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The Concept of God and the Role of Ideas in Kant Charlotte Alderwick University of Sheffield

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1 The Concept of God and the Role of Ideas in Kant Charlotte Alderwick University of Sheffield

2 Overview.... God’s role in Kant’s philosophy – ambiguous - what roles is this concept playing? - given this, what does this being need to be like? - what, if anything, does this imply for whether or not God needs to exist? Use these conclusions to say something about regulative ideas in general Kant and Spinoza??

3 God in the Critique of Pure Reason Fourth Antinomy (A456/B484-A461/B489) – discusses a necessary being as first cause, and identifies problems with this: - to be a cause the necessary being must be phenomenal, BUT a phenomenal necessary being leads to contradictions Highlights a problem for any Kantian account of God – must be able to account for causal relationship to phenomena without reducing him to the phenomenal

4 God in CPR (2) The Ideal (A568/B596-A591/B619) – God is literally reason’s ideal concept as he ‘contains a therefore for every wherefore’ (A585/B613): -he provides the unconditioned that reason seeks; -fulfils the role of ens realissimum (the most real being, which contains all possible predicates; -and provides an archetype for morality in his role as summum bonum (highest good)

5 God in CPR (3) BUT...despite this, no theoretical proof ever sufficient to demonstrate (non)existence of God However, there is a valid practical proof, which stems from our awareness of the moral law - this gives reason grounds to posit a being who makes these laws obligatory (A634/B622)

6 God in the Critique of Practical Reason God’s moral roles the focal point: - God as an exemplar/archetype of the highest good (4:408) - God as the being who ensures that the goals of our moral strivings are possible, and therefore rational (by ensuring the coincidence of duty and happiness, the potentail for nature to be moralised, and the possibility of eterninty) (4:437-4:439) - God as a postulate of practical reason, and this gives reason grounds for belief

7 God in the Critique of Teleological Judgement Teleology and natural organisms - reason is only able to think of certain natural products as designed – infers existence of designer - natural organisms as systems which self- regulate in accordance with a concept (tree, tulip, for e.g.) – as nature does not have the intelligence to produce concepts, reason infers a higher intelligence to provide these - natural organisms (‘ends of nature’) as comparable to moral agents

8 God in CTJ (2) The problem – how to reconcile this kind of causality (free/teleological) with the causality that governs the rest of phenomenal nature (mechanistic) The solution – both are united in a supersensible ground. We are unable to perceive this unity due to our discursive mode of cognition, BUT it would be accessible to a divine intelligence (intellectual intuition) (Ak V 407-410)

9 What we can say about all of this..... God has two central functions in Kant’s system: - moral role - grounding role BUT Kant always stresses that this concept must remain a regulative are we able to say anything about God’s existence? Moral roles – seems these could be played just as well by mere idea of God

10 Regulative Ideas Strong sense – regulative ideas are just ideas, their objects have no reality outside of rational minds Kant’s sense – regulative ideas refer to objects which we can have no rational grounds to affirm the existence of, but we do have rational grounds for belief in - Kant’s conception necessitates agnosticism about the existence of the objects of regulative ideas

11 A problem for non-metaphysical accounts of Kant........ Non-metaphysical accounts necessarily committed to a strong understanding of regulative ideas Because these accounts deny the possibility of any ontological commitment to the noumenal, they therefore lack the space in which these objects could exist

12 BECAUSE.... For Kant, the phenomenal world arises through constitutive ideas – these ideas are necessary for the world to exist in the way that it does Regulative ideas (freedom, God, for e.g.) contradict certain constitutive ideas, and therefore cannot exist in the phenomenal SO as non-metaphysical accounts are committed to a denial of the noumenal, they are also committed to denying that the objects of regulative ideas could exist

13 Does it matter?? Might think this is not problematic, as the idea of God is sufficient to fulfil moral roles - seems that non-metaphysical accounts will have no difficulty accounting for God’s roles with regards to morality BUT there is still one important function which God plays that cannot be fulfilled by a mere idea – his grounding role

14 God as ground God as ground for teleology and mechanism, but also grounds other regulative ideas (e.g. the unity of nature, transcendental freedom) This role cannot be sufficiently fulfilled by an idea - if the possibility of God is denied, then the apparent unity between mechanism and teleology must be denied, and because mechanistic causality is a constitutive idea this implies that other forms of causality (teleological or free) cannot exist phenomenally

15 God as ground (2) Further, if the possibility of God’s existence is denied, so too is the noumenal, and therefore the possibility that other regulative ideas could exist as noumenal is also negated - the denial of the possibility of God’s existence entails the denial of the possibility that the objects of other regulative ideas could exist (most importantly transcendental freedom)

16 Guyer and the Opus Postumum Guyer’s account – rather than positing God as the ground of unity for nature and freedom, Kant is rather positing rational minds as this unifying ground God and nature form a single system as both are ‘thought entities’ posited by reason (2000:22) Evidenced by claims in the OP, and Kant’s repeated insistence that his claims are only valid for rational beings

17 Or..... Kant’s reluctance to posit God as really existing is due to the limits of his system rather than a belief that God is a mere idea Kant (by his own standards) cannot reasonably make any claims about God without contradicting his claims about the limits of reason, and this is why he doesn’t make any such claims Kant would not have wanted to deny the possibility of God’s existence, as this would lead to the denial of the possibility of transcendental freedom

18 Do we need transcendental freedom? Could argue that Guyer’s account is not problematic – although he cannot have transcendental freedom, he can still retain some conception of freedom - Guyer’s account leaves room for practical freedom (the necessity that we conceive of ourselves and our agency under the presupposition of freedom)

19 YES! Practical freedom is not enough – guarantees the thought of our autonomy, but only transcendental freedom can guarantee the reality of this autonomy Kant’s emphasis on freedom and autonomy demonstrates that he wouldn’t have been happy with a system which negates the very possibility of transcendental freedom

20 Kant and Spinoza...? Spinoza’s God: - not separate from world, but constitutes totality of existence - synonymous with nature (deus sive natura) - absolutely necessary – God is entirely determined by his necessary attributes, and thus the reality that follows from him is inherently deterministic

21 Kant and Spinoza (2) The big advantage – - traditional conceptions of God as separate from creation fall into contradiction - Spinoza provides a logically consistent conception of God - So this conception is valid in terms of theoretical as well as practical reason

22 Kant and Spinoza (3) Kant’s critique of Spinoza – this conception of God leads to fatalism BUT Kant argues that only transcendental idealism is able to avoid this consequence, as it is unable to posit God as direct cause of the world Demonstrates that with transcendental idealist framework this problem is avoided – God as ground rather than cause, so leaves open the possibility for phenomenal beings to have some degree of freedom

23 Kant and Spinoza (4) Spinoza’s God + transcendental idealism = - avoids the problems of the fourth antinomy (as God is ground rather than cause) - God’s grounding role is fulfilled - roles of summum bonum and ens realissimum are fulfilled - conception of God that’s valid on theoretical as well as practical grounds - fits in with two-aspect reading of Kant


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