Are Beliefs about God Theoretical Beliefs? Reflections on Aquinas and Kant

Religious Studies 32 (2):233 - 258 (1996)
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Abstract
The need to address our question arises from two sources, one in Kant and the other in a certain type of response to so-called Reformed epistemology. The first source consists in a tendency to distinguish theoretical beliefs from practical beliefs (commitments to the world's being a certain way versus commitments to certain pictures to live by), and to treat theistic belief as mere practical belief. We trace this tendency in Kant's corpus, and compare and contrast it with Aquinas's view and a more conservative Kantian view. We reject the theistic-belief-as-mere-practical-belief view: it is bad descriptive anthropology, it embraces a misguided ideal of a fragmented self unattainable by human beings, and it will deter people from the most desirable sort of faith. The second source consists in the idea that since theistic beliefs function as answers to why-questions, their epistemic status hangs on whether they meet certain distinctively explanatory standards, whatever support they might receive from other sources. We argue that this is a non-sequitur and suggest questions for further research.
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