Kantian Journal

2020 Vol. 39. No. 1

Back to the list Download an article

The Role of the Sublime in Kant’s Religion: Moral Motivation and Empirical Possibility

DOI
10.5922/0207-6918-2020-1-2
Pages
31-57

Abstract

I show that Kant’s depiction of the christic figure in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason is not contingent but explains how this figure functions in two essential ways: as a representation of a maximum of morality that can ground our moral disposition and in so doing acts as a stan­dard for morality. More precisely, the following argument is made: 1) the sublime nature of the image of Christ — as an image of universal respect for the law — awakens the moral feeling of subjects in the sense of the possibility of overcoming one’s perverted nature; 2) as moral perfection it provides immediate transparency to the end goal of morality; 3) just as in the case of associative construction of empirical concepts, the sublime provides the prototype for association through which empirical acts are determined as moral ones; 4) the image of Christ also acts as motivator by encompassing said trans­parency and standard in the idea of moral perfection. These four points show that the image of Christ functions in a dual manner. Points 1) to 3) address Christ as a prototype/archetype (Urbild) — awakening and making possible a moral redefinition of the subject — while point 4) addresses Christ as an example (Vorbild) — sustaining and entertaining the moral redefinition as a motivating model.

Reference

Allison, H., 2001. Kant’s Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Engstrom, S., 2009. The Form of Practical Knowledge: A Study of the Categorical Imperative. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Firestone, C. L., Jacobs, N. A., 2008. In Defense of Kant’s Religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Foessel, M., 2008. Analytik des Erhabenen. In: O. Höffe, ed. 2008. Immanuel Kant: Kritik der Urteilskraft. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 99-119.
Forschner, M., 2005. Immanuel Kant über Vernunftglaube und Handlungsmotivation. Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung, 59(3), pp. 327-344. 
Hare, J., 1996. The Moral Gap: Kantian Ethics, Human Limits, and God’s Assistance. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hughes, F., 2007. Kant’s Aesthetic Epistemology: Form and World. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Kant, I., 1992. The Jäsche Logic. In: I. Kant, 1992. Lectures on Logic. Translated and edited by J. Young. Cambrige: Cambridge University Press, pp. 521-641.
Kant, I., 1996a. Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. In: I. Kant, 1996. Religion and Rational Theology. Translated and edited by A. W. Wood and G. di Giovanni. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 39-216.
Kant, I., 1996b. The Conflict of the Faculties. In: I. Kant, 1996. Religion and Rational Theology. Translated and edited by A. W. Wood and G. di Giovanni. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 233-328.
Kant, I., 1996c. Critique of Practical Reason. In: I. Kant, 1996. Practical Philosophy. Translated and edited M. J. Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 133-271.
Kant, I., 1996d. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. In: I. Kant, 1996. Practical Philosophy. Translated and edited M. J. Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 37-108.
Kant, I., 1997. Lectures on Ethics. Translated and edited by P. Heath and J. Schneewind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kant, I., 1998. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated and edited by P. Guyer and A. W. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kant, I., 2000. Critique of the Power of Judgement. Translated and edited by P. Guyer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kant, I., 2007. Anthropology from a pragmatic Point of View. In: I. Kant, 2007. Anthropology, History, and Education. The Cambdrige Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. Translated and edited by R. B. Louden, G. Zöller. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 227-429.
Käfer, A., 2006. Die wahre Ausübung der Kunst ist religiös. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Kuehn, M., 2014. Kant’s Jesus. In: G. E. Michaelson, ed. 2014. Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason — A Critical Guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 156-174.
Longuenesse, B., 1998. Kant and the Capacity to Judge: Sensibility and Discursivity in the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 
Louden, R. B., 2000. Kant’s Impure Ethics: From Rational Beings to Human Beings. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Palmquist, S., 1992. Does Kant Reduce Religion to Morality? Kant-Studien, 83(2), pp. 129-148. 
Palmquist, S., 2015. Comprehensive Commentary on Kant’s Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.
Pasternack, L., 2017. The ‘Two Experiments’ of Kant’s Religion: Dismantling the Conundrum. Kantian Review, 22(1), pp. 107-131.
Reardon, B. M. G., 1988. Kant as Philosophical Theologian. New York: Palgrave.
Ryan, S., 2015. In Defense of Moral Evidentialism. Logos and Episteme, 6(4), pp. 405-427.
Sirovátka, J., 2018. Religion als “notwendige Ergänzung” der Moral bei Immanuel Kant. Theologie und Philosophie, 93(3), pp. 366-375.
Taylor, R. S., 2010. Kant’s Political Religion: The Transparency of Perpetual Peace and the Highest Good. Review of Politics, 72(1), pp. 1-24.
Van Fraasen, B., 1984. Belief and the Will. Journal of Philosophy, 81(5), pp. 235-256.
Van Inwagen, P., 1996. It is Wrong, Everywhere, Always, and for Anyone, to Believe Anything upon Insufficient Evidence. In: J. Jordan and D. L. Howard-Snyder, eds. 1996. Faith, Freedom and Rationality. Lanham and London: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 137-153.
Ward, K., 1972. The Development of Kant’s View of Ethics. New York: Blackwell.
Wimmer, R., 2011. Kants kritische Religionsphilosophie. Edited by G. Funke and R. Malter. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter.
Wood, A., 2002. Unsettling Obligations: Essays on Reason, Reality, and the Ethics of Belief. Stanford: CSLI Publications.
Zuckert, R., 2007. Kant on Beauty and Biology: An Interpretation of the Critique of Judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511487323.