Kantian Journal

2021 Vol. 40. №2

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The Embodied Practical Ideal: Kant’s Ethicotheology and Godmanhood



The metaphysical layer of what can be called philosophical Christology in Kant’s treatise on religion reflects his idea of the embodiment of the archetype of moral perfection. Kant raises the problem of the ontology of the ideal in the shape of the question about the conditions that make actual experience possible: the ideal of holiness resides in reason, i. e. in the human being, but the dominance of radical evil over the human will puts it out of human reach either in thought or in practice. For rational thought it is more natural to imagine the practical reality of the archetype as the embodiment of the authentic man proceeding from God. Using the Gospel narrative about Jesus, Kant interprets the human nature of the archetype in the light of his general notions about the properties of this nature. It is widely believed that Kant’s ethical theology eliminates the divine nature of the archetype by stating that an entirely holy will cannot be a moral example for the infirm human will. Kant however says, merely as a critical philosopher, that there are not enough rational grounds for thinking divine nature. Rational philosophy can think the archetype of perfection only as its pure and whole moral attitude through all the maxims and acts. Philosophy would transcend its boundaries if it claimed more and expected recognition of the prototypical theology of the ideal as the content of church faith. But it is not by chance that Kant sets forth the philosophical theory of the archetype as the content of faith in the subjunctive mood. According to Kant, the preaching of the divine character of the archetype as extra-philosophical supplement of the paradoxes and symbols of philosophical theology is only possible on condition that this statutory preaching does not obstruct the overall aspiration toward the actualisation of the pure moral attitude. If these conditions are observed the philosopher and the biblical theologian remain each with their theologies and within their rights.


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