The “ ethics of belief” refers to a cluster of questions at the intersection of epistemology, philosophy of mind, psychology, and ethics. The central question in the debate is whether there are norms of some sort governing our habits of belief formation, belief maintenance, and belief relinquishment. Is it ever or always morally wrong to hold a belief on insufficient evidence? Is it ever or always morally right to believe on the basis of sufficient evidence, or to withhold belief in (...) the perceived absence of it? Is it ever or always obligatory to seek out all available epistemic evidence for a belief? Are there some ways of obtaining evidence that are themselves immoral or imprudent? -/-. (shrink)
Most work in Kant’s epistemology focuses on what happens “upstream” from experience, prior to the formation of conscious propositional attitudes. By contrast, this essay focuses on what happens "downstream": the formation of assent (Fuerwahrhalten) in its various modes. The mode of assent that Kant calls "Belief" (Glaube) is the main topic: not only moral Belief but also "pragmatic" and "doctrinal" Belief as well. I argue that Kant’s discussion shows that we should reject standard accounts of the extent to which theoretical (...) reason can provide justified assent about things-in-themselves, in favor of one that is much more liberal. Interpretive benefits are not the only results of the discussion, however. I also hope it will become clear along the way that there is such a thing as Kantian Belief, and that we often have quite a lot of it. -/- . (shrink)
Most elpistologists now agree that hope for a specific outcome involves more than just desire plus the presupposition that the outcome is possible. This paper argues that the additional element of hope is a disposition to focus on the desired outcome in a certain way. I first survey the debate about the nature of hope in the recent literature, offer objections to some important competing accounts, and describe and defend the view that hope involves a kind of focus or attention. (...) I then suggest that this account makes sense of the intuitive thought that there are moral and pragmatic norms on hope that go beyond the norms on desires and modal presuppositions. I conclude by considering some key questions. (shrink)
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. -/- . (shrink)
Commentators typically neglect the distinct nature and role of hope in Kant’s system, and simply lump it together with the sort of Belief that arises from the moral proof. Kant himself is not entirely innocent of the conﬂation. Here I argue, however, that from a conceptual as well as a textual point of view, hope should be regarded as a different kind of attitude. It is an attitude that we can rationally adopt toward some of the doctrines that are not (...) able to be proved from within the bounds of mere reason – either theoretical or practical. This does not mean that hope is unconstrained; there are rational limits, as we shall see. In fact one of my central claims here is that a crucial difference between knowledge, rational Belief, and rational hope is that they are governed by different modal constraints; section II discusses those constraints and the kind of modality involved. In section III, I return to Religion and offer what I take to be Kant’s account of the main objects of rational hope in that text – namely, “alleged outer experiences (miracles)”;a “supposed inner experience(effect of grace)”;and a future collective experience (the construction of a truly ethical society). (shrink)
An essay on Kant's theory of justification, where by “justification” is meant the evaluative concept that specifies conditions under which a propositional attitude is rationally acceptable with a moderate-to-high degree of confidence. Kant employs both epistemic and non-epistemic concepts of justification: an epistemic concept of justification sets out conditions under which a propositional attitude is rationally acceptable with a moderate-to-high degree of confidence and a candidate (if true and Gettier-immune) for knowledge. A non-epistemic concept of justification, by contrast, sets out (...) conditions under which attitudes are rationally acceptable with a moderate-to-high degree of confidence but not candidates for knowledge (even if true). The latter conditions will typically be “pragmatic” or “practical,” and thus license acceptance from a “practical” point of view. For Kant, only broadly-speaking practical reasons can provide adequate motivation for adopting a positive attitude towards a proposition (rather than suspending judgment) in the absence of sufficient epistemic grounds. -/- . (shrink)
This paper considers Kant's views on how it can be rational to hope for God's assistance in becoming morally good. If I am fully responsible for making myself good and can make myself good, then my moral condition depends entirely on me. However, if my moral condition depends entirely on me, then it cannot depend on God, and it is therefore impossible for God to provide me with any assistance. But if it is impossible for God to provide me with (...) any assistance, it is irrational for me to hope for such assistance. I address this conundrum by providing an analysis of one necessary condition of rational hope: hope is rational only if the subject is not in a position to be certain that p is really impossible. I then offer several different strategies on which it might be rational to hope that God provides moral assistance, with the most radical of these strategies suggesting that, given our ignorance of the laws of the intelligible world, for all human beings know it is metaphysically possible that God perform a noumenal miracle on their moral character. -/- . (shrink)
