KantImmanuel and John Mill Stuart are two of the most dominant figures incontemporary philosophy and are considered the most cooperativepersons in supporting the British society develop into the organicperiod the U.K. is currently in. Both of them played a crucial rolein synthesizing early modern empiricism and rationalism therebysetting the rapports for much of 20thand 21stcentury philosophy. In this paper, I will discuss how Kant’s andMill’s fundamental ideas of human understanding as the source ofthe universal laws of nature and that human “reason” gives itselfthe moral regulation, which is our belief in God, morality andfreedom have shaped the 21stcentury Britain.
Kant,in SpeculativeBeginning of Human History,attempts to reorganize the Genesis story of creation. The creativeacts of God are collaborative in the sense that heaven and earth areunited with the spirit of mankind and the Divine. Consistent withGenesis 2:4, “the process of creation is the work of generations”all outcomes of heavenly intercession1.As per this definition, the process of change that mankind undergoesis a multiplicity of heavenly inspired arts and Godly intervention2.However, Kant opts to alter the circumstances surrounding the originof creation. Kant, in his composition, insets a “path” where heproposes that human beings can progress a lot in life throughindividual energies. To Kant, the process of self-improvement is notlimited to strict influence by divinity3.Then again, Kant views the biblical narratives as tools that allow usto proverbially improve human “faculties” (morals) the moment weenter into this “garden” known as the world. It is from thisperspective that Kant talks of mankind as moving to a “more”civilized state from a “beastlike” condition.
Kant’snarrative is an opposition of the universal notion that humanexistence is solely connected to the symbolization of creation. Heargues that dismissing the important historical factors of personalhuman development presents a speculative history of mankind a sheerpiece of fiction. Saying that “God knew” everything that wasgoing to happen in the Garden of Eden is fictitious4.Instead, Kant proposes that in addition to the proactive actions ofthe divine, the bountiful nature of the garden is what majorlycontributed to the progression of mankind. As Kant perceptivelystates, there is an unavoidable conflict between the nature of humanspecies and culture (nature). When a human species progressivelydevelops from one stage to another, the process of movement can betermed as a shift from the “natural” to the “moral”5.Therefore, as Kant observes, the original “primitive” state ofmankind cannot be denied. He further makes it clear that this is nota condition of crudeness because as I had initially mentioned, natureis taking enormous steps in the competent utilization of its powersto support the development of mankind6.
Kant’soutstanding justification of nature significantly goes against theChristian doctrines of providence by the Divine as a way ofprotecting his people, thereby directly influencing theirprogression. It is Kant’s point of view that nature’s providencein history must be understood because it plays a major role in theprogression of mankind7.For Kant, the moral progression of the human species is developing inthe direction of a healthy end: mankind being able to move from aprimitive state of mind to more humane life. In a Kantian context,culture should not be viewed as an artistic pursuit of the true, thebeautiful and the good, but as a predominant basis for the moralenhancement of all human species8.In a Kantian context, culture provides for human freedom and isincapable of altering the needs of mankind since its success islimited to the man-made desires emanating from mankind’s use of“reason”. Ultimately, the human species will have some form ofcivil society based upon sovereign decision making that bears aresemblance to our inordinate faith in reason as the controller ofethical life.
Theprimitive nature of man emanates with instinct (God’s voice).Therefore, the fulfillment of most basic wants and needs are donebased on physical and sensory information processed in the minds ofthe human species9.Reason is used by humans to extend beyond instinct by the creation ofgreediness and desires. Mankind, therefore, is driven by the force ofreason in each and every level of advancement. Man can prefer to beprimitive and lazy but cannot overlook what he absorbs by the processof reason and is therefore coerced to develop higher processes ofreasoning in order to cope. According to Kant, it is these higherstates of mental capabilities that distinguish mankind from otheranimals10.The exercise of comprehension and comparison of choice makes manunderstand that choices do exist, although he has absolutely nounderstanding with which to make apt choices. As Kant explains, theincreased enhancement of pleasure coupled with the use of reasonrather than instantaneous fulfillment of impulses molded thefoundation of more composite emotions of lust vs. love. In additionto this, Kant proposes that decency (using behavior as a tool toinfluence other’s respect for an individual) is the basic premisefor sociability11.
