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Unformatted text preview: KANT'S CONCEPTION OF GOD KANT'S CONCEPTION OF GOD A CRITICAL EXPOSITION OF ITS METAPHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT TOGETHER WITH A TRANSLATION OF THE NOVA D I L U C I D A T I O BY F. E. England, M.A., Ph.D. WITH A FOREWORD BY Professor G. Dawes Hicks Es ist durchaus nöthig, dass man sich vom Dasein Gottes überzeuge; es ist aber nicht eben so nöthig, dass man es demonstrire. KANT H U M A N I T I E S N e w Y o r k PRESS 1968 First published in 1929 Reprinted 1968 by HUMANITIES PRESS, INC. New York, N. Y. 10010 Printed in U.S.A. by NOBLE OFFSET PRINTERS, INC. NEW YORK 3, N. Y. PREFATORY NOTE THIS essay is an attempt to follow critically the development of Kant's metaphysical thought with special reference to the concept of God, a concept which furnishes a sort of vantageground from which to estimate the significance of the changes in Kant's philosophical outlook, while itself remaining throughout substantially the same in content. I shall try to show that in his recoil from the speculative metaphysics of the Wolffian school K a n t continued to conceive of the universe, after the manner of Leibniz, as consisting of substances whose reciprocal commercium was made possible through their common origin as essences in the being o f God. After tracing briefly the gradual emergence of those considerations which ultimately led to the critical position, I shall try to show that b y viewing epistemology as a species of logic K a n t was led to a confused exposition of the critical doctrine of judgment, and in particular of the function of the categories. Thereupon I shall endeavour to make clear that from the critical premises rightly construed, the subjectivism characteristic of one trend of Kant's thought does not follow, and that what has been called his phenomenalism must be seriously qualified. T h e categories will not, that is to say, evince themselves as constitutive of objects, but as principles of interpretation, and the critical theory of knowledge will not render metaphysics impossible (Kant himself declared that the transcendental philosophy had for its object the founding of metaphysics), but prepare the ground for a new metaphysics. 1 1 Turning to the concept of G o d in the critical period, I shall seek to justify the position that Kant's artificial "deduction" of the Ideal of pure reason and his general • Kant was influenced but little by Spinoza's philosophy. See Was heisst sich im Denken orientiren? and cp. Kantstudien, Bd. V, S. 291. • Fortschritte der Metaphysik, Hart., VIII. 533. Gp. Logik, Ber. IX. 33. 8 KANT'S CONCEPTION OF GOD formulation of the problem of the unconditioned are really of minor importance, but that there is implied in the critical doctrine as a whole the conception of a necessary ground of the world of experience, that the idea of the unconditioned is logically prior to and involved in the notion of the conditioned. Further, I shall contend that the purposiveness which admittedly is displayed in the organic realm is unintelligible unless the mechanism of nature be grounded in a supreme intelligence, and that finally the facts of the moral life, and in particular that of moral obligation, presuppose a moral order, and this in turn presupposes a supreme moral Personality as its ground. In conclusion, I shall venture to argue that the Ideas of reason, in so far as they are valid, are not properly described as heuristic fictions, as K a n t was prone to describe them, but are at their own level involved in the progressive systematisation of experience. Ideas and categories are alike metaphysically knowable, and the supreme test of their validity is their indispensability. T h e Idea of the unconditioned is shown by K a n t to be indispensably involved in experience, and it was, I shall urge, largely because Kant's judgment was influenced by a lingering adherence to the formalism of Wolff's logical school and to the crude psychology of his day that his transcendentalism was not extended over the entire field of experience, and the Idea of the unconditioned was not accepted as a valid metaphysical principle. In an appendix I subjoin a translation of the Nova Dilucidatio, the only important Latin metaphysical work of Kant's not hitherto translated into English, and one which is of great interest and importance in the history of the development of Kant's metaphysics. Reference has been made throughout to Kant's Gesammelte Schriften, published by the Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1910 ff, which I denote by the abbreviation Ber. In the case of the Critique of Pure Reason, PREFATORY NOTE 9 however, I have followed the usual method of denoting the first edition as A and the second as B, giving the original paging of those editions. Where reference is made to a work not yet included in the Berlin Edition, I have quoted Hartenstein^ edition of the Werke. A m o n g other important works referred to are Kant's loose