The meaning of faith in the thought of Kant

Picken, Stuart D.B (1972) The meaning of faith in the thought of Kant. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Objective of this exercise is to give as full as possible an explanation of Kant's famous statement: "I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith". While this statement occupies an important and significant place in Kant's introduction to the second edition of his great KRV, seldom has much respect paid to it by Kant commentators. Kant is generally characterised as the critic of metaphysics or the establisher of the autonomy of science or ethics, but seldom as a defender of the faith. This enquiry concerns Kant's claim to have found grounds for affirming that room has to be made for faith in human understanding. It centres upon both the nature of the faith he seeks to defend, and the manner in which he defends it. However, before such a position can be reached, two diametrically opposed lines of Kant interpretation require to be discussed. The first would preclude the possibility of this enquiry at all, by affirming that Kant embraced no religious faith whatsoever. Since this view is held either explicitly or implicitly by many Kant scholars, its claim to truth must be carefully examined. This examination is conducted in terms of the detailed case argued by Hans Vaihinger. The second, and opposing view, if defensible, would produce great confusion in the field of Kant studies. It recognises Kant's attempt to defend faith. However, it wrongly defines the nature of the faith Kant sought to defend, by relating it to romanticist expressions of religious faith. The views are examined of some who have tried to read Kant in this manner. Both extremes having been rejected, Kant's movement in thought is followed from his rejection of the theology of the rationalists to his own doctrine of rational faith. The argument commences in the KPV, where Kant's distinction between Phenomena and Noumena is identified as the key to the possibility of future discussion, after limits have been set upon human knowledge. In the KPV, Kant is thus enabled to speak with the voice of practical reason about matters upon which the voice of theoretical reason must be silent. Practical Reason postulates certain Ideas. The epistemic mode of holding them is practical faith. This position leads to the necessity to study R, in order to see the full movement of I Cant's thought. While developing the concept of faith implied in the ICPV, R expands and amplifies it by first enlarging Kant's conception of freedom. It then develops the notion of faith as both rational and moral. The nature of faith as involved in the act of willing, the ultimate expression of human freedom, is defined. Having established that Kant did indeed have a religious faith for which to make room, and having attempted to define it, the question is raised of what this faith has in common with Christian Paith. Are there any identifiable 'Christian' elements in this faith? It is maintained that Kant's position should not be regarded as mere ethical Theism. A point by point comparison between any classic statement of the Church's faith and the elements of Kant's faith is rejected as a means of answering this question. The argument turns on the fact that there is within the history of Christian thought, a tension which starts with the opposition between Law and Gospel and runs through the long history of theology. The tension represents a basic conflict of ideas between those who have tried to restrict the manner in which the faith of the Church is expressed, and those who have tried to 'universalise' it. Those who have engaged in 'universalist' experiments have often been accused of heresy. Kant attempted to erect a Christian universalism on the basis of moral experience, and in doing so, fell foul of both the Aufklarung and the Prussian Church. The fact that he encountered opposition from two opposed groups illustrates the tension within himself between dogmatism and scepticism, a balance between which, he tried to maintain on philosophical grounds. The originality of this work I would claim lies in three directions. First, it attempts to establish that Kant's religious faith was an integral part of his whole critical programme. Secondly, it tries to argue for the unity of thought which leads to the establishment of this faith. Thirdly, it attempts to interpret Kant's view of faith, not as mere ethical theism, but as a representative of a valid expression of Christian thought. Kant's Christian universalism has many inherent problems, which are recognised, but it is the culmination of his system. Only from this vantage point is it possible to have proper and adequate perspective of the entire territory of his thought. The last chapter deals with the relevance and significance of Kant's view of faith. His alleged impact ort theology in certain directions is examined. Finally, my own views are set out concerning those philosophers and theologians who, whether or not acknowledging any debt to Kant, I regard as most closely attempting to continue the task which Kant left for philosophy and theology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion
Date of Award: 1972
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1972-73876
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56

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