Triumph of pessimism over optimism in Kant & Kierkegaard's response

Athithan, Vanneya P. (2010) Triumph of pessimism over optimism in Kant & Kierkegaard's response. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis seeks to defend the Triumph of Pessimism over Optimism in Kant - and Kierkegaard's Response. It emerges from an examination of Kant's doctrine of happiness in the context of moral theology where he proportionates happiness to morality. An important element in his account is the notion of radical evil, a major obstacle, which as a supreme maxim corrupts all other sub-maxims. Withstanding the challenge of radical evil, Kant stipulates the necessary and the sufficient condition that we ought to become morally worthy in order to obtain happiness. Defending optimism, Kant further builds his case on the following grounds: i] the actuality of freedom and ii] the dictates of the moral law. Following this, Kant makes the categorical claim that we have the power within us to overcome radical evil. Conversely, failure to meet this necessary and sufficient condition stipulated by the prescriptive right of the moral law, necessarily leads to the opposite of optimism, pessimism. Central to his arguments are the claims to the actuality of freedom and the nature of evil. It is freedom which grounds the accountability for evil as well as the opportunity to become morally worthy. Given the kind of importance Kant attaches to freedom and evil, subsequent necessary questions must be asked: "what kind of freedom is this" and "what kind of evil is this?" These questions, by their very nature, lead us to reflect upon the critical method by which Kant develops and defends the very idea of freedom and evil. Here I offer three separate yet related arguments by conducting a methodological critique of Kant's notions of freedom and evil, which disqualify the individual from becoming morally worthy. They are: i] the negation of Transcendental Freedom which negates the obligation to become worthy, ii] the nature of noumenal evil, as permanent, negates any change from evil to good, and finally iii] the impossibility of autonomous atonement. On account of the above arguments, I conclude that one cannot become morally worthy, and therefore, pessimism obtains. The problems addressed here pertain to his method designed by reason. Thus, it becomes necessary to identify the areas in which reason runs into difficulties while conducting the methodological critique of Kant's optimism. Although man is under an obligation to become morally worthy, he is unable to achieve this goal precisely because Kant's critical method, rooted in autonomy, makes it impossible either for reason or for God to help, widening the gap between God and man. Thus, an alternative to Kant's critical method, rooted in enlightenment rationality, is necessary to warrant optimism. Understanding the despair of the Kantian man, whom God alone can help, Kierkegaard, in his Sickness unto Death, advances a compelling and conclusive existential argument which incorporates theological and historical analysis. Given that man is radically evil and finite, it is absolutely impossible for man to close this gap. Kierkegaard argues that God closes the gap by becoming incarnate. If this is true, then Christ, the God-incarnate is the only solution to the crisis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues the electronic version of this thesis is not available for viewing.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Professor David
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-82408
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2021 16:41
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2021 16:51
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82408

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