In the first part of the paper I reconstruct Kant’s proof of the existence of a ‘most real being’ while also highlighting the theory of modality that motivates Kant’s departure from Leibniz’s version of the proof. I go on to argue that it is precisely this departure that makes the being that falls out of the pre-critical proof look more like Spinoza’s extended natura naturans than an independent, personal creator-God. In the critical period, Kant seems to think that transcendental idealism (...) allows him to avoid this conclusion, but in the last section of the paper I argue that there is still one important version of the Spinozistic threat that remains. -/- . (shrink)
My goal in this paper is to show that Kant’s prohibition on certain kinds of knowledge of things-in-themselves is motivated less by his anti-soporific encounter with Hume than by his new view of the distinction between “real” and “logical” modality, a view that developed out of his reflection on the rationalist tradition in which he was trained. In brief: at some point in the 1770’s, Kant came to hold that a necessary condition on knowing a proposition is that one be (...) able to prove that all the items it refers to are either really possible or really impossible. Most propositions about things-in-themselves, in turns out, cannot meet this condition. I conclude by suggesting that the best interpretation of this modal condition is as a kind of coherentist constraint. (shrink)
For Kant, the form of a subject's experience of an object provides the normative basis for an aesthetic judgement about it. In other words, if the subject's experience of an object has certain structural properties, then Kant thinks she can legitimately judge that the object is beautiful - and that it is beautiful for everyone. My goal in this paper is to provide a new account of how this 'subjective universalism' is supposed to work. In doing so, I appeal to (...) Kant's notions of an aesthetic idea and an aesthetic attribute, and the connection that Kant makes between an object's expression of rational and the normativity of aesthetic judgements about it. -/- . (shrink)
Everyone is talking about food. Chefs are celebrities. "Locavore" and "freegan" have earned spots in the dictionary. Popular books and films about food production and consumption are exposing the unintended consequences of the standard American diet. Questions about the principles and values that ought to guide decisions about dinner have become urgent for moral, ecological, and health-related reasons. In _Philosophy Comes to Dinner_, twelve philosophers—some leading voices, some inspiring new ones—join the conversation, and consider issues ranging from the sustainability of (...) modern agriculture, to consumer complicity in animal exploitation, to the pros and cons of alternative diets. (shrink)
Religious dietary practices foster a sense of communal identity, certainly, but traditionally they are also regarded as pleasing to God (or the gods, or the ancestors) and spiritually beneficial. In other words, for many religious people, the effects of fasting go well beyond what is immediately observed or empirically measurable, and that is a large part of what motivates participation in the practice. The goal of this chapter is to develop that religious way of thinking into a response to a (...) motivational problem that arises from our awareness of the insensitivity of contemporary food supply chains. If someone can have faith, or at least tenacious hope, that the significance of her food choices goes well beyond what is immediately observed or empirically measurable, then she may be less demoralized by the apparent inefficacy of those choices. The chapter concludes by considering a way in which this broadly religious way of thinking might be available to secular people as well. (shrink)
In the ‘Refutation of Idealism’ chapter of the first Critique, Kant argues that the conditions required for having certain kinds of mental episodes are sufficient to guarantee that there are ‘objects in space’ outside us. A perennially influential way of reading this compressed argument is as a kind of causal inference: in order for us to make justified judgements about the order of our inner states, those states must be caused by the successive states of objects in space outside us. (...) Here I consider the best recent versions of this reading, and argue that each suffers from apparently fatal flaws. -/- . (shrink)
