Chapter 5. An “All-Unifying Church Triumphant!”
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121 Chapter 5 An “All-­Unifying Church Triumphant!” Thus I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.1 This study has encompassed Kant’s representation of mankind and the developmental paths open to human beings and humanity in the critical, political, and anthropological works of Kant. In each case the nature of the relationship between man and God has emerged as a major theme, with mankind presented as working its way toward conformity with the divine will. Kant’s aim therefore is both political in the sense that it is concerned with political reform culminating in the establishment of perpetual peace, and theological in that it revolves around the complex relationship between an entity defined by its moral insufficiency and a Creator who is determined not to interfere in the process by which human beings become worthy of entry into the community of truly rational beings. This chapter engages directly with the theological concepts that appear within Kant’s other projects and are revealed here as the essential buttresses that maintain the structural integrity of the vast cathedral constituted by Kant’s thought. In this chapter, the “deep abasement” of human nature, the defining characteristic of human beings, that which explains the persistent conflict that permeates existing political systems, is revealed to have its origins in a theological concept—­ radical evil. Yet Kant’s political theology does not leave us mired in his equivalent of original sin. Kant offers a way out of evil by means of both perceptual shifts within mankind and a reformation of human society by means of the influence of rational religion and what he sees as an essential part of cosmopolitanism : the all-­ unifying church triumphant. 122    kant’s international relations The Human Being in Kant’s Theology In the precritical piece On the Miscarriage of all Philosophical Trials in Theodicy, Kant characterizes “the propensity to falsehood and impurity” as “the principal affliction of human nature” in contrast to sincerity. Sincerity is the very basis of a good character and yet, according to Kant, it is “the property farthest removed from human nature—­ a sad comment, since all the remaining properties, to the extent that they rest on principles, can have true value only through that one.” Such is the condition of the human being as he currently understands himself that, according to Kant, “[n]one but a contemplative misanthrope (who wishes evil to nobody, yet is inclined to believe evil of all) can hesitate whether to find human beings to deserve hatred or rather contempt.” The human being deserves hatred when he does harm, but insofar as he has a propensity to evil itself, even when he does no harm he is still contemptible. This contempt is directed at the human being’s mendacity, “the impurity that lies deep in what is hidden, where the human being knows how to distort even inner declarations before his own conscience.”2 This tendency of mendacity to distort the conscience is linked to the abuse of reason for Kant, with inner evil in effect being the product of self-­ serving maxims supplanting the proper role of the moral law.3 Kant’s moral standard is particularly exacting in that “any person who does not always make the moral law their sole and supreme incentive for adopting a maxim has an evil disposition.”4 Kant expands on these themes in Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, in which he attempts to get to grips with the origin and nature of evil as an innate element of human character. Kant ascribes to human beings a “propensity” toward evil. The term propensity is important in that a “propensity can indeed be innate yet may be represented as not being such: it can rather be thought of (if it is good) as acquired, or (if evil) as brought by the human upon himself.”5 Kant insists that this evil should be viewed as a universal propensity and hence natural: “It will be noted that the propensity to evil is here established (as regards actions) in the human being, even the best; and so it also must be if it is to be proved that the propensity to evil among humans is universal, or, which here amounts to the same thing, that it is woven into human nature.”6 The human being is “only evil because he reverses the moral order of his incentives in incorporating them into his maxims,” i.e., he subordinates morality to self...