What are the main aspects of philosophy

Kant's world concept of philosophy








Jürgen Stolzenberg

Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg

Kant's world concept of philosophy

Public lecture 22 April 2017 in the Kaliningrad Cathedral as part of the Kant lectures of the Academia Kantiana of the Baltic Federal Immanuel Kant University

At the latest with the Kant year 2004 and the celebrations that were held worldwide to commemorate Kant's 200th anniversary of his death, it became clear that Kant has become the philosopher of the world. Not Hegel, not Nietzsche, not Wittgenstein and not Heidegger - Immanuel Kant has become an intellectual authority from whom one hopes for orientation in fundamental questions of human life. And indeed, at a time and in a world in which public life is increasingly threatened by religious fanaticism and terror, in which millions of people are suffering from political persecution, hunger and war, a world in which new and ominous confrontations between threaten the states, in such a world and in such a time Kant's cosmopolitanism of reason is an objection to irrationalism, isolationism and aggression.


It is therefore not by chance that the concept of the world plays a central role in Kant's philosophy. At the end of his Critique of Pure Reason Kant spoke of the “world concept of philosophy” in a particularly prominent way. It encompasses “what necessarily interests everyone” (KrV, B 868). What do you mean with that?

There are several aspects to Kant's concept of the world. You have to come to an understanding about this if you want to know why and in what way philosophy affects everyone. On the one hand, the concept of the world refers to the cosmopolitan area. It is the area in which the human being is considered World citizens lives, and he is a citizen of the world by nature insofar as he is part of the human species. This cosmopolitan dimension means Kant's declaration that man “through his reason certainly [is] to be in a society and with people ”(AA 7, 324). Linked to this is Kant's innovative conception of one World Citizenship. It provides that people enjoy individual rights by nature, and not just because they belong to a state. So the world citizenship includes a Visiting rights, according to which strangers may not be treated hostile from the outset.

The term world Second, refers to a moral world. This is Kant's vision of an institution of the world according to the laws of freedom, i.e. a moral and just world. The establishment of such a world is a moral interest of man, provided that he understands himself and his kind as free, autonomous beings to whom an “inalienable dignity” (AA 6, 436) is accorded. This includes the institutionalization of mutual recognition relationships, under which people do not regard and treat one another as a means to their ends, but as "ends in themselves" (AA 4, 428), that is, respect one another. That's what Kant means when he speaks of a moral culture speaks.

Here Kant advocates the thesis that man is called on the basis of his reason, which connects him to all other people, to cultivate, civilize and to cultivate the world in which he lives and thus also himself “through art and science moralize ”(AA 7, 324). This is what is meant today by the catchphrase of the Enlightenment, a 'humanization of mankind', which threatens to be disregarded in the age of global economism. The modern concept of world cultural heritage also has its philosophical place here. It refers to cultural goods created by people in a civilization, which are of exemplary importance for the cultural level of all humanity, and which therefore need to be preserved and protected.

When Kant now speaks of a world concept of philosophy, he is referring to the architecture of the educational building that philosophy is building. Philosophy develops a systematically ordered representation of the overall context of the principles of human knowledge and action. The context, and that is, the unit of the teaching structure of philosophy is not an aggregate made up of parts, but a system, the parts of which are determined by a common principle, from which the parts derive their place in the entire system and at the same time their own justification. Since such a principle establishes the existence of the parts and their connection, it can be understood as the epitome of their purposeful order. To this extent, this principle represents an ultimate or, as Kant puts it, one End use The overall context of the principles of human knowledge and action is thus established through the reference of all principles to an ultimate or "end purpose" (KrV, B 868). The ultimate purpose, that is decisive, concerns what Kant, with the famous formula of the Enlightenment coined by the theologian Johann Joachim Spalding, calls “the whole destiny of man” (KrV, B 868) [1]. Man's destiny consists in the task of ultimately arriving at a worldwide community in which, on the path of his cultivation - "by advancing in a series of indefinitely many generations," as Kant says all People who are “cosmopolitan” (AA 7, 333) and respect one another as moral beings and in this way also contribute to the safeguarding of their physical well-being. That should happen in the establishment of a community of states, which is the organizational form of a federative confederation should have. At the same time, Kant saw this as the only possible guarantee of long-term world peace. Insofar as philosophy provides information about what the whole determination of man consists of and that is, what is the ultimate or end purpose that man is supposed to pursue in his personal and social life, philosophy concerns “what everyone is necessarily interested in”.

