On Kant On the Idea(s) of God

Garth W. Green


In the following essay, I consider the character, and implications, of the idea of God in Kant’s theoretical philosophy. I first consider the idea (or rather, ‘ideal’) of God in the Critique of Pure Reason, in which it is first established within the systematic structure of Kant’s critical philosophy. In this context, I show that Kant recognized, depicted, and subjected to critique not one, but two such ideas or concepts of God: to evince this point, I examine the more thorough treatment of the concept of God contained in the Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion. I then suggest that the full significance of this critique can be comprehended by tracing its effects across the series of texts that constitutes Kant’s philosophy of religion as a unified whole. Herein, I cannot accomplish such a synoptic view: the positive (practical) position of the “postulates” of God and the soul in the Critique of Practical Reason, and the “definition of the concept of religion” in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, for example, will not be considered. Herein, I focus on the Conflict of the Faculties, through which late text I hope to advance a more ample critical context for this, Kant’s redefinition and reposition of the (theological) idea of God, in both an intellectual and an institutional acceptation. While in the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant attacks rational theology as such, in the Conflict of the Faculties he attacks the rational and biblical theologian, and the place thereof both in an intra- and an extrauniversity economy. This application, then, evinces the significance of Kant’s idea of God as an element not only of his philosophy of religion narrowly construed, but also as an element of his philosophy of culture more broadly construed. In conclusion, I reflect on the importance of this second, broad acceptation of Kant’s philosophy of religion for contemporary work in the field.

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