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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

American University Studies

Series V
Philosophy
Vol. 103

PETER LANG
New York San Francisco Bern Baltimore
Frankfurt am Main Berlin Wien Paris

Curtis H. Peters

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

PETER LANG
New York San Francisco Bern Baltimore
Frankfurt am Main Berlin Wien Paris

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Peters, Curtis H.
Kant's philosophy of hope/ Curtis H. Peters.
p.
cm. (American university studies. Series V, Philosophy; vol.
103)
Includes bibliographical references.
Includes indexes.
1. Hope. 2. Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804Contributions in philosophy
of hope. I. Title. II. Series.
B2799.H67P47
1993
193dc20
90-35439
ISBN 0-8204-1386-0
CIP
ISSN 0739-6392

The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of
the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the
Council on Library Resources.

Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York 1993


All rights reserved.
Reprint or reproduction, even partially, in all forms such as microfilm,
xerography, microfiche, microcard, offset strictly prohibited.
Printed in the United States of America.

TO THE MEMORY
of

ALBERT WILLIAM LEVI


a friend who personified the very best in wisdom and virtue, whose
death deprives this book of its most valued reader.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The primary inspiration and assistance for this study were offered by a distinguished philosopher, Albert William Levi. He is deserving of special credit for
his insightfulness and for his helpful critique of my work. Steven Schwarzschild
and Carl Wellman also provided generous and invaluable assistance in improving
the analysis and argumentation. Unfortunately, the world has now lost the further
contributions of Drs. Levi and Schwarzschild, and their presence will be sorely
missed.
Several librarians of Indiana University and of Indiana University Southeast
were helpful in enabling me to obtain books and articles.
I wish to thank Juli Crecelius for her very able work in preparing the manuscript, John Finnegan and Wayne Brown for their assistance on computer matters,
and the editors at Peter Lang for their general assistance in improving this work.
Noel Hutchings, a student assistant, helped with some time-consuming details.
Finally, I express my great gratitude to my wife, Pam Peters, for her patient
encouragement as well as for her very capable typing of earlier drafts and for her
work on the index.
The shortcomings of this work would have been far greater without the kind
assistance of all these people.

Copyright permissions:
Excerpts reprinted with the permission of Macmillan Publishing Company from ON
HISTORY by Immanuel Kant and edited by Lewis White Beck. Copyright 1963 by Macmillan
Publishing Company.
Excerpts from Immanuel Kant, ANTHROPOLOGY FROM A PRAGMATIC POINT OF
VIEW, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,1974. Reprinted by permission of Kluwer Academic
Publishers. All rights reserved.
Excerpts from RELIGIONS WITHIN THE LIMITS OF REASON ALONE by Immanuel
Kant. Copyright 1934 by Open Court Publishing Company. Copyright 1960 by Harper and
Brothers. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
NOTE ON REFERENCES
PREFACE

xiii
xv

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION
"Hope" in the Western Philosophical and Theological Traditions
"Hope" in the Traditions through the Eighteenth
Century
"Hope" in the Traditions of the Nineteenth and Twentieth
Centuries
Issues to be Treated in a Theory of Hope
Preliminary Comments on Kant's Theory of Hope
Purpose of this Study
Notes
CHAPTER 2. MORALITY AS THE BASIS FOR HOPE
Morality and Hope in the Critique of Pure Reason
Hope and Happiness

1
1
1
6
12
14
16
17
27
27
27

Virtue as the Sufficient and Necessary Condition


for the Hope for Happiness
Retributive Justice as the Basis for the Hope
for Happiness
The "Idea" of a Moral World
Morality and Hope in the Ethical Writings
Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

28
32
33
40
40

Critique of Practical Reason

43

Metaphysics of Morals

46

Conclusion

47

Kant's Three Arguments on the Hope for Happiness

47

Commentary

53

Remaining Difficulties

59

Notes

63

CHAPTER 3. HOPE AND RELIGION


Hope and the Nature of Kant's Philosophy of Religion

75
75

Hope and the First Attempts at Critical Philosophy


of Religion: The Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique
of Practical Reason

78

Hope and the Developed Philosophy of Religion:


Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone

79

Hope and the Highest Good Reaffirmed: the


'Preface' to the First Edition

81

Hope and a Person's Quest for Virtue: Book I

82

The Ideal of Moral Perfection: Book II

87

The Ideal of an Ethical Commonwealth: Books III and TV . . . . 92


The Opus Postumum

97

Conclusion

99

The Arguments for the Ideals of Moral Perfection


and an Ethical Commonwealth
Commentary and Remaining Difficulties
Notes

99
103
107

CHAPTER 4. HOPE AND HISTORY: WHAT MAY MANKIND


HOPE?

115

The Concept of Mankind


Hope and the Philosophy of History
The Ideal Polity

116
117
125

Conclusion
Kant's Position: Philosophy of History as an Analogue
to Individual Hope
Commentary and Criticism
Notes
CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSION

127
127
130
136
141

A General Description of Kant's Views on Hope

141

An Evaluation of Kant's Position on Hope

148

Notes

166

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

171

INDEX

185

NOTE ON REFERENCES
Quotations are from published English translations of Kant's works unless
none are available. I do not always agree with the translations and in those cases
point this out. Interpretations are based upon the German text. In the footnotes the
page reference to the Akademie edition are given in parentheses following the page
number of the English translation.
The following abbreviated forms are used in footnotes:
CPR

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman


Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965).

CPrR

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans.


Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956).

Foundations

Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of


Morals,

trans.

Lewis

White

Beck

(Indianapolis:

Bobbs-Merrill, 1959).
KGS

Immanuel Kant, Kant's Gesammelte Schriften, Akademie


Ausgabe, 28 vols. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1902- ).

Religion

Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason


Alone, trans. Th. Greene and H. G. Hudson (New York:
Harper & Row, 1960).

PREFACE
A person might legitimately wonder whether Kant really did offer a "philosophy of hope." One of the purposes of this study is to show that it was Kant's
intent to develop such a theory and that his writings do present a completed theory.
His interest in hope and his desire to answer the question, 'What may I hope?' are
relatively easy to document. Our argument that he did complete a philosophy of
hope takes the form first of outlining the issues that a complete theory would have
to address. This is done in chapter 1. Then, in chapters 2 through 5, we show
how Kant's theory speaks to each of these issues in careful and extensive terms
consistent with his critical philosophy as a whole. Indeed, his theory of hope can
be seen as an integral part of his general critical philosophy.
Chapter 1 also introduces the general argument by reviewing some of the
major philosophical and theological perspectives on hope in the Western tradition
to the present. This review is not, however, necessary to the argument of this
book, and the reader could understand Kant's theory without examining this review.
Because Kant developed portions of his philosophy of hope in various parts
of his written works, we have first addressed the features of his theory of hope
which appear in his writings on moral philosophy (chapter 2), then those features
developed in his writings on philosophy of religion (chapter 3) and finally those
presented in his works on political philosophy and philosophy of history (chapter
4).
Chapter 5 summarizes the features and claims of Kant's philosophy of hope.
It also includes a critical assessment of this philosophy as well as responses to
several of his critics.

Chapter 1
INTRODUCTION
"Hope" has been a topic of theoretical interest for several prominent Western
philosophers and theologians, and this interest has continued up to the present day.
Most recently, some theologians have developed what is referred to as the "theology
of hope," and their work has aroused widespread interest.1
One of the most extensive and profound positions on hope that has ever been
developed was created by Immanuel Kant in an age of widespread hopefulness.
Although it has not been generally recognized that Kant had a "theory of hope" or a
"philosophy of hope," this is a shortcoming which the present study is designed to
rectify.
Kant's position on this important topic cut across his moral philosophy, his
philosophy of religion, and his philosophy of history in a way that also provided a
special unity to these diverse areas.2 In this introductory chapter historical
background is provided through a survey of some of the work which other philosophers and theologians have contributed on the theme of hope. This chapter also
includes a description of the issues which a fully developed theory of hope would
have to address as well as some preliminary remarks on Kant's theory itself.
"Hope" in the Western Philosophical and Theological Traditions3
"Hope" in the Traditions through the Eighteenth Century*
Even a brief sampling of representative thinkers reveals that hope has been
described in a wide variety of ways. Some have considered it to be an emotion and
others a rational activity. Some have judged it a virtue but others a weakness or

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

handicap in mankind. Some have thought it to be a natural phenomenon and others


a special gift from God.
In the Old and New Testaments "hope" was understood primarily as reliance
and trust in God to complete God's plan for humanity. Old Testament writers used
words associated with that concept to mean searching for refuge in God, trusting
confidently in God to fulfill promises of blessing, and waiting patiently on God to
accomplish this.5 People can and should hope, because God is faithful to the promises
God has made.
The Apostle Paul meant by (hope) waiting patiently, confidently, and
joyfully for the resurrection of all believers and for the full advent of the Kingdom of
God.6 He emphasized the primary evidence for the Christian's hope-viz., Jesus'
resurrection; God's activity is itself the source and ground for hope.7 Luke and Peter
used the term to refer to their expectation of a new life in this world and of
immortality in a future realm.8
Neither Plato nor Aristotle, by contrast, associated with religion, and both
thought that hope could be detrimental. Plato understood it simply to be the
expectation of a future pleasure. He thought, in fact, that the experience of hope itself
carries with it a certain degree of pleasure.9 But he was chary of humanity's tendency
to hope. He thought one often hopes for what will not occur;10 one of a human's
foolish counselors, he commented, is "hope easily led astray."11 In several dialogues
he wrote approvingly, however, of the hope for life after death.12
Similarly, by Aristotle meant the expectation or anticipation of an
appealing future experience. He indicated that the human ability to hope parallels the
capacity to remember.13 He suggested that people are led psychologically to think that
what they hope for is particularly near at hand whereas what they fear is distant or
nonexistent.14 Aristotle, too, therefore, thought hope can mislead a person.
Philo, Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther all laid great emphasis upon the value
of hope. People's capacity to hope is one of the most important things that distinguish
them from other creatures, according to Philo. On the basis of the Septuagint version
of Genesis 4:26, he typified Enos (VJ1 ] 8, a Hebrew word meaning "man" or "human")
as the representative of hope.15 According to Philo, Enos received this name because
he placed his hope in God, and "he alone is a true man who expects good things and
rests firmly on comfortable [i.e., 'beneficial'] hopes."16 Philo called hope "the nearest

Introduction

and dearest possession of the human soul"17 and the first thing "the creator sowed in
the rich soil of the rational soul."'8 He characterized hope as a longing for good things
and as that which impels a person to important and worthy deeds; hope, he wrote, is
"the fountainhead of the lives which we lead."19 Although hope directed toward such
things as gain, glory, prizes, and happiness was valuable in his eyes since it leads
people to accomplish good things, he maintained that the highest hope is that
exemplified by Enos~"a hope and expectation of obtaining good things from the only
bountiful God."20 "No one," Philo wrote, "should be thought a man at all who does
not set his hope on God."21
Augustine, too, exalted hope that is directed toward God. He did not define a
human in terms of hope, but he did think hope is one of the three essential dimensions
in a godly lifethe others being faith and love.22 He held that Christian hope is
directed toward full bliss in the next life-bliss that will attend being in the presence
of God.23 It is this hope that enables a person to endure the sufferings of this life.24
Since its object is the happiness of a future world, it is unaffected by any indication
that life in this world is getting either better or worse.25
Thomas Aquinas placed a similar importance on religious hope. He called it
a "theological virtue" since it is central to the Christian life and since God is both its
efficient cause and its object.26 In his view all hope is directed toward happiness, but
religious hope is aimed at a supernatural happiness. The ultimate object of religious
hope is the joy of union with God.27 He distinguished hope from certain related
phenomena on the grounds that its object is good (in contrast to fear), future (as
distinct from joy), difficult (as opposed to desire), and possible (in contrast to
despair).28 Hope itself he characterized as the confident pursuit of such an object. He
thought that it can be either appetitive (even animals can have simple hopes) or
cognitive.29 Hope-religious hope in particularcan lead a person to act in accordance
with virtue and godliness.30
Luther, too, thought that spiritual hope is of the highest value, but he
emphasized its importance for helping a person to endure patiently the persecution
and tribulation of this life. "To those who believe and have God's promise," he wrote,
"this life is a wandering in which they are sustained by the hope of a future and better
life."31 He defined hope, in fact, as "spiritual courage."32 He understood Christian
hope to be directed not simply toward heavenly bliss in the sense of pleasure but more

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

toward the full experience of righteousness and forgiveness in eternity.33 Hope, he


insisted, is produced by God; it is a gift of mercy.34
In marked contrast to these religious interpretations of hope, several philosophers of the early modern period, such as Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, understood
hope in more limited, psychological terms. Hobbes thought that hope is simply the
combination of an appetite for a particular object with the opinion that the object can
be attained.35 Locke associated hope with a particular kind of pleasure:
Hope is that pleasure in the mind, which everyone finds in
himself, upon the thought of a probably future enjoyment of a thing
which is apt to delight him.36
And Hume described it as one of the passions which arises directly from the experience of pain or pleasure.37 As the explanation for this emotion, he proposed the
following:
The mind by an original instinct tends to unite itself with the
good, and to avoid the evil, tho' they be conceiv'd merely in idea, and
be consider'd as to exist in any future time.38
He described hope as the feeling which arises when a person thinks about any prospective event that appears pleasureful and that is uncertain but not impossible.39
Descartes and Spinoza also described hope in naturalistic, psychological terms,
but Spinoza viewed it as a more complex phenomenon. Descartes held that hope is
aroused when a desire for either the acquisition of a good or the removal of an evil is
accompanied by the probability that this can be accomplished.40 "Hope," Spinoza
wrote, "is nothing but unsteady joy [i.e., joy mixed with sorrow] arising from the
image of a future or past thing about whose issues we are in doubt."41 It is always
mixed to some extent with fearfear that what is hoped for will not come to pass. But
since "all things have their necessary causes, and must necessarily happen as they do
happen,"42 hope is a sign of ignorance and wrong opinion.43 The person who lives by
reason eschews hope because he or she seeks to live by knowledge and will abide no
doubt.
Although Leibniz devoted virtually no attention specifically to the concept of
hope and never attempted to define it, he did in one dialogue indicate its importance,
and he associated it closely with theodicy. He depicted Polidore, a learned man, as