Kantcontinues by elucidating that mankind is morally decent because Godcreated him. It is the upsurge and advancement of reasoning that hasled to the propagation of vice and evil. The progression andadvancement of “reasoning” towards “enlightenment” is theprocess by which a moral man is ultimately appreciated. It is becauseof this “reasoning” process that communities are formed so as todefend territorially defined possessions like land, for instance, inthe case of nomadic people. The desire for wealth and luxury drivespeople into stratifying their communities, conveying into thepicture, the concept of inequality. It is the sustained need forsecurity that initiates mankind towards the enactment of a civilconstitution. As Kant continues to explain, this source of discontentis tolerable or at least good12.He notes that without war, there would be no greater appreciation ofmankind. Likewise, Kant argues that the satisfaction of our primitivepleasures would never have been achieved without the “knowledge”of “what else” can be. Therefore, it is evident that Kant’sproposal is centered on the concept of “enlightenment”.
Kantdefines “enlightenment” as mankind’s ability to surface fromhis self-imposed immaturity13.Immaturity, in this context, is used to denote the incapability touse one’s comprehension devoid of the guidance from another party.Immaturity is self-imposed and does not need special understandingbecause its roots are deeply embedded in the realms of laziness andprimitive ways of life. The public utilization of reasoning, justlike in the case of a scholar arguing his points in front of aliterate universe unlike private processes of reasoning, is the onlymeans of bringing about enlightenment in the universe. It isperfectly okay to embrace a policy which may seem erroneous inprivate context, for as long as there is the possibility of therebeing some truth in it. Should the scholar find some inconsistenciesin the discussion, it is upon him or her to query this in public inhis/her capacity as a scholar. It is the view of Kant that peoplehave an obligation to obey the “rules” of enlightenment by virtueof their membership in a political community. However, theindividuals are justified to publicly voice their opposition to thepremises that are inconsistent with the process of reasoning (morallywrong or unjust actions)14.
Inhis composition Ideafor a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent,Kant makes it clear that human actions are governed in harmony withthe collective natural laws. As mentioned earlier, each and everyhuman being is destined to develop fully, in conformity with theirend. While each person is pursuing his or her own end, frequently atantagonistic purposes with each other, they are unconsciouslyproceeding towards a natural end that is not known. Nature hasallowed man to partake in no other happiness than what can be securedthrough his reasoning process. Kant defines reasoning as the “facultyto outspread the rules and objectives of the utilization of all itspowers way beyond natural instinct”15.Kant observes that mankind is intrinsically a social being (animal)but sometimes experiences substantial unsociability owed to theconflicting preferences from other human beings in the society.Therefore, these contradictory forces of unsociability andsociability are both present in human beings and they play a crucialrole in driving the process of enlightenment in a normal human being.A human being’s realized desire to have his preferences for honor,power and property will drive him to advance his reasoning faculty16.
Kantcontinues to explain that for man to achieve the highest attainablenatural objective (man’s capabilities), there has to be a universalcivil society. It is in this “civil society”, as Kant draws out,that the contradictory forces of unsociability and sociabilitydirectly influence a human being’s quest for enlightenment.Mankind’s absolute task as a group is the institution of a civilconstitution under which the rights and freedoms for all can beprotected and transgression punished. In chapter V of his compositionOnLiberty,Mill puts forth two maxims that concur with Kant’s perspective onpunishment: one, that an individual should be punished only whentheir actions are adversely affecting others and two, that anindividual should not face any form of punishment for actionsaffecting only themselves17.Therefore, it is evident that Mill’s and Kant’s opinions on thesensitive issue of punishment are the same. They both believe that anindividual should be punished when their actions are adverselyaffecting other people in the society, and that someone cannot bepunished for actions that affect only themselves. In other words, the“civil society” instituted by human beings is bent on seeing toit that all human beings, regardless of their current circumstances,are treated in the same way18.