notes (Lose Blätter, 1891 ff.), edited by Reicke, and published in the Altpreussische Monatsschrift, Bd. xix—xxi, also various jottings edited by Benno Erdmann in two volumes under the title Reflexionen (1884). F. E. ENGLAND CONTENTS PREFATORY NOTE FOREWORD BY PROFESSOR G. DAWES HICKS A. T H E P R E - C R I T I C A L M E T A P H Y S I C S A N D I T S LOGICAL F O U N D A T I O N S CHAPTER I. n. III. THE PROBLEM AS KANT ENCOUNTERED IT THE PRE-CRITICAL CONCEPTION OF GOD FROM RATIONALISM TO CRITICISM B. T H E T R A N S C E N D E N T A L L O G I C A N D I T S METAPHYSICAL IMPLICATIONS IV. V. VI. THE CRITICAL DOCTRINE OF JUDGMENT THE FUNDAMENTAL CONDITIONS OF KNOWLEDGE THE IDEAL OF PURE REASON C. T H E C O N T E N T A N D V A L I D I T Y O F T H E IDEA OF G O D VII. VIII. IX. X. THE CONTINGENCY OF THE PHENOMENAL WORLD THE PURPOSrVENESS DISPLAYED IN NATURE THE FACTS OF THE MORAL LIFE THE IDEA OF GOD AS ULTIMATE GROUND APPENDIX. INDEX TRANSLATION OF THE "NOVA DILUCIDATlo'' F O R E W O R D IT is the wish of the author that I should contribute a short introduction to his book, but it is really in need of none. During many years Dr. England has been assiduously devoting himself to a minute study of the writings of K a n t and of the huge literature that has gathered round t h e m ; and this volume contains the firstfruits of his labour, to be succeeded, I trust, by other fruits in the coming time. For the critical philosophy, notwithstanding its manifold difficulties and inconsistencies, is still a living system of thought, and likely long to remain so. It formed the foundation of all the speculative efforts of the nineteenth century—not, indeed, in the sense that it superseded the systems, either empirical or rational, which preceded it, but in the sense that it so took up into itself what was of importance in those systems as to give a new form to philosophical questions. A n d I believe that, for a successful handling of the epistemological and metaphysical problems of the present day, a thorough grasp of the method pursued and the lines of reflexion followed by the critical philosophy is an essential preliminary. In the following pages there has been selected for treatment the metaphysical problem, which was undoubtedly for K a n t fundamental, and to which he was constantly recurring throughout the various stages of his intellectual development. Dr. England has, I think, been well advised in beginning with the earlier treatises, and in then tracing the way in which the critical standpoint was gradually reached. So far as the problem he is specially handling is concerned, the Nova Dilucidatio, the first of Kant's metaphysical treatises, is certainly of peculiar significance; and the translation here made of it ought to prove of considerable service to the student. In it K a n t is to be found, not, it is true, actually breaking a w a y from, but already convinced of certain crucial difficulties in, the Leibnizian doctrine as it had been KANT'S CONCEPTION OF GOD propounded by Wolff. He seems never to have been satisfied with the Wolffian identification of the highest principles of truth, and that of sufficient reason. From the first, he appears to have been convinced that logical ground and real ground are toto genere distinct, although at this period he could scarcely have been acquainted with the familiar contrast in Hume's Inquiry of relations of ideas with those of matters of fact. Here, too, he is to be found, though still more decisively in the Beweisgrund of eight years later, insisting on the doctrine which became so prominent in his later critique of speculative theology that existence is no part of the content of any conception—no characteristic which may be extracted from it and used as its predicate. Dr. England has described Kant's "voyage of discovery" from the pre-Critical to the Critical standpoint. T h e story is full of interest, and cannot fail to be suggestive to those who are now pursuing the path of philosophical reflexion. O n the whole, I am largely in accord with the criticism which Dr. England brings to bear on the developed Kantian position. I agree that what was no doubt a cardinal tenet of the Critical theory—namely, that it is the peculiar function of thought to be productive of those components of a known object which constitute it, apart from its special sensuous clothing an object at all—cannot be sustained; and that, therefore, the antithesis which K a n t regarded as fundamental between category and Idea calls to be rejected. Difference enough there assuredly may be, but it will be a kind of difference that will come to light in the attempt to determine the part played by each in the development of our knowledge of the objective world, and not a difference between that which enters into the very structure of an object and that which indicates only a point of view from which the object in question may be contemplated. T h e difference, that is to say, will not be a difference between constitutive and regulative principles. T h e