How does Kant support God’s existence? Essay
How does Kant support God’s existence?
Immanuel Kant feels that no-one, human or otherwise, can “know” that God exists. This is due to various flaws and necessities for humanity. For one, when we cannot have an a posteriori proof for God’s existence due to the fact that it is completely dependent on our personal experience of the world and, therefore, our senses. This is not to be relied upon as we can never see the world for what it really is; only what it appears to us. Kant names the real world, the world we cannot see, the Noumenal World. The world which we perceive through our senses is known to him as the Phenomenal World. The Phenomenal World is the way it is as we cannot help but see the world in a spatio-temporal state of mind, as we are spatio-temporal beings ourselves.
The Noumenal World is inexperienceable to us because it really is completely unknowable. Therefore, we cannot know God’s existence as we cannot make correct a posteriori arguments for it, due to our biased and incorrect perception of the world around us. However, Kant also feels that God must always remain a “necessary postulate of practical reason”. This means that although we cannot, in any way, prove God’s existence, the world will only ever make sense if we postulate, or assume, that God exists. Kant also felt that God’s existence is beyond the experience of our five senses, and so we cannot ever know that He exists through either our senses and, through them, our mind. It is amongst these principles that Kant’s “moral” argument for the existence of God is based.
Kant’s argument for the existence of God is as follows: firstly, it must be understood that the aim of all morality is the “Summum Bonum”, or the highest good. This highest good is both moral perfection and perfect happiness. For the Summum Bonum to be achieved, these must both be present, as one cannot be without the other. Morality, a universal concept, demands of us that we must aim for this Summum Bonum. We must all strive to be perfectly good, attain moral perfection and the perfect happiness. However, we cannot possibly achieve this ultimate good. This is due to the fact that we are flawed, weak and contingent beings, prone to mistakes and filled with imperfections. Although we may be able to strive towards virtue in our thought and conduct, we cannot achieve true happiness along with it to ensure perfection. We cannot achieve what we deserve for our efforts because we are not omnipotent.
Therefore, we cannot hope to achieve this Summum Bonum. However, in Kant’s point of view, “ought implies can”. This means that if we are obliged to achieve the Summum Bonum, or highest good, then it must mean that it is achievable. Kant says it is “a necessity connected with duty as a requisite to presuppose the possibility of this highest good”. This means that because we are required by our sense of duty to try to bring about the Highest Good, it must, therefore, be a possibility; it must be attainable. However, this poses a natural contradiction: we cannot possibly hope to do something, and yet we are expected to do it, because we can. This means that we cannot achieve this ultimate good alone, but we must have outside help, from an external and omnipotent agency, or God. We also have an unlimited time to achieve this good in, immortality, which gives way to a definite afterlife. “Therefore”, Kant concludes, “it is morally necessary to assume the existence of God”.
In this argument, there are two major assumptions upon which the argument rests upon. These are that, firstly, there is an absolute moral order within the world. This is shown to us through both the Bible and Church teachings. Another of the major assumptions is that we, humanity as a whole, are responsible to some transcendent self, in our unconsciousness. This means that we do not feel guilt, do to morality, to our superior, equals or inferiors in society. Rather, all our guilt is towards God. We all account towards him.
Therefore, although Kant feels that we cannot possibly prove God’s existence, he feels that His existence must be a necessary postulate for the world to make sense. He, therefore, doesn’t necessarily make sense of God’s existence and support it using his moral argument, but, instead, he uses it to make sense of, and support, morality and why it exists. He had no intention of ever arguing towards the existence of God. Instead he vehemently opposed it, using our senses as our drawback in our arguments.
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