However,after the people in the Victorian age of the 19thCentury advanced their reasoning faculties, men developed the notionthat they reigned supreme when compared to their counterparts. Inconsequence, the ladies in the Victorian age were considered lesserhuman beings. According to Mill in his composition Thesubjection of women(1869), the Victorian society or culture insisted that a woman’selementary duty was to please and serve others while putting herdesires on hold. This means that in the Victorian society, a womanwas supposed to get married, stay at home, attend to householdchores, raise the children and submit to her husband. Women, in theVictorian society, had to absolutely depend on their husbands forentirely everything. As Mill continues to explain in his composition,this complete reliance of a wife on a husband instituted some form ofslavery, which denies them the freedom of expressing their liberty.Just like a slave, a woman is dreadful of offending his “master”in the name of a husband because the master is the only means of aslave getting its food, clothing and shelter19.
Furthermore,Mill expresses his aversion towards how the women in the Victorianage were marginalized in the workforce. According to Mill, women wereexcluded from many fields of employment because they were consideredunfit to contribute to the general good of the whole society. Inaddition to this, women were awarded a smaller pay than theircounterparts for the exceptional instances they were allowed to work.It is Mill’s opinion that if a husband and wife live in such amanner, then it means that the wife is compelled to obey, andtherefore becomes legally bound to obey his “master” (husband)20.Slavery, as Mill explains in his composition OnLiberty,is a forceful affair between the master and the slave, governed byrules common among the masters, for their mutual collectiveprotection. Therefore, Mill observed that granting women their rightscould potentially contribute to the general good of the society21.
Insupport of Mill’s opinion, Kant’s essay Onthe Proverb: That May Be True in Theory But Is of No Practical Useillustrates three maxims he puts forth to presuppose equality anduniversal freedom among moral agents (human beings). To illustratethat aprioriof categorical domineering can and ought to be sustained both intheory and in practice by men in the real world, Kant writes hisviews in the form of a response to three men. Charles Garvesrepresents the “man of affairs”, Moses Mendelssohn representingthe “man of the world” and Thomas Hobbes “the statesman”22.Kant explains that a “man of affairs”, acknowledging that he toowishes to be universal, must at no time fabricate stories because as“the statesman’s” narrative illustrates, he must “conducthimself in a manner that treats the human species in oneself andnever view other people as mere means to an end but as an end initself”.
Inother words, Kant is suggesting that for someone to accept his/herown moral self-sufficiency, he/she must, and has to respect themorality of others23.An individual must posit their equality and freedom as well those ofothers. Lastly, Kant’s third maxim of “man of the world”suggests that an individual should act in a fashion that their willunderwrites the maxims of universal laws”, pleasant for each andevery human being. Using his analytical approaches of exemplifyingpolitical philosophy, Kant’s narratives of the three men serve asillustrations whose aim is to demonstrate that the three worldwideaxioms of categorical commanding do exist and ought to be sustainedboth in theory and in practice by men in the tangible world. Kant’stheory presumes a universal equality and freedom among human beingsas moral agents24.
Accordingto Karl, even though individual human circumstances may be unequal(with some poor and others rich), at a minimum, they must be able torecognize and celebrate their shared humanity with others in orderfor them to act in the capacity of autonomous moral agents. Millreiterates the fact that human beings should develop a civil societythat overcomes these forces of sociability and unsociability thatcause societal stratification. However, women and children in theVictorian age, according to Kant, were being treated as human beingsthat had no mental capacity necessary to realize autonomousself-determination, or better still, maturity25.Because of this “immaturity”, women in the Victorian era wereleft out in legislative processes since they were being representedby their “masters”. These were injustices in marriage and toovercome them, Mill proposed marriage solutions that would help bringequality amongst men and their women to put to rest this “moralwarfare”26.
