Kant’s accounts of the Highest Good and the moral argument for God and immortality are central features of his philosophy. But both involve lingering puzzles. In this entry, we first explore what the Highest Good is for Kant and the role it plays in a complete account of ethical life. We then focus on whether the Highest Good involves individuals only, or whether it also connects with Kant’s doctrines about the moral progress of the species. In conclusion, we look into (...) three ways of articulating the moral argument for God and immorality that take our commitment to the Highest Good as their point of departure. (shrink)
Kant’s “primacy of the practical” doctrine says that we can form morally justified commitments regarding what exists, even in the absence of sufficient epistemic grounds. In this paper I critically examine three different varieties of Kant’s “moral proof” that can be found in the critical works. My claim is that the third variety—the “moral-psychological argument” based in the need to sustain moral hope and avoid demoralization—has some intriguing advantages over the other two. It starts with a premise that more clearly (...) coheres with Kant’s mature account of moral motivation, and it invokes plausible empirical-psychological theses to motivate a commitment to the full-blown classical deity—the result Kant clearly wanted. From the point of view of its structure, I think this third variety of moral argument also has the most by way of contemporary interest. (shrink)
In this article I discuss the moral-coherence reading of Kant’s moral argument offered by Allen Wood in his recent book _Kant and Religion_, display some of the challenges that it faces and suggest that a moral-psychological formulation is preferable.
It is well-known that Kant defends a conception of God and the final end of our moral striving, called the highest good. In this article, I outline Kant's argument for why we ought to have faith in God and hope for the highest good, and argue that the Kantian argument can be extended in such a way as to show the unity of the theological virtues. This feature of the Kantian account can then have ramifications in further questions regarding the (...) relationship of faith and moral action. (shrink)
This is a chronological commentary on Kant’s writings through 1769 whose aim is to reveal that the ‘secret thorn’ driving Kant’s thought through its twists and turns is the scripture-based faith of the German Protestant tradition.
This article aims to highlight the extent to which Kant’s account of belief draws on the views of his contemporaries. Situating the non-evidentialist features of Crusius’s account of belief within his broader account, I argue that they include antecedents to both Kant’s distinction between pragmatic and moral belief and his conception of a postulate of pure practical reason. While moving us closer to Kant’s arguments for the first postulate, however, both Crusius’s and Meier’s arguments for the immortality of the soul (...) fail to anticipate the most important aspect of their Kantian counterparts. Developing the non-evidentialist features of Basedow’s account of belief, I distinguish it from its Pascalian and Jamesian relatives and argue that it is the clearest antecedent to Kant’s arguments for the first and second postulates. Finally, I consider the development of Kant’s account of belief after the first Critique in light of the foregoing, and discuss the broader implications of my analysis. (shrink)
In a note introduced into the second edition of Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (1794), Kant assigns a systematic role to the General Remarks at the end of each Part of his book. He calls those Remarks, “as it were, parerga to religion within the boundaries of pure reason; they do not belong within it yet border on it” (RGV 6:52). As Kant sees them, the parerga are only a “secondary occupation” that consists in removing transcendent obstacles. This (...) paper is skeptical of Kant's view. It proposes an alternative account, according to which the parerga are essential to our moral education, since they force human reason to confront its own limitations and resist the urge to take refuge in spurious religious beliefs. That urge, I argue, is linked to the propensity to evil, and uses religious orthodoxy to undermine moral religion. By clipping our dogmatic wings, the parerga encourage reason to face its own dialectical tendencies and direct its speculative interest to immanent practical use. This redirection counteracts the debilitating effects of the propensity to evil and plays a key role in our moral regeneration. To consider the parerga “derivative,” as Kant himself does, is therefore a grave mistake. (shrink)
This article begins with a brief survey of Kant’s pre-Critical and Critical approaches to theodicy. I maintain that his theodical response of moral faith during the Critical period appears to be a dispassionate version of what Leibniz called Fatum Christianum. Moral rationality establishes the existence and goodness of God and translates into an endless and unwavering commitment to following the moral law. I then argue that Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason offers a revision of Kant’s 1791 conception of (...) “authentic theodicy.” Kant comes to recognize that the ends of morality and virtue, as well as the action needed to respond to the noumenal evil at the heart of humanity, outstrip the “religion of good life conduct.” This leads Kant to argue in favor of a new form of moral life embedded in a religious community and based on the love of God and of one’s fellow humans. Such a life is rooted in the incorporation of a holy principle in our noumenal selves that he terms “divine blessedness.”. (shrink)
