1 4: 414, 4: 439. References to the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals are to (Kant Reference Kant2012). References to Kant’s other writings are to the Cambridge Edition series of Kant’s works. Abbreviations used are as follows:
(A/B) – Critique of Pure Reason
(CPrR) – Critique of Practical Reason
(MM) – Metaphysics of Morals
(Ethics) – Lectures on Ethics
(Metaphysics) – Lectures on Metaphysics
(Doctrine) – Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion.
(ND) – Nova Dilucidatio
(Notes) – Notes and Fragments
(Observations) – Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime
(Religion) – Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason
(Remarks) – Remarks in the ‘Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime’
(Review) – Review of Schulz’s Attempt at introduction to a doctrine of morals for all human beings regardless of different religions
(Theodicy) – On the Miscarriage of All Philosophy Trials in Theodicy
3 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, §628, 31.
4 E.g., (Allison Reference Allison2011). Another possible function Allison proposes is that of accommodating a possible distinction between prescriptivity and normativity (Allison Reference Allison2011, 275-6).
8 The analysis here is restricted to the topic of the role of the holy will in the Groundwork. A systematic presentation of the relation of this account within the context of Kant’s philosophy of religion, his later apparent anti-Pelagianism and mature philosophical view in the Religion, etc., is beyond the scope of this paper.
9 I don’t attempt here to defend this conception here nor even discuss in detail whether this peculiar combination of scholastic and enlightenment elements is internally stable.
10 This is not to say that the phenomenological elements exhaust the meaning of necessitation. I think of necessitation here as reflecting the phenomenological manifestation of the metaphysically grounded necessity that the laws of freedom possess. I am grateful for an anonymous reviewer’s stressing the importance of this qualification.
15 In the Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion in the 1780s Kant claims the demand of metaphysical communion with the divine as a necessary condition of knowledge of the noumenal realm:
Through experience we cognize only appearances, the mundum phaenomenon or sensibilem, but not the mundum noumenon or intelligibilem, not things as they are in themselves. This is shown in detail in the theory of being (ontology). God cognizes all things as they are in themselves immediately and a priori through an intuition of the understanding; for he is the being of all beings and every possibility has its ground in him. If we were to flatter ourselves that we cognize the mundum noumenon, then we would have to be in community with God so as to participate immediately in the divine ideas which are the authors of all things in themselves. To expect this in the present lift is the business of mystics and theosophists. (Doctrine 28: 1052)
16 As is now well established, Kant’s position does not require that every token obligation conflict with desire in order to count as a genuine moral response, contra Schiller’s complaint – for discussion see (Timmermann Reference Timmermann2007). Yet I’d claim that Kant’s account does take the context of the possible conflict of obligation with desire as constitutive of the semantic content of the moral ‘ought’ (4: 413, 4: 449), though this topic is a larger one than can be explored here.
17 See also CPrR 5:79-84.
18 The claim is repeated elsewhere, such as in the Religion (6:64-6) and Metaphysics of Morals (MM, 6:446-7).
19 It could reasonably be objected that Kant’s view could not be one whereby we reject the holy will as a moral ideal since a holy will is in Kant’s own view an absolutely good will. As (Wood Reference Wood1999) points out, the dutiful human will is a mere species of the genus of the good will, since the former is the good will under certain specific conditions of being hindered by sensibility (4: 397) and thus the category of moral goodness extends beyond that of the set of human wills (31). It is not my claim though that the holy will is not a exemplar of a ‘good’ will in some sense of that term; rather it is that the insofar as the goodness of the holy will is conceivable it is a also one that we cannot contentfully conceive of as a practically relevant source of moral guidance.
21 See for example De Coorreptione et Gratia, 12:33 in Augustine 2010: 214 and Enchiridion, Ch. XXVIII, para. 105, in Augustine 2006: 402.
23 Ibid. Cf. Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, Part I, Q. 62, Art. 8, and Anselm’s De libertate arbitriii, I.
25 Ibid. The context makes it clear that this is a point where Leibniz’s representative is in agreement. It is similarly claimed ‘that God himself cannot choose what is not good; the freedom of the Almighty hinders not his being determined by what is best’ (ibid.).
27 Duncan Reference Duncan2012: 986. Duncan further claims that ‘[i]f God could create a race of beings like this, they would not only be free, but in an important sense they would be more free than we are since they would act autonomously in many cases where we do not’ (ibid.). As will be seen, there are good grounds I think to resist these claims.
28 Allison Reference Allison2004: 28. Kant’s rejection of theological ethics is well-known. As shall be seen, the rejection of a theocentric paradigm in moral explanation is an orthogonal issue.
