Towards a Contemporary Understanding of Perpetual Peace: Kant on the Conditions for a Perpetual Peace.
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Since the dawn of its existence the concept of peace has, of course, given rise to a plethora of meanings. The concept has been and still is consistently employed in both inter- as well as intrapersonal matters of discourse. In accordance with the former, one can rightly ask what the concept of peace is to mean within the domain of (international) politics and how it can be obtained in practice. What then are we to make of the idea of a ‘perpetual peace’? If peace is negatively and stringently defined as a mere absence of war, it is not surprising to find that a perpetual peace has not been established, given the history and nature of humankind. Rather, the concept of a perpetual peace seems an ideal at best, the materialization of which difficult if not outright impossible to obtain. Perhaps it was with a similar hint of irony with which a Dutch innkeeper once decided to name his inn ‘The Perpetual Peace’, accompanied with an image of a graveyard on his signboard. It was this scenario that too, perhaps, prompted Kant to awake from yet another ‘slumber’, culminating in his often overlooked and underestimated essay ‘Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch’. In the first section of this foundational essay, Kant argues for six Preliminary Articles that he conceived as a priori conditions that need to be satisfied in order to approximate peace proper, viz., perpetual peace. In the second section, Kant outlines three Definite Articles in which he provides a foundational framework on which a perpetual peace is thought able to rest. The major aim of this thesis is to provide an analysis of Kant’s Preliminary Articles as formulated in his Perpetual Peace. In doing so, I will focus primarily on the relevant sections of his essay and provide secondary commentary where I deem it valuable. Finally, I will situate each of these conditions in a contemporary context and investigate to what extent the Dutch political system as being embedded in international law conforms to the necessary conditions here specified. As will become clear, several key documents implemented within the international legal system do appear to have adopted elements of the Kantian framework discussed. In order to make the translation from the 18th century to the modern world feasible, I will make use of a broad interpretation of the conditions in question without thereby losing their conceptual core.