Introduction

indifferent about life because he could see the imperfection in people and the falsity
of the hope for immortality. But Theophile successfully convinced him that this
world, its apparent evil and shortcomings notwithstanding, must be the best of all
worlds. As a result Polidore was freed from his indifference and despair and became
eager to engage in purposeful activities.44 Through this dialogue Leibniz suggested
that a person who despairs over the evil in this world loses hope as well as the will to
engage in meaningful pursuits. Without the confidence that everything in this world
is properly ordered by a benevolent God, there is no reason for a person to work for
good things now or to expect them in a future life.
In the eighteenth century there were a number of thinkers who, although they
did not offer analyses of the nature of hope, did present elaborate descriptions of the
goals and foundations for the hope for mankind's development in this world. The
Abbe de Saint Pierre, Anne Robert Turgot, Gotthold Lessing, and Antoine-Nicolas
de Condorcet all proposed optimistic views of humanity's future.45 Saint-Pierre
proposed several specific plans for reform in government, economics, finance, and
education (the most important being his suggestion that a union of states be formed
in which war would no longer be used to settle disputes), but underlying those
proposals was his view that humanity is making progress in knowledge and government. He held that the development of mankind parallels that of the individual and
that humanity is only now beginning to move beyond its infancy in the use of reason.
In his view the biggest obstacles to progress are wars, superstition, and jealousy
among the leaders of nations.46
Turgot supported his optimism with an analysis of mankind's peculiar talents.
He held that human ability to learn from new experiences coupled with the capacity
to transmit knowledge to succeeding generations through language virtually insure
future progress.47
Lessing proclaimed that humanity will assuredly progress. Mankind will advance particularly in virtue to the point where people will do what is right merely
because it is right. Lessing thought that a person's reason, educability, and potential
autonomy make this a certainty.48 He wrote, "No! It will come! it will assuredly
come! the time of perfecting, when men.. .will do what is right because it is right."49
De Condorcet's most important work, Sketch for a Historical Picture of the
Progress of the Human Mind, appeared in 1794~just one year after Kant's Religion

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

within the Limits of Reason Alone (the central work for his views on hope) was
published. De Condorcet indicated what his particular "hopes" were for human
development:
Our hopes for the future condition of the human race can be
subsumed under three important heads: the abolition of inequality
between nations, the progress of equality within each nation, and the true
perfection of mankind.50
De Condorcet did not think of these goals as mere dreams or wishes; he fully expected
that people would attain them since history reveals how far we have already progressed and since human rationality makes further advancement a virtual certainty.51
De Condorcet thought of hope as a confident, rational expectation that is based upon
our experience of the past and our understanding of humanity and the world. It looks
forward to goals which mankind will attain within history.
"Hope" in the Traditions of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
"Hope" has received attention in the works of many figures over the past two
centuries. The selection of people who are referred to in this section constitutes only
a sampling, but it does include key figures and diverse viewpoints.
Neither Hegel nor Marx described his system in terms of hope, and both criticized Christian hope, but they did themselves attempt to show how various forms of
development will occur. Their systems embodied a degree of optimism. According
to Hegel, the dynamic of dialectic allows the contradictions and inadequacies found
in any particular "moment" or stage in the development of consciousness to be
overcome (aufgehoben) through negation thereby making a new, more comprehensive
stage possible. Dialectic enables development and progress to occur. But although
there is a strain of hopefulness which runs throughout his system, Hegel did severely
criticize one particular type of hope-viz., Christian hope. He considered it to be one
of the forms of the "unhappy consciousness." This particular "moment" in the
development of consciousness is deeply bifurcated. Although it is a part of the
changeable, contingent world, yet it focuses upon a supposedly immutable realm, and
consequently it is divided within itself. This bifurcation can never be overcome, so
the one who hopes cannot find satisfaction. The consciousness remains opposed to
itself and is, therefore, unhappy.52

Introduction

Marx proposed that dialectical interactions in the economic sphere together


with consequent social conflicts move mankind toward new economic/social
systemsand eventually to a society without class distinctions. An adequate
understanding of the dynamics of history could support this hope for the future. But,
like Hegel, he endeavored to make his system rigorous and scientificwith no place
for dreams of fanciful projections. Thus he, too, was critical of religious hope. Such
hope reveals people's real distress and seeks to relieve it, but it presents mere illusions
about another world. A realistic, scientific approach to human problems, he thought,
requires that the false hope of religion be destroyed: "The abolition of religion as the
illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness."53
Several thinkers have grounded hope in the advances of modern science. Julian
Huxley has argued that through evolution the biological world has progressed to the
point that one of its products, humanity, can now consciously study and direct this
evolutionary process. "Our destiny," he claimed enthusiastically, "is to be the agent
of the evolutionary process on this planet, the instrument for realizing new possibilities for its future."54 He even called for a new religion based on science and
humanism to bring humanity to the full realization of its role as evolutionary agent.55
He viewed the possibilities for further evolutionary progress to be virtually unlimited
and therefore looked to the future witfi great hope.
Peirce argued that hope is actually a necessary prerequisite for the development
of science. Rational inquiry, he thought, requires the prior assumption that the human
community will move toward success in its intellectual pursuits.56 He referred to this
postulation as the "hope in the unlimited continuance of intellectual activity" and
described it as one of the three "sentiments" which are "indispensable requirements
of logic."57 In calling hope a "sentiment," he meant that it is a desire or expectation
that does not have the rational support to be either belief or knowledge.58 But the
hope for intellectual development, although not based upon rational evidence, is the
prerequisite for the use of reason in a scientific community. This hope is as much die
foundation for knowledge and science as religious hope might be for faith and
religion.
Like Peirce, Mill thought that hope could be beneficial, but he emphasized its
value for helping the individual to improve himself or herself. He associated hope
with the imagination, and he thought that me only way to judge the merit of ideas

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

which a person develops in his or her imagination (for example, thoughts about an
afterlife) is by their utility.59 Although in one essay he wrote that he thought a person
could live the richest and best of lives without hope,60 in a later writing he argued that
"the beneficial effect of such hope is far from trifling."61 It allays the despondence
that sets in when one sees,
. . .the exertions and sacrifices of life culminating in the formation of a
wise and noble mind, only to disappear from the world when the time
has just arrived at which the world seems about to begin reaping the
benefit of it. . . .The gain obtained in the increased inducement to
cultivate the improvement of character up to the end of life is obvious
without being specified.62
Although their views differ in important respects, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and
Marcel have described hope as an important dimension of being human. In two works
which Kierkegaard published under pseudonyms (Either/Or, "edited by Victor Eremita," and Repetition "by Constantine Constantius"), he seemed to hold a low opinion
of hope. The young aesthete of Either/Or, Part I, decried hope as a "faithless
shipmaster" because it dissipates one's attention and thereby keeps a person from
inventiveness and the artistic life-both of which are said to require disciplined
attention.63 Similarly, in Repetition hope is labeled "a charming maid that slips
through the fingers" and "an alluring fruit."64 It is much better to live fully in the
present than to waste one's life on daydreams. But Kierkegaard distinguished genuine
religious (Christian) hope from this idle dreaming. The truly religious person does
not simply live in or toward the future. In fact, this person's hope can only arise after
all expectations and dreams for a better future are completely dashed and discarded.
Christian hope is "hope against hope."65 It is hope in the eternal and develops only
after a person realizes fully that he or she is finite and will die; it grows out of the
deep anxiety that Kierkegaard described so fully.66 In hope one relates expectantly
to the possibility of the goodbut in the eternal rather than the future, the infinite
rather than the finite.67
Heidegger emphasized that what is important with respect to hope is not to be
found in its object. It is, rather, in what happens to a person in the act of hoping:
[Hope's] character as a mood lies primarily in hoping as hoping
for something for oneself (Fiir-sich-erhoffen). He who hopes takes

Introduction

himself with him into his hope, as it were, and brings himself up against
what he hopes for.68
Hope is one of the existential dimensions of human life which reveals our basic
temporality.
Marcel laid stress on the great value of hope. He distinguished hope from
particular wishes, desires, or dreams. He understood it to be, rather, a fundamental
metaphysical perspective:
Hope consists in asserting that there is at the heart of being,
beyond all data, beyond all inventories and calculations, a mysterious
principle which is in connivance with me, which cannot but will that
which I will, if what I will deserves to be willed and is, in fact, willed by
the whole of my being.69
Marcel thought mat hope is a basic openness to "being" and to its good future. It is
not directed toward particular finite objects or goals, and it is not a shallow
optimism.70 It is, we might say, a basic faith through which a person rejects the
temptation to despair and holds to the conviction that reality is good.71
Fromm, too, described hope as one of the intrinsic elements of the structure of
life (the others being faith and fortitude). Without hope a person begins to die.72
Hope, he wrote, stands between passive waiting and unrealistic activism:
It is like the crouched tiger, which will jump only when the
moment for jumping has come. Neither tired reformism nor
pseudo-radical adventurism is an expression of hope. To hope means to
be ready at every moment for mat which is not yet born, and yet not
become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.73
He distinguished hope from optimism on the grounds that the optimist is not really
engaged in the issues mat face mankind. But the one who hopes has "faith in man's
capacity to extricate himself from what seems the fatal web of circumstances that he
has created."74 The one who hopes takes the critical problems that confront humanity
with utmost seriousness and works zealously, rationally, and realistically for their
solution within history.75 Hope is a state of being open and committed to life and
growth.76
One might expect that other psychologists would have offered analyses of hope,

10

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

but they have generally given it little attention. Freud, Jung, and Skinner have
disregarded the phenomenon almost entirely. However, one figure, Ezra Stotland, has
attempted to develop a complete psychological theory governing hope. His proposal
differs markedly from Fromm's humanistic position. Stotland defined hope rather
rigidly as "expectation of attaining a goal" and then, using a behavioristic model, he
considered its nature and effectiveness as a motive.77 On the basis of his analysis of
a considerable amount of psychological research, he determined that increased importance of the goal and increased expectation of goal attainment leads to greater thought
and activity with regard to attaining the goal.78 It is important to note that Stotland's
methods allow one to ascribe hope to many animals other than humans.
Hermann Cohen and Martin Buber are among those who wrote of hope in terms
of mankind's development toward a better future. Both built upon concepts and ideals
from the Old Testament. According to Cohen, a Kant scholar whose views were very
much influenced by Kant's writings, hope has reached its highest development in the
monotheism and advanced ethic of Judaism, for this hope is neither egoistic nor
hedonistic. It is, rather, a commitment to the Messianic ideal of fulfillment and
salvation for all mankind within history.79 Messianic hope is directed toward a
thoroughly ethical, humanitarian ideal:
The Messianic idea offers man the consolation, confidence, and
guarantee that not merely the chosen people but all nations will, at some
future time, exist in harmony, as nature does today.80
This hope is grounded upon the "idea" of God81 (as a practical postulate in the Kantian
sense). Cohen admitted that there is a place in religion for a "hope" for life beyond
death, but he considered it to be of secondary importance, and he rejected traditional
notions of immortality. Life beyond death is really one of the "secrets of God," he
thought, and not at all central to faith the way messianic hope is.82
Buber looked to the Old Testament prophets as the great advocates of hope. He
described their hope as two-dimensional: hope for the introduction of full justice in
human relationships and hope for God's establishment of the full Kingdom of God on
earth. On these two dimensions, Buber wrote:
I believe in both in one. Only in the building of the foundation of
the former I myself take a hand, but the latter may already be there in all

Introduction

11

stillness when I awake some morning, or its storm may tear me from
sleep. And both belong together, the "turning" and the "salvation," both
belong together, God knows how, I do not need to know it. That I call
hope.83
Buber defined hope as "an outlook for a better hour" and thought that it develops in
its most potent forms in those periods of special stress when "the personal need of
each [individual] reveals the great need of man."84 Buber thought that the Nazi era
and the years when the "cold war" was at its height were such periods.85 Buber's hope
for mankind was in a completely just community in which people would live in full
cooperation and mutual respect. He pointed to the "Kvuza" or "Village Commune"
of modern Israel as the place where this is best exemplified at present. There wishful
thinking has been destroyed by harsh realities, but the openness of people to strive for
an ever more improved and responsive socialism creates "in its stead a greater hope
which is no longer emotionalism but sheer works."86 In order to help humanity as a
whole to work toward full community, he urged the powerful peoples of the world to
move away from ideology to its very opposite'-to a "Civilization of Dialogue" of
which openness, cooperation, and respect would be the marks.87
Ernst Bloch, a Marxist, was also primarily interested in the development of
mankind. In his view it is hope itself which leads a person to strive to overcome
alienation and to create a better future. A human is a being with a Utopian instinct~a
tendency to dream dreams, and therefore a person can reach beyond himself or herself
to create that which is somehow better. In his major work, Das Prinzip Hoffnung,
Bloch analyzed several forms of consciousness which embody hopefulnessfrom
seemingly trivial "little daydreams" to profound ultimate ideals, and he showed how
all of them illustrate the human drive to create the new and to attain fulfillment.88
Hope is not in vain, he argued, for the future is truly open. Everything is becoming
and includes its future possibilities.89 He was concerned that the modern human
undervalues hope and thereby stifles the primary impetus for progress. Bloch has,
therefore, issued a call to people to live in hope. "The important thing is to learn the
art of hoping," he announced at the outset of Dai Prinzip Hoffnung.90 Through hope
one can realize his or her potentiality and create a better world.91
Jrgen Moltmann, who has been an important figure in the "theology of hope"
movement, has offered a reinterpretation of Christian eschatology in the light of some

12

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

of Ernst Bloch's views. Moltmann contended that primitive Christianity was thoroughly apocalyptic and eschatalogical, and he sought to help the Church today to
reclaim a sense of urgency and hope. Christian hope yearns for the fullness of
Christ's resurrectionfor the time when the decisively new will break into the present.
It is not unrealistic, he argued, for it provides the only way to take seriously the
possibilities of the present.92 The future is included in the reality of God, and the
Christ-event is an anticipation of the full experience of God that awaits the Christian.93
Moltmann proposed that the world be viewed as pregnant with possibility for wholeness and full life. Accordingly, he has been an advocate of political and social
change, but he has not reduced hope to the striving for such changes in this world.94
Issues to be Treated in a Theory of Hope
The preceding sketch reveals a number of questions which are associated with
the concept of hope. The various interpretations of the range of phenomena which
have been referred to under the word "hope" deal with one or more of the following
questions: (1) What is the basic nature of hope? (2) What are the preconditions for
hope? (3) What justifies hope? (4) What is the content or object of hope? (5) What
is the function or purpose of hope? (6) What is the identity of the one who hopes?
These emerge as the questions which it is important for a developed theory of hope
to answer.
1. 'What is the basic nature of hope?' There has been an obvious divergence
of opinion on hope's general character. It has been described, for example, as a
feeling, as a rational expectation, as a supernatural virtue, and as a form of
imagination. The interpretations differ so widely that this question emerges as one
of the most important to be addressed in a tiieory of hope.
One of the most important aspects of this question concerns die degree to which
hope is rational. Plato, Aristotle, de Condorcet, and Peirce, for example, associated
hope far more closely with reason than did such thinkers as Hume, Spinoza, Mill, or
Kierkegaard. The degree to which hope is or is not rational affects the answers to
other questions regarding hope--e.g., 'What justifies hope?'
2. ' What are the preconditions for hopeT The type of hope of which Luther

