At the moment, Catalonia (a province in Spain) is currently fighting for independence from Spain. Spain has rejected this stance, along with the the majority of the international community. To try and control Catalonia, Spain has used violence against innocent civilians of the province. This raises quite clearly an issue in Kantian ethics and Kant’s attitude to war; mainly that of whether we should intervene in civil wars and when does a single state separate into two.
Kant believed that there must be laws in order to maximize human freedom. This seems an odd idea, but in a world where there were no rules (a state of nature) we would not be able to own anything or live the life we want to because there would be no rules to allow me to own things or pursue my own ends without being trampled on by others. For example, if someone stole one of my personal possessions, I would not be able to get it back as there would be no rule entitling me to that object or any justice system to try the person who took it. Therefore, we need a state in a rightful condition to maximize our freedom and pursue our ends. As a human being, we have a duty to work towards the rightful condition to ensure that other beings’ autonomy is not undermined.
This is easier for individuals to achieve as we have the autonomy of the state that rises above our own sphere of morality. However, when it comes to states, there is no “state of states” that are above the moral sphere of states to enforce the rightful condition. Therefore, it can be held as impossible for states to achieve the rightful condition. Despite this, Kant holds they still have a duty to work towards the rightful condition. This links into war because Kant viewed war as moving away from the rightful condition as it is the opposite of rationality. Kant, therefore, only saw just war as a war that is fought in the aim of achieving peace.
This may seem an easy method of saying yes or no to wars, but what about the case of civil wars, such as Syria? This is not so straightforward. Kant would argue that we shouldn’t interfere as it would interfere with the autonomy of the state. We should respect this autonomy above everything else, even if it does mean the suffering of innocent civilians.
This is a conlusion that is hard to take and many attempt to argue around it by arguing that there has been a seperation of states. When a civil war breaks out, their are actually two sides which make their own autonomous decisions. In this case, another states would be allowed to intervene because helping one state defend from another would be a just war as it’s aim is peace and defence of a state’s autonomy.
This seems an easier position to accept but actually created a new problem of when does one state become two? Most people would accept that Syria is now two separate states, but what about Catalonia. Are we at the point where we can say that Catalonia can make it’s own rational choices as a state? Some would say yes, as, as individuals, they have a freedom to make their own autonomous. Some people would say no a they are still part of Spain and there is no separation between the two at the moment.
Personally, I do not think that the intervention with war is the question that should be addressed right now. Spain, as an autonomous nation, should be held responsible for it’s actions. The use of violence against your own people can never be nationally willed and, as an international community we should hold Spain accountable for this. The governments of the world should be thinking less who is right or wrong in a question of independence and more about how the answer to this question I achieved.
Thank you for reading this week. Do you have any ideas on this blog post? Please comment it below. Have a question? Please email me. I would love to here it and could form the foundation of a blog soon. If you want to get updates for blogs, please subscribe using the button above. See you next time for a discussion about Saudi Arabia’s granting of civilian status to a robot and my argument with Peter Vardy.