“Idea a Universal History with Cosmopolitan Intent” – Summary

All humans have the right and freedom to reach their highest potential because nature has given them the tools they need to succeed. That is what Immanuel Kant mainly talks about in “Idea a Universal History with Cosmopolitan Intent.” However, he mentions nine principles that talk about the main mistakes that hold men in achieving a cosmopolitan city. With cosmopolitanism, he means a place where every person act as a group and all of their actions are intended to serve to each other. Like a union of nations in which respect is their main ally. With this, he discards the word “war” because he mentions that it is the biggest mistake that makes men not to focus on the real reason of his existence.

Humans are not guided by instinct; neither have an arranged plan that tells them towards what they should turn their actions. What is certain is that humans have reasoning and they have to use it to find out what nature has in store for them. That is why Kant says that nature has a plan for men and it has written clues in history. Since humans have freedom, then they are able to modify history, but at the end nature will always find its ways to the accorded plan she has. History is progress, so all the human actions walk towards a slow but steady progress.

The problem starts when the desire of domination emerges and competition with each other becomes a problem that affects the civilization. What men do, does not affect them individually, but it does affect the species. Kant says that the main plan that nature has is the achievement of the just cosmopolitan civilization. There are nine principles that according to Kant, men need to understand if they want to enjoy what nature has been saving to those who are open to her laws.

The first one says that creatures are destined to reach their highest potential in a certain time and place. The second talks about the importance of the transmission of knowledge since no man lives long enough to know it all by himself. They must learn by the experience of their ancestors. The third principle talks about how nature gives the tools, but it is up to the men to learn how to work them for their benefit, which is the improvement of reason. Fourth: humans tend to associate or isolate themselves and those decisions lead to antagonism, that is why nature imposes limits and at the end they only get what its better for their kind. The fifth says that there has to be a civil constitution that imposes universal justice and that all must follow.

All men have to work towards the respect of each other’s freedom and individuality. Since there is always somebody who abuses of his or her liberties, the sixth principle says that there has to be some type of superior law.

The seventh says that the only way of having a civil society is the union of nations. It says that war is just a bad path of actions taken towards a goal, because at the end it achieves the same result as it could have reason obtained in the first place, but without the deaths. Kant says that nature hides the secret of cosmopolitanism in history. The knowledge learned through experience can help advance positively in peaceful manners.

The last principle concludes by saying that by understanding the previous principles and concentrating in the peaceful relation of countries, the human species will reach it’s fully development and will carry out the destiny that nature have imposed on them.

Reason was a gift from nature, and only humans have it, so it should be correctly used for the development of the specie. Since we all have a purpose in life, Kant wants to give those ideas to the new generations because he wants to be part of this progress and he knows that there might be someone new that will make history by using Kant’s knowledge in a positive way which might help society. Kant believes in progress and he is contributing with it. Even that it seems that there is no progress in history but a chaos of actions, Kant says that we should presume that there is one.

Fight for a change, is what Kant primordially wants us to do. He wants us to learn the importance of the knowledge that our previous generations obtained. We commonly say that we do not live enough to make all the mistakes in the world that is why we have to learn through the mistakes that others have made. He wants us to act morally correct because our actions always affect others. We should not do to others what we do not want them to do to us.

Our goal in life is to find out what we are good for, so far we have the gift of reasoning and it should be used wisely. We should be capable of distinguishing the good from the bad. Fighting over power is not good, but not all the individuals understand it. They want to dominate over other countries and have control of all the resources. That is what Kant says it pulls back society towards development. We have seen that war does not bring happiness, so why do we still do it? The example that Kant gives us in the fifth principle is very clear and it gives us the perfect picture of how our society should be. We must have tolerance and respect for others, just like all the trees in the forest. If we let ourselves grow according to nature’s law, together sharing the air and space like trees; then we will grow to our highest capacities. That is what having freedom means, when we do our job taking making sure our actions does not affect others. On the other hand if we let our branches grow as they pleased fighting with other trees for space then our mind and bodies will grow distorted and jagged. Nature intented the forest or world to be a place in which all type of plants, colors, and shapes will grow. There is space for all, so there is no need to fight over power.

What this reading might leave us is the thought to look for answers. History might have the answers we need. We must find out what type of tree we are. We need to know how far does our branches might grow. Once we know this, we need find a way to let our leaves and branches might serve other creatures. As a citizen of the world there is a purpose for each of us, our ancestors have lived for the progress and we shall do it too.

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