Introduction

13

among others wrote required faith as a prerequisite. For Hobbes hope can only arise
if a person feels an attraction for something. Leibniz implied that hope presupposes
the adoption of a theodicy. There is an important distinction which is relevant to the
question of hope's preconditionsviz., between the capability to hope and the right
to the same. Some conditions might have to be fulfilled before a person is able to
hope. For example, a person might be incapable of holding religious hope without a
prior experience of faith. But preconditions might also be required before a person
is entitled to hope. Thus it might be suggested that a person must show love before
he or she has the right to hope for eternal bliss. A theory of hope should show what,
if any, preconditions there are for hope.
3. 'What justifies hopeT The question must first be asked whether hope can
ever be justified. If hope is associated with error, as Spinoza, for example, claimed,
or if it raises a person's expectations unrealistically, then hope might be something
to guard against.
If hope is at least partly rational, then the adequacy of specific reasons and
evidence would be relevant to its possible justification in particular cases. This raises
further questions about what would constitute adequate reasons and evidence as well
as whether a person must be satisfied with slender rational support and consequent
low probability in his or her hope. Special difficulties are raised by the use of
revelation to justify some types of hope. It must then be asked whether revelation is
a type of evidence which must be judged and evaluated on the same bases as other
evidence or whether it is somehow above questioningand perhaps even above reason
so that it calls upon a person for a direct response of commitment.
4. ' What is the content or object of hopeT Another issue of crucial importance
concerns hope's content or object. For Plato and Hume hope was always aimed
toward pleasure and for Aquinas toward happiness, but Luther specifically mentioned
righteousness as hope's end and de Condorcet equality. Mill emphasized the hope for
personal life after death. Cohen, Buber, and Bloch were among those who wrote of
hope as directed toward a better life in this world for all people. For Marcel hope has
no object at all but is simply openness toward the future. The nature of hope's content
or object is an important issue to be addressed in a theory of hope.

14

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

5. 'What is the function or purpose of hopeV Does hope serve a vital purpose
for people that is not accomplished by anything else? Hobbes, Locke, and Spinoza
were among those who did not think it to be particularly important. But Augustine
and Luther exalted hope on the grounds that it helps a person to endure suffering.
Philo, Fromm, and Bloch were among those who thought that hope arouses a person
to perform worthy deeds. For Aristotle hope was the counterpart to memoryit opens
the future for humanity. And Heidegger wrote that hope brings out an aspect of
human temporality by transporting people into the future. Some thinkers, e.g. Mill,
have attempted to justify hope on the basis of the purpose it can fulfill for mankind.
The question of hope's purpose or function is related to fundamental issues
regarding the nature of humanity. If a human is more than a complex organism, if a
person is, for example, a creature whose ultimate end is oneness with God or whose
future is open to his or her own shaping and molding, then perhaps hope can be the
key to human fulfillment. If, by contrast, a person is a creature whose projections and
desires are as likely to bring failure and grief as success, then hope has little or no
purpose.
6. 'What is the identity of the one who hopesT

In many cases the writers

mentioned above seemed to think of the individual as the subject of hope. A person,
they thought, hopes for his or her own eternal bliss, his or her own pleasureful
experiences, and the like. But some of the writers, e.g. de Condorcet, Peirce, Cohen,
Buber, and Bloch, were more concerned about the development of mankind. For
them the subject of hope is the human race. In several Old Testament passages on
hope, the subject is not so much an individual as it is God's people.
A fully developed theory of hope should deal with all of these issues-with
hope's basic nature, its preconditions, its justifications, its content, its function or
purpose, and its subject. In Chapter 5, we shall see that Kant offered a full theory of
hope in which he specified positions on each of these points.
Preliminary Comments on Kant's Theory of Hope
It is seldom realized just how important Kant considered the topic of hope to
be. He referred to its significance several times through a long portion of his

Introduction

15

philosophical career, and he treated it and related themes repeatedly.


In a famous passage from the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) he revealed his
interest in the topic:
All of the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical,
combine in the following questions:
1. What can I know?
2. What ought I do?
3. What may I hope?95
In that work he included a brief answer to the third question.96
In the years which followed, Kant gave attention to various aspects of the topic
in "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View" (1784), "What
is Enlightenment?" (1784), Critique ofPractical Reason (1788), Critique of Judgment
(1790), and "On the Failure of All Attempted Theodicies" (1791).97
His most important work on hope was Religion within the Limits of Reason
Alone (1793). In a letter to C. F. Studlin, which accompanied a copy of the then
newly published work, he indicated the close relationship which he saw between the
book and the topic of hope:
The plan I prescribed for myself a long time ago calls for an
examination of the field of pure philosophy with a view to solving three
problems: (1) What can I know? (metaphysics). (2) What ought I to do?
(moral philosophy). (3) What may I hope? (philosophy of religion). A
fourth question ought to follow, finally: What is man? (anthropology, a
subject on which I have lectured for over twenty years). With the
enclosed work, Religion within the Limits [ofReason Alone], I have tried
to complete the third part of my plan.98
This book did not mark the end of Kant's treatment of the topic. He dealt with
aspects of it again in "Perpetual Peace" (1795), Metaphysics of Morals (1797), and
The Strife of Faculties (1798).99
There are certain aspects of Kant's philosophy as a whole which had an important impact upon his theory of hope. For example, in his critical system Kant did not
treat religion in any traditional sense. The results of the Critique of Pure Reason led
him to speak of God as an a priori "Idea" of practical reason rather than as objective
reality that can be known by theoretical reason. The primacy of ethics over religion

16

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

required that piety be defined in terms of morality rather than of worship or of some
other spiritual activity. As we shall see, Kant developed his theory of hope in ways
that were consistent with these views.
A second example of how Kant's general philosophy impacted his theory of
hope can be seen in the effect that his general a priori methodology had upon his
theory of hope. Kant relied on pure reason, rather than on either revelation or
empirical evidence, for example, as the basis for many general truths. He also
presented hope's objects or ideals as a priori "Ideas." As a consequence, his
justification of hope is quite unlike any of those found in the views previously
mentioned.
A third example is brought out in Kant's philosophical anthropology. He
distinguished strongly between the human as an individual and as a species ("Gattung").m This distinction recurs frequently in Kant's writings and is crucial for his
philosophy of religion and philosophy of history.101 As an individual or person, a
human is both a physiological creature driven by desires and a rational being who is
responsible for developing his or her own knowledge and virtue. But human physiological and rational traits are such that certain of one's objectives can be attained only
by the species. Kant's theory of hope is largely individualistic in nature, but in
Chapter 4 we shall see that in his philosophy of history he presented a social analogue
to that theory. There it is mankind rather than the individual that is the subject.
Purpose of this Study
The purpose of this study is twofold: 1) to offer an analysis and interpretation
of Kant's views on hope and 2) to provide a critical evaluation of the same.
A careful examination of the full range of Kant's views on hope is lacking in
the literature. There is no work specifically devoted to the study of that theme in his
philosophy. The topic is hardly touched upon in the journals. Although Kant
associated hope closely with religion, such standard works on his philosophy of
religion as those by Webb and England leave it virtually unmentioned.102 Much has
been written, of course, about the "summum bonum," and several writers have examined Kant's views on the prospects of humanity's further historical development, but,

Introduction

17

although the writings on these topics have often been very beneficial, they have
generally provided interpretations that have not taken into consideration Kant's
broader views on hope. Goldmann has offered a more extensive interpretation, but,
although his views are interesting, he has distorted Kant's position.103 A more helpful
discussion of the topic is in a work by Despland, but his primary concern was not in
the topic of hope.104
We shall attempt to show that Kant's philosophy of hope is an interesting and
well-developed theory. And it is noteworthy that his views are not merely a variation
of "Enlightenment optimism." Although he wrote of reason, science, human potential,
and history in ways that are reminiscent of Turgot, de Condorcet, Lessing, or Voltaire,
the differences from these and other 18th-century thinkers are remarkable and put his
views into the new form of a "critical theory." His philosophy of hope is unique and
must be judged on its own merits.

NOTES
'The most prominent of the contemporary theologians dealing with hope have been Jrgen
Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Johannes B. Metz.
The "theology of hope" has evoked widespread interest. Theological symposia on the topic
have been held at Chicago, Santa Barbara, and New York.
Dialogue entitled its entire volume VII (1968) "The Future of Mankind" and included several
articles on the theology of hope in it. The Lutheran Quarterly, vol. XXI, no. 1 (Feb., 1969) and
Cross Currents, vol. XVIII, no. 3 (summer, 1968) were completely devoted to the topic. The Cross
Currents issue has been published in book form under the title, The Future of Hope, ed. Walter H.
Capps (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970). For an introduction to the theology of hope movement,
c/. Walter H. Capps, "Mapping the Hope Movement," The Future of Hope, pp. 1-49. Capps has
further developed his overview in Walter H. Capps, Time Invades the Cathedral; Tensions in the
School of Hope (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972).
^To be sure, Kant did consider hope in works which are not normally associated with the
three areas of his philosophy listed. For example, he dealt with the topic rather extensively in the
Critique of Pure Reason. But since this treatment was included in a section on moral philosophy,
it will be considered in Chapter 2. A portion of the Critique of Judgment deals with philosophy of
history, so it is considered in Chapter 4.
3

In this section the views of only a sample of significant philosophers and theologians are
presented. Special attention is paid to those figures whose importance for the history of thought is
most widely acknowledged and who made significant contributions on the topic of hope. The

Kant's Philosophy

18

of Hope

sample does reveal the diversity of the views that have been developed as well as the primary
themes and problems that arise in connection with hope.
"The traditions are divided at the end of the eighteenth century because Kant developed his
theory near the close of that century.
'Several Hebrew words we associated with "hope"the most important of which are iTD 3,
, 1p,and~n\u. In the Septuagint these and a few other words were occasionally translated
by and , but none was translated exclusively that way. riLO emphasizes trust or
reliance, and it often connotes a condition in which a person feels at ease or secure. Cf. Psalms 22:5,
26:1, 37:3, Jeremiah 17:7, and Isaiah 32:9-10. means searching for refuge or yearning for
security. Cf. Psalms 2:12, 25:20, 71:1,141:8, and Isaiah 30:2. The primary meaning of ^ "> with
"3 is to wait expectantly for something or someone. Cf. Isaiah 42:4, Ezekiel 13:6, Psalms 33:18,22,
and 119:43, 74. Likewise, "If7 means to wait or look eagerly for something or someone. Cf.
Genesis49:18,Isaiah59:ll,andJeremiah8:15,13:16,6:19. ~)3\U sometimes means to wait or yearn
for. Cf. Psalms 119:166, 104:27,145:15, and 146:5.
6
C/.Galatians 5:5, Romans 5:2ff.,8:24f., 12:12,15:4,Ephesians 1:18,2:12, Philippians 1:20,
and Titus 1:2, 2:13, 3:7.
7

I Corinthians 15:20-23, and Romans 4:17-21, 15:12-13.

In the book of Acts, Luke emphasized the central place that hope occupies in the Christian
life. Jesus' resurrection, he argued, has vindicated the hope that a Messiah would come and that a
life of glory is in store for all believers. Cf. Acts 2:26, 23:6, 24:15, 26:6f., 28:20. In I Peter hope
is the expectation of glory in this life and in the next. Cf I Peter 1:3, 21; 3:15.
For a fuller treatment of "hope" in the Old and New Testaments, cf Rudolf Bultmann and
Karl H. Rengstorf,"' , ," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1964, , 51735, and P. S. Minear, "Hope," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, , 640-43.
'Plato, Philebus, 36a-b. Cf. also Laches, 198b. Plato's most extensive treatment of hope and
expectation is to be found in Philebus, esp. 36-40.
m

Ibid., 40a-b. It is worth noting that Plato thought the gods provided the virtuous person
with correct expectations and the evil individual with incorrect ones.
"Plato, Timaeus, 69d.
On the question whether hope is beneficial, there is an old Greek fable according to which
Zeus gave humanity a jar of good things, but the human's curiosity led to taking off the cover, and
all the things escaped except hope. The fable concludes, "And so it is that hope alone abides with
men, promising to give us each of the other blessings that escaped." Babrius, #58. The translation
is by Ben Edwin Perry in the Loeb Library edition (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1965), p. 75.
n

Cf Plato, Phaedo, 63c, 64a, 67a-68b; Apology, 41c; and Republic 331a.

"Aristotle, Rhetoric, , 12, 1389a 20f.; , 13, 1390a, 5ff.; and De Memoria et
Reminiscentia, 1, 449b, 27f.

Introduction

19

"Aristotle, Rhetoric, , 5,1383a 16ff.


15

The translated Septuagint version is: "To Seth a son was born, and he called his name
Enos; he hoped to call on the name of the Lord God." In Quod Detenus Potion Insidiari Soleat,
XXXVin, 138, Philo rendered the last part of this verse, "He first hoped to call on the name of the
Lord God." The Hebrew text in the Kittel edition may be translated, "To Seth a son was born, and
he called his name Enos; then man began to call on the name of the Lord."
Just as in Philo's system Enos typified hope, so Enoch represented repentance and
improvement, and Noah symbolized justice. Philo, De Abrahamo HI, 17, and VI, 33.
I6
Philo, De Abrahamo, , 8. The translation is by F. H. Colson in the Loeb Library edition
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1950), VI, 9. The phrase Colson translated as
"comfortable hopes" is " ."

"Ibid.
18
Philo, De Praemiis et Poenis, , 10. The translation is by F. H. Colson in the Loeb Library
edition, Vin, 319.
l9

Ibid., , 11. The translation is by Colson in the Loeb Library edition, VHJ, 319.

^ h i l o , Quod Detenus Potion Insidiari Soleat, XXXVHI, 138. The translation is by F. H.


Colson and G. H. Whitaker in the Loeb Library edition, , 295.
2l

Philo, De Praemiis et Poenis, , 14. The translation is by Colson in the Loeb Library
edition, VJU, 321.
22
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 1,37-40; Enchiridion, 1,3, andU, 8. The subtitle of the
Enchiridion is "On Faith, Hope, and Love." Augustine based his list of characteristics on I Cor.
13:13.
23

Augustine, Confessions, Book Thirteen, XIV, 15; City of God, XIX, 20.

"Augustine, City of God, XIX, 4: Confessions, Book Ten, XXVffl-XXIX, 39-40.