Kant says that it can be rational to accept propositions on the basis of non-epistemic or broadly practical considerations, even if those propositions include “transcendental ideas” of supersensible objects. He also worries, however, about how such ideas (of freedom, the soul, noumenal grounds, God, the kingdom of ends, and things-in-themselves generally) acquire genuine positive content in the absence of an appropriate connection to intuitional experience. How can we be sure that the ideas are not empty “thought-entities (Gedankendinge)”—that is, speculative fancies (...) that do not and perhaps even cannot have referents in reality? In this paper I argue for an account of the fundamental problem here (i.e. that it is based in a concern about whether or not the objects of such ideas are "really possible" in Kant's technical sense). I then critically evaluate Kant's three proposed solutions to the problem. The third one involves an appeal to the complicated doctrine of "symbolization" that becomes prominent in Kant's later works. -/- . (shrink)
Kant holds that in order to have knowledge of an object, a subject must be able to “prove” that the object is really possible—i.e., prove that there is neither logical inconsistency nor “real repugnance” between its properties. This is (usually) easy to do with respect to empirical objects, but (usually) impossible to do with respect to particular things-in-themselves. In the first section of the paper I argue that an important predecessor of Kant’s account of our ignorance of real possibility can (...) be found in Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In the middle sections I discuss the way in which our inability to prove the real possibility of things-in-themselves motivates Kant’s famous prohibition on certain kinds of knowledge-claims about them. In the final section I examine Hegel’s attempts to dissolve this problem of real repugnance and thereby remove an inherited obstacle to speculative knowledge of the supersensible. -/- . (shrink)
I examine Kant's claim that a relation of symbolization links judgments of beauty and judgments of ‘systematicity’ in nature (that is, judgments concerning the ordering of natural forms under hierarchies of laws). My aim is to show that the symbolic relation between the two is, for Kant, much closer than many commentators think: it is not only the form but also the objects of some of our judgments of taste that symbolize the systematicity of nature. -/- .
I reply to recent criticisms by Uygar Abaci and Peter Yong, among others, of my reading of Kant's pre-Critical of God's existence, and of its fate in the Critical period. Along the way I discuss some implications of this debate for our understanding of Kant's modal metaphysics and modal epistemology generally.
Causal refutations of external-world scepticism start from our ability to make justified judgements about the order of our own experiences, and end with the claim that there must be perceptible external objects, some of whose states can be causally correlated with that order. In a recent paper, I made a series of objections to this broadly Kantian anti-sceptical strategy. Georges Dicker has provided substantive replies on behalf of a version of the causal refutation of idealism. Here I offer a few (...) final remarks about issues at the heart of our disagreement. -/- . (shrink)
A discussion of the relationship between religion and belief, in the context of an engagement with J.L. Schellenberg's recent "Prolegomena." I suggest that there may be an authentic way of being "religious" without having full-blown religious belief. -/- .
In this paper I explore Kant’s critical discussions of the topic of miracles (including the important but neglected fragment from the 1780s called “On Miracles”) in an effort to answer the question in the title. Along the way I discuss some of the different kinds of “laws” in Kant’s system, and also the argument for his claim that, even if empirical miracles do occur, we will never be in a good position to identify instances of them. I conclude with some (...) tentative remarks about the notorious suggestion that intelligible ﬁnite agents, too, might have some sort of inﬂuence over the laws of nature. The goal throughout is to show that exploring Kant’s answer to a traditional question in philosophical theology can deepen our understanding of his metaphysics and epistemology of nature generally. (shrink)
This chapter discusses Kant's 1763 "possibility proof" for the existence of God. I first provide a reconstruction of the proof in its two stages, and then revisit my earlier argument according to which the being the proof delivers threatens to be a Spinozistic-panentheistic God—a being whose properties include the entire spatio-temporal universe—rather than the traditional, ontologically distinct God of biblical monotheism. I go on to evaluate some recent alternative readings that have sought to avoid this result by arguing that the (...) relevant facts about real modality can be ultimately grounded in God’s powers or thoughts – or that Kant just leaves the grounding relations mysterious. I argue that the textual and philosophical costs of each of these alternative readings are formidable. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the fate of the proof in the critical period. Some commentators think that it disappears altogether, or that it is downgraded such that it produces a mere regulative idea of God as the most real being. I suggest that the proof survives but that the mode of assent it licenses towards its conclusion changes from knowledge to a certain kind of Belief (Glaube). (shrink)
In this article I discuss the moral-coherence reading of Kant’s moral argument offered by Allen Wood in his recent book _Kant and Religion_, display some of the challenges that it faces and suggest that a moral-psychological formulation is preferable.
