Kant and Existentialism: Inescapable Freedom and Self-Deception

In Jonathan Stewart (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of German Idealism and Existentialism (Palgrave Handbooks in German Idealism). Basingstoke, UK: pp. 51-75 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Kant’s critical philosophy represents a rudimentary existentialism, or a proto-existentialism, in the following respects: He emphasizes human finitude, limits our knowledge, and argues that human consciousness is characterized by mineness (Jemeinigkeit). He introduces the influential concept of autonomy, something that lead to controversies about constructivism and anti-realism in meta-ethics and anticipated problems concerning decisionism in Existentialism. Kant makes human freedom the central philosophical issue, arguing (in the incorporation thesis) that freedom is inescapable for human agents. He even holds that awareness of freedom leads to anxiety (as opposed to fear), and that anxiety precedes the fall into evil. In the doctrine of radical evil, he argues that human agents are always already suffering from self-deception because of this fall. In order to overcome self-deception and evil, Kant proscribes a radical self-choice in which the agent takes over himself and society by thinking independently and consistently. However, this is not only a moral issue for Kant but also something that concerns religious faith and hope, since Kant argues that we need religion to overcome not only moral evil but also despair. Although he criticizes traditional natural theology, Kant develops a practical (moral) interpretation of religion that anticipates religious Existentialism. In this context, he developed an influential critique of philosophical theodicies and a notion of the hiddenness of God that emphasizes the importance and inscrutability of evil. By doing this, and by introducing philosophy of religion and philosophical anthropology as new disciplines, Kant prepared the ground for Existentialism.

Author's Profile


Added to PP

167 (#78,725)

6 months
92 (#51,377)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?