The Relation between God and the World in the Pre-Critical Kant: Was Kant a Spinozist?

Kantian Review 21 (2):185-210 (2016)
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Abstract
Andrew Chignell and Omri Boehm have recently argued that Kant’s pre-Critical proof for the existence of God entails a Spinozistic conception of God and hence substance monism. The basis for this reading is the assumption common in the literature that God grounds possibilities by exemplifying them. In this article I take issue with this assumption and argue for an alternative Leibnizian reading, according to which possibilities are grounded in essences united in God’s mind (later also described as Platonic ideas intuited by God). I show that this view about the distinction between God’s cognition of essences as the ground of possibility and the actual world is not only explicitly stated by Kant, but is also consistent with his metaphysical picture of teleology in nature and causality during the pre-Critical period. Finally, I suggest that the distinction between the conceptual order of essences embodied in the idea of God and the order of the objects of experience plays a role in the transition into the Critical system, where it is transformed into the distinction between the intelligible and the sensible worlds.
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