Eric Watkins and Marcus Willaschek provide a valuable service to people working on Kant’s epistemology and philosophy of mind by laying out a synoptic picture of Kant’s view of theoretical cognition. Their picture incorporates admirably clear accounts of the familiar building blocks of cognition—sensation, intuition, concept, and judgment—as well as some innovative interpretive theses of their own. Watkins and Willaschek’s basic claim is that, for Kant, theoretical cognition is “a mental state [or “representation”] that determines a given object by attributing (...) general features to it”. So Watkins and Willaschek view Kantian cognition fundamentally as a mental state of... (shrink)
After providing a brief overview of Marcus Willaschek's Kant on the Sources of Metaphysics, I critically reconstruct his account of ‘transcendental realism’ and the role that it plays in the dramatic narrative of the Critique of Pure Reason. I then lay out in detail how Willaschek generates and evaluates various versions of transcendental realism and raise some concerns about each. Next, I look at precisely how Willaschek's Kant thinks we can avoid applying the ‘supreme’ dialectical principle to the domain of (...) appearances. Finally, I call into question Willaschek's efforts to appropriate the lessons of the Transcendental Dialectic without following Kant into transcendental idealism. (shrink)
I briefly describe the unusually contentious author-meets-critics session that was the origin of the book symposium below. I then try to situate the present symposium within broader contemporary scholarship on Kant. -/- .
Philosophy of religion in the Anglo-American tradition experienced a 'rebirth' following the 1955 publication of New Essays in Philosophical Theology (eds. Antony Flew and Alisdair MacIntyre). Fifty years later, this volume of New Essays offers a sampling of the best work in what is now a very active field, written by some of its most prominent members. A substantial introduction sketches the developments of the last half-century, while also describing the 'ethics of belief' debate in epistemology and showing how it (...) connects to explicitly religious concerns and to the topics of the individual contributions. The book is a Festschrift for Nicholas P. Wolterstorff, edited by two of his former students. (shrink)
In this chapter I highlight the apparent tensions between Kant’s very stringent critique of metaphysical speculation in the “Discipline of Pure Reason” chapter and his endorsement of Belief (Glaube) and hope (Hoffnung) regarding metaphysical theses in the subsequent “Canon of Pure Reason.” In the process I will examine his distinction between the theoretical and the practical bases for holding a “theoretical” conclusion (i.e. a conclusion about “what exists” rather than “what ought to be”) and argue that the position is subtle (...) but coherent. In the second part of the paper I focus on Kant’s account of rational hope in the Doctrine of Method: its nature, scope, conditions, and role in the philosophy of religion generally. (shrink)
Kant seems to think of our own mental states or representations as the primary objects of inner sense. But does he think that these states also inhere in something? And, if so, is that something an empirical substance that is also cognized in inner sense? This chapter provides textual and philosophical grounds for thinking that, although Kant may agree with Hume that the self is not ‘given’ in inner sense exactly, he does think of the self as cognized through inner (...) sense. It is also argued that he both does and ought to regard this self as an empirical substance in which our changing representations inhere. In the second part of the chapter it is suggested that this poses a significant problem for most of the leading interpretations of Kant’s anti-sceptical argument in the Refutation of Idealism. (shrink)
The problem of infant suffering and death is often regarded as one of the more difficult versions of the problem of evil (see Ivan Karamazov), especially when one considers how God can be thought good to infant victims by the infant victims. In the first section of this paper, I examine two recent theodicies that aim to solve this problem but (I argue) fail. In the second section, I suggest that the only viable approach to the problem rejects the idea (...) that the suffering of such unfortunates must be defeated by some greater good. -/- . (shrink)
This critical notice highlights the important contributions that Eric Watkins's writings have made to our understanding of theories about causation developed in eighteenth-century German philosophy and by Kant in particular. Watkins provides a convincing argument that central to Kant's theory of causation is the notion of a real ground or causal power that is non-Humean (since it doesn't reduce to regularities or counterfactual dependencies among events or states) and non-Leibnizean because it doesn't reduce to logical or conceptual relations. However, we (...) raise questions about Watkins's more specific claims that Kant completely rejects a model on which the first relatum of a phenomenal causal relation is an event and that he maintains that real grounds are metaphysically and not just epistemically indeterminate. -/- . (shrink)