Post-Kantian thinkers broke down the antithesis by attempting to show that the latter FOREWORD *5 principles were no less constitutive than the former. But whoever has come to the conclusion that the function of thought is not of the nature which K a n t took it to be will be constrained rather to look upon the so-called constitutive principles as being in truth regulative—in other words, as ways in which a thinking mind interprets the general features of the world of experience. A n d then the so-called " I d e a s " may be regarded as representing a further phase of such reflective thought. O n e of the grounds that led K a n t to institute the antithesis just referred to is perhaps worth pointing out. T h e " I d e a s " were, for him, ideas of the Unconditioned. A n d when he sought to determine the way in which the Unconditioned is represented by us, he was compelled to specify certain positive characteristics. T h e Unconditioned he delineated as the complete, that the knowledge of which would satisfy the effort of thought or the understanding which is embodied in the process of unifying. Completeness would mean perfect unity of experience. But the unification which the understanding carries out on and in the matter of experience never can be complete. Why not? I conceive it to be doubtful whether K a n t ever definitely put to himself this question, but there can be little hesitation about the answer. T h e impossibility is due, I take it, to the character of the formal element in intuition, space, and time. Sometimes, it is true, K a n t inclines to connect the impossibility with the given character of the material of intuition, inexhaustibility being then equivalent to contingency. Y e t , in the long run, the burden of explanation was made to rest on the unique character of space and time, in consequence of which the understanding had to be conceived as in its own nature carrying out an endless task. Nevertheless, although it was, in Kant's view, confusion of thought that induces us to imagine some object beyond the range of experience which would constitute the completed totality required, he never regarded the demand for totality 16 KANT'S CONCEPTION OF GOD as a mere will of the wisp, enticing the understanding into aimless wanderings. O n the contrary, he conceived that the demand had a real source and an important function. Its source was the general character which the understanding possessed of unifying, of systematically connecting; its function was to determine us to seek in the concrete field of experience for as close a correspondence as is possible to the formal unity involved in the procedure of the understanding. There is unity in experience, but it is unity of form merely; and the one precept of reason is to seek for a concrete systematic whole as adequate as possible to this formal unity. Kant's point of view in this respect is, I think, significantly brought out in the concluding sections of the first Critique. I regard the criticism of the speculative proofs for the existence of G o d as both valuable so far as it goes and harmless in respect to any interest one may feel in the issue which they raise. It was certainly worth while to emphasise in the strongest manner that, however w e may have to determine the nature of the supreme Being, that nature can in no w a y be legitimately represented after the fashion in which we are wont to represent an object of experience. Indeed, it was perhaps desirable to enforce the consideration that with finite notions and finite categories it must be impossible to determine the mode of existence of the Being that we are compelled by reason to contemplate as infinite. A t the same time, I conceive that what K a n t laid down leaves a larger field open than probably he was himself aware of. For the problem which finds its solution ordinarily through the notion of God is a real problem, a problem put by reason itself, and in respect to which, therefore, we may feel sure that a solution sufficient in itself is to be had. K a n t was strenuous in insisting that while the field of the understanding may bring before us problems really insoluble, the field of reason, which has not its problems thrust upon it from without, must contain within itself the means of FOREWORD solving these problems. T h e " I d e a s " of reason must, he held, have a significance, and a significance which will conform to the ultimate demand for unity which lies at the root of all the special problems that reason puts to itself. If, then, the speculative determinations advanced in regard to the notion of G o d have to be rejected, in what form is the unity demanded by reason for the whole field of experience to be found? What reason demands is that experience should exhibit itself to the apprehending subject as in all its empirical details so arranged in systematic order as to constitute unified knowledge. A n d it is particularly noteworthy that in the notion which K a n t brings to the front at the conclusion of his treatment