Rational Hope, Possibility, and Divine Action

In Gordon E. Michalson (ed.), Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason: A Critical Guide. Cambridge University Press. pp. 98-117 (2014)
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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).

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Andrew Chignell
Princeton University


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