In Violetta L. Waibel (ed.), Natur und Freiheit: Akten des XII. Internationalen Kant-Kongresses. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. pp. 2539–2548 (2018)

Wolfgang Ertl
Keio University
In this paper, I shall try to elucidate the relationship between nature and providence with regard to the function of guaranteeing perpetual peace in Kant's 1795 essay, an issue which, presumably for the very reason of providence being granted some role in the first place, has led to noticeable unease in Kant scholarship. Providence simply does not seem to fit in well into Kant’s philosophical account of history given the emphasis he puts on the notion of human freedom. The main idea grounding my approach is that the notion of providence is not only not a threat to human freedom, but perhaps the most important ingredient in Kant’s solution of the compatibility problem with regard to human freedom and natural causal determinism. This solution of the compatibility problem, as I have argued elsewhere, must be understood along the lines of a so-called “altered law-compatibilism” which makes the special laws of nature dependent on human freedom. The role of providence then is to elucidate or explicate how such a dependency is possible. Moreover, Kant’s own definition of “providence”, which he develops as an alternative to Baumgarten’s, provides the resources of identifying it – in a sense to be qualified below – with nature and hence provides the means for solving a long-standing riddle in Kant’s account. Of course, the compatibility problem does not take centre stage in the guarantor section in any way. Rather, what Kant is doing there can best be understood as presupposing and being closely related to his compatibility argument: He can be read as spelling out the dependency of laws on nature with regard to the course of history.
Keywords Perpetual Peace  Kant  Providence  Nature
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