Kantian Journal

2020 Vol. 39. No. 1

Moral und Dogma: Alois Riehls Neukantianismus im Spannungsfeld zwischen Religion und Politik


The aim is to examine Alois Riehl’s contribution to the “culture war” (Kulturkampf) in the second half of the nineteenth century. We show that he used Kant’s autonomy principle to argue against the idea that religious dogmatism is a fundament of morality. We prove this thesis by focusing on the forgotten historical background, which is important for an understanding of Morals und Dogma. Originally this essay was an expert opinion for the court case of the socialist H. Tauschinski who was accused of blasphemy. Tauschinski wrote an article in which he doubted the immortality of the soul and the existence of a personal God. These two dogmas of the Catholic Church were considered bу the Austrian authorities to be the foundations of public order. Riehl questioned not only the charge but also the validity of religious dogmas for morality. Based on Kant’s ethics, he argued for a moral indifferentism of religious dogmas. His career was significantly influenced by this essay, because of its anti-clerical content. During the culture war, Riehl repeatedly had problems with the authorities, especially in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The “Neurath-Haller Thesis” argues that in Austria the appointment of professorships was controlled and monitored by the state, with the goal of installing a philosophy which was beneficial to the interests of the state, and a strong anti-Kantianism in Austrian Philosophy as a consequence. We can agree with this thesis insofar as Riehl in the period of the “Catholic Renaissance” in Austria was not allowed to succeed Ernst Mach. The analysis of Riehl’s arguments allows us furthermore to understand Riehl as a neo-Kantian as early as 1871/1872, which has been questioned by many authors who think the early Riehl was no Kantian.

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