Toput an end to the “war”, Mill recommended the liberation of womenby the moral education of mankind through the process of“enlightenment”. Mill argues that man and woman are fit to livetogether as equals and therefore women deserve to be liberated. Thewomen’s liberation is attained by allowing them to vote, workoutside their homes, own property and giving them the liberty todecide whether they want to get in a marriage union or not. Mill’sopinion is that human beings, as moral agents, should not view fellowhuman beings as a means, but as an end by acknowledging that womentoo have rights and dignity as human beings. Therefore, according toMill, “perpetual peace” is instilled when woman and man co-existin a civil society where they are all treated as equals27.
Inhis composition ToPerpetual Peace: A philosophical Sketch,Kant echoes Mill’s opinion of solving this “war”. Kantperceptively states that the civil constitution of every nation-stateshould be republican in a manner that all men are free and subject tothe same laws as equal citizens28.In addition to this, Kant reiterates the fact that the right of anation of free citizens shall be based on a confederation of Freestates. A federation of equivalent states harnesses thepurpose-driven craving of states to pursue peace by having allnations in the confederation as guardians of other nation’ssovereignty. In concurrence, Mill argues that it is the state thatshould enact the civil rules and regulations governing how a husbandand wife should live together as equals but not as a master andservant union29.It is evident therefore, that both Kant and Mill support the conceptof equality propagation through the institution of an organized civilsociety in the form of a “government”.
Kantand Mill’s compositions in response to how women in the Victorianages of the 18thand 19thcentury were being treated have proven to be very instrumental in themolding of the United Kingdom to the state it currently is in. As arecap, women in the Victorian age were considered lesser beings bytheir counterparts. The women’s roles were limited to the house,where their duty was to please their husbands by doing everythingthey were asked to. Married women were like slaves to their husbandsfor they had no freedom and liberty to do what their hearts desired.The ladies would not work in the fields, and for the exceptionalmoments they were allowed to, they were given a meager pay to makethem not harbor the thoughts of going back to the fields again. Thewomen in the Victorian age had no right to participate in the federallegislative processes and procedures like voting because they wereconsidered mentally inferior and that their contributions would notbenefit the society in any fashion30.
AsKant explains, the increased enhancement of pleasure coupled with theuse of reason rather than instantaneous fulfillment of impulsesmolded the foundation of more composite emotions of lust vs. love. ToKant, the moral progression of the human species is developing in thedirection of a healthy end: mankind being able to move from aprimitive state of mind to a more humane life. Treating women likelesser beings is primitive, and therefore, according to Kant,enlightenment is the process of developing higher mental faculties(reasoning). Thus, “enlightenment” is mankind’s only capabilityto surface from his self-imposed immaturity and primeval nature.According to Kant, there has to exist a civil institution that setsthe rules and regulations governing the relationships in the societyto see to it that everyone is treated equally31.As Mill strongly argues, this is mankind’s progression towards ahealthy end for each and every citizen32.
Ican positively say that Kant and Mill, albeit 18thand 19thcentury philosophers, would adore residing in the present day UnitedKingdom. Their responses and proposals concerning the maltreatmentand exploitation of women in the Victorian age are the blueprint ofthe civil frameworks on which the current constitutions of many, ifnot all, states is built upon. For instance, the United Kingdomconstitution is built on the central concept of treating all humanbeings as equals. In a marriage union, for example, the husband andwife have the same rights despite the fact that a woman might bemuscularly inferior. In our contemporary society, thinking of a womanas being mentally inferior is a non-existent concept because a womancan do what men can do, and occasionally does it better. Furthermore,there are civil laws governing the sociability and unsociabilityforces that affect an individual’s rate of enlightenment. In theUnited Kingdom, there are rules and regulations in play purposely forthe protection of women and the girl child against unfair andinhumane treatment by their counterparts.