This does not, however, exhaust the meaning of Kant's world concept of philosophy. It is important to see that the end purpose thus determined is in turn subject to a condition under which it can only be realized. At first glance, this condition is given by the reality of two cosmological ideas, namely the idea of ​​God and the idea of ​​the immortality of the human soul. There are therefore in truth two questions, the answer of which, in Kant's view, constitutes the ultimate and highest purpose of human reason. One question is: “Is there a God?”, The other is: “Is there a future life?” (KrV, B 831). Finding an answer to these questions is actually what everyone is interested in. I'll come back to that.


The worldwide and ongoing interest in Kantian philosophy has not yet been made sufficiently understandable with what has been said so far. There is one more crucial move to be mentioned. I want him that humane character of Kant's philosophy. Kant's interest as a philosopher is that human condition. “Establishing the rights of mankind” [2] already appeared to the young, Rousseau-enthusiastic Kant to be the highest task of philosophy. Kant adhered to this conviction throughout his life, and it is from it that his entire practical philosophy is borne. This is how it works Kant's ethics because also from the concrete, individual human existence. It takes into account the importance attached to our primary natural inclinations, our vital needs, and our desires for the life we ​​each have to lead and with which our individual ideas of happiness are connected. At the same time, she assumes that we also have a moral competence and that is the ability to disregard the individual perspective and to take the perspective of morality. This is a perspective under which we are able to distance ourselves from the pursuit of our primary inclinations and desires and to align our long-term intentions and actions with strictly general norms, that is, norms acceptable to everyone in a comparable situation. We do that, whether consciously or unconsciously, whenever we say or are convinced that something must be done (or not done) absolutely good or bad is. This happens often enough in everyday life, be it the assessment of morally relevant conflict situations or entire life plans.

In this point of view of morality, which is accessible to everyone and known to everyone, that is the decisive insight of Kant, the consciousness of freedom is expressed, of which Kant therefore rightly says that it “has the coarsest and most legible writing in the soul of man is written ”(AA 8, 287). Kant's ethics of freedom unites both perspectives. That's how he wears it human condition Calculation: It takes into account the natural need of the concrete person and his striving for a comprehensive well-being, the Kant bliss is called; It seeks to reconcile this striving with the demands of a universal, i.e., morality that is acceptable to all people. Kant's ethics therefore by no means suppress the human striving for well-being and happiness, as is repeatedly asserted under the charge of formalism and rigorism, rather it seeks to provide him with ethical recognition and justification. That is the humane content of Kant's ethics.


An almost uninterrupted interest, which has increased in the last few decades, has also found Kant's philosophy of law and the state, especially his reflections on a policy of peace. And here, too, it is profound human interestthat guides Kant's deliberations. Because only if the right of all people - the "rights of humanity", to recall the expression of early Kant - are permanently secured, the ethical claim can be realized, one another not as a means but as a Purpose in itself to treat. Such an ideal state is only conceivable in the state of an ideal eternal peace among republican states, i.e. states whose most important criteria are a representative system and a strict separation of powers. Securing the rights all Hence, as mentioned, Kant sees people through a state or League of Nations guaranteed. Kant's innovative achievement consists in the idea of ​​such a League of Nations: It is the idea of ​​a federation of free and sovereign, republican states, which should be organized according to the model of a permanently meeting state congress, and whose organs should contribute to the fact that states, like Kant writes, "decide their disputes in a civil way, as it were by a process, not in a barbaric way (like the savage), namely by war" (AA 6: 351). The historical one League of Nations and its de facto successor organization, which was founded in 1945 United Nations, whose ultimate goals, as stated in the United Nations Charter That is, the maintenance of world peace, the development of friendly relations between nations, the solution of global problems and the promotion of human rights can be seen as attempts to create an international institutional basis for Kant's idea of ​​securing world peace under international law.

If one asks how far this attempt has succeeded politically, the balance sheet turns out to be quite ambivalent. Although they have United Nations have been able to contribute to peacekeeping in several countries and regions in the last few decades, and there have also been successes in the area of ​​humanitarian aid such as the World Food Program. The United Nations but were unable to prevent armed conflict. Their resolutions have been and are being disregarded. They see violations of international law United Nations on their part often inactive. And they could not and cannot prevent the high and arms race. It is clear that global peace cannot be achieved in this way. Kant's postulate in the 3rd preliminary article of his work To eternal peace: "Standing armies should cease completely over time" (AA 8, 345), waiting, like many other things that Kant demands as conditions for securing world peace, for its realization - here only the prohibition of military intervention or the Employment of assassins ”(AA 8, 346).


