A Dubious Heritage: Studies in the Philosophy of Religion after Kant

A Dubious Heritage: Studies in the Philosophy of Religion after Kant

A Dubious Heritage: Studies in the Philosophy of Religion after Kant

A Dubious Heritage: Studies in the Philosophy of Religion after Kant

Excerpt

The study of religion did not become a separate branch of philosophy until Kant.Earlier a few attempts had been made to treat religion as a subjective mode of consciousness rather than as a section of metaphysics or ethics. But those approaches mostly resulted from serious doubts about the objective claims of religion in general, or, more specifically, of the Christian revelation. Not surprisingly, its authors reduced faith to a purely subjective state of mind that would be dispelled by the Enlightenment. Contrary to such skeptics Kant accepted religion on its own terms. His attempt to define its boundaries in epistemological terms was part of his general plan to submit the entire field of consciousness to a transcendental critique, not in order to undermine its objective claims, but rather to reestablish them as much as possible after the onslaught of Hume's skepticism. Thus Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, for all its deficiencies, must be read as a thoroughly positive and pioneeringly modern work. Nor is its scope restricted to the immediate concerns of the Enlightenment. It is, in fact, the first methodic effort to formulate and, at the same time, to overcome, the malaise from which the religious consciousness had suffered ever since art, science, philosophy, and morality had become independent of faith. After the spiritual revolution of the Renaissance, religion had become severed from the rest of man's spiritual life. Faith was no longer everything, as it was in the Middle Ages, but something and no one seemed to know exactly what.Kant's critical philosophy clearly circumscribed its limits.

It is often said that Kant's philosophy completed the Reformation's turn toward a purely interior religion. But such a statement oversimplifies the matter in more than one way. For Luther himself continued a subjective tradition which Augustine, Anselm and most of the Christian mystics had initiated long before. Also . . .

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