Inaddition to this, the present day United Kingdom allows theparticipation of women in public legislative procedures and processeslike voting. To add to this, we have witnessed women being appointedto clutch huge government seats in the United Kingdom, breaking offthe backdated tendencies of limiting a woman’s capabilities tohousehold chores. The constitution of the U.K also acknowledges thesovereignty of other states because according to Karl’s third maximof “man of the world”, an individual or state should act in afashion that their will contributes to the maxims of universal laws”,pleasant for each and every human being. Therefore, I can confidentlysay that Kant’s and Mill’s opinions and proposals for an“enlightened” people have played a huge role in molding thecivilization and constitution of not only the U.K., but the wholeworld over. Thanks to Kant and Mill, mankind has eventually managedto shun his “primitive” nature and embrace “civilization”through the process of “enlightenment”.
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Mingst,Karen A., and Jack L. Snyder. EssentialReadings in World Politics.New York: Norton, 2004.
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Wollstonecraft,Mary. TheRights of Woman: John Stuart Mill the Subjection of Women.Place of Publication Not Identified: J M Dent, 2002.
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1 Wood, Allen W. "Kant on Practical Reason." Interpretive Essays: Kant on Practical Justification, 2013, 58.
2 Ibid, 62
3 Mingst, Karen A., and Jack L. Snyder. Essential Readings in World Politics. New York.
4 Kant, Immanuel, and Allen W. Wood. Basic Writings of Kant. New York: Modern Library, 2001.
5 Wood, Allen W. "Kant on Practical Reason." Interpretive Essays Kant on Practical Justification, 2013, 60.
6 Schama, Simon. A History of Britain. New York: Hyperion, 2002.
7 Ibid, 212.
8 Mingst, Karen A., and Jack L. Snyder. Essential Readings in World Politics. New York.
9 Kant, Immanuel, Ted Humphrey, and Immanuel Kant. Perpetual Peace, and Other Essays on Politics, History, and Morals. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1983.
10 Kant, Immanuel, and Allen W. Wood. Basic Writings of Kant. New York: Modern Library, 2001.
11 Mingst, Karen A., and Jack L. Snyder. Essential Readings in World Politics. New York.
12 Wood, Allen W. "Kant on Practical Reason." Interpretive Essays Kant on Practical Justification, 2013, 62.
13 Schama, Simon. A History of Britain. New York: Hyperion, 2002
14 Kant, Immanuel, Ted Humphrey, and Immanuel Kant. Perpetual Peace, and Other Essays on Politics, History, and Morals. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1983.
15 Kant, Immanuel, and Allen W. Wood. Basic Writings of Kant. New York: Modern Library, 2001
16 Chrisp, Peter. The Victorian Age. New York: Facts On File, 2005.
17 Gray, John. "Mill on Liberty." 1991. Accessed March 15, 2016
18 Ibis, 244.
19 Wollstonecraft, Mary. The Rights of Woman: John Stuart Mill the Subjection of Women. Place of Publication Not Identified: J M Dent, 2002.
20 Wollstonecraft, Mary. The Rights of Woman: John Stuart Mill the Subjection of Women. Place of Publication Not Identified: J M Dent, 2002.
21 Ibis, 342.
22 Mathias, Michael B. John Stuart Mill: On Liberty. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.
23 Mathias, Michael B. John Stuart Mill: On Liberty. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.
24 Kant, Immanuel, and Allen W. Wood. Basic Writings of Kant. New York: Modern Library, 2001
25 Chrisp, Peter. The Victorian Age. New York: Facts On File, 2005.
26 Gray, John. "Mill on Liberty." 1991. Accessed March 15, 2016.
27 Mathias, Michael B. John Stuart Mill: On Liberty. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.
28 Kant, Immanuel, Ted Humphrey, and Immanuel Kant. Perpetual Peace, and Other Essays on Politics, History, and Morals. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1983.
29 Mathias, Michael B. John Stuart Mill: On Liberty. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.
30 Chrisp, Peter. The Victorian Age. New York: Facts On File, 2005.
31 Kant, Immanuel, and Allen W. Wood. Basic Writings of Kant. New York: Modern Library, 2001.
32 Gray, John. "Mill on Liberty." 1991. Accessed March 15, 2016.