Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Root of Kant's Cosmopolitanism

In Kant's work, I can recognize the belief that humanity is one family and that this family ultimately seeks harmony. One can see this explicitly in Kant's "Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim" and his thoughts on race (for he treats all races as parts of one family). One can see this in his projects for perpetual peace and republican government and his view of enlightenment.

Perhaps, for Kant, the central feature of his thinking is the practical philosophy. It is clear that Kant recognizes the moral law as the cornerstone of all these cosmopolitan projects; it is here that humankind acquires a final purposiveness in their actions and this final purposiveness gives us restrictions for how we view providence (see "Universal History" essay).

I see another aspect of Kant's thought that is central here to how these cosmopolitan projects arise: the manner in which Kant understands objectivity and subjectivity.

Often I have taken it as sufficient to think the objective as whatever pertains to the object while the subjective is that which pertains to the subject (and this is how I begin explaining it typically to others in my Kant reading group). However, this glosses over the problem of distinguishing what pertains to the object or the subject. For Kant, there is only a subjective test of objective validity (or conviction) and this is to submit to the judgment of others whatever is thought to be objective. This makes the guideline for objectivity (for both theoretical and practical reason) the results of submitting the judgment to others. It will be of the utmost importance what quality relationship we have with others, for if this is lacking then so, too, is our only access to objectivity. (Kant's attitude on this seems confirmed in his lectures.) If this objectivity is weakened then so is morality and thereby our sense of purpose.

I have been wanting to communicate about this on here for some time, and I certainly wanted at least one post before the end of the year. Writing this now I feel a certain tempting relevance to it (given the politics of the day, etc.), but the concern with guarding objectivity should not be connected with some 'now,' but is always a duty of a philosopher to uphold. To this end of upholding objectivity, I hope that this helps everyone remember how it requires the participation of others.

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