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The 'ethical commonwealth', the central social element in Kant's account of religion, provides the church, as 'the moral people of God', with a role in establishing a cosmopolitan order of peace. This role functions within an interpretive realignment of Kant's critical project that articulates its central concern as anthropological: critically disciplined reason enables humanity to enact peacemaking as its moral vocation in history. Within this context, politics and religion are not peripheral elements in the critical project. They are, instead, complementary social modalities in which humanity enacts its moral vocation to bring lasting peace among all peoples.
In Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy, Susan Neiman traces the history of modern philosophy – and of Kant's pivotal role in that history – along a trajectory shaped by the problem of evil rather than by the problems of knowledge, certainty, and doubt that have been the staple of standard readings of that history. She characterizes Kant's account of our human circumstances as a “metaphysic of permanent rupture” in which
[t]he gap between nature and freedom, is and ought, conditions all human existence … Integrity requires affirming the dissonance and conflict at the heart of experience. It means recognizing that we are never, metaphysically, at home in the world. This affirmation requires us to live with the mixture of longing and outrage that few will want to bear.
In this essay I plan to show how the duality that Neiman marks out as “the dissonance and conflict at the heart of experience” functions to outline the contours of a philosophical anthropology that is embedded in Kant's critical project. The spatio-temporally embodied freedom of finite human reason stands at the conceptual center of this anthropology and serves as locus for Kant's account of evil. That account exhibits evil as marking a fissure that lies athwart human efforts to render fully intelligible the world that presents itself to us, in our embodied freedom, both as nature – an object for reason's theoretical inquiry – and as freedom – a field for human action shaped by reason's moral exercise.