Editors' Introduction
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1 editors’ introduction English Kant Interpretation from Caird to Wood Chris L. Firestone In the two centuries since Kant’s death, the interpretation and reception of his philosophy of religion have been characterized by two very different tendencies. According to Gordon Michalson, one tendency in reading and appropriating Kant is theologically affirmative, ‘‘veering off in the direction of constructive theological efforts to accommodate Christian faith and critical thinking.’’1 Interpretations of this kind understand Kant’s philosophy to be both chastening and supportive of traditional forms of religion and theology. The other tendency portrays Kant as advocating the ‘‘abandonment of theism.’’ Interpretations of this kind understand Kant’s philosophy and its influence on theology to be primarily negative. This interpretation, when adopted by theists such as Michalson, argues that Kant’s ‘‘efforts to ameliorate the theologically destructive effects of the Critique of Pure Reason implicitly make things worse for Christian theism, not better.’’2 Throughout this book, interpretations of Kant’s philosophy that have the tendency to be theologically negative will be called ‘‘traditional.’’ Theologically negative interpretations of Kant either undermine in a fundamental way all conceivable theological efforts to stake a reasonable claim regarding the nature of God and of God’s relationship to the world, or seek to reinterpret all such talk about God in terms of theological nonrealism or deism. Referring to the ‘‘traditional interpretation’’ of Kant’s philosophy within these parameters is now common parlance in the field of Kant studies, just as it is in the broader philosophical academy. We will stake this book’s first counterclaim to this position by arguing throughout the Introduction that theologically affirmative understandings of Kant’s philosophy have just as much grounding in Englishspeaking Kant reception as do the so-called ‘‘traditional interpretations.’’ We will also explain, at least in part, why the many theologically affirmative interpretations of Kant have not been as effective as the data warrant in mounting an effective challenge to the traditional read. In short, we will show that they are not as unified as the traditional interpretation. Because of their diversity of argumentation, they seem less pervasive, and because of their relative isolation , they have been less persuasive. Kant and the New Philosophy of Religion 2 Before we take a brief survey of the history of Kant interpretation as it pertains to his philosophy of religion, it will be worthwhile to take a closer look at the seminal features of the traditional interpretation. Nicholas Wolterstorff identifies the traditional interpretation of Kant under two motifs.3 They are the metaphor of a boundary and the reduction of religion to morality. Henry Allison adds an additional component, namely, the two-world rendering of Kant’s theoretical philosophy. We will have more to say about this view momentarily . As for the metaphor of a boundary, it goes something like this: some things, the ding an sich, freedom, God, the soul, are noumenal, and some things, particular manifestations of apple pie and hippopotami, are phenomenal . With the possible exception of freedom, the noumenal realm is made up of things that can’t be known, and the phenomenal realm is made up of things that can be known. There is a strict separation or boundary between these realms. Our knowledge about the world is bound by the categories of the mind, making possible only the knowledge of phenomena (appearances). There are, for the traditionalist, no coherent and acceptable ways of thinking of or speaking about God. God-thought and God-talk, couched in terms that come from our knowledge of the phenomenal realm, are strictly prohibited. If they have any ground in reason whatsoever, it comes from our desire to be moral or to understand morality. Theoretically speaking, we can only speculate about God. We can never be said to refer to God in our thought or speech. The metaphor of a boundary goes hand in hand with what Henry Allison calls the ‘‘two-world’’ reading of Kant’s theoretical philosophy. On this view, ‘‘Kant’s transcendental idealism is a metaphysical theory that affirms the unknowability of the ‘real’ (things in themselves) and relegates knowledge to the purely subjective realm of representations (appearances).’’4 Kant’s philosophy under the two-world reading recognizes a sharp ontological distinction between the phenomenal and noumenal worlds. Things in the noumenal world ‘‘affect’’ how we perceive the world of phenomena. Nevertheless, they cannot ‘‘as they are in that world’’ manifest themselves nor be known in any...


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