Thursday, January 10, 2013


In "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Perspective" (1784), Immanuel Kant gives this description of the effects of individuals on society:
Individual human beings and even entire peoples give little thought to the fact that they, by pursuing their own ends, each in his own way and often in opposition to others, unwittingly, as if guided along, work to promote the intent of nature, which is unknown to them, and which, even if it were known to them, they would hardly care about.
On the other hand, Kant is much less optimistic than Smith:
One cannot but feel a certain disinclination when one observes their activity as carried out on the great stage of the world and finds it ultimately, despite the occasional sem­blance of wisdom to be seen in individual actions, all to be made up, by and large, of foolishness, childish vanity, and, often enough, even of childish wickedness and destructiveness.
Further, Kant's vision of the end of history is MUCH more expansive because he affirms that the best state "can occur only late, after many futile attempts" and "this gives us the hope that, after a number of structural revolutions, that which nature has as its highest aim, a universal cosmopolitan condition, can come into being."

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