Immanuel Kant


April 22, 1724 — February 12, 1804


Immanuel Kant was the leading philosopher of the German enlightenment who made invaluable contributions to the study of ethics and autonomy, helping to form the philosophical foundation for modern liberalism. Known more as an imperfect ethicist than a proponent of peace, Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” forms a philosophical foundation for modern advocates of liberal peace. His racism and flaws cannot be excused nor can his influence be ignored.


Essential Thoughts


No one has a right to compel me to be happy in the peculiar way in which he may think of the well-being of other men; but everyone is entitled to seek his own happiness in the way that seems to him best, if it does not infringe the liberty of others in striving after a similar end for themselves. — "The Principles of Political Right"


Reason, from her throne of the supreme law-giving moral power, absolutely condemns war as a morally lawful proceeding, and makes a state of peace, on the other hand, an immediate duty. Without a compact between the nations, however, this state of peace cannot be established or assured. — "Perpetual Peace"


The state of peace must be established. For the mere cessation of hostilities is no guarantee of continued peaceful relations. — "Perpetual Peace"


A credit system under which debts go on indefinitely increasing … is a dangerous money power… a treasure for the carrying on of war… The prohibition of this system must be laid down as a preliminary article of perpetual peace.   — "Perpetual Peace"


In a government where the subject is not a citizen holding a vote … the plunging into war is the least serious thing in the world. For the ruler is not a citizen … He can therefore decide on war for the most trifling reasons, as if it were a kind of pleasure party. Any justification of it that is necessary for the sake of decency he can leave without concern to the diplomatic corps who are always only too ready with their services. — "Perpetual Peace"