Kantian Journal

Current issue

Der Schatten der Tugend. Kant über die unergründliche Tiefe des Herzens

Abstract

Among the most peculiar traits of Kant’s critical philosophy is the contention that, while we can know our moral maxims and can thus reflect on our actions from a moral point of view, we cannot really know whether in a given situation our actions are actually motivated by those maxims. This means that, although we have a firm sense of our moral duties, we can never be certain whether some particular action of ours is done from duty or simply in accordance with it. This view is voiced in several of Kant’s writings. Most prominent is its appearance in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, but we also find it in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason and in The Metaphysics of Morals, and it is even present in smaller writings such as “On a Miscarriage of all Philosophical Trials in Theodicy” or “On the Common Saying: That may be correct in theory, but is of no use in practice”. It is against this background that I revisit Kant’s remarks on the lack of self-knowledge regarding the motives of our proper actions. I suggest a reading of Kant’s views on this issue in the light of a tradition reaching back to Plato, in which man’s (moral) self-relation is shaped in an irreducible way by both self-consciousness and self-ignorance.

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Transformationen der Kantischen Postulatenlehre im „Cambridge Pragmatism“ (Charles S. Peirce, William James, Josiah Royce)

Abstract

The “Cambridge pragmatists”, Charles S. Peirce, William James and Josiah Royce, are at least in two respects significantly indebted to Kant: first, as von Kempski, Apel and Murphey have shown, with regard to the epistemological issues investigated in pragmatism; secondly, with regard to the various pragmatic approaches to religion, something which has been long overlooked. These approaches are best understood as innovative re-readings of Kant’s postulates of freedom, immortality, and God. Since Hilary Putnam pointed out — in his 1992 book Renewing Philosophy — that James’s essay, “The Will to Believe”, in spite of having received a great deal of hostile criticism, is in “its logic, in fact, precise and impeccable”, James’s thoughts are considered by many contemporary philosophers (by Charles Taylor, e.g., and by Hans Joas) as particularly inspiring. James’s approach is based on the modern experience of secularism and interprets Kant’s “postulate” as the “option” to believe. A deepening of the debate on the relevance of Kant’s analysis of the horizon of religious hope with regard to human praxis for a pragmatism-inspired philosophy of religion can be expected from a detailed discussion of the thoughts of Peirce and Royce, of thoughts, which, in complex ways, relate to, as well as criticise, James’s individuum-focused interpretation of religious faith.

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Spontaneities and Singularities: Kant’s Hypothetical Approach to the Supersensible and the Re-Foundation of Metaphysics

Abstract

The hypothetical approach to the supersensible developed by Kant in his three Critiques, exemplified by his analysis of the aesthetic and reflective judgment in his third Critique, with their principle fortuitous purposiveness, can be considered as the basis for a new foundation of metaphysics. According to Kant’s limitation of cognition to the realm of sense intuition, theoretical knowledge of God, the subject, things-in-themselves, transcendental ideas is impossible. This leads to a kind of “negative theology” of the highest principle and the supersensible as a whole. The reasons are rooted in the character of propositional thought, which can only circumscribe a singular, supersensible reality by means of predicative sentences and discursive thought. Taking Kant’s lead, but in contrast to his terminology, I call really existent singularities, including the thinking, knowing, desiring, feeling unique individuals we know as human beings, spontaneities, in order to distinguish them from descriptive characteristics attributed to them by predicative thought. Kant’s “practico-dogmatic” account of the postulates of God and immortality of the soul, based on the “fact of freedom” and its connection to the moral imperative, ensure the possibility of the “highest good” as final aim of moral behaviour — but cannot satisfy our need for knowledge of the supersensible. To “lay the groundwork” for experience of our own self-conscious reality, the reality of others like ourselves, of things which transcend the boundaries of sense intuition, and of true reciprocity, a different method is needed, one which leads us “beyond being and thought” to the unconditional beginning of conditional reality.

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Watershed or Cul-de-Sac? Disputes in the Theological Reception of Kant’s Philosophy

Abstract

Kant’s turn to the subject has changed the epistemological conditions for theology. Four intellectual backgrounds of objections are examined: an Aristotelian and Thomistic teleological order of nature (1); Augustinianism based on original sin in which human agency is completely attributed to God’s grace (2); a Hegelian critique of the deontological conception of an “unconditional ought” which also puts Kant’s postulate of the existence of God into question (3); the combination in Radical Orthodoxy of a postmodern critique of the subject, an Augustinian view of human nature, and a monistic understanding of the Trinity (4). Their different diagnoses why Kant’s work constitutes a cul-de-sac are contrasted with theological positions that welcome it as a watershed: its move from ontology to human subjectivity; from a biologically transmitted inescapable sin to a freedom for good and evil; from a strict reciprocity to an unlimited scope of ethics that is faced with the question of meaning; and from condemning the secular as “heretical” to defining it as the genuine space of the free human counterparts created by God, according to Duns Scotus’s late medieval theology which anticipates Kant’s concept of autonomy. The standard by which theologies are judged is how they do justice to the New Testament’s message of salvation by Jesus Christ. The Conclusion argues that Kant’s turn to freedom in its unconditionality and finitude has opened up a thought form in which the truth of the Gospel finds more adequate categories of understanding than in those of earlier eras.

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Why Kant’s “Ethical State” Might Prove Instrumental in Challenging Current Social Pathologies

Abstract

As recent social research demonstrates, the life world is increasingly impacted by a corrosion of social bonds and aggressive habits expressed, for instance, in hate speech in the social media. Significantly, such phenomena have not been prevented from evolving within the framework of constitutional liberal states. In search of an appropriate mode of challenging the current social pathologies, we should examine Kant’s claim that, alongside the “juridico-civil (political) state”, an “ethico-civil state”, uniting human beings “under laws of virtue alone”, needs to be established and cultivated. Kant’s claim is discussed in comparison with “postmetaphysical” conceptions of morality, as maintained by Rawls and Habermas. These prove deficient owing to their contract-based approach. Important in the examination of the key idea of the “state of virtue” is Kant’s thesis that such a state “cannot be realized (by human organization) except in the form of a church”. In view of the fact that, today, in many parts of the world significant segments of the population adhere to agnostic or atheistic convictions, the focus is placed on Kant’s specific conception of “church” that is clearly distinct from “historical” creeds and religious practices, and on the way in which he addresses non-believers, since he insists on the intrinsic relation between morality and the “purely moral religion”. Based on these reflections, the relevance of Kant’s argument that it is “a duty of the entire human race” to establish a community in which people mutually support one another in the cultivation of moral sensitivity is scrutinised.

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