Kant’s Ethics of Grace: Perspectival Solutions to the Moral Difficulties with Divine Assistance

Journal of Religion 90:530-553 (2010)
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Kant’s theory of religion has often been portrayed as leaving no room for grace. Even recent interpreters seeking to affirm Kantian religion find his appeal to grace unconvincing, because they assume the relevant section of Religion (Second Piece, Section One, Subsection C) is an attempt to construct a theology of divine assistance. Yet Kant’s goal in attempting to solve the three "difficulties" with belief in grace is to defend an ethics of grace – i.e., an account of how someone can believe in grace without succumbing to the tendency to become morally lazy. After introducing the three difficulties and offering a perspectival interpretation of how Kant intends to solve each one, this paper interprets Kant’s phenomenon-noumenon distinction in a way that clarifies how his solutions to these difficulties all focus on the believer’s ethical state, not on transcendent theological constructions.

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Stephen R. Palmquist
Hong Kong Baptist University


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