Kant’s Theodicy and its Role in the Development of Radical Evil

Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 100 (1):46-75 (2018)
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In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant claims that rational beings should want to have no inclinations. But in Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason, he asserts that the inclinations are good in themselves. While many commentators hold that Kant simply wrote hyperbolically in the Groundwork and the second Critique, I argue Kant was sincere, and changed his mind about the worth of the inclinations between the second Critique and the Religion. This is because he changed his mind about the source of immorality: whereas in the Groundwork and Critique of Practical Reason Kant took our inclinations to be tempters, starting in “Miscarriage of All Philosophical Trials in Theodicy” and concluding in the Religion, he posited a self-imposed propensity to evil as the source of immorality. Kant’s reason for changing his mind about the source of immorality was partly theological: if our inclinations were to blame for immorality, then God would also be to blame for creating us with them. The only way God could not be to blame is if our immorality were self-imposed. But Kant also concluded that looking for theoretical explanations of our immorality – whether theological or naturalistic – was itself problematic: such explanations ended up exonerating us for our immorality. Because they had this effect, I contend that Kant saw the offering of such exculpating theoretical explanations as itself motivated by immorality. This understanding of Kant makes sense of the approaches he takes in both “Miscarriage” and Religion.



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Robert Gressis
California State University, Northridge

Citations of this work

Kant-Bibliographie 2018.Margit Ruffing - 2020 - Kant Studien 111 (4):647-702.

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References found in this work

Critique of Practical Reason.Immanuel Kant - 1788 - Hackett Publishing.
Practical Philosophy.Immanuel Kant - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
Lectures on Ethics.Immanuel Kant - 1930 - London: Methuen & Co..
Kantian Ethics.Allen W. Wood - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.

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