The Early Development of Kant’s Practical Notion of Belief

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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In the first Critique, Kant famously holds a novel practical notion of Belief (Glauben) as assent justified not by evidence but by practical considerations. This paper examines the early development of Kant’s practical notion of Belief prior to the first Critique. It aims to make clear what prompted Kant to develop this notion in the first place, and how this notion came to assume its crucial role in Kant’s critical system. This development, I argue, has two main steps. The first is his introduction of a practical notion of Belief in mid-to-late 1760s. I argue that he did so because he regards this notion as a useful tool to get ordinary people to justifiably commit to the existence of God and an after-life. The second step is Kant’s abandonment of the objective validity of his logical proof of God around 1772. This step elevated Belief from a merely useful means to the only justified way to commit to the existence of God and an after-life. This second step, I argue, is closely connected to Kant’s pivot to the view that the objective validity of concepts requires sensibly given objects, and it is motivated by Kant’s concern with subject-cancelling real repugnance.

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Kuizhi Lewis Wang
Boston University


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