Kant, Modality, and the Most Real Being

Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 91 (2):157-192 (2009)
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Abstract

Kant's speculative theistic proof rests on a distinction between “logical” and “real” modality that he developed very early in the pre-critical period. The only way to explain facts about real possibility, according to Kant, is to appeal to the properties of a unique, necessary, and “most real” being. Here I reconstruct the proof in its historical context, focusing on the role played by the theory of modality both in motivating the argument (in the pre-critical period) and, ultimately, in undoing it as a source of knowledge of God's existence (in the critical period). Along the way I examine Kant's version of the now-popular “actualist” thesis that facts about what is possible must be explained by facts about what is actual. I conclude by discussing why the critical Kant claims both that there are rational grounds for accepting the conclusion of his theistic proof, and that such acceptance can not count as knowledge. This is important, I argue, because the same considerations ultimately motivate his prohibition on knowledge of things-in-themselves generally.

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Andrew Chignell
Princeton University

Citations of this work

Kant on Perceptual Content.Colin McLear - 2016 - Mind 125 (497):95-144.
Leibniz and the Ground of Possibility.Samuel Newlands - 2013 - Philosophical Review 122 (2):155-187.
On the Necessity of the Categories.Anil Gomes, Andrew Stephenson & Adrian Moore - 2022 - Philosophical Review 131 (2):129–168.

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References found in this work

Does conceivability entail possibility.David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
A World of States of Affairs.D. M. Armstrong - 1997 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Truth and ontology.Trenton Merricks - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Kant's Transcendental Idealism.Henry E. Allison - 1988 - Yale University Press.
Conceivability and Possibility.Tamar Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.) - 2002 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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