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Springer Verlag

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DOI: 10.1007/s11406-015-9615-5


In the texts in which Immanuel Kant discusses the principles governing international relations—including texts explicitly dealing with the sources leading states to armed conflict and the circumstances enabling its cessation—he does not directly engage the question “What constitutes victory in war?” This should not be surprising, given that Kant’s treatment of war may be read as consonant with just war thinking for which victory seems an unproblematic concept Yet there are elements in the tone and the substance of his discussion that destabilize a placement of his views as unproblematically part of that tradition. The mordant tone of his dismissal of the Realpolitik guiding “political moralists” suggests a trenchant skepticism about almost any justification offered for leading a state into war. More substantively, an antinomy is at work in the contrast Kant makes, in the two sets of articles for perpetual peace, between a “state of nature” that, construed from the standpoint of the theoretical use of reason, defines the order of international relations as necessarily one of constant war, and the radical transformation of that order, enacted by moral reason in the definitive articles of perpetual peace, into a cosmopolitan order that heeds the categorical imperative “there shall be no war.” In consequence, one may construct a Kantian answer to the question “What constitutes victory in war?” by framing it in reference to this cosmopolitan hope for an international order securing enduring peace. Within the moral horizon of cosmopolitan hope, victory in war—like war itself—is unmasked as morally unintelligible.


Accepted version. Philosophia, Vol. 43, No. 3 (September 2015): 747-757. DOI. © 2016 Springer International Publishing AG. Part of Springer Nature. Used with permission.

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