Dr. Werner Busch
Président d’honneur de l’Association Internationale des Professeurs de Philosophie (AIPPh)
Europe is the decisive link between Russia and the USA. Good and bad traditions form the historical conscience of societies and so form the basis for their acting towards the future.
The tradition of enlightenment is European. Its ideas were imported into Russia and into the USA. E.g. Michail Wassiljewitch Lomonossov had studies with Christian Wolff in Marburg and Thomas Jefferson was deeply impressed by the modern development of European thinking.
It is one of the major consequences of the Second World War that the town of birth and life of the great philosopher of enlightenment Immanuel Kant Königsberg/Kaliningrad is now part of Russia. Henry A. Allison from the University of California San Diego in the ‘Oxford Companion to Philosophy’ characterizes Kant as "Perhaps the most important European philosopher of modern times.” Consequently Russia now at first rank is involved in preserving this powerful philosophical tradition. His best modernization has been highly estimated worldwide for a long time.
What is the main message of Immanuel Kant? The highest idea of Kant is simply to create confidence and from there peace among human beings regardless of any national and cultural boundaries. Immanuel Kant’s complete huge theoretical work is focused on one aim: A good living together on our round limited planet.
This can easily be shown. Kant’s well known categorical imperative "Act upon a maxim that can also hold as a universal law” was found by him in the area of international law and was stimulated by a reflection of universal tolerance by the great French refugee Pierre Bayle the author of the wide spread "Dictionnaire historique et critique” in the age of enlightenment.
So Kant’s "Critique of Pure Reason” demonstrates by the destruction of all normative notion of religion that there is only one real world, our little earth where we have to act confidentially preserving life everywhere.
At the age of 71 Immanuel Kant published his best known booklet ”On Eternal Peace”asa short compendium of his political thinking, written in the ironic form of a treaty of peace. It formulates very concrete steps to peace in the form of six preliminary articles. The most important ones for us are these:
"5. No State Shall by Force Interfere with the Constitutionor GovernmentAnotherState"
"6. No State Shall,War, Permit Such Acts of Hostility Which Would Make Mutual Confidece in the Subsequent Peace Impossible: Such Are the Em(venefici), Breach of Capitulation, and Incitement to Treason(perduellio) inthe Opposing State".
Both articles seem to be impossible conditions of right for imperial states as Rome in the ancient world and the great and powerful states of nowadays. They will scarcely renounce to interfere with other states and for a professional secret service man the 6. Article would take away his every day tools.
Kant’s central statement is: If political affairs were to become better, the cited articles of strict respect for sovereignty and of creating confidence have to be kept. Otherwise things would remain as bad in the times of Kant as they are actually.
All these remarks show that Kant isn’t a philosophical dreamer. On the contrary, the influential German philosopher Friedrich Paulsen whose "Ethics” were read by Mao Tse Tung says that the characteristic of mankind according to Kant is pessimistic similar to Thomas Hobbes and Arthur Schopenhauer. So, in "On Perpetual Peace” too Kant enumerates the common negative principles of politicians: Fac et excusa - do it and excuse yourself – Si fecisti, nega - if you have done it, deny it – Divide et impera – divide and rule -, all bad maxims used in politics nowadays as we are accustomed to read in our newspapers.
Kant’s program of creating confidence is certainly up to date, but at the time he is an author of the 18th century. His central point is to distinguish between war and peace as the Westphalian Regime from 1648 had marked out. So the articles quoted above are to prepare a real lasting peace. Today we can doubt seriously whether peace is a realistic notion. The permanent cyber war of information, influencing our own and foreign populations with fake news, breaking privacy all around the world, the everyday fight for industrial secrets, the impossibility to identify combatants and civilian persons and distinguish civil and foreign wars today seem to make a status impossible which we really can call peace. Perhaps in our todays world only rivalry and distrust are universal and perpetual.
At this point, we can revive another great tradition between Russia, Germany and the USA: The life and work of Hannah Arendt. Hannah Arendt too is deeply rooted in Königsberg/Kaliningrad where she spent her youth. After her studies with Martin Heidegger she wrote her main books about German and Soviet totalitarianism and about the structure of political life in the USA as refugee. Considering our context of war and peace the chapter "Unpredictability and the Power of Promise” of her philosophical main work "The Human Condition” from 1958 shows that confronted with the fragility of human affairs a situation of stability can only be installed by promises following the holy principle of ancient Roman Right "Pacta sunt servanda” and by concluding contracts as old Abraham did, self-evident all based on creating confidence. As the acts of free human beings are never calculable and can never be foreseen, the human condition is so weak that we can only look for islands of stability. These would be islands of confidence too. So the point of view of Hannah Arendt is a very sceptical one too.
Immanuel Kant disagrees with Plato about the role of philosophers. According to Kant philosophers due to their formation and profession are not able to be political players: But philosophers must be heard from the side of the politicians. As an answer to our present instability without real peace powerful philosophical institutions should exist to spread and propagate theories, methods and tools about creating confidence.
Therefore some years ago I proposed the project of an „International Russian-German Institute for Researches on Civil Society in Kaliningrad (IRGIRCISK)", pointed out by the President of the Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein Klaus Schlie during the Parliamentarian Meeting South Baltic Sea of Hamburg in April 2015.
Researches on the dynamic of civil societies are so important because according to Kant only the mentality of the public can let foresee any better development of mankind. In addition Hannah Arendt with her profound inquiries on sociological and political structures of civil societies delivers many essential contributions to the human condition in modern times.
Among many others these questions certainly have to be answered: How do civil societies act between national identity, nationalism and globalization, now immediately demonstrated by the corona pandemia? What’s the meaning of treaties confronted with sovereignty? Which kind of religion is good for civil societies? Which dynamic do we find in the interference of civil societies and governments? Is there any privacy in our cyber world? How can members of civil societies produce and feel confidence in the tension between patriotism and travel cosmopolitism? What is the answer of civil societies to the conflict of present welfare and longtime preserving the environment? Etc ….
Just now, in the times of the corona-pandemia - a paradox situation between closed human frontiers and biological globalization - the project of an „International Russian-German Institute for Researches on Civil Society in Kaliningrad (IRGIRCISK)” is more interesting than ever. As a wonderful international link it could be focused on creating confidence between Russia, the USA and Western Europe following the genius loci of Königsberg/Kaliningrad. This institute with the mission to prepare and to create realistic peace should be opened on the occasion of the celebrations of Kant’s 300th birthday in 2024.
Friedrich Paulsen, Immanuel Kant, Sein Leben und Werk, 6. Auflage, Stuttgart 1920, S. 284.