This is not the place to enter into a more detailed analysis of Kant's considerations on international peacekeeping. However, one point deserves to be emphasized. It concerns Kant's often misunderstood argument for the establishment of a peacekeeping system League of Nations. Such a League of Nations is essentially characterized by the fact that in it no compulsory laws are provided. Kant's far-sighted realism in political matters can be studied in a special way on the basis of this argument. And from this a realistic assessment of the current world situation can be gained with a view to the possibility and securing of global peace.

There are two main considerations that are important. Kant's first consideration says the following: For states that strive to get out of a permanent state of war or a state in which new wars threaten to break out again and again, it is a requirement of practical reason to form a federal state of nations, the public coercive laws that are used in the event of violations of international law. The second consideration seems to counter this in an initially incomprehensible way. It states that the states “absolutely do not want this due to their idea of ​​international law” (AA 8, 357). Kant does not give a reason. However, it is easy to submit later. The rationale is that sovereign states do not want to submit to coercive laws because they are already in a legal state. Submission to compulsory laws would mean that they would have to forego their political autonomy and sovereignty, which they do not want on their own can. Therefore there can be no right to force states to enter such a nation state by law.

In addition, a state state, as one would have to call a state of nations with compulsory laws, would contradict a requirement of international law. Such a state-state would be a only one State, but that would be the requirement of international law that it several States give, repealed. In addition, it would be something of a universal monarchy with the risk of a global dictatorship. That is why Kant places all his hopes in the formation of a federal league of nations, the Not has compulsory laws, which should do everything possible to stabilize the peace and counteract the tendency to armed conflicts without being able to prevent the "constant danger of their outbreak" (AA 8, 357).

But that was not Kant's last word. Kant trusts in a steady and ever expanding development of moral and political culture. It should lead to an ever greater consensus in basic moral and legal-political principles - nothing else means the "humanization of humanity" mentioned at the beginning. These principles include human rights, republicanism and the aforementioned global civil rights. Such a consensus, that is Kant's hope, will make it easier to achieve a transnational agreement that there is no alternative to a voluntary global nation state, which, in the form of a "minimal secondary world state" [3], is based on certain compulsory laws established organization.

Kant was aware that this is a process, the duration of which cannot be foreseen, and that, in addition to the fundamental willingness to resolve conflicts by peaceful means, political wisdom, experience and practical judgment are required for its successful course. Kant also knew that it is not the philosophers who determine the fate of the peoples, and that this is not at all desirable, because the possession of power harbors the risk of corrupting an impartial and free judgment. For the culture of an enlightened people, however, Kant considered it indispensable “that kings or royal peoples (who rule themselves according to the laws of equality) do not dwindle or silence the class of philosophers, but let it speak publicly, [...] because this class by its nature Rotation and club association is incapable ”(AA 8, 396). In the current global political situation and the relationship between the states on the one hand, the existence of the United Nations with its central organs, such as the General Assembly, the one who has assertion power Security Council, one International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and one International Court of Justicewhich, however, have no enforcement rights, and the World trade organization on the other hand, as well as the role played by philosophy - should I rather say: Kant's philosophy? - takes place in the intellectual culture of the states of the world, the status of the process inaugurated by Kant can be reduced to the ideal of a eternal peace read off. It is obvious that here too a highly ambivalent, if not depressing picture emerges. But since peace, as Kant rightly says, is “the highest political good” (AA 6, 355), and since we cannot know that it is unattainable, we are obliged, for reasons of reason, to do everything we can to ensure that it becomes attainable.


Kant called a lasting peace the “highest world civil good” (Ref. 8077, AA 19, 612). This leads back to the question mentioned at the beginning, what is the ultimate purpose to which philosophy is oriented according to the concept of the world, and what importance is attached to the question “Is there a God?”. The highest cosmopolitan good, which is given with a lasting peace, consists more precisely in the connection of moral legal relations and contributing to the well-being and happiness of people who see themselves as citizens of the world. In this way the idea becomes supreme moral Good - that is the harmonious connection of a morally responsible life plan with the pursuit of happiness - of the original personal Life context on the world political Level extended. What applies to personal life must also apply to the life of all citizens on a global political scale, i.e. for all global citizens.

This is where Kant's question “Is there a God?” Has its place. Kant's thesis, provocative at first glance, is that the idea of ​​God is a necessary one, is a prerequisite made or to be made by human reason itself in its practical use, from which the possibility of a life plan can be understood, which is guided by the idea that the pursuit of morality may harmoniously coincide with the pursuit of happiness.