In this chapter we explore the importance of the Pantheism Controversy for the evolution of Kant’s so-called “Moral Argument” for the Highest Good and its postulates. After an initial discussion of the Canon of the Critique of Pure Reason, we move on to the relationship between faith and reason in the Pantheism Controversy, Kant’s response to the Controversy in his 1786 “Orientation” Essay, Thomas Wizenmann’s criticisms of that essay, and finally to the Critique of Practical Reason. We argue that while (...) Kant used the Pantheism Controversy to reset his account of the Highest Good, its treatment in the Orientation Essay was susceptible to the objections raised by Thomas Wizenmann, and thus in need of the further advances found in the Critique of Practical Reason. (shrink)
Wood (1970) convincingly argues that Kant’s notion of moral faith is a response to a “dialectical perplexity” or antinomy. Specifically, moral faith is a response to the threat of moral despair. In line with this suggestion, I make the case that moral faith is the resolution of a crisis about how to go on with one’s life in the face of the threat of moral despair. If this is right, then we have a potential solution to two related anxieties: (1) (...) why the matter of our moral faith or despair deserves to be a topic of practical philosophy instead of empirical psychology, and (2) how despair could be a real threat even though Kant holds that rational beings could never truly lack faith. But, to fully see how these concerns can be answered, we must go beyond Wood’s initial analysis. I first argue that Kant’s philosophy suggests two kinds of moral faith: external and internal. I then argue that internal moral faith is analogous to self-contentment (Selbstzufriedenheit) in the second Critique’s practical antinomy. Together, these arguments suggest that moral faith is a response to a real threat of moral despair, and that faith and despair dialectically require one another within practical reason. (shrink)
Both Kant and James claim to limit the role of knowledge in order to make room for faith. In this paper, we argue that despite some similarities, their attempts to do this come apart. Our main claim is that, although both Kant and James justify our adopting religious beliefs on practical grounds, James believes that we can—and should—subsequently assess such beliefs on the basis of evidence. We offer our own account of this evidence and discuss what this difference means for (...) their accounts of religious belief. (shrink)
The secular interpretation of Kant is widespread and Kant is viewed as the most prestigious founding father of liberal secularism. At the same time, however, commentators note that Kant’s position on secularism is in fact much more complex, and some go as far as to talk about an ambiguous secularism in his work. This paper defends a refined version of the secular interpretation. According to this refined version, Kant can offer a limited, political secularism on the basis of a simple (...) argument which focuses on the distinct epistemic statuses of political and religious claims; however, the paper argues, a more general secularism is unwarranted on the basis of the same argument. If my argument is correct, then it will account at least in part for the plurality of interpretations. Moreover, any further attempt to show that Kant’s relation to secularism is ambiguous or dismissive should take into consideration the argument from epistemic grounds presented here. (shrink)
In this chapter I highlight the apparent tensions between Kant’s very stringent critique of metaphysical speculation in the “Discipline of Pure Reason” chapter and his endorsement of Belief (Glaube) and hope (Hoffnung) regarding metaphysical theses in the subsequent “Canon of Pure Reason.” In the process I will examine his distinction between the theoretical and the practical bases for holding a “theoretical” conclusion (i.e. a conclusion about “what exists” rather than “what ought to be”) and argue that the position is subtle (...) but coherent. In the second part of the paper I focus on Kant’s account of rational hope in the Doctrine of Method: its nature, scope, conditions, and role in the philosophy of religion generally. (shrink)
The past decade has seen a sizable increase in scholarship on Kant’s Religion. Yet, unlike the centuries of debate that inform our study of his other major works, scholarship on the Religion is still just in its infancy. As such, it is in a particularly vulnerable state where errors made now could hinder scholarship for decades to come. It is the purpose of this paper to mitigate one such danger, a danger issuing from the widely assumed view that the Religion (...) is shaped by “two experiments.” We will begin with a survey of the four current interpretations of the experiments, and then propose one further interpretation, one that hopefully will help dismantle this alleged “conundrum” and thereby help scholarship on the Religion move beyond this early misstep. (shrink)
The idea of a final end of human conduct – the highest good – lies at the centre of important parts of Kant’s philosophy, such as his moral theory, his philosophy of religion, his views on the historical progress of the human species, and his conception of human rationality. This collection of new essays attempts to re-evaluate the doctrine of the highest good and to determine its relevance for contemporary philosophy.