"R. A. Markus, Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St. Augustine.
(Cambridge: University Press, 1970), p. 166.
^Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part of Second Part, Q 17, Arts. 1,5,6; Part I of
Second Part, Q 62, Art. 3; De Virtutibus in communi, 12. The other theological virtues are faith and
love. Thomas also designated hope as one of the four principal passions of the soulthe others
being sadness, joy, and fear. Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, Q 26, Art. 5.
^Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part of Second Part, Q17, Arts. 2-4; De Virtutibus
in communi, 12.
28

Thomas Aquinas, De Spe, 1, ad 1.

29

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part I of Second Part, Q 40, Arts. 1-3; Part of

20

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

Second Part, Q 18, Arts. 1 and 4.


'""When hope is given up, men rush headlong into sin, and are drawn away from good
works." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part of Second Part, Q 20, Art. 3.) The
translation is by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province in the Great Books of the Western
World edition (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952), XX, 477.
31
Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 45-50, trans. Paul D. Pahl, Vol. Vm,
Luther's Works (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966), p. 115. Cf. also a remark which
Veit Dietrich attributed to Luther:

Faith teaches that there is a resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. Then
hope adds: Well, if that is really true, then let us stake all we have on it; and let us
suffer whatever we must, if thereafter we shall become such great lords. (Martin
Luther, What Luther Says, ed. Ewald . Plass, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing
House, 1959), p. 669.)
32

Luther, What Luther Says, , 668.

33

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 1535, trans. Jaroslav Pelikan, Vol. XXVII, Luther's
Works (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964), pp. 26ff.
^Luther, What Luther Says, , 668-669.
Calvin gave hope somewhat less prominence that Luther, but he did think it an important
aspect of the Christian life. Hope, he thought, is an unshakable confidence that one will experience
glory. Doubt can never be consistent with hope; hope is virtual knowledge that blessing awaits one
beyond death. Cf. John Calvin, Treatises in Defense of the Reformed Faith, trans. Henry Beveridge
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1958), , 137f.
35

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Part I, Chapter VI (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1950), p. 43.

''John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, , XX, 9.


"David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, , , DC (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), p.
438. The other direct passions he listed are desire, aversion, grief, joy, fear, and volition.
"Ibid.
"Ibid, p. 439.
""Rene Descartes, Passions of the Soul, Part , Art. LVm.
"'Spinoza, Ethics, , Prop. XVIII, n. 2.
42
Baruch Spinoza, Spinoza's Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being, trans. A. Wolf
(New York: Russell & Russell, 1963), p. 92.

"Ibid.

Introduction

21

**This dialogue, which is without title, appears in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Philosophical
Papers and Letters, ed. Leroy E. Loemker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956), 1,332-38.
Leibniz developed elaborate theological and metaphysical argumentation to support his theodicy,
the most complete collection of which is his work entitled simply, Theodicy. But neither this book
nor his other writings related to the topic contain specific discussion of hope.
45

Less sanguine about mankind's further development were such figures as Voltaire and
Rousseau, but even they held that under certain conditions humanity could make great advances
beyond its present conditions. Voltaire proposed that mankind would be able to expand knowledge
greatly and live a much richer life if it could free itself from wars, prejudices, superstitions, bigotry,
and fanaticism. Cf. especially Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations et sur lesprincipauxfaits
de l'histoire depuis Charlemagne jusqu'a Louis XIII, ed. Rene Pomeau (Paris: Gamier, 1963).
Rousseau, of course, claimed that the development of civilization had led to human regress, but even
he proposed that humanity could come to a much better state if all economic, social, and political
inequalities could be eradicated. His Social Contract was a proposal for such a condition. Cf. Jean
Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, trans. G. D. H. Cole (New York: E. P.
Dutton and Co., 1913).
The question ofjust how prominent "optimism" really was in the eighteenth century has been
the topic of an extremely lively debate. Carl Becker characterized the age as an era of "faith" in
human ability to build the "Heavenly City" on this earth through the full use of mankind's rational
capacity to comprehend all the laws of nature. Ernst Cassirer thought that the prevailing philosophy
of that age was optimistic because people were confident that mankind can know and live according
to natural physical and moral laws. Charles Frankel has contended that the century was marked by
a faith in reason and science (rather than revelation) as reliable guides to truth and insurers of
progress.
Henry Vyverberg and Peter Gay have been among the challengers to this prevailing view.
They have argued that there was also a realization in that century of mankind's fanaticism,
ignorance, and other defects and that there was a corresponding streak of pessimism that ran through
the age. Although their points have offered a valuable antidote to the interpretations of Becker and
others, nevertheless it is true that several writers of that period were confident that human progress
in many areas was assured.
For the key arguments in this debate, cf. Carl L. Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth
Century Philosophers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932); Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy
of the Enlightenment, trans. F. A. C. Koelln and J. P. Pettegrove (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955);
Charles Frankel, The Faith of Reason (New York: Octagon Books, 1969); Henry Vyverberg,
Historical Pessimism in the French Enlightenment (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1958); Peter Gay, The Party ofHumanity (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), pp. 188ff. and 270f.;
and R. O. Rockwood (ed.), Carl Becker's Heavenly City Revisited (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University
Press, 1958).
*C. I. Castel, abbe de Saint-Pierre, Scheme for a Lasting Peace, trans. H. Hale Bellot
(London: Peace Book Company, 1939). Cf. also J. B. Bury, The Idea of Progress (New York:
Dover, 1955), pp. 127-43.
47

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Riches
(New York: Macmillan, 1898). Cf. also Anne Robert Turgot, "Tableau philosophique des progres
successifs de l'esprit humain," Oeuvres de Turgot, ed. Gustave Schelle (Paris: F. Valcan, 1913-23),
vol. I.

22

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

"Gotthold Lessing, "The Education of the Human Race," Lessing's Theological Writings,
trans. Henry Chadwick (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957), pp. 82-98.
*>Ibid., p. 96.
'"Antoine-Nicolas de Condorcet, Sketch for a Historical Picture of The Progress of the
Human Mind, trans. June Barraclough (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1955), p. 173.
5l

In a key passage de Condorcet wrote:

We shall find in the experience of the past, in the observation of the progress
that the sciences and civilization have already made, in the analysis of the progress
of the human mind and of the development of its faculties, the strongest reasons for
believing that nature has set no limit to the realization of our hopes. (Ibid., p. 175.)
52

G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, trans. J. B. Baillie (2d ed.; New York:
Macmillan, 1949), pp. 251-67, esp. 254f.
M
Karl Marx, "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right," Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels, On Religion (New York: Schocken Books, 1964), p. 42. The paragraph which
precedes the sentence quoted reads:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the
protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart
of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of
the people. (Ibid.)
"Julian Huxley, New Bottles for New Wine (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957), p. 289.
55

Cf. Julian Huxley, Religion without Revelation (New York: New American Library, 1958),
esp. pp. 181-212.
56

Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1965-66),
5.357. He also referred to this hope as the "assumption that man or the community (which may be
wider than man) shall ever arrive at a state of information greater than some definite finite
information." (Ibid.)
"Ibid., 2.655.
The other two sentiments he mentioned are "interest in an indefinite community"which he
likened to charity, and "recognition of the possibility of this interest being made supreme"which
he called faith. Cf. ibid.
5>

Ibid., 2.654f.

59

John Stuart Mill, Theism (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1957), pp. 55 and 78-82.

'"This is the essay, "Utility of Religion," which he wrote between 1850 and 1858. John
Stuart Mill, "Nature " and "Utility ofReligion " (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1958), pp. 79-80.
61

Mill, Theism, p. 81. This essay was written between 1868 and 1870.

Introduction

23

62

Ibid., pp. 81f. In the same essay he wrote,

When the reason is strongly cultivated, the imagination may safely follow its
own end and do its best to make life pleasant and lovely inside the castle, in reliance
on the fortification raised and maintained by reason round the outward bounds.
(W.,p.81.)
63

S0ren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, trans. David F. and Lillian M. Swenson (Garden City, New
York: Doubleday, 1959), I, 288-89.
64

S0ren Kierkegaard, Repetition, trans. Walter Lowrie (New York: Harper & Row, 1964),

p. 34.
65

S0ren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Judge for Yourselves! and Three Discourses,
1851, trans. Walter Lowrie (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 102.
"As, for example, in The Sickness unto Death. Cf S0ren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling,
and The Sickness unto Death, trans. Walter Lowrie (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and
Company, 1954), pp. 141-262.
67

S0ren Kierkegaard, Works ofLove, trans. Howard and Edna Hong (New York: Harper and
Brothers, 1962), pp. 234ff.
^Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New
York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 396.
^Gabriel Marcel, The Philosophy ofExistentialism, trans. Manya Harari (New York: Citadel
Press, 1970), p. 28.
'"Gabriel Marcel, Homo Viator, Introduction to a Metaphysic ofHope, trans. Emma Craufurd
(Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1951), pp. 32-36.
n
lbid., p. 36, and Gabriel Marcel, Being and Having, trans. Katharine Farrer (New York:
Harper & Row, 1965), p. 74.
72

Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 13.

Ibid., p. 9.

74
Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and
Winston, 1973), p. 438.
75

Fromm, The Revolution of Hope, pp. 17ff.


interpretation of resurrection:

Fromm even provided a this-worldly

Resurrection in its new meaningfor which the Christian meaning would be


one of the possible symbolic expressionsis not the creation of another reality after
the reality of this life, but the transformation of this reality in the direction of greater
aliveness. Man and society are resurrected every moment in the act of faith and of
hope in the here and now; every act of life, of awareness, of compassion is

24

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

resurrection; every act of sloth, of greed, of selfishness is death. (Ibid., p. 17.)


16

Ibid., pp. llff.

"Ezra Stotland, The Psychology of Hope (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1969), pp. 7f.
n

Ibid., pp. 17ff.

"Hermann Cohen, Reason and Hope: Selections from the Jewish Writings of Hermann
Cohen, trans. Eva Jospe (New York: W. W. Norton, 1971), pp. 122ff.
m

Ibid., p. 126.

"Cf ibid., p. 123.


82
Hermann Cohen, Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums (2d ed.; Darmstadt:
Joseph Melzer Verlag, 1966), pp. 363-64. Cohen's view of life after death was simply that one's
spirit would go "home" to God; he did not understand it as personal, individual existence beyond
death. Cf. Cohen, Reason and Hope, p. 139.

''Martin Buber, "Replies to My Critics," The Philosophy of Martin Buber, ed. Paul Arthur
Schilpp and Maurice Friedman (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1967), p. 715.
^Martin Buber, "Hope for this Hour," Pointing the Way; Collected Essays ofMartin Buber,
ed. Maurice S. Friedman (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), p. 220.
85
"Hope for this Hour" was originally delivered as a speech in 1952 at the conclusion of a
lecture tour Buber had conducted in the United States.

^Martin Buber, Paths in Utopia, trans. R. F. C. Hull (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958), p. 142.
The word for the village commune may also be transliterated, 'kvutzah.'
87

Buber, Pointing the Way, pp. 224-29. The ideal community can be understood, I think, as
people living together in full "I-Thou" relationships as they are described in Martin Buber, / and
Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937).
88

Ernst Bloch, Das Prinzip Hoffnung (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1959). In each of
the five main sections of the book Bloch treated a form of this consciousness. The sections are
titled, "Little Daydreams," "The Anticipating Consciousness," "Wish-Ideals in a Mirror," "Sketches
of a Better World," and "Wish-Ideals of the Fulfilled Moment."
89

Bloch expressed this point with the slogans, 'S is not yet P' and 'Incipit vita nova.' Ernst
Bloch, Man on His Own: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion, trans. . . Ashton (New York:
Herder & Herder, 1970), p. 90.
""Bloch, Das Prinzip Hoffnung, p. 1.
"Bloch, Man on His Own, p. 91.

Introduction

25

w
Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, trans. James W. Leitch (New York: Harper & Row,
1967), p. 25.

"Jrgen Moltmann, "The Theology of Hope," The Future of Hope, ed. Frederick Herzog
(New York: Herder and Herder, 1970), pp. lOff.
^Moltmann's views have been expanded and altered by a number of other prominent
theologianse.g. Pannenberg, Metz, SchauU, and Braaten. They have been strong advocates of
living for an eschaton of freedom, justice, equality, and peace, and some have proposed that
Christians should be revolutionariesfighting to "open up" God's future. SchauU has been the
strongest advocate of revolution, but Braaten has also written along those lines. Cf. Richard SchauU,
"Revolutionary Change in Theological Perspective," Christian Social Ethics in a Changing World:
An Ecumenical Theological Inquiry, ed. John C. Bennett (New York: Association, 1966), pp. 23-43,
and Carl E. Braaten, The Future of God: The Revolutionary Dynamics ofHope (New York: Harper
and Row, 1969),esp.pp. 141-166. ForPannenberg's views, c/Wolfhart Pannenberg, Tfteo/ogy and
the Kingdom of God (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969) and What is Man?, trans. Duane
A. Priebe (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970). For the views of Metz, cf. Johannes B. Metz,
"Creative Hope," Cross Currents, XVII (1957), 171-79; "The Responsibility of Hope," Philosophy
Today, X (1966), 280-88; Poverty of the Spirit (New York: Newman Press, 1969); and Theology of
the World (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969).
"CPR, A804-805 = B832-833.
Alles Interesse meiner Vernunft (das spekulative sowohl, als das praktische)
vereinigt sich in folgenden drei Fragen:
1. Was kann ich wissen?
. 2. Was soll ich thun?
3. Was darf ich hoffen?
"This material is examined in Chapters 2 and 3.
"The relevant material in these writings will be treated in Chapters 2 and 4.
"Immanuel Kant, Philosophical Correspondence 1759-99, ed. Arnulf Zweig (Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 205. The brackets are the editor's. Religionwithin the Limits
of Reason Alone is very important for the purposes of this study, and in Chapter 3 it is treated in
some detail.
"There is also an interesting passage in the Logic which shows Kant's interest in hope.
Although the work was first published in 1800, it was a handbook Kant used for his lectures on logic
and may have been written several years earlier. The passage reads:
The field of philosophy in the cosmopolitan sense [i.e., in the sense in which
it unites all men in the search for the ultimate end of human reason] may be
summarized in the following questions:
1. What can I know?
2. What should I do?
3. What may I hope?
4. What is man?
Metaphysics answers the first question, ethics the second, religion the third, and

Kant's Philosophy

26

of Hope

anthropology the fourth. (Immanuel Kant, Logik, KGS, IX, 25.)


