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 What is, or would be the United States of Europe's place in and relationship to the global society? What is, or would be the United States of Europe's place in and relationship to the global society?
by Prof. Francesco Tampoia
2012-07-23 07:48:07
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In reply to Martin Le Fevre

In trying to make sense of the arguments and theories of older philosophers, we cannot help but think about the problems they were thinking about, problems which are often versions or interesting variants of questions that are discussed in contemporary systematic debates.

Among other things, in his article ‘A revolution Like the world Has never Seen’ Martin Le Fevre writes ‘it seems to me that the first question Europe needs to answer is not whether or what kind of country the EU will be, but what is “the United States of Europe’s” place in and in relation to the global society? In short, he puts forward the question of Europe and the global society.

In order to discuss this worthy and current issue, given the remarkable contemporary bibliography on the topic ‘Kant and Europe’, I’ll make a step back of two centuries and start from I. Kant and his reflections on Ethics, Politics and Wright.

No doubt, this specific return to Kant is up to the German scholar Otfried Hoffe who has the merit to have offered some insights on the political value of Kantian work with the book Science, Moral and Wright: the actuality of Kant for the project Europe”. In the past Jurgen Habermas expressed gratitude to Hoffe for "having recaptured for philosophy a certain segment which it has tended, since Hegel, to and almost unilaterally to jurisprudence". Paul Ricoeur complemented the eulogy with the suggestion that "Hoffe may well be the foremost historian of political and legal philosophy in the Western world today". Moreover, Ricoeur shared his judgement with other scholars, whose extension of Kantian thinking to issues in global ethics has shown a creativity and relevancy that one will seek in vain in post-Kantian philosophers. By now, it is widely held that the Europe Union is based on Kantian ideal.

Let us go to the 21th century. After the second centenary of Kant’s death (2004, addressing the topic “Kant and the idea of Europe” Edward Eugene Kleist wrote the article The Freedom to design nature: Kant’s strong ought→can inference in 21st century perspective, in which he pondered on the perspectives of unification of Europe moving from the German philosopher’s cosmopolitan project, worthy still today in the political, juridical and ethical aspects.

In writing on Europe, especially in his last works, Kant doesn’t, nor could deal directly with the object Europe. Acquainted with the ancient origins of Europe and the birth of democracy in Greece, as well as the entire development of European history, he always had in mind a universal and global vision of the world- I prefer the Greek term kόsmos instead of global.

What new solution could Kant offer us?

According to Kantian cosmopolitanism all human beings, plunged in their historical condition, are primarily fellow citizens of the world, they are by nature fellow citizens of a world community and are divided into particular societies only by convention. Quite literally, the cosmopolitanism is a set of moral standards for living into a global world. If adopted, the cosmopolitanism would usher in an age of greater understanding between all people, neighbours and international strangers alike. The mutual understanding between conflicting parties would be easy to achieve. People wouldn't have such a hard time achieving it.  

But, the kernel-point of Kantian thought, I would stress, is the spiritual power of Western civilization that resides in the principle, affirmed by Plato (Rep. X, 595bc) and by Aristotle (Etica Nicomachea, I, 4, 1096a), that all men naturally search for truth, that men feel a sort of pathos for truth and science. The European science is founded on the known principle of criticism and subsequent growth of knowledge, it is one and universal. The Kantian and European philosophy of science is consciously cosmopolitan, and eo ipso cosmopolitan are its moral, its religion and its politics. Kant’s moral philosophy, Kant’s principles of right, inspired by European culture and religion as well as by the European intercultural ethic, can be extend to the universe as a whole. In sum, Europe invented cosmopolitanism.

In the specific juridical sphere Kant, through the project For Perpetual Peace, proposed a schematic, pondered doctrine about a juridical global order, still now judged much more relevant than the famous Hegelian Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts. Though Kant wrote more than two centuries ago-it is a surprise- even now the panphlet contains stimulating, vigorous and strong nourishment for thinking Europe.