Kant’s enigmatic term, “Gesinnung”, baffles many readers of Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason. Detailed analysis of Kant’s theory of Gesinnung, covering all 169 occurrences of cognate words in Religion, clarifies its role in his theories of both general moral decision-making and specifically religious conversion. Whereas the convention of translating “Gesinnung” as “disposition” reinforces a tendency to interpret key Kantian theories metaphysically, and Pluhar’s translation as “attitude” has psychological connotations, this study demonstrates that Kantian Gesinnung is volitional, referring to (...) a person’s principle-based choice to live a certain way. Interpreted as principled “conviction”, Kantian Gesinnung is a religiously-manifested, moral form of Überzeugung (“convincing”). (shrink)
This paper explains a way of understanding Kant's proof of God's existence in the Critique of Practical Reason that has hitherto gone unnoticed and argues that this interpretation possesses several advantages over its rivals. By first looking at examples where Kant indicates the role that faith plays in moral life and then reconstructing the proof of the second Critique with this in view, I argue that, for Kant, we must adopt a certain conception of the highest good, and so also (...) must choose to believe in the kind of God that can make it possible, because this is essentially a way of actively striving for virtue. One advantage of this interpretation, I argue, is that it is able to make sense of the strong link Kant draws between morality and religion. (shrink)
In this essay I argue that in order to secure some of his system’s key commitments, Fichte employs argumentation essentially patterned after the technique of practical postulation in Kant. This is a mode of reasoning that mobilizes a distinctly Kantian notion of nonepistemic justification, which itself is premised upon a broadly Kantian conception of the nature of reason. Succinctly stated, such argumentation proceeds essentially as follows. (1) By the basic nature and operations of rationality, every rational being is, as such, (...) committed to E as an ultimate end (final purpose, highest goal). (2) E can be understood as actually attainable only if descriptive proposition P is assented to. (3) We cannot, in principle, possess genuine evidence for or against P; therefore, (4) while we do not have (and never could have) good epistemic grounds for assenting to P, we do have (and always will have) perfectly sufficient rational grounds for doing so. While this assent has no basis in pertinent evidence, it nonetheless has an unshakeable foundation in the basic operations and requirements of rationality. This is so because this assent (a) sustains a commitment integral to rationality as such, and (b) affirms a proposition that no evidence could ever discredit. I proceed to discuss what I take to be two instances of this sort of argumentation in Fichte: first, The Vocation of Man's unusual argument for belief in the real existence of a world transcendent to human representations, and second, the same work's subsequent depiction of that world as strictly mentalistic (immaterial, intellectual, teleological) in its true constitution. VM portrays both positions as decisive determinants of the overall upshot of the Wissenschaftslehre (WL), and explicitly casts them as articles of “faith” or “belief” (Glaube), grounded in unshakeable ethical conviction, by contrast with items of “knowledge” (Wissen). (shrink)
This paper uncovers a much-neglected ambiguity in Kant’s conception of rational religion, namely, a confusion regarding the public communicability of moral faith, which would in turn render faith and knowledge indistinguishable. The few scholars who have noticed this ambiguity pursue its epistemic dimensions, but this paper explores its ramifications for Kant’s claim that coherent moral agency requires religious faith, taking issue with Lawrence Pasternack’s recent interpretation. Once one notices Kant has two methods for distinguishing conviction from persuasion, one is better (...) able to understand the connection he draws between religious conviction and conscientious character, and the corresponding connection between mere persuasion and spurious faith. While Kant does not explicitly acknowledge this parallel, this paper reveals that it is in play across the Kantian corpus, and is especially perspicuous in his analysis of the biblical figures of Job and his comforters. (shrink)
In my response-paper, I dispute the claim of Firestone and Jacobs that “Kant’s turn to transcendental analysis of the moral disposition via pure cognition is perhaps the most important new element of his philosophy of religion” (In Defense of Kant’s Religion, 233). In particular, I reject the role given—in the latter—to “pure cognition.” Instead I propose a Kantian variation on cognition which remains consistent with Kant’s moral postulate for the existence of God. I urge that we treat this postulate as (...) regulative. So, in place of pure cognition, “belief in” God grounds our hope for perfect goodness. (shrink)
Throughout history no mere mortal has been more revered and esteemed by so many diverse people than Abraham, great patriarch of the three enduring monotheistic religions. Yet Judaism, Christianity and Islam all agree that this man attempted to kill his own, innocent son, an act so dastardly that it would normally be judged both immoral and illegal in any civil society. Surprisingly, the scriptures of these three religious faiths praise Abraham for this very act, justifying it in very different ways, (...) but all portraying it as the paradigm of religious obedience. (shrink)
Examining the significance of Kant's account of "rational faith," this study argues that he profoundly revises his account of the human will and the moral philosophy of it in his later religious writings.
This paper is a critical study of Kant’s antinomy of saving faith. In the first section, I sketch aspects of Kant’s philosophical account of sin and atonement that help explain why he finds saving faith problematic from the moral point of view. I proceed in the next section to give a detailed exposition of Kant’s remarkable antinomy and of his proposal for resolving it theoretically. In the third and final section, I argue that alternative ways of resolving the antimony both (...) respond to the deepest of Kant’s moral concerns and comport better with the traditional Christian conviction that saving faith can have for its object the historical individual Jesus Christ. (shrink)
This book explores Kant's views on the concept of God and on the attempt to demonstrate God's existence as a means of understanding Kant's work as a whole and of achieving a proper appreciation of the contents of Kant's moral faith.
A purely rational belief is ... the signpost or compass by which the speculative thinker can orient himself in his rational excursions in the field of supersensuous objects. But to the man of ordinary but (morally) sound reason, it can show the way for both the theoretical and the practical standpoint, in a manner entirely suitable to the end to which he is destined. This rational belief must also be made the basis of every other belief—indeed of every revelation. [Kt20:142].