareness on the earth. The humans possess within them, moral values and conscience, so that it is obliged to obey only the laws of its own making, then it has the right to recreate the entire social and political world. The onus is now on every individual of the society and the state, to inquire about what freedom they want, and in which way they believe to acquire and at what cost? Society, which is composed of many individuals, rather than individuals conforming to a divinely sanctioned social and political order, must conform to the demands of their will.

Man is sovereign in nature, therefore a society is based upon independence and sovereignty, both have at their disposal an uncommon form of speech. Kant points out that the chaos of war is the disastrous alternative to the court of reason, even against sovereignty that in the process of establishing is less famously, although more closely in line with the legal reasoning of the alternative to the court of reason.

Reasoning is a stable court of justice menaced by the threat of uncivil sentences issued by unstable sovereigns (Fenves, 2003, p. 36). Under this lamentable condition, in which sovereignty appears at stake, there is no way for a society other than to indulge in war, this way war becomes a civic affair or a reason, which champions the human and comes into irresolvable conflict with power. Nothing is more important for the vast project of philosophical review and doctrinal codification that what humans according to Kant seeks to show the means and manner by which all of us-princes and subjects alike-give laws to nature.

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Sovereignty is or might be led to democracy but the social compact that secures and justifies the sovereign authority is not a contract between the citizens and the sovereign state, because according to the Kantian theory of peace, democracies never violates or fights. Therefore the best option to provide the reason behind avoiding war is to be democratic. For the sovereign cannot be bound by any contract or promise, or transcendental freedom that suggests to assume the presence of a third power, more powerful than both the sovereign and citizens, who could enforce such a contract, and there exists no such third power in this scenario.

Reasoning in political scenario can best explained by democracy, which no longer is explained by political authorities because politicians today are deprived of any reasonable justification to themselves with reference to their origins. Therefore the fundamental role of political institutions in establishing citizen freedom does not fulfill the criteria to what Kant calls ‘courage to use their own reasoning’. This has led us to a political exhaust where consideration of contemporary social contract theory lacks the requirement of citizen consent that has been replaced by the standard of political legitimacy, the latter merely requiring a kind of idealized hypothetical consent.


Beiser C. Frederick, (1992) Enlightenment, Revolution, and Romanticism: The Genesis of Modern German Political Thought, 1790-1800: Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

Buchan Bruce, (2002) Explaining War and Peace: Kant and Liberal IR Theory, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political. Vol. 27. No. 4, pp. 407.

Fenves Peter, (2003) Late Kant: Towards Another Law of the Earth: Routledge: New York.

Flikschuh Katrin, (2000) Kant and Modern Political Philosophy: Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England.

Kant Immanuel, Perpetual Peace: A philosophical Sketch. Web.

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