Kant's argument for this thesis is anything but absurd. Kant starts from the insight that there is none theoretical There is reason for the possibility of a correspondence between morality and happiness to be grasped. Because neither the moral agent, nor the political agent, can submit the course of the world and the laws of nature to his will, nor does nature itself orient itself according to moral or legal moral laws. At the same time, the idea of ​​promoting a moral world - in the personal as well as in the global political sense - is based on the premise that such an agreement of natural laws with the laws of morality is possible, because its demand is directed towards such an agreement, and therein lies the meaning her practical intentions, whether she is clear about it or not.

The decisive step lies in the conclusion drawn by Kant that the requirement of such an agreement must be linked to the postulate of an external cause that is capable of producing a nature that contains the theoretically impossible reason for this agreement. Such an external cause must also be able to work according to moral laws, because it is supposed to be the cause of the correspondence between a natural order and a moral and legal world order. That is why she must have understanding and will - and that is exactly what the term God means. So that is the crucial point: To make the possibility of a convergence of morality and well-being comprehensible, a convergence for which under the conditions of finiteness and contingency of our existence, however, neither a theoretical reason nor a warranty its realization is in prospect, in order to make this possibility comprehensible, practical reason postulates the existence of a supreme authority guaranteeing meaningwhich the tradition understands under the name of God (AA 5, 226).

This thought of Kant seems to many to this day as a time-related embarrassment solution, which can hardly be taken seriously and which can be replaced without damage by the core of Kant's personal ethics and also of political ethics. This opinion overlooks or underestimates the problem situation to which such a postulate reacts. It is - this must be emphasized once again - very closely with the human condition connected. That is Kant's thought: for them morality We can take care of our intentions ourselves, if we really want to. For the success of a life plan and our well-being and also for the equitable distribution of justice and happiness on a global scale, we cannot take care of everything ourselves. So that a life based on morality can perhaps also be called a happy life in the end, we are dependent on something like a favor, which is shown to us, as it were, by what is not in our control. But if we have our well-being and happiness in mind, we also cherish the hope that it can be granted to us and that life does not leave us completely in the lurch. We hope that there will be a correspondence between our moral intentions and our expectations of happiness. And with this we also harbor the hope that the world in which we all live will not reject us like Dante's hell with the cry: "Lasciate ogni spiranza! ”-“ Let go of all hope! ”Rather, hope goes, as Kant expressed it in his aesthetic theory, that man“ fits into the world ”(AA 16, 127). And so the experience of happiness seems to be analogous to the experience of the beautiful. Because here as there, a harmony of heterogeneous elements is experienced that we have not brought about ourselves, that comes about by itself and makes us happy. Kant's doctrine of the postulate of the existence of God reacts to this. It owes itself to the idea that we for what is not in our power, what we encounter and which we can only hope for, but on which we build our lives in a personal and global sense, that we are one for it To accept reason or to have to think to ourselves, without which this hope itself would be meaningless. Perhaps this would also be a basis from which the various religions can come to an understanding without giving up the differences in their beliefs and live together in tolerance and peace in a pluralistic world society.

Such a thought is a thought of reason. With him, Kant responds to the challenge to enlightened philosophy and to secular world society on the part of the religion is brought up with increasing urgency. A critical philosophy that sees itself in the tradition of the Enlightenment does not need to be polemical towards the claims of religion. It only has to develop its own concept to its ultimate consequence. Then she arrives at that world concept of philosophy. As I said, it could also serve to achieve understanding between the religions. Because this concept of the world of philosophy itself contains the sufficient ground, the unavailable, which accompanies human existence like a shadow due to its contingency and finiteness and from which it cannot escape even under the conditions of advanced secularization, with the unity of a universal context of meaning brings without dissolving that unavailable. That is perhaps the only rationally defensible theodicy in view of the evils in the world, and in the end that is probably what interests everyone.


[1] On Kant's use of the formula “determination of man” see also AA VIII, 18 f., 24-28; AA V, 298-303; AA VI, 267f., 50, 162; AA VII, 321 ff. And AA IX, 447.

[2] I. Kant: Comments in the “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime” / Ed. Marie Rischmüller. Hamburg: Meiner, 2013, p. 38.

[3] Kant I. On Eternal Peace / Ed. By O. Höffe. 2nd edition. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2004. p. 247.