29 While I agree with Allison’s emphasis on the rejection of theocentric paradigms within Kant’s Critical philosophy, I don’t see the presence of this element in Kant’s thought as entailing a non-metaphysical reading of transcendental idealism. I can see no convincing reason why the anthropocentric/theocentric paradigm ought to be aligned to the non-metaphysical/metaphysical reading of transcendental idealism. For doubts regarding Allison’s reading, see Allais Reference Allais2007, Guyer Reference Guyer1987 and Hogan Reference Hogan2009.
30 Bxl, A252/B308, A279/B335.
31 Bacon Reference Bacon2000: 12. Cf. also The Advancement of Learning – Kant had access to both works – see Warda Reference Warda1922. Similarly, Kant claims in the Remarks that ‘[w]e cannot naturally be holy and we lost this through original sin, although we certainly can be morally good’ (Remarks 20: 15).
33 (Ibid.: 1268-9). Similar claims can be found in various notes on the lectures on ethics, where Kant claims that ‘all imitation of God is an affectation, a mere sham, which debases the worth of the Idea of God and is insulting to His majesty’ (Ethics 27: 723). See also Ethics 27: 322-3; 27: 333.
39 Cf. the Lectures on Ethics: ‘God’s nature as the law itself is incomprehensible to us, all that corresponds to it is obedience to His law….there can be no thought of any possible resemblance between man and God’ (Ethics 27: 723).
40 Chignell (Reference Chignell2007) argues that the proper translation of Glaube in this context ought not to be automatically rendered as ‘faith’ though it can of course include religious belief.
41 The obvious reference here being to John’s Gospel (John 20: 26-29).
42 Bii. References to the Novum Organum are to (Bacon Reference Bacon2000). In what follows I hope merely to outline the historical plausibility of Kant’s familiarity with the elements of the view that there is a value in resisting the aspiration to become a holy will, reflecting a recognition of the worth of both religious and moral Glaube that is itself made possible only as a consequence of our noumenal ignorance.
47 Freyenhagen’s characterization of Kant’s goal for transcendental idealism as that of having ‘made room for freedom’ (Freyenhagen Reference Freyenhagen2008: 68) is particularly apt, since the aim in the Groundwork parallels the benefit of the first Critique in having ‘made room’ for religious Glaube.
49 Cf. Kant’s Critical-period notes on metaphysics, where he claims that ‘[i]f we had complete insight into the nature of things, then nature and freedom, the determination of nature and the determination of ends, would be entirely identical. So it is with God; hence all ends in the world follow simultaneously from the essence of things and in an original being would be identical with his nature’ (Notes 18: 262).
50 In one Reflexion Kant writes that ‘[i]t is splendid that on this earth the course of the world does not harmonize with moral laws, because otherwise no human being would himself know whether or not he acts from prudence or morality, and purely moral motives could not be felt’ (R4111, Notes 17: 420).
51 In the Religion too, Kant seems to endorse Haller’s poetic right to say that this world is ‘better than a realm of will-less angels’ (Religion 6: 65 – note). There Kant claims that we cannot but put the human being on a ‘higher rung on the moral ladder’ than the angels just again for the reason that the latter ‘are raised above all possibility of being led astray’. Admittedly, Kant’s point here is difficult to discern. Yet in the Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion, Kant repeats the claim of the will-lessness of angels again, emphasizing the special significance of morally correct behaviour by those imperfectly free agents who are capable of failing to live up to their God-given capacities but also capable of raising themselves ‘above’ the status of angels:
First, one must note that among the many creatures, the human being is the only one who has to work for his perfections and for the goodness of his character, producing them from within himself. God therefore gave him talents and capacities, but left it up to the human being how he would employ them. He created the human being free, but gave him also animal instincts; he gave the human being senses to be moderated and overcome through the education of his understanding. Thus created, the human being was certainly perfect both in his nature and regarding his predispositions. But regarding their education he was still uncultivated. For this the human being had to have himself to thank, as much for the cultivation of his talents as for the benevolence of his will. Endowed with great capacities, but with the application of these capacities left to himself, such a creature must certainly be of significance. One can expect much of him; but on the other hand no less is to be feared. He can perhaps raise himself above a whole host of will-less angels but he may also degrade himself so that he sinks even beneath the irrational animals. (Doctrine 28: 1077)
53 Cf. A831/B859. In his handwritten remarks in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime that mark the impact of Rousseau’s influence, Kant writes:
We can see other worlds in the distance, but gravity forces us to remain on the earth; we still can see other perfections of the spirits above us, but our nature forces us to remain human beings. (Remarks 20: 153)
Though the remark obviously anticipates the ‘starry heavens’ conclusion of the second Critique (5: 161), here the tone is clearly one of warning against aspiring to the perfections of subjects of which we nevertheless can only have imperfect ideas; unlike our inquiries in physics, our moral aspirations are more sublime for the fact that they remain sublunary.
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