Relevant parts of the Metaphysics of Morals will receive attention in Chapter 2. Portions
of "Perpetual Peace" and The Strife of Faculties are treated in Chapter 4.
l00

Some translators, e.g. Beck (Immanuel Kant, "Idea for a Universal History from a
Cosmopolitan Point of View," On History (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), p. 13 (VIE, 18) as
well as Greene and Hudson (Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (New York: Harper
and Row, I960)), have rendered the term "Gattung" as "race" in the sense of the human race, but
Kant also wrote about various races ("Racen") in such essays as "Von den verschiedenen Racen der
Menschen."
m

Cf. Chapter 4, section I. The distinction may be found in Kant, "Idea for a Universal
History," p. 13 (VIII, 18-19), and in Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, trans.
Mary J. Gregor (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974), pp. 151-52 (VII, 285-86), and pp. 182ff. (VII,
321ff.). In the latter work Kant also included sections on the character of the sexes, of nations, and
of races, but those categories can be understood in terms of the nature of the species.
l02

Clement C. J. Webb, Kant's Philosophy ofReligion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926); and
F. E. England, Kant's Concept of God (London: Allen and Unwin, 1929). In his study of Kant's
philosophy of religion, Schweitzer focused on the tension between Kant's critical idealism and his
moral emphasis and did not give attention to the topic of hope. Cf. Albert Schweitzer, Die
Religionsphilosophie Kants in der Kritik der reinen Vernunft bis zur Religion innerhalb der Grenzen
der bloen Vernunft (Freiburg: J. C. B. Mohr, 1899). Bohatec's excellent study of the historical
backgrounds to Religion within the Limits ofReason Alone treats the topic of hope only briefly. Cf.
Josef Bohatec, Die Religionsphilosophie Kants in der "Religion Innerhalb der Grenzen der bloen
Vernunft" (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1966). Wood mentioned hope only in passing in the work in
which he defended Kant's use of the moral postulates. Cf. Allen W. Wood, Kant's Moral Religion
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970).
103
Lucien Goldmann, Immanuel Kant (London: NLB, 1971). His views will be considered
in Chapter 4.
,04
Michel Despland, Kant on History and Religion (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University
Press). Despland's purpose was to show the close relationship between Kant's philosophy of
religion and his philosophy of history. His interpretation of Kant's position on hope is treated in
Chapter 4.

Chapter 2
MORALITY AS THE BASIS FOR HOPE
When in the Critique of Pure Reason Kant raised the question, 'What may
I hope?,' he indicated that hope is intimately related to morality. He showed this,
for example, in an alternative formulation of the hope question: "If I do what I
ought to do, what may I then hope?"1 And in several of his subsequent writings,
he continued to affirm this close connection.
In this chapter we will describe how Kant related happiness to virtue in his
writings that deal with morality. After exploring his position as Kant developed
it in the Critique of Pure Reason, we will examine the position as amplified in the
Foundation of the Metaphysic of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, and the
Metaphysic of Morals. We will then summarize the three arguments he gives in
support of a rationally justified hope for happiness and will respond to some
criticisms which others have offered. Finally, several criticisms of our own will
be presented.2
Morality and Hope in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781)
Hope and Happiness
It was in the Critique of Pure Reason that Kant began to develop his views
on hope and to describe in detail the intimate relationship which he saw between
virtue and the hope for happiness.
The position that he constructed included a strong tie between hope and
happiness. In the first Critique Kant claimed that "All hoping is directed to
happiness."3 He even indicated this in another reformulation of the hope question:

28

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

"If I so behave as not to be unworthy of happiness, may I hope thereby to obtain


happiness?"4
And he was explicit as to what he meant by "happiness":
Happiness is the satisfaction of all our desires, extensively, in
respect of their manifoldness, intensively, in respect of their degree,
and protensively, in respect of their duration.5
Kant was not referring merely to "intellectual" desires or to "higher" desires of
some other sort. He did not write of happiness solely in terms of contemplation,
moral satisfaction, inner peace, or the like. He meant by happiness the satisfaction
of all of our natural desires. Physical desires constitute an essential part of human
nature, and he did not deprecate them as such.
The term he used for 'happiness' was "Glckseligkeit" rather than "Glcklichkeit." Although either term may be used with reference to the satisfaction of
desires, the former indicates a deeper, more lasting satisfaction. The person who
experiences Glckseligkeit knows an inner joynot a mere gratification, as may be
the case with the experience of Glcklichkeit.

Furthermore, there is not the

connotation of good luck in Glckseligkeit that there is in Glcklichkeit.


Two qualifications must be made, however, to the claim that Kant thought
all hope is directed to happiness. First, he never divorced happiness from virtue.
He viewed happiness as an essential part of humanity's highest and complete good
(summum bonum) but never as that entire good.6 Happiness and virtue together
constitute the summum bonum.

Happiness represents the fulfillment and satis-

faction of a human's sensuous side just as virtue does of the practical rational
nature. Secondly, as Kant developed his position in subsequent writings, he began
to emphasize the attainment of virtue itself as an object of hope.7
Virtue as the Sufficient and Necessary Condition for the Hope for Happiness
Kant's position on hope emphasized virtue as the sufficient and necessary
condition for the hope for happiness. The two reformulations of the hope question
("What may I hope?") indicate that Kant presented a particular condition for hope:
"If I do what I ought to do, what may I then hope?" and "If I so behave as not to
be unworthy of happiness, may I hope thereby to obtain happiness?"8

Morality as the Basis for Hope

29

In order to see the force of virtue as a sufficient condition for the hope for
happiness, consider the situation in which a child desires to go to a movie and asks
his or her parents, "If I clean my room, may I go to the movie?" For whatever
reason (perhaps the child thought the chances of receiving permission were poor
unless he or she did something special, perhaps the child had already been told to
clean the room), die child did not ask simply, "May I go to the movie?" We may
imagine mat the child did not think that a sufficient condition for being allowed to
go to die movie would obtain unless he or she cleaned the room. But the child
hoped that cleaning the room (perhaps conjoined with other conditions such as
using his or her own money) would be viewed as a sufficient condition for permission to go to the movie.
But the child's question is still not exactly parallel to Kant's. For that to be
die case, the question would be, "If I clean my room, may I hope to go to the
movie?" Here an affirmative answer does not guarantee the opportunity to attend
me movie. It only indicates mat it is reasonable for the child to expect to be able
to go. The question in this form might arise in the following situation. Let us
suppose that one of the child's parents is the one who decides whether he or she
may go to die movies. That parent sometimes says no and frequently decides mat
me child must do certain chores before being allowed to go. The child wants to
attend die movie that evening, but this parent is at work, so he or she goes to the
other parent and asks, "If I clean my room, may I hope to go to the movie?"~i.e.,
If I clean my room, it is reasonable to think that I will be allowed to go to the
movie? This question may be phrased in either of the following forms: a) Is it
reasonable to mink mat cleaning my room will constitute a sufficient condition for
being allowed to go to the movie? Or b) Is cleaning my room a sufficient condition
for the reasonable expectation that I will be allowed to go to the movie?
Kant's hope question may be formulated in eimer of diese two ways, viz., a)
'Is it reasonable to mink mat virtue is a sufficient condition for happiness?' or b)
'Is virtue a sufficient condition for the reasonable expectation of happiness?' And
he thought mat reason gives me question an affirmative answer:
I maintain that just as the moral principles are necessary
according to reason in its practical employment, it is in the view of
reason, in the field of its theoretical employment, no less necessary to

30

Kant's Philosophy of Hope


assume that everyone has ground to hope for happiness in the measure
in which he has rendered himself by his conduct worthy of it.9

Kant thought that reason requires us to assume that virtue is a sufficient condition
for the hope for, i.e., the reasonable expectation of, happiness. It is, in other
words, an a priori principle of pure reason (i.e., a principle which reason in and of
itself requires us to believe if we are to be fully rational) that virtue is a sufficient
condition for the reasonable expectation of happiness. This is, of course, not
equivalent to the claim that virtue is a sufficient condition for happiness itself; it
says, rather, that virtue is the sufficient condition for the hope for happiness.
This point is relevant to an apparent ambiguity in both of Kant's conditional
questions quoted above. It might appear that they could mean any of the
following:
a) If I am virtuous, will I experience happiness?
b) If I am virtuous, am I rationally justified in expecting to experience happiness?
c) If I am virtuous, do I have the right to entertain the hope for
happiness?
Of these possibilities, the second is preferable. Kant argued that the virtuous
person may hope for happiness, but he never predicted flatly that he or she will
experience it. His arguments do not support the claim that virtue is the sufficient
condition for happiness. We cannot predict that even the virtuous person will be
happy. But Kant was also interested in more than a "right" to hope in the sense
that one might have a right to hope for a grant if the person worked hard to submit
a good proposal. Such a person might have the right to hope without having the
grounds to expect the award. Kant was concerned to show, rather, that the hope
of the virtuous person for happiness is rationally justifiedi.e., that reason requires
us to think that the virtuous person may reasonably expect to experience happiness.
Virtue is the sufficient condition for the hope for {i.e., reasonable expectation of)
happiness.
But why should virtue be the sufficient condition for the hope for happiness?
Kant's frequent reference to the need for "worthiness" for happiness suggests that

Morality as the Basis for Hope

31

it was his sense of retributive justice which led him to think that virtue is a
sufficient condition for the hope for happiness.10 If a person is virtuous and renders
himself or herself thereby worthy of happiness, then justice demands that he or she
should experience happiness. This suggestion is supported by Kant's claim that
moral laws "carry with them promises and threats"11 as well as by a passage on
rewards from the notes of his class lectures on ethics.12 In that passage he
distinguished praemia remunerantia (recompenses, rewards for which one has not
striven) from praemia auctorantia (rewards one has sought). The hope for happiness is properly for happiness as praemia remunerantia:
The natural moral law implies such promises \praemia
remunerantia] to every man who is of good moral disposition, and
such a man stands in no need of having these praemia remunerantia
recommended to him or hearing their praises sung. Every righteous
man believes in them. No man can possibly be righteous without
having the hope, from the analogy of the physical world, that
righteousness must have its reward. He believes in reward on the
same ground that he believes in virtue.13
Kant firmly believed that the good should be rewarded ("The natural moral law
implies such promises"), and since happiness fulfills a person's sensuous nature and
is that for which all people long, it is the fitting reward.
Not only did Kant see virtue as the sufficient condition for the hope for
happiness; he also viewed it as the necessary condition for the hope for happiness.
The notes of his lectures on ethics record him as asserting that, "Man can hope to
be happy only in so far as he makes himself worthy of being happy, for this is the
condition of happiness which reason itself presupposes."14 A passage in the
Critique of Pure Reason suggests that it was again his sense of retributive justice
which lay behind the assertion: "Reason itself does not approve happiness. . .
except in so far as it is united with worthiness to be happy, that is, with moral
conduct."15 Virtue is properly, in other words, the necessary condition for the hope
for happiness. Indeed, Kant makes virtue the necessary condition provided by
reason for happiness itself (and not merely for the hope for happiness). If a
reasonable expectation (justifiable hope) is one which accords with the dictates of
reason, then my reasonable expectation of happiness should be for happiness only

32

Kant's Philosophy of Hope


16

if I am virtuous. That is, I can reasonably expect to experience happiness only


if I am virtuous.17
In summary, then, Kant held that virtue is both a sufficient and necessary
condition for the hope for (i.e., reasonable expectation of) happiness. And reason
tells us that it should be the necessary condition for happiness itself.
Retributive Justice as a Basis for the Hope for Happiness
We have suggested that it was Kant's sense of justice which led him to the
view that virtue is the sufficient and necessary condition for the hope for happiness.
Kant developed what might be called a theory of justice in "The Metaphysical
Elements of Justice," Part I of The Metaphysics of Morals, although the Metaphysics of Morals as a whole is concerned more with Recht and Rechtslehre (the
law of a society which regulates external conduct) than with Gerechtigkeit (justice
in and of itself).18
Nevertheless, there is obviously overlap between societal law and justice, and
Kant did indeed exhibit his sense of justice in Part I of the Metaphysics of Morals.
The entire section concerning the right to punish is based upon the retributive
principle of justice. Kant asserted that one who steals must be sentenced to forced
labor.19 Of anyone who murders, Kant wrote,
He must die. . . .There is no substitute that will satisfy the
requirements of legal justice [Gerechtigkeit]. There is no sameness of
kind between death and remaining alive even under the most miserable
conditions, and consequently there is also no equality between the
crime and the retribution unless the criminal is judicially condemned
and put to death.20
The principle or standard he used for justice is "the principle of equality." "Only
the Law of retribution (jus talionis) can determine exactly the kind and degree of
punishment."21
Kant understood justice in terms of a divine or cosmic principle-the
universal law of just deserts for good or evil deeds. In fact, he frequently
associated the concept with God. In the "Concluding Remark" of "The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue" (Part II of the Metaphysics of Morals), he wrote:

Morality as the Basis for Hope

33

The principle of God's will regarding the respect (awe) owed


him, i.e., the principle of divine right, which restricts me operations of
divine love, can be none other than that of justice.22
And in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, justice (Gerechtigkeit) is
considered to be an attribute of God (usually translated "righteousness"). Divine
Gerechtigkeit demands, according to Kant, that every debt of evil be duly
punished.23
In the essay "On the Failure of All Attempted Philosophical Theodicies"
(1791), Kant admitted that it is impossible for human reason to square the principle
of universal divine justice or righteousness with the fact that evil people so often
prosper while the good suffer.24 But he did not discard the principle. Rather, he
claimed that it is something to be held on faith:
Theodicy is not a task of science but is a matter of faith. The
authentic theodicy has taught us that what matters in such affairs is
not reasoning but honesty in the avowal of the powerlessness of our
reason and sincerity in the expression of our thoughts (a sincerity that
never lends itself to a lie, however pious it might be).25
Kant's principle of justice might be termed a law of punishments and
rewards for immoral and moral deeds. Immorality should result in retribution equal
in quality and quantity to the wrong perpetrated. Virtue should be compensated
with the same equality. Whereas retribution will involve suffering for the guilty
party, compensation should be in the form of the opposite of sufferinghappiness.
Thus, the principle of retributive justice lies behind the virtuous person's hope for
happiness.
The "Idea" of a Moral World
The hope question asks what the result of virtue will be or, more specifically,
if it is rationally justifiable for a moral person to expect that happiness will result
from virtue. But Kant raised the hope question also with the view in mind that its
answer might provide a "speculative" insight into how the moral and natural realms
are related. The passage quoted above continues with the words, ". . .and when
this is followed out to the speculative question,"26 i.e., when the practical question
(What should I do?) has led to the answer to the theoretical question, (What may

34

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

I hope?), it leads to the answer to the speculative question. Kant did not indicate
in this passage precisely what the "speculative question" is, but it seems to be none
other than this: "Is a truly unified and systematic realm that is fully moral
possible?" Kant was very eager for his theory of hope to answer precisely this
question. In the opening paragraph of the "Transcendental Doctrine of Method,"
he indicated that to that point in the Critique of Pure Reason he had established the
elements which human reason has to work with in constructing a systematic
rational edifice but that the building itself had not been constructed.27 What was
needed was a "plan," and for this he turned to practical reason. In the paragraph
which introduced his discussion of hope in the first Critique, he wrote,
Reason, in its speculative employment, conducted us through the
field of experience, and since it could not find complete satisfaction
there, from thence to speculative ideas, which, however, in the end
brought us back to experience. In so doing the ideas fulfilled their
purpose, but in a manner which, though useful, is not in accordance
with our expectation. One other line of inquiry still remains open to
us: namely, whether pure reason may not also be met within the
practical sphere, and whether, therefore, reason may not be able to
supply to us from the standpoint of its practical interest what it
altogether refuses to supply in respect of its speculative interest.28
In order to achieve full "satisfaction," reason must complete "its course in the
apprehension of a self-subsistent systematic whole."29 Frequently, in fact, Kant
used the term "hope" with reference to one's longing for complete systematic
knowledge of all that there is. Of the forty-eight occurrences in the Critique of
Pure Reason of a noun or verb form of "Hoffnung" sixteen refer to this longing.30
Kant looked to "practical reason" to provide the "clue" or "guide".31 He
distinguished practical reason from theoretical reason by claiming that it governs
free (i.e., for Kant, moral) actions whereas the other seeks to understand events in
terms of causation.32 "By 'the practical,'" he wrote, "I mean everything that is
possible through freedom."33 Freedom is "noumenal" since it is unperceived and
beyond the pale of theoretical reason.34 Practical reason provides the only door to
understanding free actions. Moreover, it governs them, since it provides a priori
laws which an agent uses whenever he or she acts freely.35 A free action is one
which an agent determines to do because it is demanded by the universal maxims

Morality as the Basis for Hope

35

of practical reason (motive or ground).


