Pit Schultz on Fri, 25 Apr 1997 21:53:04 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> ZKP4: Nature and Conditions of Cosmopolitical Right by Immanuel Kant

The Universal Right of Mankind.
(Jus Cosmopoliticum)

Nature and Conditions of Cosmopolitical Right.

  The rational idea of a universal, peaceful, if not yet friendly,
union of all the nations upon the earth that may come into active
relations with each other, is a juridical principle, as
distinguished from philanthropic or ethical principles. Nature has
enclosed them altogether within definite boundaries, in virtue of
the spherical form of their abode as a globus terraqueus; and the
possession of the soil upon which an inhabitant of the earth may
live can only be regarded as possession of a part of a limited whole
and, consequently, as a part to which every one has originally a
right. Hence all nations originally hold a community of the soil,
but not a juridical community of possession (communio), nor
consequently of the use or proprietorship of the soil, but only of a
possible physical intercourse (commercium) by means of it. In other
words, they are placed in such thoroughgoing relations of each to
all the rest that they may claim to enter into intercourse with one
another, and they have a right to make an attempt in this direction,
while a foreign nation would not be entitled to treat them on this
account as enemies. This right, in so far as it relates to a
possible union of all nations, in respect of certain laws
universally regulating their intercourse with each other, may be
called "cosmopolitical right" (jus cosmopoliticum).
  It may appear that seas put nations out of all communion with each
other. But this is not so; for by means of commerce, seas form the
happiest natural provision for their intercourse. And the more there
are of neighbouring coastlands, as in the case of the Mediterranean
Sea, this intercourse becomes the more animated. And hence
communications with such lands, especially where there are settlements
upon them connected with the mother countries giving occasion for such
communications, bring it about that evil and violence committed in one
place of our globe are felt in all. Such possible abuse cannot,
however, annul the right of man as a citizen of the world to attempt
to enter into communion with all others, and for this purpose to visit
all the regions of the earth, although this does not constitute a
right of settlement upon the territory of another people (jus
incolatus), for which a special contract is required.
  But the question is raised as to whether, in the case of newly
discovered countries, a people may claim the right to settle
(accolatus), and to occupy possessions in the neighbourhood of another
people that has already settled in that region; and to do this without
their consent.
  Such a right is indubitable, if the new settlement takes place at
such a distance from the seat of the former that neither would
restrict or injure the other in the use of their territory. But in the
case of nomadic peoples, or tribes of shepherds and hunters (such as
the Hottentots, the Tungusi, and most of the American Indians),
whose support is derived from wide desert tracts, such occupation
should never take place by force, but only by contract; and any such
contract ought never to take advantage of the ignorance of the
original dwellers in regard to the cession of their lands. Yet it is
commonly alleged that such acts of violent appropriation may be
justified as subserving the general good of the world. It appears as
if sufficiently justifying grounds were furnished for them, partly
by reference to the civilization of barbarous peoples (as by a pretext
of this kind even Busching tries to excuse the bloody introduction
of the Christian religion into Germany), and partly by founding upon
the necessity of purging one's own country from depraved criminals,
and the hope of their improvement or that of their posterity, in
another continent like New Holland. But all these alleged good
purposes cannot wash out the stain of injustice in the means
employed to attain them. It may be objected that, had such
scrupulousness about making a beginning in founding a legal state with
force been always maintained, the whole earth would still have been in
a state of lawlessness. But such an objection would as little annul
the conditions of right in question as the pretext of the political
revolutionaries that, when a constitution has become degenerate, it
belongs to the people to transform it by force. This would amount
generally to being unjust once and for all, in order thereafter to
found justice the more surely, and to make it flourish.

THE SCIENCE OF RIGHT, 1790 by Immanual Kant translated by W. Hastie

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