In this influential essay, German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) outlines how human history could progress towards its ultimate purpose: the enlightenment of humanity under a unified global order based on republicanism. Describing how humans are torn between the desire to come together in society and the natural tendency towards conflict, Kant contends that this very tension can drive humans to reach their full potential as rational beings.
Meanwhile, according to Kant, wars would not only lead governments to recognize the importance of peaceful negotiation, they would lead rulers to increase their citizens’ freedoms, in order to increase economic productivity and strengthen the state. Ultimately, Kant posits that the world would come to be governed under a federation of republican states. When Kant wrote this essay, in 1784, there were very few republics, but many believe that Kant’s theories have been borne out by the late twentieth century spread of democracy around the globe.
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