Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions

Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions

Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions

Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions


Yes, Kant did indeed speak of extraterrestrials. This phrase could provide the opening for this brief treatise of philosofiction (as one speaks of science fiction). What is revealed in the aliens of which Kant speaks and he no doubt took them more seriously than anyone else in the history of philosophy are the limits of globalization, or what Kant called cosmopolitanism. Before engaging Kantian considerations of the inhabitants of other worlds, before comprehending his reasoned alienology, this book works its way through an analysis of the star wars raging above our heads in the guise of international treaties regulating the law of space, including the cosmopirates that Carl Schmitt sometimes mentions in his late writings. Turning to track the comings and goings of extraterrestrials in Kant's work, Szendy reveals that they are the necessary condition for an unattainable definition of humanity. Impossible to represent, escaping any possible experience, they are nonetheless inscribed both at the heart of the sensible and as an Archimedean point from whose perspective the interweavings of the sensible can be viewed. Reading Kant in dialogue with science fiction films (films he seems already to have seen) involves making him speak of questions now pressing in upon us: our endangered planet, ecology, a war of the worlds. But it also means attempting to think, with or beyond Kant, what a point of view might be.


The Twilight Zone, the television series that started in 1959 and was cut in 1964, was resuscitated in 1985 in color. And it’s in one of the episodes from the first new season that you will find the incredible story called “A Small Talent for War.” In French, this title was unfaithfully yet interestingly translated as “Risque de paix mondiale,”“the danger of world peace.”

“A Small Talent for War”

The set for the episode “A Small Talent for War”—a fairly odd set, one must admit—is that of the United Nations in New York. The delegate from the Soviet Union and the delegate from the United States are confronting each other about the intentions of a strange “emissary,” an ambassador from elsewhere who brings the threat of the destruction of Earth.

The planet is thus besieged, and this state of exception requires exceptional means or measures. While the Russian is suspicious and demands that preparations for war be undertaken, the American argues for the opposite strategy: “This is the first contact humanity has had with extraterrestrial intelligence,” he says. “Do you want them to think we’re savages, thinking with our guns instead of …?” He doesn’t have time to finish his sentence before the strange emissary from outer space appears in the conference hall of the UN and, before the stunned representatives of . . .

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