It is the fate of some major philosophers for their generative yet unsystematic work to be corrected and turned into a system by a successor. Descartes' arguments in Meditations (1641) were corrected and systematized by Spinoza in
Ethics (1677). Leibniz's arguments in a variety of papers and articles were corrected and systematized by Wolff in a series of Vernünftige Gedanken (17121725). Kant's philosophy, distributed over a wide body of texts, was corrected and systematized not once but twice, by K. L. Reinhold in Letters on the Kantian Philosophy (1786-1787) and by J. G. Fichte in Wissenschaftslehre (1794) - both during Kant's lifetime. Part of this fate is to have one's ideas conflated with these interpretations of one's ideas and, worse, for one's fame and influence to be secured not solely by one's ideas but also in part by these corrections or systematizations of these ideas. Leibniz was overwhelmingly influential in Germany because of Wolff. Kant, likewise, became the towering figure of German philosophy partly through interpretations by Reinhold and Fichte.
The consequences for appraisals of Kant have been severe. Many of the problems attributed to Kant, especially those relating to the "thing in itself" and the apparent split between "noumena" and "phenomena," can be traced to interpretations by F. H. Jacobi or Reinhold. Hegel's critique of Kant often seems to be a critique of a distinctly Fichtean account of Kant. It is only with more recent scholarship in English (listed in the bibliography at the end of this chapter) that there has been a significant shift in both defenses and criticisms of Kant, which are focused less on "Kantian" arguments and more on Kant's texts. This work is beginning to find its way into the mainstream of theological debates about the merits and demerits of "Kantian" philosophy. This chapter has attempted to identify Kant's challenges to theology not in his epistemology or deontological ethics per se, but rather in his (perhaps unintentional) narrowing of the scope of certain key terms, especially "God," and in his (quite intentional) emphasis on the autonomous individual at the expense of a proper account of institutional agency and authority. This narrowing and emphasis are arguably fatal to any theology, because Christian theology makes almost no sense without an account of God which pervades everything, and a model of agency in which actions divine and human, institutional and individual, are related in complex and overlapping ways. The nineteenth century inherited Kant and his interpreters' accounts of Kant, and when key nineteenth-century figures name Kant, the arguments rehearsed are often those of Jacobi, Reinhold, or Fichte. Some care is thus required. The best way to exercise that care is to read Kant's texts alongside the best of the more recent commentaries.
Kant remains a vitally important figure for theology. His shift from intuition to judgment, his refusal of utilitarianism in favor of duty and moral consciousness, his claim that truly moral thinking requires a commitment to transcendence (which for him means affirming God's existence), and his insistence that religious claims that appeal to reasons must be evaluated using rules of public argumentation rather than decided by the fiat of religious authorities - all these have had positive and generative effects on subsequent theology. At the same time, his split between "nature" and "freedom"; his contraction of the scope of the meaning of terms like "soul" and "God"; his emphasis on individual responsibility and agency, and corresponding neglect of institutions, history, and context; his distortion of "grace"; and above all his tendency toward over-generalization displayed in his claims to have identified universal and invariant features of human action - these constitute obstacles which any theology must confront, account for, and overcome.
Kant's genius lay in his identification and clear articulation of the rules that govern human action, especially thinking, combined with his insistence that following such rules is a matter of genuine spontaneity that is not governed by rules. Theology can best benefit from this genius by combining its gift for articulating shapes and patterns with an attentiveness to particulars, to contexts, and to local variations: in short, an incarnational habit of thinking which is utterly particular and utterly historical yet endlessly committed to public argumentation and to making sense of - and healing - the relations of particulars to each other and to God.
I am grateful to Mike Higton, Rachel Muers, Cameron Thomson, and Susannah Ticciati for detailed comments and suggestions for improvement.
Gregor, Mary. Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. (Includes Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason, and The Metaphysics of Morals.) Guyer, Paul, and Eric Matthews. Critique of the Power of Judgement. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2000. Guyer, Paul, and Allen Wood. Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Wood, Allen, and George di Giovanni. Religion and Rational Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. (Includes Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason.)
Kuehn, Manfred. Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Basic Introductions
Bowie, Andrew. Introduction to German Philosophy from Kant to Habermas, chap 1. Cambridge: Polity, 2003.
Pinkard, Terry. German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism, chaps. 1-3. Cambridge: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Walker, Ralph. Kant. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998.
More Detailed Accounts
Allison, Henry. Kant's Theory of Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Allison, Henry. Kant's Theory of Taste. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Allison, Henry. Kant's Transcendental Idealism, 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.
Ameriks, Karl. Kant and the Fate of Autonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Ameriks, Karl. Kant and the Historical Turn: Philosophy as Critical Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Guyer, Paul. Kant and the Claims of Taste. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Guyer, Paul (ed.). Cambridge Companion to Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Guyer, Paul (ed.). Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Longuenesse, Beatrice. Kant and the Capacity to Judge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.
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