Kant on War

I’ve been rereading some of Kant’s political essays. As ever, the footnotes are tremendous.

“What is an absolute monarch? He is one at whose command war at once begins when he says it shall do so. And conversely, what is a limited monarch? He is one who must first ask the people whether or not there is to be a war, and if the people say that there shall be no war, then there will be none. For war is a condition in which all the powers of the state must be at the head of state’s disposal.

“Now the monarch of Great Britain has waged numerous wars without asking the people’s consent. This king is therefore an absolute monarch, although he should not be so according to the constitution. But he can always bypass the latter, since he can always be assured, by controlling the various powers of the state, that the people’s representatives will agree with him; for he has the authority to award all offices and dignities. This corrupt system, however, must naturally be given no publicity if it is to succeed. It therefore remains under a very transparent veil of secrecy.”

[From The Contest of Faculties, pp.186-7, Kant, Political Writings, ed. Reiss, 1991.]

As he goes on to explain, before we come to live under a suitable republican constitution, “it is the duty of monarchs to govern in a republican (not a democratic) manner, even although they may rule autocratically. In other words, they should treat the people in accordance with principles akin in spirit to the laws of freedom which a people of mature rational powers would prescribe for itself, even if the people is not literally asked for its consent.”

Ron Davies

While on the subject of resignations, I’m sorry to see that Ron Davies has announced he’s not going to seek re-election as a member of the Welsh Assembly.

I met him a couple of years ago when he came to talk to the British Politics seminar here at Magdalen, and he was delightful, interesting and far more intelligent and articulate than most of the politicians who attempt to govern us. A great shame.

Dead Socialist Watch, #19

Alexandra Kollontai, born in St Petersburg, 31 March 1872, died in Moscow, 9 March 1952. Old Bolshevik.

N.B. Some are asking, incidentally, why the DSW didn’t mark Stalin’s fiftieth the other day, since he’s a rather important Dead Socialist. (As one correspondent asked: “Was his exclusion from the Dead Socialist Hall of Infamy an editorial guillotine, or have I been misinformed and in fact he saw a few more days of March than I appreciated?”) Well, I forgot. He was on my list, but sometimes I don’t get round to posting anything. Given the degree of coverage in the mainstream press, you probably didn’t need the DSW to be reminded of the anniversary. Those who asked, in fact, demonstrated they didn’t need it by the fact of their asking.

Sports Round-Up

I thought that my excellent friend and comrade Martin O’Neill was having a good day, as he beavers away on the metaphysics of egalitarian justice, or whatever it is that he does these days.

  • Ireland beat France 15-12 in a closely-fought Six Nations international.
  • Celtic beat Rangers 1-0 in the Scottish Premier League.
  • Arsenal were 2-1 up against Chelsea in the FA Cup, with a splendid goal from Thierry Henry just before half time.
  • [If he cares about any other sports teams, I’m not sure I know about it. Actually, I don’t know that he cares about the rugby, but he tends to like Ireland doing well at things, so I’m making an intelligent guess].And on top of all this, he tells me, it’s his birthday.

    But then Chelsea equalised a few minutes from the end and forced a replay.

    Sex strike now!

    On Monday 3 March there will be (at least) eight hundred and ninety-two public readings of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata all around the world.

    Friends and colleagues will be taking part in the Oxford instantiation of this phenomenon, which will take place at Balliol College at 7.30pm, using the Tony Harrison text. Do come.

    While I’m on the subject, Virtual Stoa readers in Oxford might like to remember to sign the antiwar petition, which will close on Wednesday. Students go here; staff here.

    UPDATE [8.3.2003]: The Oxford Lysistrata was excellent, and Katha Pollitt’s coverage of events in New York in The Nation is here.


    This just arrived:

    Dear Sir,

    I just came across your website and noticed how energetic and determined you are to try and make this world a more safer and peaceful one, but my friend, this is just not possible. Please Don’t be Preoccupied by trying to undo what has already happened in eternity past. The Bible tells us that man has an evil and incurable heart, (Jer 17:19 & Hebrews 3:12). We sadly live in a fallen world. – Satan’s world. Only the second coming of Jesus Christ, can and will, transform this world forever!

    Whether there is war in Iraq or not is irrelevant, for the Lord Jesus spoke about this in Matt 23:6 ” And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things will must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are beginning of sorrows”.

    As for the Palestine problem, well this will never be solved until Jesus returns. Please see what the Prophet Zechariah 12:2-4 wrote in 520 BC concerning Israel and her enemies before the Second Coming: “Behold I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all the people; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”

    Please don’t take offence to this e-mail, but the future has already been and gone as far as God is concerned. All men must be born again, John 3:3, if they are to enter the kingdom of heaven. May I leave you with this verse from Hebrews 9:27, it is appointed unto men once to die and after this, the judgment.

    May God bless you richly.

    Yours in Christ,

    James G. Battell

    Ho hum.