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Title: Kant's religious theory and its relation to English deism
Author: Greene, T. M.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1924
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The value of Kant's general undertaking in his writings on religion is unquestionable. Here we see him making the worthy attempt to separate the form of religion from its substance, the transitory element in it from the abiding. Though his solution of this problem must today be judged highly unsatisfactory, and though he often casts out as unessential or harmful what would appear to be of the very essence of religion, Kant, in company with the English deists, does at least stress the Important idea that is is possible to discriminate, in a religion, between essential and unessential elements. His analysis of the churchly form of Christianity as he sees it results, moreover, in an emphasis, significantly in harmony with the pietist position, upon certain religious views of undoubted worth. In his objection to all external authority in the realm of religious conviction, his denouncement of all lip-service as a substitute for inner obedience, and his emphasis on the practical side of religion, the "religion of a good life" Kant not only proves his own complete sincerity - he also thereby identifies himself with the long line of reformers so essential to the spiritual health of every religious community. We have had to deal with Kant's 6thical system at some length because of his virtual identification of morality and religion. Professor Pringle-Patiison has pointed cut the influence which the heart of Kant's ethical doctrine has had upon subsequent idealist philosophy. Kant's central idea of value, as the determining factor in philosophical explanation, he takes to be "not only sound in itself but the fundamental contention of all idealist philosophy since Kant's time." Our interest centres rather in the importance to religion of Kant' s doctrine of man - of his emphasis on the inherent and abiding value of the individual together with his teaching regarding the "radical evil" in man. And his emphasis on the need for rebirth, his insistence that good works do not make a man good but that a man must be good for his works to be good, is perhaps the finest example of Kant' s insight into human nature. It certainly furnishes a forceful illustration of the depths of Kant's thinking in contrast to the superficiality of the more typical thinkers of the age. Mention should finally be made of Kant' s valuable distinction between faith and speculative knowledge. The extreme character of this distinction is open to criticism. Knowledge is far too narrowly restricted in the Kantian philosophy. Too much of the world is declared by Kant in his most characteristic utterances to be beyond our ken. Thought and reality are separated in his teaching by too wide a chasm. Yet the negative side of his philosophy does religion the service of pointing out with remarkable clearness, that man's desire for a doctrine to be true is no proof of that doctrine's truth, and that no concept is worthy of a place in a man's religion if its retention involves intellectual dishonesty. And surely Kant's central contention that religion rests not on theoretical reasoning but on a reasonable faith is of abiding worth. Every religion has of course its necessary theological background and its inevitable metaphysical presuppositions. Reason must inevitably seek to explain to itself the implications of religious faith and must do its best to arrive at a consistent view of God and His relation to the world and man. Towards the solution of this problem, Kant's theistic suggestions have been of outstanding value. Religious faith, however does not have its source in rational proofs of God's existence and cannot rest solely on a metaphysical or intellectual basis. Faith cannot be translated into pure rational or speculative insight. Kant approached this view when he related faith to the moral consciousness and made it a function of -practical reason. He was prevented from going further by his blindness to the fact of man's unique religious faculty and by his apriori bias which led him to distrust all historically-mediated doctrines centering around personalities. This limitation sharply distinguishes his religious position from what may be called the Christian attitude, which sees in an historical Person at once the source and the object of religious faith. Where Kant has faith only in ideas, "the Christian intuition," as a modern theologian has put it, "is that ideas, divorced from personal lives in which they are embodied and events through which these persons reveal what is in them, remain frail, shadowy, impotent." And where Kant persists in valuing the apriori argument and in declaring all history to be incapable of supplying to the religious consciousness facts of first-rate importance, the modern Christian view is rather that "history is the very sphere and medium of God's redemptive approach to His children." and that from history is to be derived "the very life and enthusiasm of religion."" In these and other ways, Kant's view of faith is limited and unsatisfactory. Religion must acknowledge its debt to him, however, for having emphasized the notion of a reasonable faith, for having given it, in religious matters, the primacy over speculative ratiocination, and for having made it the vehicle by which man may attain to a vision of the realm of ends and to a serviceable knowledge of God.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available