SHS Web Conf.
Volume 161, 202312th Kant-Readings International Conference “Kant and the Ethics of Enlightenment: Historical Roots and Contemporary Relevance”
|Number of page(s)||8|
|Section||Enlightenment, Politics and Education|
|Published online||08 March 2023|
Kant’s anthropology and political realism
Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, Academia Kantiana, 14 Aleksandra Nevskogo st., 236016 Kaliningrad, Russia
* Corresponding author: AZilber@kantiana.ru
An upholder of liberal political values, Kant opposed the tradition of political realism on several levels, one of them the anthropological foundations of politics. Kant’s position was moderate: like liberals, he believed in the evolution of freedom; like conservatives, he underscored the difficulties confronting a person on that way and dissuaded from taking hasty action. Realists deem these difficulties either insurmountable or surmountable to such a modest degree that they will not allow the overcoming of anarchy, uncertainty and the conflict-prone nature of international relations. Some of Kant’s contemporaries criticised his philosophy of politics and law from positions close to political realism and conservatism in the broadest sense. I analyse and compare the arguments on both sides of this controversy. Kant pictured “practitional politicians” who point out the weakness of human nature to justify the wilfulness of rulers’ breach of agreements whilst denying the need for liberal reforms. I demonstrate that the obscurantist and pessimistic views of “practising politicians”, described by Kant, are very close to the arguments put forward by Friedrich von Gentz and August Wilhelm Rehberg, who had openly criticised Kant’s idea that political practice should be orientated towards an abstract theory and optimistic assumptions. Thus Kant responded to their criticism implicitly. Yet, both parties to the debate are universalists: Kant, on the one hand, with his concept of respect for right common to all people, and realists, on the other, with their idea of the moral weakness of humans.
Key words: political realism / conservatism / anthropological pessimism / ethical naturalism / Kant / Gentz / Rehberg
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2023
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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