The method which Kant thought practical reason uses to achieve its ultimate
end is to present an "Idea" (Idee) of a world in which everything that would occur
would be governed by the universal laws of practical reason. He called this Idea
a "moral world" ^'moralische Welt").36 The Idea of a moral world is an attempt
to unify systematically the moral and natural realms in an ideal form and thus to
show that this unity is possible.
Kant used the term Idea to refer to a concept presented by pure reason. An
Idea is to be contrasted with a concept which corresponds to an object given in
experience. Reason provides these pure Ideas as ideals to allow one to make sense
of experience in its totality.37 Kant referred to them as "heuristic, not ostensive,
concepts" and as "heuristic fictions."38 Accordingly, the "moral world" is "an
intelligible world only."39
This Idea, he wrote, refers,
. . .to the sensible world, viewed, however, as being an object of pure
reason in its practical employment, that is, as a corpus mysticum of the
rational beings in it, so far as the free will of each being is, under
moral laws, in complete systematic unity with itself and with the
freedom of every other.40
There are several important features in this Idea of the moral world:
(1) The moral world is a "corpus mysticum" (an "invisible" or "intelligible"
realm). This term is a shortened form of the theological designation, "corpus
Christi mysticum," which refers to the Church as Christ's mystical body. It has its
roots in a few passages from Paul's letters in the New Testament in which he
referred to the Church as the "body of Christ."41 Through the influence of the
pseudonymous "Dionysius the Areopagite," a 5th- or 6th-century mystic, "corpus
Christi mysticum" came into use to designate the mysterious presence of Christ
both in the sacrament of communion and in the Church.42 Among Roman Catholic
theologians the term is still used to designate Christ's presence in the Church, but
in orthodox Lutheran theology of the 17th century (Kant's religious background
was Lutheran) it was used to refer rather to the "invisible" nature of the true
Church.43 The true Church was thought to be invisible because faith is a matter "of
the heart." We cannot discern the true Christians from the hypocrites; they

36

Kant's Philosophy of Hope


44

comprise a body which is "invisible."


Kant referred to the moral world as a "corpus mysticum" because it is not an
object of intuition. It is a realm of rational, moral agents and necessarily, therefore,
"invisible" since rationality and free will are unavailable to human observation.45
(2) It is a realm of free agents acting because of and in accord with the
moral law.*6 The moral world is governed by universal moral laws that are known
and established autonomously by each person.
(3) In the moral world there is a complete systematic unity within each free
will and among free wills.47 The will of a moral person is pure; it is completely
dedicated to action in accord with the moral law. But more than this, there is a
oneness of purpose and a complete harmony among all moral people due to me
universality of the laws under which they live.
(4) In the moral world people would experience happiness as a natural
consequence of the exercise of freedom:
Now in an intelligible world, that is, in the moral world, in the
concept of which we leave out of account all the hindrances to
morality (the desires), such a system, in which happiness is bound up
with and proportioned to morality, can be conceived as necessary,
inasmuch as freedom, partly inspired and partly restricted by moral
laws, would itself be the cause of general happiness, since rational
beings, under the guidance of such principles, would themselves be the
authors both of their own enduring well-being and of that of others.48
The harmony among moral people sharing the universal moral law and acting in
accord with it would allow genuine freedom and achieve general well-being.
The correlation of happiness with virtue makes possible the fulfillment of the
whole person. The virtuous person is one whose reason governs actions. This
person chooses to act in accord with the moral law and is thus using reason in a
most important way. But if this person is also happy (which justice demands for
a virtuous person), then his or her desires are also being satisfied. Such a person
is able to find fulfillment with respect both to the rational and sensual sides.
There appear to be at least two likely models for Kant's Idea of a moral
49
world. The one, which has already been mentioned, is the true Church. Each of
the four characteristics of the moral world has its parallel in the "true" or "ideal"
Church. 1) The true Church, as stated above, has been described as "invisible," as

Morality as the Basis for Hope

37

a "corpus mysticum." 2) In Christianityand particularly in the Lutheran pietism


in which Kant was rearedemphasis has often been placed on the fact that in the
true Church people act freely in accord with Christ's imperatives.50 3) One of the
traditional "marks" of the Church is its "oneness"its complete harmony and single
ness of purpose.51 4) And finally, members of the true Church are to enjoy happi
ness as a result of their piety~in a future life if not in this one. The similarities
between the ideal Church and the moral world are hardly coincidental. As we shall
see in the next chapter, Kant's developed position on hope is thor-oughly religious
in tone.52 In fact, he made the parallel between the Church and a moral ideal
explicit in Book of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.53
The other likely model is the Newtonian world. Kant knew Newtonian
physics well, and he was a great admirer of that system.54 It is with respect to the
second and third of the characteristics of a moral world that the parallel is most
striking. As interpreted by Newton, all motion of natural bodies is completely
governed by simple mathematical laws; the natural world functions smoothly and
harmoniously.55 Kant acknowledged that the confluence of natural factors occa
sionally leads to earthquakes, floods, and other disasters, but he repeatedly sought
to show that even such events are purposive and are not ultimately disruptive of
order and harmony.56
Just as Kant with his Newtonian understanding of the world saw all nature
as a systematic unity of events governed by universal causal laws, so he viewed the
moral world as a realm in which there is systematic unity and harmony among all
its members because all live in accord with universal, necessary moral laws. If all
people would live by the moral law, their actions would be "just as if they had
proceeded from a supreme will that comprehends in itself, or under itself, all
private wills."57 Since the moral law is universal, its adoption by all agents is as
though it were established by a single Supreme Being.
Practical reason tells us not only what our particular duties are, but it also
presents to us an Idea of what the world of rational beings should be like. In such
a world all people would live virtuous lives, i.e., they would freely act in accord
with and because of universal moral laws, and the resultant harmony and personal
freedom within the law would lead to happiness. Practical reason tells us, then,

38

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

that if all were as it should be, virtue would produce happiness, and cosmic justice
would prevail. It indicates that virtue can result in happiness consistently and fully.
Kant's argument holds that the freedom and harmony in a moral world would
result in happiness. He claimed that the peace and cooperation among people
would make deep satisfaction possible. People would not be driven by their instincts but could act freely and rationallythereby satisfying their desires in accord
widi virtue. But even if it is granted that in such a world the virtuous people
would be happy, Kant's argument still seems to be incomplete. Why, one might
ask, should / hope for happiness since I don't, and perhaps never will, live in such
a world?
The missing step in the argument is perhaps supplied by an important claim
in the Critique of Pure Reason: "The moral law remains binding for every one in
the use of his freedom, even although others do not act in conformity with the
law."58 This may be read in either of two waysa) we must act in accord with and
because of the moral law even though we do not live in a moral world, or b) we
must act (and think) as though we lived in a moral world even though it seems
apparent that we do not. If the second of these is accepted, then the argument can
be completed, for if practical reason leads me to act and think as though I were in
a moral world and if the virtuous are happy in such a world, reason leads me to
think that I, being virtuous, will be happy. Moreover, if practical reason leads me
to think in a particular way, it is reasonable (rationally justified) for me to think in
that way. If, in other words, practical reason leads me to think that I, being
virtuous, will be happy, then it is rationally justified for me to think that. But
practical reason does lead me to act and think as though I were in a moral world.
Therefore, if I am virtuous, I am justified in thinking that I will be happy. If the
first of the above alternatives is accepted, however, Kant must still show what the
relevance of the Idea is for me and my hope. But since he did not do so and since
the second accomplishes so much, the second reading can be taken as an important
and viable alternative.
One might ask, of course, why practical reason would lead me to think that
I am in what seems to be a "fantasy world." But Kant was concerned to show that
it is not fantastic, and for this reason he considered an important objection. The
objection to which Kant reacted was simply, 'But others do not act in conformity

Morality as the Basis for Hope

39

with the law. Doesn't this nullify the Idea of a moral world?'59 Kant raised the
objection and offered his basic response in the following passage:
But such a system of self-rewarding morality is only an idea,
the carrying out of which rests on the condition that everyone does
what he ought, that is, that all the actions of rational beings take place
just as if they had proceeded from a supreme will that comprehends
in itself, or under itself, all private wills. But since the moral law
remains binding for every one in the use of his freedom, even although others do not act in conformity with the law, neither the nature
of the things of the world nor the causality of the actions themselves
and their relation to morality determine how the consequences of these
actions will be related to happiness. The alleged necessary connection
of the hope of happiness with the necessary endeavor to render the
self worthy of happiness cannot therefore be known through reason.
It can be counted upon [darf gehofft werden] only if a Supreme
Reason, that governs according to moral rules, be likewise posited as
underlying nature as its cause.60
Kant seems to have thought that if this objection were true and the Idea of
a moral world were without significance for our lives now, then practical reason
would seem unreliable and the moral law itself might seem to be without validity
for our lives (since it, too, is provided by practical reason and is a fundamental
element of the moral world). But the moral law is clearly binding, so practical
reason must be reliable and the thrust of the Idea of a moral world must have some
validity.

It must still be possible for us to think that the virtuous will enjoy

happiness.
In the Critique of Pure Reason the postulates of God and a future life "save"
the moral world, i.e., they show how virtue can be thought to lead to happiness
even if we live in a world in which not everyone is virtuous.61 Kant presented the
Idea of a Supreme Being who would govern nature according to moral rules in
order that the virtuous will experience happiness.62 And he posited a future life as
the realm where rewards would be given as a consequence of virtue displayed in
this world.63
Such a Ruler, together with life in such a world, which we must
regard as a future world, reason finds itself constrained to assume;
otherwise it would have to regard the moral laws as empty figments

40

Kant's Philosophy of Hope


of the brain, since without this postulate the necessary consequence
which it itself connects with these laws could not follow.64

These postulates indicate how we can think that it is possible for one to obtain the
highest and complete good (summum bonum). If in a future life, a Supreme Ruler
creates conditions in which happiness would be "in exact proportion with the
morality of the rational beings who are thereby rendered worthy of it,"65 the
virtuous will enjoy complete fulfillmentvirtue and happiness.
The Idea of the moral world together with the postulates (Ideas) of God and
a future world provided Kant with the resources he thought he needed to sketch an
answer to the "speculative question." They make it possible to view the natural
and moral spheres as a single realm in which natural events occur in accord with
universal moral law and die principle of cosmic justice. Reason itself causes the
order and unity in all things:
Self-subsistent reason, equipped with the sufficiency of a
supreme cause, establishes, maintains, and completes the universal
order of things, according to the most perfect designan order which
in the world of sense is in large part concealed from us.66
We may think of God as die cause of this unity, but the oneness is ultimately
created by reason-a reason which understands and regulates all things according
to the primacy of moral law. The Idea "thus unites die practical with the speculative (theoretical) reason."67
Morality and Hope in the Ethical Writings
Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785)
In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant argued that the virtuous person may
hope for happiness. But in me Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, he
placed little importance on happiness and justice; radier, he laid stress upon moral
perfection as a human's proper rational end or goal.
If nature had intended happiness to be our basic end, Kant argued, dien it
would have done better to have let us be ruled by instinct radier ian by reason.
Reason is not very successful in leading us to happiness, but it is tiie appropriate

Morality as the Basis for Hope

41

means to another end~a good will,68 which is the one thing that "can possibly by
conceived which could be called good without qualification."69
So insistent was Kant that a good will is our proper end that he even referred
to it as the "highest good," although he quickly cautioned that it is not the total or
"complete" good. It is the highest good in the sense that it is "the condition of all
others, even of the desire for happiness."70
This emphasis upon virtue is reflected also in an Idea that Kant presented in
the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. There the ideal world was described as the "realm of ends":
All rational beings stand under the law mat each of them should
treat himself and all others never merely as means but in every case
also as an end in himself. Thus mere arises a systematic union of
rational beings through common objective laws. This is a realm which
may be called a realm of ends (certainly only an ideal), because what
these laws have in view is just the relation of these beings to each
other as ends and means.71
Kant claimed that, "Every rational being must act as if he, by his maxims were at
all times a legislative member in the universal realm of ends."72
Kant held mat all truly rational beings are autonomous, i.e., capable of freely
adopting maxims for themselves and of establishing their own ends. Humans differ
from animals on precisely this point-animals are not autonomous.73 But a being
who can determine his or her own ends should not be used by another person as
a means for that person's ends, for this would degrade a person to contributing
towards ends which he or she did not choose. Using someone as a means would
be treating that person as less than the free, rational being that the person is.74 It
would violate a person's autonomy.
When people allow their (practical) reason to direct their lives, the maxims
adopted for themselves will be necessary, universal, objective moral laws, and the
ultimate end chosen will be moral purity. So intent was Kant upon stressing an
ideal of virtue that he mentioned that "happiness is an ideal not of reason but of
imagination depending only on empirical grounds"75~a comment which sounds
more at variance with the views of the Critique of Pure Reason than it really is
since there, too, happiness is merely the satisfaction of desires, which vary from

