Kant on the Dilemma of Rational ReligionRichard Velkley (Tulane University)
Kant’s critical philosophy offers a limited defense of religion in the form of pure rational religion based on rational autonomy. Such religion contains an internal difficulty in that morality as autonomy inevitably leads to religion as hope for the achievement of a moral world that finite humans strive to realize but know they cannot bring about wholly through human powers. Humans are, therefore, inevitably drawn to forms of deliverance from evil granted through higher powers as taught by historical religions. But such deliverance weakens or even opposes autonomous human efforts at improvement. In Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason, Kant argues that pure rational religion needs to draw support from historical religion, specifically Christianity, but must oppose the salvific claims of such religion. These requirements lead to Kant’s remarkable doctrine about radical evil, the propensity of human reason to place self-love above the demands of the moral law. According to this doctrine, the believer must regard the evil inherent in the human disposition as inextirpable and must also commit to unending progress in opposing evil. One could call this the dilemma of teleology in rational religion.
June 21, 2023, 11:45pm UTC