Kant and Humanitarian Intervention

Thomas E. Hill Jr.

in Virtue, Rules, and Justice

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199692002
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741241 | DOI:
Kant and Humanitarian Intervention

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This chapter sketches a Kantian deliberative perspective, the moral presumption in favor of humanitarian interventions, relevant practical considerations, and Kant’s apparently inflexible opposition to any forcible intervention in the governance or constitution of another state. The critical questions then are: (1) Does a government’s responsibility to its citizens prohibit intervention primarily for the sake of citizens of other countries? (2) Does the case for humanitarian intervention depend on illegitimate ideas about the right to punish or forfeiture of the right to govern? (3) Does forceful intervention in the governance of another state necessarily violate the rights of the citizens of that state? At issue are relations among ethics, law, and international relations. The chapter concludes that (1) Kant’s ethics rightly indicates that there is a presumption in favor of humanitarian interventions in some cases, (2) he wisely points to grounds for caution, avoiding punitive motives, and respecting the reasonable will of the citizens in other states, but (3) in the arguments reviewed here Kant did not provide adequate reasons for an absolute prohibition of humanitarian interventions in all cases.

Keywords: Kant; ethics; humanitarian intervention; government responsibility; punishment; forfeit; citizen’s rights; international relations

Chapter.  9704 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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