42

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

individual to individual.76
The "realm of ends" is a realm in which the necessary, universal laws under
which all agents live make systematic unity among people, i.e. harmony and concord, possible. Kant used the "realm of nature" as a model for the realm of ends.77
A person can be a member of the realm of ends only if that person conducts himself or herself "according to maxims of freedom [objective moral laws] as if they
were laws of nature."78 Here again Kant revealed the impact which the Newtonian
understanding of the world had made upon his thinking. Just as in that view the
natural world is a harmonious system of events and objects all governed by universal laws, so the realm of ends is a harmonious system of actions and agents all
governed by universal laws which the agents adopt freely.
Although it might appear that the position developed in the Foundations of
the Metaphysics of Morals marks a radical departure from the theory of hope of the
Critique of Pure Reason, this is not really the ca.se. Kant did not refer to the realm
of ends as an object of "hope." It is a purely moral ideal-not a metaphysical ideal
of the greatest moral and theoretical good. No r is this moral ideal a replacement
for the larger ideal of the Critique of Pure Reckon. In Religion within the Limits
of Reason Alone (1793), as we shall see, Kant Emphasized the ideal of pure virtue
almost to the exclusion of concern for happiness much as he had in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, but he also indicated in the preface to the first
edition of that later work that the total or complete good is still happiness conjoined with virtue.79 Kant found it consistent to hold that hope is directed toward
happiness (conditioned by virtue) while at the same time claiming that a person's
ultimate concern as a rational being is to be virtuous. The Foundations of the
Metaphysics of Morals is strictly a work of moral philosophy, and Kant did not
concern himself with the broader issue of hope.
But in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals we do nevertheless find
a shift in emphasis from his earlier views. Not only is virtue properly the necessary and sufficient condition for happiness; it is also of much greater importance
for a rational being then happiness is, and it deserves to be that one end toward
which a person should strive with all possible effort. In the Foundations of the
Metaphysics of Morals Kant seemed less concerned about happiness than he had
been. In addition, Kant gave more attention in that work to how demanding the

Morality as the Basis for Hope

43

call of practical reason for virtue really is. Practical reason requires one to focus
on virtue. The phrasing of the hope question in a formulation from the Critique
of Pure Reason, "If I do what I ought to do, what may I then hope?,"80 suggests
that one will be virtuous. In the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals Kant
clearly did not take this virtue for granted.81
Although in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals Kant seemed
unconcerned about happiness, it is a short step from the harmony and concord of
the "realm of ends" to the general happiness and well-being of which he had written in the Critique of Pure Reason. The oneness of the people and their mutual
refusal to interfere in one another's lives would make it easier for people to satisfy
at least some of their desires than is presently the case in our world.
Critique of Practical Reason (1788)
The Critique of Practical Reason contains Kant's most extended argument
against the inclusion of any subjective, eudaemonistic elements in the determination
of the will. Not only is the moral law to be the only rational ground or motive
(Bewegungsgrund) for the will but the moral feeling of respect for the law is also
to be the will's only incentive (Triebfeder),,82 And Kant even described complete
virtue as itself the "highest good" in the sense of being the "primary (oberste)
good," i.e., the necessary condition for all other goods.83
But in this work Kant also reaffirmed the view that the highest total good is
still happiness conjoined with virtue. For the "entire and perfect good as the object
of the faculty of desire of rational finite beings,"84 he wrote,
. . .happiness is also required, and not merely in the partial eyes of a
person who makes himself his end but even in the judgment of an impartial reason, which impartially regards persons in the world as
ends-in-themselves. For to be in need of happiness and also worthy
of it and yet not to partake of it could not be in accordance with the
complete volition of an omnipotent rational being, if we assume such
only for the sake of argument. Inasmuch as virtue and happiness together constitute the possession of the highest good for one person,
and happiness in exact proportion to morality (as the worth of a person and his worthiness to be happy) constitutes that of a possible
world, the highest good means the whole, the perfect good wherein
virtue is always the supreme good.85

44

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

We can hope for the highest good and its happiness if we are worthy.86
In this work Kant did not argue for an ideal realm of virtue and happiness
on the grounds that one needs such an ideal as an incentive to do his or her duty.
Rather, as the above passage reveals, he appealed to two other reasons for affirming this ideal. The first is that no matter how good and important virtue is in
and of itself, a person is both rational/moral and sensuous, and his or her complete
fulfillment requires satisfaction in both areas. It requires happiness as well as
virtue.87 The other reason Kant used is that the virtuous person both yearns for
happiness (as a sensuous being) and is worthy of the same (virtue should be the
sufficient condition for happiness). Furthermore, reason indicates that the virtuous
person should receive the happiness that is due him or her and for which that
person yearns. Neither of these reasons presents anything which Kant had not
already included in the Critique of Pure Reason, but it is significant that he here
separated them from the argument that a person requires hope as an incentive.
So convinced was Kant of the supreme goodness and worth of the highest
good that he called its achievement in this world "the necessary object of a will
determinable by the moral law."88 "The furthering of the highest good," he wrote,
"is an a priori necessary object of our will and is inseparably related to the moral
law."89 Kant did not argue that the will needs this ideal before it can decide. He
maintained, rather, that the ideal is of such ultimate value that the moral law
requires every rational being to strive to make it a reality. A person has a moral
duty to further the highest good.
Again in this work Kant appealed to the postulates of immortality and God
to indicate how one can think that the highest good is attainable, but the specific
difficulties which these postulates are to overcome were somewhat different from
those raised in the Critique of Pure Reason. There he had used them to show how
the moral world is possible even if some people are not moral. But in the Critique
of Practical Reason he was concerned to resolve difficulties on how an individual's
own moral perfection is possible (since it is a necessary condition for the highest
good) and how natural laws can be coordinated with moral laws.
He used the postulate of immortality to solve the first of these problems. If
a person lives beyond his or her earthly death, then it is possible for that person to
continue indefinitely to make progress toward moral perfection. And "the Infinite

Morality as the Basis for Hope

45

Being, to whom the temporal condition is nothing, sees in this series, which is for
us without end, a whole conformable to the moral law."90 Although Kant associated this postulate with the highest good, it reveals Kant's concern over how a
human can attain moral perfection~a concern which we saw in the Foundations of
the Metaphysics of Morals.
Kant presented the postulate of a Supreme Being because, "The highest good
is possible in the world only on the supposition of a supreme cause of nature which
has a causality corresponding to the moral intention."91 Earlier in the second
Critique Kant had introduced the distinction between a "natura archetypa" as an
intelligible realm of purely rational beings alone and a "natura ectypa" as a realm
of rational beings existing in the sensible world.92 Whereas in the natura archetypa
moral laws would be the only laws, in the natura ectypa they "must exist in the
world of sense without interfering with the laws of the latter."93 Kant postulated
God as a Supreme Cause who would coordinate all of the laws in the two realms
even more completely than this. God would make possible the agreement of nature
"not merely with actions moral in their form but also with their morality as the
motives to such actions."94 God would control nature so that happiness would
result for a person if that person were moral.95
These arguments in support of immortality and God seem inadequate, however. Why should "endless progress toward" complete virtue count as complete
virtue attained~in the eyes of an Infinite Being or of anyone else? The phrase in
question implies that a person never reaches the goal. And even if a person did
attain perfection, why should living according to a particular standard at the very
end of a long process blot out all previous failures to do so? In Religion within the
Limits of Reason Alone, Kant himself rejected the kind of logic involved here:
Whatever a man may have done in the way of adopting a good
disposition, and, indeed, however steadfastly he may have persevered
in conduct conformable to such a disposition, he nevertheless started
from evil, and this debt he can by no possibility wipe out. For he
cannot regard the fact that he incurs no new debts subsequent to his
change of heart as equivalent to having discharged his old ones.96
Nor does it resolve the difficulty to speak of a Divine Being who sees things from
a different perspective. Why should such a being, even if eternal, not perceive a

46

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

temporal series as temporal? Even if a Supreme Being perceives the series "as a
whole," why should such a Supreme Being judge progress toward an ideal to be
the completed ideal? At the very least Kant has failed in the second Critique to
consider these objections to the view that immortality makes moral perfection
possible.
In addition, there are difficulties involved in understanding how the moral
and causal realms could possibly be associated in the way Kant suggested. His
description of their correlation demands that causal laws be such that virtue will
always cause happiness. But how would Kant suggest that such universal laws are
to be formulated? Suppose two people both tell the truth-one to do his or her duty
and the other for personal gain. How are natural laws to be formulated so that the
first person's desires are satisfied but the other person's are not? Or suppose that
two people both tell the truth from duty but that the desires of one are entirely
different from those of the other. How are natural laws to be formulated to account
for this?97
Metaphysics of Morals (1797)
In a part of the Metaphysics of Morals entitled "Fragments of a Moral
Catechism" Kant reasserted that the object of human hope is happiness (Glckseligkeit), which he described as "constant well-being, a pleasant life, complete
satisfaction with one's condition."98 But, as usual, he also indicated that reason
demands one be worthy of happiness before a person experiences it. "The observance of man's duty is the universal and sole condition of his worthiness to be
happy."99 And, as in other writings, he claimed that for hope to be secure, reason
must assume that there is a Supreme Being to govern the world and to distribute
happiness in accord with virtue.100
In the "Introduction" to Part II of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant wrote of
two "ends which are at the same time duties" that further reveal his continued
concern for virtue and happiness. Those ends are one's own perfection and the
happiness of others.101
With respect to the first, practical reason demands that a person be "worthy
of the humanity dwelling within him," i.e., that a person raise himself or herself
above animality through the cultivation of understanding and the purification of

Morality as the Basis for Hope

47

will.102 Mankind is the recipient of a special giftrationality, and a person is


obligated to develop this gift to the fullest.
Concerning the happiness of others, Kant argued that
. . .since our self-love cannot be separated from our own need to be
loved by others (to obtain help from them in case of need), we
therefore make ourselves an end for others; and this maxim can never
be obligatory except by qualifying as a universal law and, con
sequently, through a will to make others our ends.103
Kant appears to be claiming that we need love from others for our own happiness,
and that the universal nature of maxims requires that if others are to promote our
happiness, we must promote theirsthough he added that we should never do any
thing which might tempt another not to be virtuous.104
Although Kant is correct that a person should promote these ends, his argu
ment for the second (happiness) is weak. He associated a duty towards others with
self-love and thereby threatened to base a moral maxim upon a prudential concern.
But the purity of the ethic developed in both the Foundations for a Metaphysics of
Morals and the Critique of Practical Reason demands that self-love not be deter
minative of moral duties. Moreover, Kant's argument for the second end ignores
the fact that according to his principle of justice, only the virtuous should be happy.
Kant might have argued that we cannot know another's morality, so we should pro
mote the happiness of all. But this still encourages actions not in full accord with
Kant's principle of retributive justice.105
Nevertheless, the very fact that Kant presented these two ends as those ends
which are also duties does reveal his interest in mankind's promotion of the two
aspects of the highest goodvirtue and happiness. Both virtue and happiness are
of value, and a person should do what he or she can to further them.106
Conclusion
Kant's Three Arguments on the Hope for Happiness
In his treatment of hope Kant was primarily concerned to show that it is
reasonable for a virtuous person to hope for happiness {^^).
He

48

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

presented three basic arguments to demonstrate this.


The first was an argument from retributive justice. Beginning with the
Critique of Pure Reason and continuing through the moral writings, Kant held that
hope is directed toward happiness as the satisfaction of desires. Because a human
is a sensuous being, he or she has desires, although they vary from individual to
individual. The fulfillment of this side of human's nature is found in the deep,
lasting satisfaction of desires (Glckseligkeit, happiness). Every human naturally
yearns for this; every person hopes for such happiness. This Kant accepted as
empirically given.
If one premise Kant used in the first argument is that every person hopes for
happiness, another premise is that according to practical reason, the virtuous person
and only such a person should experience that happiness. Kant based this premise
on the principle of retributive justice. Justice demands that the virtuous person be
rewarded for goodness but that the immoral person not receive these benefits. And
the appropriate reward for a person is that for which one yearns and which constitutes fulfillment for his or her nonrational, sensuous side through happiness.
Kant never argued for this principle of justice. He seems rather to have accepted
it as a basic moral givensomething which a person simply must accept.
Kant thought it readily apparent that now in this world the virtuous person
frequently does not experience the happiness he or she deserves. But he did think
it is possible that the virtuous person and only such a person will experience
happiness if an ideal realm of virtue coordinated with happiness is itself possible.
Practical reason presents us with Ideas of such ideals--e.g., the "moral world" and
the "highest (complete) good." In them nature would be so coordinated with
morality that virtue would result in happiness.
Kant held that these ideal realms are possible if and only if there is a
Supreme Being. Only such a Being can coordinate nature with morality in the way
required. And Kant thought that practical reason leads us to postulate (i.e., hold
to the Idea of) such a Being. This postulation saves practical reason from apparent
error and disreputea condition to be avoided at all costs.107 In postulating a
Supreme Being who makes possible an ideal world, Kant was not necessarily
asserting that God does exist or that there will be such a realm. Rather, he was
claiming that we must hold to an Idea of a Supreme Being who makes an ideal

Morality as the Basis for Hope

49

realm possible. It is a logical Idea necessitated by practical reason. Its function


is entirely practicalto give a person direction and encouragement for moral efforts.
Finally, Kant thought it reasonable to hope for that which one must think can
and should be the case. With the postulation of a Supreme Being, the ideal realm
is possible, so one must think that the virtuous person and only such a person will
experience happiness. Therefore, it is reasonable for a virtuous person to hope for
this happiness.
In summary, the first argument says that every person hopes for happiness,
mat practical reason tells us that the virtuous person and only the virtuous person
should experience happiness, that the coordination of happiness with virtue is
possible if there is a Supreme Being to coordinate them, and that practical reason
tells us we must hold to the belief in such a Supreme Being. Therefore, the virtuous person is rationally justified in his or her hope for happiness. In more
complete form the argument is as follows:
(1)

Every person hopes for happiness. (P)

(2)

Practical reason claims that the virtuous person and only


the virtuous person should experience that for which he
or she hopes. (P)

(3)

Practical reason claims that the virtuous person and only


the virtuous person should experience happiness. (1,2)

(4)

It is not the case that now in this world the virtuous


person and only the virtuous person experiences
happiness. (P)

(5)

It is possible that the virtuous person and only me


virtuous person will experience happiness if an ideal
realm of virtue coordinated with happiness is possible.

