Monday, July 19, 2010

Toward a Cosmopolitan History

Kant and Comenius, Founding Fathers


Lifestyle Engineering and the Planetary Plan

By John Taylor; 2010 July 19, Kalimat 06, 167 BE

John Amos Comenius was one of the spiritual founding fathers of world government. His Panorthosia gives a vision of governance devoted to what we shall be calling "lifestyle engineering," the idea that change is good only insofar as it improves the lot of the whole person within the entire planet. He wrote that, "Any reforms in philosophy, religion and politics must fall short of perfection, unless they bring peace and lasting happiness to the minds, consciences and societies of mankind." (Comenius, Panorthosia, Ch. 1, para 4, pp. 48-49) Whereas the American model incites a competitive division of power, where struggling partisans are restrained by "checks and balances," the Comenian model puts forward the tripartite division of governance that discussed last time. This paradigm encourages holism without energy wasted in conflict; it allows politics to address its true reason for being, the establishment of peace among all citizens and patriots. It permits strong institutional guidance without permitting concentration of power into one or more individuals, which always leads to corruption and arbitrary or totalitarian leadership.

This model recognizes that the inauguration of a world government is not a merely political act. It will call forth all of our faculties and make fundamental changes in every sphere of human endeavour, including the physical infrastructure. In order to undertake the engineering of lifestyles, the world leadership must rapidly activate many now-latent talents in individuals while bringing into the mainstream entire cultures, regions and populations who are now neglected. Of course, Comenius was not the only writer of genius to recognize the enormity of this challenge. Immanuel Kant, also at the end of his life, came independently to the same conclusion.

"The greatest problem for the human race, to the solution of which Nature drives man, is the achievement of a universal civic society which administers law among men." (Opening sentence of the fifth thesis of Immanuel Kant's Cosmopolitan History)

Whereas Comenius showed that world federalism is an outcome of the best of Biblical teaching, Kant's journey crossed over territory that was less religious and more scientific and philosophical. Nonetheless, he agreed that all philosophy and all of nature urges us on to this one, inescapable conclusion. Unless we devote our whole energy and attention to this, we will fall short of the purpose of our humanity.

Kant's great achievement for world peace was to draw up first drafts for a world history, in effect a curriculum for a world educational system, in his "Cosmopolitan History." Later, he wrote his "Sketch for a Perpetual Peace," which he saw as a preliminary outline for the constitution of the future world government. Unlike Comenius' Panorthosia, these works were not buried for centuries in an obscure library.

These documents influenced the formation in the twentieth century of the League of Nations (the name "league of nations" itself was coined by Kant in the Sketch), the United Nations and, in the twenty-first century, the Earth Charter. The opening sentence of this charter for global rights and social service could have been written as a direct response to Kant's statement above that this is our universal human destiny.

"We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future. ... To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny." (preamble, Earth Charter,
Great as these milestones are, I believe that their most glaring imperfections can be traced to what was left out, due to the sad fact that Comenius' contribution was all those centuries lost from the conversation.

Kant recognized that it is impossible for any mind, no matter how powerful, to imagine the details of this "universal civic society.  Nonetheless, we should try. It is our duty as human beings to envision the faintest traces of the shores towards which the ship of state is taking us.

"Although this government at present exists only as a rough outline, nevertheless in all the members there is rising a feeling which each has for the preservation of the whole. This gives hope finally that after many reformative revolutions, a universal cosmopolitan condition, which Nature has as her ultimate purpose, will come into being as the womb wherein all the original capacities of the human race can develop." (Cosmopolitan History, Eighth Thesis, in Immanuel Kant, Philosophical Writings, Ernst Behler, Ed., Continuum, New York, 1986, p. 260)

This means that we should expect nothing less from the new world government than for it to inaugurate an artistic, spiritual and intellectual renaissance, a Golden Age that will change the moral reflexes of humanity, both in space and time. People without Borders is my attempt to imagine what will soon be born from the "womb" of a "universal cosmopolitan condition." In this first section we have considered some of the temporal implications of this cosmopolitan condition. The next section on infrastructure will look at some of the spatial implications. The final section, Cosmopolitan Democracy, will consider how time and space will merge into a single plan for empowering the entire human race.


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