of speculative theology, and which in the third Critique he works out in more detail—the notion of adaptation or end—there is reference to a much more concrete determination of the nature of the unity involved in experience than would appear at first sight permissible along the lines of his teaching. For this notion of the whole of experience as being adapted to human reason, and of reason being, therefore, able to discover in the realm of particular facts verification of a universal principle which is not determinative in respect to those particular facts nor a necessary constituent in our knowledge of them, turns out to be no other than the assumption that the complex of empirical fact has been brought about by intelligence. T h e more concrete expression of the idea of the intelligibility of nature, of end or adaptation in nature, is, according to K a n t , the idea of an intuitive Understanding that synthetically produces the particulars in and through the representation of the whole, in and through the representation of general laws. It is true that in Kant's view this ultimate form of the teleological principle can, so far as the sphere of knowledge is concerned, be regarded as having no more than subjective validity as a principle of reflective judgment. In the sphere of knowledge it can never be possible to regard any one 18 KANT'S CONCEPTION OF GOD object as itself constituting an absolute end. Here the notion of purpose must be restricted to the thought of the general adaptation of nature as a whole to the faculty of reason. But, he contends, in the sphere of practice, we are furnished with a conception of which there is no counterpart in the sphere of theoretical knowledge; in the sphere of practice, a final end is presented. M a n , not as a natural product, but as a moral being, as the bearer of the moral law, is a final e n d — a final end, not merely in respect to nature, but in respect to the whole world of intelligible reality. T h e realisation of the highest good is a final end. Not only so. Although knowledge and practice lie in one sense apart from one another, yet we must assume a certain conformity between these two spheres. W e must conceive that the whole structure of things is of such a nature as to provide the means through which realisation of this final end is possible. Consequently, we are constrained to think of the whole system of existent fact as being adapted to the final end of the practical reason. A n ethical teleology is thus the ultimate form which Kant's metaphysical reflexions assume: " T h e world must be represented as having originated from an idea, if it is to harmonise with that use of reason without which we should hold ourselves unworthy of reason, the moral use, which rests entirely on the idea of the supreme good." G. UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON DAWES HICKS A. T H E A N D PRE-CRITICAL ITS LOGICAL METAPHYSICS FOUNDATIONS CHAPTER I T H E P R O B L E M AS K A N T E N C O U N T E R E D IT KANT'S early conception of God formed the keystone of a metaphysical structure that owed what solidity it possessed to two fundamental presuppositions which were deeply embedded in the metaphysics of Cartesian rationalism. T h e first of these was the view, characteristic of the rationalism both of Greek and mediaeval philosophy, and bound up with the theory of the reality of entities corresponding to general concepts or of metaphysical substances, that the results of formal logic are ontologically valid, that is to say that the processes of logic unfold and express the nature of actual reality, and consequently that logical connection and real relations are ultimately the same. Characteristic of this w a y of thinking was the tacit identification of the notion of a substance and its qualities with that of a subject and its predicates, the predicates being regarded as contained in the unchangeably fixed notion of the subject. T h e second feature of the rationalistic metaphysics was the distinction drawn between necessary and contingent existence, or that which exists per se, and that which owes its existence to an ultimate being; a distinction which, in whatever form expressed, finds exemplification in the Augustinian grounding of the existent world in the will of God. These two presuppositions constitute in truth a house divided against itself, and the untenability of this form of rationalism became evident when it was realised that the admission of contingent existence is the denial that all predicates are necessarily involved in their subject. T h e data of thought, according to Descartes, were certain innate ideas or "simple natures", that is to say, notions which are so clearly and distinctly apprehended that nothing can be conceived as more ultimate or more certain. T h e passage from these simple data to knowledge, in all its KANT'S CONCEPTION OF GOD variety and complexity, of the real world of existence (which consisted of modif...
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