Descartes's lack of clarity about the causal connections between brain states and mental states has led many commentators to conclude that he has no coherent account of body-mind relations in sensation, or that he was simply confused about the issue. In this paper I develop what I take to be a coherent account that was available to Descartes, and argue that there are both textual and systematic reasons to think that it was his considered view. The account has brain states (...) serving as occasions for the mind to produce in itself the sensations that it takes these brain states to signify. The relation between body and mind on this model is thus neither a standard efficient-causal relation, nor an occasionalist one, but rather a semantic-causal relation (i.e. a non-standard efficient causal relation that goes by way of natural signification). At the end of the paper I argue that the model does not undermine Descartes' commitment to the self-transparency of the mind. -/- . (shrink)
For Kant, knowledge involves certainty. If “certainty” requires that the grounds for a given propositional attitude guarantee its truth, then this is an infallibilist view of epistemic justification. Such a view says you can’t have epistemic justification for an attitude unless the attitude is also true. Here I want to defend an alternative fallibilist interpretation. Even if a subject has grounds that would be sufficient for knowledge if the proposition were true, the proposition might not be true. And so there (...) is sometimes still rational room for doubt. The goal of this paper is to present four different models of what “certainty” amounts to, for Kant, each of which is compatible with fallibilism. (shrink)
In this paper we look at a few of the most prominent ways of articulating Kant’s critical argument for Noumenal Ignorance — i.e., the claim that we cannot cognize or have knowledge of any substantive, synthetic truths about things-in-themselves — and then provide two different accounts of our own.
This loosely-argued manifesto contains some suggestions regarding what the philosophy of religion might become in the 21st century. It was written for a brainstorming workshop over a decade ago, and some of the recommendations and predictions it contains have already been partly actualized (that’s why it is now a bit "untimely"). The goal is to sketch three aspects of a salutary “liturgical turn” in philosophy of religion. (Note: “liturgy” here refers very broadly to communal religious service and experience generally, not (...) anything specifically “high church.”) The first involves the attitudes that characterize what I call the “liturgical stance" towards various doctrines. The second focuses on the “vested” propositional objects of those attitudes. The third looks at how those doctrines are represented, evoked, and embodied in liturgical contexts. My untimely rallying-cry is that younger philosophers of religion might do well to set aside debates regarding knowledge and justified belief, just as their elders set aside debates regarding religious language. When we set aside knowledge in this way, we make room for discussions of faith that in turn shed light on neglected but philosophically-interesting aspects of lived religious practice. (shrink)
The early modern period (roughly, 1600–1800 ce) in Europe brought tremendous changes in intellectual, political, and cultural life. It was a period in which philosophical debates were inevitably bound up with questions about the nature and sources of religious truth. A chronological examination of some of the period’s major thinkers highlights two issues that were central to the development of philosophy of religion in the period. The first concerns the relations between God, the soul, and the body; the other concerns (...) the relationship between human reason and divine revelation. (shrink)
Leibniz and Kant were heirs of a biblical theistic tradition which viewed miraculous activity in the world as both possible and actual. But both were also deep explanatory rationalists about the natural world: more committed than your average philosophical theologian to its thoroughgoing intelligibility. These dual sympathies—supernaturalist religion and empirical rationalism—generate a powerful tension across both philosophers’ systems, one that is most palpable in their accounts of empirical miracles—that is, events in nature that violate one or more of the natural (...) laws. The primary goal of this chapter is to exhibit their respective efforts to resolve this tension, and to show how Kant’s noumenal ignorance doctrine allows him to set aside some key difficulties that Leibniz’s model leaves unresolved. The chapter concludes with the unorthodox suggestion that both systems leave conceptual space for the idea that finite free beings, rather than just God, can produce empirical miracles. (shrink)
Mark Johnston’s book, Saving God (Princeton University Press, 2010) has two main goals, one negative and the other positive: (1) to eliminate the gods of the major Western monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) as candidates for the role of “the Highest One”; (2) to introduce the real Highest One, a panentheistic deity worthy of devotion and capable of extending to us the grace needed to transform us from inwardly-turned sinners to practitioners of agape. In this review, we argue that Johnston’s (...) attack on traditional forms of monotheism has less force than his criticism of the “undergraduate atheists” (e.g., Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins); and that his candidate for Highest One is not the greatest possible being, and so could not play the role Johnston casts for it. -/- . (shrink)