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  • Kant's Philosophy of Religion: The Relationship Between Ecclesiastical Faith

    and Reasoned Religion

    Michelle A. Rochard

    A Thesis


    The Department



    Presented in Par t ia l ~ulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts at

    Concordia University Montral, Qubec, Canada

    September 1998

    @ Michelle A. Rochard, 1998

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  • Kant's Philosophy of Religion: The R e l a t i o n s h i p Between Ecclesiastical F a i t h

    and Reasoned Rel ig ion

    Michelle A. Rochard

    I t i s my c o n t e n t i o n t h a t Kant rnakes an apparen t contradiction

    i n Religion w i t h i n the Limits of Reason Alone w i t h respect to

    t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between r ea son and Sc r ip tu r e . A t t h e o u t s e t

    o f Religion Kant S t a t e s t h a t h e a i m s t o discover whether

    reason can be f o u n d t o b e c o m p a t i b l e and a t o n e w i t h

    S c r i p t u r e . Kant goes about showing that reason and Scripture

    are u n i t e d , however, h e a l s o m a i n t a i n s that r e a s o n a n d

    S c r i p t u r e a r e d i s t i n c t irorn each other. Hence, h e s e e m s t o

    l and himself i n a c o n t r a d i c t i o n . It i s my i n t e n t i o n t o

    examine t h i s a p p a r e n t c o n t r a d i c t i o n to see how and w h y Kant

    both u n i t e s and d i s t i n g u i s h e s reason and S c r i p t u r e , and t o

    s e e w h e t h e r t h i s c o n t r a d i c t i o n poses a problem o r i s

    necessary t o Kant's t a s k .


  • 1 would like to thank Professor Vladimir Zeman for requiring his students of Kant to write prcis. It was through this tedious task that the philosophy of Kant finally (after a B.A. in Philosophy) began to make a little sense t o me. This tiny glimpse of understanding gave me, for the first time, the confidence to delve into Kant's philosophy, still with humility, but finally without fear. 1 would also like to thank Professor Zeman for allowing me free reign with this t h e s i s and encouraging me to develop rny own thoughts and ideas to see where 1 might take myself with this work.

    1 w o u l d l i k e to extend m y sincere t h a n k s and appreciation to Professor Stanley French for al1 his interest and support over the past year. Working with him and learning from him helped to solidify my decision to continue in philosophy.

    Of course, my greatest thanks must go to my parents. T h e i r support and f a i t h have allowed me to discover rny potentials and pursue my abilities. Finally, 1 would like to thank Darren for contributing to this thesis on a day-to-day basis in al1 the ways that are necessary yet invisible.

  • For O l i v e and Henry




    The Enlightenment and Reason

    Reason and the Moral Law

    The Pure Religion of Reason vs- Ecclesiastical Faith

    TWO: THE COMPATIBILITY AND UNITY OF REASON AND S C R I P T U R E ~ * ~ o . - - * * ~ . . - -

    Kant's System of Religion

    Book One: 1s Human Nature Originally Good or Evil?

    Book Two: How Can Good Combat E v i l ?


    Book Three: The Ethical Commonwealth

    Reason and Scripture United


    False and True Religion

    Theology, Morality, and Religion

    Kant's Definition of Religion: Revealed vs- Natural Religion

    The Distinction between Reason and Scripture


    What Kant Means by Unity

    Unity Based on the Place of Morality

    Completing Kant's Syst= of Religion: Book Four: Visible Church L i f e in Service to the Moral Good and the Pure Religion of Reason

    A Looser Sense of Unity

    A Necessary Contradiction?


  • Two th ings f i l 1 the e n d w i t h ever new and increasinq wonder and a w e , the oftener and the more

    steadily w e reflect on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law w i t h i n me.

    Critique of P r a c t i c a l Reason


    In the Preface to the Second Edition of ~ e l i g i o n w i t h i n

    the L i m i t s of Reason ~ l o n e , ' Kant s t a t e s that his primary aim

    or intention is to determine whether the pure religion of

    reason, or, moral religion can be found to be compatible or

    at one w i t h revealed religion, or, what may be called

    historical, practical, ecclesiastical faith or Scripture.

    Indeed, Kant attempts to establish how and why reason and

    Scripture can be shown to be united to the extent that "he

    who follows one ... will not fail to conform to the ~ther."~ However, after establishing an apparent unity between reason

    and Scripture, Kant makes a clear and even adamant

    distinction between moral religion and ecclesiastical faith

    suggesting that ecclesiastical faith must be thought of in

    contradistinction to pure moral religion. He notes that

    there is only one true religion of reason which has to do

    I m a n u e l Kant, R e l i g i o n within the L M t s of Reason Alone ( F i r s t E d i t i o n p u b l i s h e d i n 1 7 9 3 ; Second E d i t i o n publ i shed i n 1794), trans. Theodore M . Greene and Hoyt H . Hudson, (New York: Harper and Row, P u b l i s h e r s , 1960 ) , h e r e a f t e r r e f e r r e d to as Religion and i n f o o t n o t e references as "R" f o l l o w e d by the s t a n d a r d page number i n Greene and Hudson's e d i t i o n .

  • with moral disposition while ecclesiastical faith appeals

    only to the senses. In this respect, ecclesiastical faith

    remains always at a practical, phenomenal level, never

    capable of reaching the heights of truly rational, moral

    religion. Yet, Kant's aim is to show how revealed religion

    or Scripture can be reasoned; he is attempting to show how

    revealed religion can be brought w i t h i n the limits of reason

    so that it can be united with the pure religion of reason,

    It is my contention that Kant seems to land himself in an

    apparent contradiction: o n the one hand, he a i m s to

    demonstrate that reason is "not only compatible but at one"'

    with Scripture; however, on the other hand, he wants to

    m a i n t a i n that ecclesiastical faith is subordinate to pure

    moral religion thereby rendering a clear distinction between

    reason and Scripture . In order to understand how Kant establishes a unity and

    at the same time a distinction between reason and Scripture,

    it is necessary to place Kant's Religion in a philosophical

    context. Although it is possible to approach Kant's

    philosophy of religion from many different angles, it is my

    intention to remain focused on specific philosophical

    considerations. 1 will be interested in Kant's mm approach

    to Religion to the extent that he extends his practical

    philosophy to the realm of religion and theology, an

    extension he already made in Grounding for the Metaphysics of

    Morals and in the Critique of Practical ~eason . '

    Immanuel Kant, Grounding for t h e Metaphysics of Morals in

  • f t is m y hope t a detennine and c l a r i fy h o w K a n t works

    w i t h i n t h e l i r n i t s of h i s own p h i l o s o p h y ; that i s , his

    approach to religion w i t h i n season's limits seems t o be

    another attempt t o bridge t h e gap between t h e practical w o r l d

    and t h e theoretical w o r l d . H a v i n g already establ ished God

    and t h e H i g h e s t Good as rational p r inc ip le s towards which al1

    h u m a n s strive i n t h e Critique of Practical Reason, Kant is

    attempting to understand and justify our apparent need for a

    re l ig ion w h i c h consists of practices, r i t u a l s , and S c r i p t u r a l

    narratives t h a t are merely practical or sensory i n t h e sense

    that they are o f t e n disconnected f r o m mora l i ty . A n d , even

    when t h e s e practices are connected t o m o r a l i t y , why do w e

    require such practices when our reason already directs us t o

    the Highest Good?

    W e s h o u l d n o t e that t h i q u e s t i o n represents t h e

    c h a r a c t e r i s