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German ‘bridge of peace’ Empty German ‘bridge of peace’

Tue Jan 26, 2016 12:03 pm
Message reputation : 100% (1 vote)
German ‘bridge of peace’ for Sri Lankan Tamils
Published Jan 25, 2016,

The great 18th century thinker Immanuel Kant may show the way to gradual peace.
Dr Lucas Thorpe

Chennai: Strange are the ways time moves in the digital age. The past could as much be a window to the future as the present in recreating trust.

Just when the Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickramesinghe current dispensation in Sri Lanka has taken the first steps for drawing up a new Constitution, raising hopes for a lasting peace to the long-suffering and embattled Sri Lankan Tamils, Immanuel Kant, the 18th century German philosopher and a great find of the European Enlightenment age, may hold the key to that happy peace, even if popular perceptions have often dismissed him as being conservative and obscure.

It is partly because it is not fashionable these days to discuss Kant’s political philosophy. But, equally, not many may have come across the fact that the ideas articulated in a seminal article, ‘Towards Perpetual Peace’, this humble son of a ‘harness maker’ of Konigsberg had written in 1795, had substantially influenced the people who wrote the United Nations charter after World War-II had ended.

Throwing light on this aspect of Kant’s thinking, Dr Lucas Thorpe, Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey, at an interaction here recently at the Philosophy Department of Madras Christian College and its Centre for Peace Studies, said in trying to understand the roots of conflict between men and societies, Kant saw that often competing ostensibly moral positions was the mischief-maker, more so in relations between states.

As “you can have conflicts where both parties are in the right,” recognising the ‘justice of the other side’, was in Kant’s view, the first step to resolving conflicts, explained Dr Lucas. So this oft-touted justification of ‘going to war to achieve peace’ — as trumpeted during the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq — would have been straight rejected by Kant.

The idea of a ‘single World government’ was also rejected by Kant, as “religious and linguistic differences” would make such a ‘World State’ impossible, said Dr Lucas. Peace is possible only through a ‘Federation of Nations’.

For Kant, individual, personal morality should not be mixed up with the demands of a state and the best road to ‘perpetual and lasting peace’ was ‘creating specific institutions that created the conditions for peace’, as Dr Lucas elucidated. Kant’s insight was that establishing such specific institutions (internationally), going beyond personal moral / cultural barriers, logically create ‘conditions for peace’. This is one reason why rule-bound International trade is crucial for world peace.

“India is one of the most culturally pluralist country I have been to,” said Dr Lucas, who finds in Kant a “moral pluralist”. This reading of Kant surprises many scholars, he said in a conversation with Deccan Chronicle later. In man trying to “get out of the state of nature”, do you use violence to resolve conflicts or through Law? Kant there was more influenced by Jean Jacques Rousseau and preferred the social contract way to achieve ‘Justice, a humane outlook that later influenced great contemporary philosophers like John Rawls and Amartya Sen.

Landing here from Turkey, where a civil war has re-started rudely setting aside a two-year peace process that had raised hopes for the Kurdish minorities, after the spillover from the Syrian conflict, Dr Lucas said the signs of normalcy in Sri Lanka ‘looked a lot better’ situation than what was happening in Turkey now, though each intra-state conflict situation has its own history and specific features.

From a Kantian perspective, the biggest challenge is, “to establish peace, is to establish trust”, he stressed. When asked about its relevance to resolving the Tamils ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, he said a key strand of the Kantian approach was that the parties in conflict ‘must recognise the justice of the other side’, if linguistic/cultural pride was not to degenerate into despotism.

“To make peace, you must assume the other person is good, willing and also incorporate the happiness of others,” noted Dr Lucas. “In the modern world, when there are multiple identities, if you believe in culture pride, you should also be aware of culture shame, the mistakes a culture may have made,” the candid philosopher from Istanbul mused.

Equally important is to appreciate that “pride of one’s culture does not entail a rigid view of other cultures,” he said.

“I am British by birth, but my wife is Turkish and learning to respect the other’s culture is very important,” Dr Lucas said, smilingly turning to his better half, Zubeyde Karadag Thorpe.

The notion of a ‘strong, unitary state’ posed problems in different parts of the world, particularly vis-à-vis group rights of ethnic/religious minorities.

Even in Sri Lanka, as it rewrites its Constitution, a “federal political settlement” and granting more autonomy could be the only long-term solution, he said. But this has to be “achieved step by step,” by a ‘gradualism’ that Kant believed in.

This syndrome of ‘creating heaven on earth in one stroke’ has to go, to “avoid the dangers of being a racist or a nationalist”, Dr Thorpe reasoned. Hope Colombo is listening too.
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German ‘bridge of peace’ Empty Re: German ‘bridge of peace’

Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:35 pm
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