I shall not go into detail concerning the mentioned text, which is not always very clear despite its brevity. I simply would like, in the small space allotted here, to point out three or four concepts that seem to me very interesting if we look for understanding how Kant raised the issue of peace. A close reading of passages of Zum ewigen Frieden (Ein philosophischer Entwurf), Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, dated 1795, can be useful. From the preamble, written by the same Kant, we read:

“Whether this satirical inscription on a Dutch inn keeper's sign upon which a burial ground was painted had for its object mankind in general, or the rulers of states in particular, who are insatiable of war, or merely the philosophers who dream this sweet dream, it is not for us to decide. But one condition the author of this essay wishes to lay down. The practical politician assumes the attitude of looking down with great self-satisfaction on the political theorist as a pedant whose empty ideas in no way threaten the security of the state, in as much as the state must proceed on empirical principles; so the theorist is allowed to play his game without interference from the worldly-wise statesman. Such being his attitude, the practical politician-and this the condition I make-should at least act consistently in the case of a conflict and not suspect some danger to the state in the political theorist's opinions which are ventured and publicly expressed without any ulterior purpose. By this clausula salvatoria the author desires formally and emphatically to deprecate herewith any malevolent interpretation which might be placed on his words”(Zum ewigen Frieden (Ein philosophischer Entwurf)1

By means of subtle irony, in this preamble, Kant wants to clearly distinguish the role of philosopher from the role of practical politician, probably mindful of past famous stories on philosophers, the laughter of Thracian maid provoked by the falling of Thales into the well, the Callicles’irony which gives, with his barbs, the satirical picture of philosopher, or the imagine of the philosopher... as a man who dreams the sweet dream of perpetual peace.

Reading the sketch  Zum ewigen Frieden (Ein philosophischer Entwurf), today the reader feels as if he is looking at a movie with events and people of last century: wars, peaces, standing armies, the interference by force of one state on another. I’ll quote in short only the titles of the first two articles: 1) The First Definitive Article for Perpetual Peace The Civil Constitution of Every State Should Be Republican. 2) The Second definitive Article, The Law of Nations Shall be Founded on a Federation of Free States. Here is the ubi consistam of the transcendental foundation of European federalism.

The second supplement, which links up to the initial preamble, between the ironic and serious, but seriously defining the role of philosopher in the world, closes thus: “That kings should philosophize or philosophers become kings is not to be expected. Nor is it to be wished, since the possession of power inevitably corrupts the untrammelled judgment of reason. But kings or kinglike peoples which rule themselves under laws of equality should not suffer the class of philosophers to disappear or to be silent, but should let them speak openly. This is indispensable to the enlightenment of the business of government, and, since the class of philosophers is by nature incapable of plotting and lobbying, it is above suspicion of being made up of propagandists”. Kant doesn’t follow the Platonic proposal that kings should philosophize or that philosophers should become kings. As known, for Plato the philosopher would be the ruler or in turn the adviser of the statesman. And yet for this willingness many philosophers paid a dear prize. On this E. Husserl who in the Conference of 1935, at Prague, argued: "The persecution began from the beginning of philosophy. The men who devoted their lives to the ideas from then till now are banned from society". As Husserl, Kant long before asked that at the very least the philosopher be assured the right of free speech, so that he can interpret the role of the officer of mankind.

Leaving Kant’s text and without claiming to summarize in few lines Kantian thought I would emphasize that Zum ewigen Frieden (Ein philosophischer Entwurf) is built on a sort of triptych: Rights, Democracy, Peace. Although in few parts of the essay the weight of time is evident and the forceful influence of the historical contest is really unavoidable, we find surprising relevancy in the replies and in the very questions that Kant asks himself and us. 

By means of his project Kant intends to go forward the enlargement of what is called a national state and to realize a constitution for a larger geographical and international space. He moves toward an inner public right, a logic of social original compact that is the international rights (ius gentium) and human rights, the worldly citizenship (ius cosmopoliticum). Moreover, I would like to recall that among the preliminary articles there are two important statements, actual today, the 3rd against standing arms and the 5th that every state has the right to reform itself (no external intervention). The terminological couple democracy/despotism, anarchy/rights on federal basis, ethic of convergence and mutual recognition of citizens correspond to the previous triptych.

