Kant's Philosophy of Religion: The Relationship Between Ecclesiastical Faith
and Reasoned Religion
Michelle A. Rochard
Presented in Par t ia l ~ulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts at
Concordia University Montral, Qubec, Canada
@ 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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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
THREE: THE NECESSARY DISTINCTION BETWEEN REASON ANDSCRIPTURE. . , . . , , ,
False and True Religion
Theology, Morality, and Religion
Kant's Definition of Religion: Revealed vs- Natural Religion
The Distinction between Reason and Scripture
FOUR: REASON AND SCRIPTURE UNITED AND DISTINCT,
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