Kant's conception of the highest good, the gesinnung, and the theory of radical evil

Kant-Studien 97 (2):184-209 (2006)
Abstract
Early in the Preface to Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant claims that “morality leads ineluctably to religion”. This thesis is hardly an innovation of the Religion. Again and again throughout the critical corpus, Kant argues that religious belief is ethically significant, that it makes a morally meaningful difference whether an agent believes or disbelieves. And yet these claims are surely among the most doubted of Kant's positions – and they are often especially doubted by readers who consider themselves Kantians. That Kant of all people should have so cherished religion is perhaps surprising: his moral view enshrines the notion that moral worth arises solely form the “good will”, that is, from a will determined by the moral law. Kant claims to be able to deduce this law and to account for how it motivates without ever relying on religious propositions. Rather, he grounds morality in the conception of autonomy, in the absolutely free self-legislation of the moral principle. So why, after effecting this dramatic Copernican revolution in ethics, does Kant appear to backslide, insisting on the moral necessity of religious belief?
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