Kant knew he was heading, as philosopher, for the pathways of utopia, but he covered himself, from people of ill will or vulgar people, by his clausola salvatoria. Fit he knew that peace is very difficult to get at; he wrote that peace is not the natural state, but also he was sure that it is part of human nature. He posed the peace as a hope, as a regulative idea, a purpose towards which man must make a voyage.  As known, towards the end of the Critique of Pure Reason, at Canon of Pure Reason, Kant reformulates the three central preoccupations of his philosophy (What can I know? What should I do? What can I hope for?). Here, very interesting are the second and the third question. Kant writes: “The second question is merely practical. As such, to be sure, it can belong to pure reason, but in that case is not transcendental, but moral, and thus cannot be in itself an object of critique. The third question ‘If I do what I should, what may I then hope?’ is simultaneously practical and theoretical, so that the practical leads like clue to a reply to the theoretical question and, in its highest form, the speculative question. For all hope concerns happiness, and with respect to the practical and the moral law it is the very same as what knowledge and the natural law is with regard to theoretical cognition of things’2.

What can we, Newropeans, learn from Kant? That Europe has developed along many centuries science, moral, right, that are all cosmopolitan values. In his philosophy of science, of moral, of right Kant pondered the task, the real interests, the universally human opportunities, laying thus the foundations of a cosmopolitan Europe, a Europe that, well equipped for the globalization, is above all a Europe that meditates on its universal mission. E. Husserl wrote of a transcendental idea of Europe. Such idea dictates respecting the differences, idioms, minorities, singularities, also the universality of formal law, desire for translation, agreement and one voice opposition to racism, nationalism, and xenophobia. It demands tolerating and respecting all that is not placed under the authority of reason; that may have to do with faith, with different forms of faith; and finally, that may also concern thoughts, whether they are questioning thoughts or not. For these thoughts Europe may also try to remain faithful to the ideal of Enlightenment (Aufklarung, Illuminism), acknowledging its limits in order to work on the Enlightenment of our time, the time that is ours—today. Something similar Derrida wrote confessing his authentic Europeism at the end of his pamphlet ‘The Other Heading’: “I am European, I am no doubt a European intellectual, and I like to recall this, I like to recall this to myself, and why would I deny it? But, I am not, nor do I feel, European in every part, that is, European through and through. By which I mean, by which I wish to say, or must say: I do not want to be and must not be European through and through, European in every part. My cultural identity, that in the name of which I speak, is not only European, it is not identical to itself, and I am not "cultural" through and through, "cultural" in every part.”3 What follows such a position, neither Eurocentrist, nor anti-Eurocentrist, comes through the Derridean critical and continual interrogation about European identity, about what Europe imposes both as a conception and as a task of universality, a public and political space, and an infinite task.

*

What is, or would be the United States of Europe’s place in and relationship to the global society? Kant has given us the right reply, The Law of Nations Shall be Founded on a Federation of Free States (U.N., IMF, etc...) Today the world is so interconnected and interdependent that to say Europe, as defined restrict Continent or European Union as a closed and towered fortress, is out of place. Hence the question, can Europe today assume a role in respect of the common challenges facing humanity as a whole, the challenges of the cosmos? Le Fevre  closes with an ascertainment and an interrogative ‘The gulf between the spiritual and political dimensions in human life has never been wider, while at the same time harmony between the two has never been more urgently necessary, or possible. But can they really go together?

With the crisis of the euro (currency) are we at the beginning of the end for the EU, a construction that started 50 years ago on the basis of an age-old utopia that now proves unable to fulfil its promises? What is in heavy crisis, in my view, is not the idea of Europe, but the current project of Europe. The idea of Europe has been betrayed. And the Europeans need to start again on radically new bases.

 Turning to the provocative title ’A Revolution Like the World Has Never Seen’, the temptation is great. But, what kind of revolution? As philosopher, I am pacifist.

Francesco Tampoia

 References:

I. Kant, Zum ewigen Frieden (Ein philosophischer Entwurf)1795

2) I. Kant, Immanuel Kant, Kritique of Pure Reason, translated and edited by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge University Press, 1998

  3) J. Derrida, J. Derrida, The Other Heading- Reflections on Today’s Europe, Indiana University Press, 1992 p.82

 

 

 


     
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Emanuel Paparella2012-07-23 13:51:45
Indeed Francesco, the idea has been betrayed but perhaps it is also worth pondering that Europa is not a mere idea but a journey and that the journey may ultimately be the destination. The myth of Europa hints at it.


Martin LeFevre 2012-07-23 17:40:02
Surely the answer does not lie in the obscurities of Kant or any other dead philosopher, nor in moribund ideas and myths, but in the living clarity of mutual inquiry and insight. Where is the questioning?


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