Volume 17, Issue 4, October 2000
Kant's Philosophy of Religion
Religion, Ethical Community and the Struggle Against Evil
This paper deals with the motivation behind Kant’s conception of “religion” as “the recognition of all our duties as divine commands”. It argues that in order to understand this motivation, we must grasp Kant’s conception of radical evil as social in origin, and the response to it as equally social - the creation of a voluntary, universal “ethical community”. Kant's historical model for this community is a religious community (especially the Christian church), though Kant regards traditional churches or religious communities as suitable to their moral vocation only if they undergo Enlightenment reform. The paper concludes with a plea for the Enlightenment view of religion, and an indictment of the common failure to understand it correctly.