(6)
(7)
(8)
(9)

(P)
An ideal realm of virtue coordinated with happiness is
possible if and only if there is a Supreme Being. (P)
Practical reason presents the Idea of a Supreme Being as
a moral postulate. (P)
(One must think that) there is a Supreme Being. (7)
It is possible that the virtuous person and only the

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope


virtuous person will experience happiness. (4,5,6,8)
(10) It is reasonable to hope for that which can and should be
the case. (P)
(11) It is reasonable for a virtuous person to hope that he or
she will experience happiness. (3,9,10)

Kant also employed a second argument to support this same conclusion. It


was an argument from the nature of humanity's highest good. According to this
argument, the highest good for any type of being is the attainment of its complete
fulfillmentthe achievement of everything for which its nature strives. Since a
human has both a sensuous side and a rational/moral side, a person's highest good
consists in the achievement of the ends of both-i'.e., in happiness and complete
virtue. But practical reason claims that the virtuous person and only he or she
should experience happiness. So one's highest true good is both happiness and
complete virtue conjoined in such a way that the former is contingent upon the
latter. The highest good should somehow be possibleotherwise one would be
striving for an empty and illusory end. This end is possible, however, in an ideal
realm under a Supreme Being. Practical reason leads one to postulate (hold to the
Idea) of a Supreme Being who will keep humanity's highest good from being empty and illusory. Since it is reasonable for a person to hope for an aspect of a good
that is not empty and illusory, it is reasonable for a virtuous individual to hope to
experience happiness.
In summary, the second argument holds that the highest fulfillment of a
human is happiness and virtue, that practical reason requires that happiness be
contingent upon virtue, that this is possible through a Supreme Being postulated by
practical reason, and that the highest fulfillment is likewise possible. Therefore,
it is reasonable to hope for this highest fulfillmenthappiness with virtue. In more
complete form this argument is:
(1)
(2)

The complete fulfillment of any type of being is the


achievement of all that for which its nature strives. (P)
The highest good for any type of being is its complete
fulfillment. (P)

Morality as the Basis for Hope


(3)

Humanity has a two-fold naturea rational/moral side


which strives for complete virtue and a sensuous side
which yearns for happiness. (P)

(4)

Humanity's highest good is virtue and happiness. (1,2,3)

(5)

Practical reason claims that the virtuous person and only


the virtuous person should experience happiness. (P)
Humanity's highest good should accord with the claims
of practical reason. (P)

(6)
(7)

Humanity's highest good is virtue and happiness such


that the latter is contingent upon the former. (4,5,6)

(8)

An end is empty and illusory unless it is possible. (P)

51

(9)

Humanity's highest good is possible if an ideal realm of


virtue coordinated with happiness is possible. (P)
(10) This realm is possible if and only if there is a Supreme
Being. (P)
(11) Practical reason presents the Idea of a Supreme Being as
a moral postulate. (P)
(12) (One must think that) there is a Supreme being. (11)
(13) It is reasonable to hope for an aspect of a good that is not
empty and illusory. (P)
(14) Man's highest good is a good that is not empty or
illusory. (8,9,10,12)
(15) It is reasonable to hope for happiness so long as it is
contingent upon happiness. (7,13,14)
(16) It is reasonable for a virtuous person to hope that he or
she will experience happiness. (15)
It is noteworthy that neither of these arguments includes any consideration
of the difficulties which attend being or becoming virtuous. In fact, in the Critique
of Pure Reason Kant seemed quite oblivious to this problem. In the Foundations
of the Metaphysics of Morals, he described the absolute moral perfection which
practical reason demands, and in the Critique of Practical Reason he sketched an
argument to show how one can think that this perfection is attainable. This issue

52

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

emerged as increasingly important for Kant, and he devoted Religion within the
Limits of Reason Alone to showing that it is possible for a person to be virtuous.
Since Kant considered this issue primarily in connection with religion, we will
consider his argumentation on this point at the end of the next chapter.
At times Kant made use of an argument to show that hope can have a positive effect on a person's efforts to be moral. In this argument Kant claimed that
although the purity of ethics demands that the moral law be the only rational
ground for a virtuous action, nevertheless a human's essential frailty and weakness
requires that in addition to the feeling of respect for the moral law one have
another motivating impulse to stimulate the will to moral action. The hope of a
virtuous person for happiness, he continued, can be such an additional motivating
impulse for the will without being a rational ground. This he believed because a
person may desire to do his or her duty solely because it is demanded by the law
but still find that a picture of what will result helps stimulate him or her to action.
It also keeps a moral person from the discouragement and frustration one might
feel if virtue did seem to bring nothing but suffering and unhappiness. Since the
hope of a virtuous person for happiness can satisfy one's need for an additional
impulse for moral action, it can have a positive effect on a person's efforts to be
moral. Moreover, the rejection of hope would be a rejection of the ultimate
authority of practical reason, for it would include the dismissal of the principle of
cosmic justice and also of the moral Ideasall of which are provided by practical
reason.
Kant might have altered this argument and used it to support the claim that
hope is justified since it is needed as an impulse for the will. But he did not think
that a person may hope for happiness merely on the grounds that he or she needs
this hope as a moral prop or support. Rather, he held that the logic of practical
reason itself is the basis for this hope.
This third argument may be given in fuller form as follows:
(1)

Because of humanity's essential frailty and weakness, the


will needs an impulse that will stimulate it to morally
good action (in addition to the feeling of respect for the
moral law). (P)

Morality as the Basis for Hope


(2)
(3)

53

But the moral law may be the only ground for moral
action. (P)
The Hope of a virtuous person for happiness can be an
impulse that will stimulate the will to moral action
without being a ground. (P)

(4)

The hope of a virtuous person for happiness can be that


impulse which the human will needs to be stimulated to
good action. (1,2,3)

(5)

But that which can be what the human will needs to be


stimulated to good action can have a positive effect on a
person's efforts to be moral. (P)

(6)

The hope of a virtuous person for happiness can have a


positive effect on his or her efforts to be moral. (4,5)

All of these arguments reveal that Kant viewed morality as the basis for
hope. It is only the virtuous person who is rationally justified in hoping for
happiness. Virtue is a necessary condition for justified hope. And practical reason
presents the Ideas for this hope.
Commentary
Lewis White Beck has objected to Kant's claim that one has a moral duty
to further the highest good on the grounds that a person cannot possibly make the
highest good a reality:
For suppose I do all in my power-which is all any moral decree
can demand of me~to promote the highest good, what am I to do?
Simply act out of respect for the law, which I already knew. I can do
absolutely nothing else toward apportioning happiness in accordance
with desert-that is the task of a moral governor of the universe, not
of a laborer in the vineyard. It is not my task; my task is to realize
the one condition of the summum bonum which is within my power
. . .; it is seriously misleading to say that there is a command to seek
the highest good which is different from the command to fulfill the
requirements of duty.108
But Beck has overstated his criticism. Kant himself admitted that natural

54

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

laws, upon which happiness largely depends, are out of a person's control.109 And
he even held that because one cannot bring the highest good about, there must be
a Supreme Being who can. But his basic point was that according to practical
reason the highest good should somehow become a reality and mat each rational
being should do what he or she can even if that is relatively little, to bring it into
effect. One can sometimes do things to help make others and oneself happy, and
one should keep virtue in mind when doing these things. Evidently, Kant held the
highest good to be of such value that the command to further it was worth explicit
mention no matter how little one can do to bring it about.
Kant has, of course, been severely criticized for associating virtue with
happiness at all. Commentators have frequently charged him with contaminating
his ethic by introducing the hope for happiness. Theodore Greene's comment is
representative:
In short, morality is said to be the concern of a purely autonomous rational will. Kant's introduction of happiness into the moral
scheme is therefore inconsistent with his own principles, and is highly
detrimental to them.110
Seth Pringle-Pattison put it in stronger terms:
. . .the preacher of duty for duty's sake, who had so rigorously purged
his ethics of all considerations of happiness or natural inclination,
surprises us with the baldly hedonistic lines on which he rounds off
his theory. . . .An unkind critic might say that although the primacy
is accorded to virtue as the supreme condition, yet the definition of
virtue as "worthiness to be happy" seems, on the other hand, to put
virtue in a merely instrumental relation toward happiness, as the real
object of desire and the ultimate end of action.111
The criticism has also been raised by Schopenhauer, Paulsen, Teale, Dring, and
Murphy among others.112
But the criticism is not justified. Kant never suggested that an act could be
both virtuous and performed for the purpose of obtaining happiness. Virtuous
actions are only those which an autonomous agent determines to do because they
are demanded by universal moral maxims. A person who acts from laws based on
the ground or motive (Bewegungsgrund) of obtaining happiness is "prudential" or

Morality as the Basis for Hope

55

"pragmatic" but not virtuous. The moral person acts from laws which have no
other ground or motive than the worthiness of being happy.
The practical law, derived from the motive of happiness, I term
pragmatic (rule of prudence), and that law, if [better: "insofar as"]
there is such a law, which has no other motive than worthiness of
being happy, I term moral (law of morality).113
In Kant's view a virtuous deed can never be performed for the purpose or
motive of obtaining happiness; its only appropriate ground is the moral law which
demands it. But the principle of justice demands that happiness should result from
it. The critics mentioned above have not taken adequate account of this difference
between motive or ground and result. Kant's theory of virtue and his principle of
happiness are separate, and they are not inconsistent. The hope for happiness may
serve as an impulse moving us to action but not as a ground or motive for the
action.
This is not unlike how we often consider the issue of gratitude. We admire
a person who comes to the aid of another merely because the other is in need. But,
while we can consider the helper's motive to be "pure," we also might believe that
the person assisted should express gratitude or, conversely, that the helper should
be thanked. Two separate and consistent principles are involved.
More serious, however, is a related criticism that Hermann Cohen has raised
against the hope for happiness. He has argued that Kant's formalistic ethic is
complete in and of itself and that there was no need for him to bring in happiness
and concern about the summum bonum:
What in all the world has induced Kant to take himself from
unconquerable fortress of his formalism and go to the ambiguous
diversity of goods, a diversity mixed in subjectivity?114
The hope for happiness, Cohen asserted, is unnecessary in Kant's ethic and detrimental to it. The formalism is complete, and concern for happiness inserts an
unfortunate subjectivist element.
Indeed, in the "Preface" to the first edition of Religion within the Limits of
Reason Alone, Kant seemed to agree that morality is complete without the hope for
happiness:

56

Kant's Philosophy of Hope


So far as morality is based upon the conception of man as a free
agent who, just because he is free, binds himself through his reason
to unconditional laws, it stands in need neither of the idea of another
Being over him for him to apprehend his duty, nor an incentive
(Triebfeder) other than the law itself, for him to do his duty.115

But in the Critique of Pure Reason, he had claimed that without hope the moral
maxims are "indeed objects of approval and admiration, but not springs [Triebfedern] of purpose and action."116 And even in Religion within the Limits of
Reason Alone, he conceded that,
. . .it is one of the inescapable limitations of man and of his faculty of
practical reason (a limitation, perhaps, of all other worldly beings as
well) to have regard, in every action, to the consequence thereof, in
order to discover therein what could serve him as an end and also
prove the purity of his intention. . . .117
The will (Willkr), he mentioned in that same work, must envisage a definite
end before a decision can occur:
For in the absence of all reference to an end no determination
of the will can take place in man, since such determination cannot be
followed by no effect whatever; and the representation of the effect
must be capable of being accepted, not, indeed, as the basis for the
determination of the will and as an end antecedently aimed at, but yet
as an end conceived of as the result ensuing from the will's determination through the law (finis in consequentiam veniens). Without
an end of this sort a will, envisaging to itself no definite goal for a
contemplated act, either objective or subjective (which it has, or ought
to have, in view), is indeed informed as to how it ought to act, but not
whither, and so can achieve no satisfaction.118
Both in the Critique of Pure Reason and in subsequent writings Kant maintained that die moral law can be the only conscious ground or motive (Bewegungsgrund) for a moral action. And in the Critique of Practical Reason Kant insisted
that the moral feeling of respect for the moral law is the "sole and undoubted moral
[emphasis mine] incentive [Triebfeder]."119 But Kant suspected that a pure ground
or motive may not be sufficient to move a finite human to right action. Even a
good person could become discouraged if he or she could not see that morality

Morality as the Basis for Hope

57

leads to beneficial results for people. Ideally, perhaps one should never become
discouraged in this way and should never need an incentive other than respect for
the moral law, but, as Kant acknowledged in a passage previously quoted, this need
is one of a human's "inescapable limitations."120
Cohen was correct when he asserted that Kant's formalistic ethic is complete
and does not need an appeal to happiness, but Kant's mention of hope as an incentive was not intended to "complete" his ethic. The moral goodness of an action is
a function of only the rational ground of action for the agent, i.e., the agent's
motive. Kant never suggested that any ground or motive other than the moral law
is appropriate.
Kant did not intend for his theory of hope to fill a "gap" in his ethic. It was,
radier, to provide an answer to the theoretical question, "What is to result from this
right conduct of oursTm and thereby to provide an incentive that is helpful
because of our weak nature:
The third questionIf I do what I ought to do, what may I then
hope?is at once practical and dieoretical, in such fashion mat the
practical serves only as a clue that leads us to the answer to the
theoretical question.122
According to Kant, a person's psychological framework is such that one might not
be able to act without an answer to this question-even if his or her motive were
pure. But in addition to that, Kant recognized that although pure morality may be
good, it is not the total metaphysical good. An affirmative answer to the hope
question is sought as an indication that the total good (a world characterized by
justice) is possible rather than for the purpose of completing an ethic.
If Kant is to be faulted, it would have to be for inaccurately assessing the
human capacity for action rather than for inappropriately "completing" his ethic.
But he is on safe ground also with respect to human capabilities. As he argued in
Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, people are "frail."123 What one wills
to do, he or she is not always able to accomplish. A person may need additional
incentives to move him or her to action.
We have seen that the purity of ethics is a function of the rational ground for
action only and mat Kant never allowed hope for happiness to function as this
rational ground. Even if humanity does need hope as an impulse (which is not

58

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

necessary to Kant's theory), this is a concession to the weakness of the human will
and does not introduce an impurity. Moreover, hope is not needed to somehow
"complete" Kant's ethic. The ethic is complete in and of itself, but practical reason
indicates more to us than merely what our duties are. It also affirms that virtuous
people should be rewarded--/.^., that it is reasonable for the virtuous person to hope
for happiness.
We may also contend that the hope for which Kant argued was not primarily
a psychological or moral "prop." Rather, Kant appealed to the claims of practical
reason and to rational judgments about what constitutes humanity's highest good.
Kant's theory is based on the logic of practical reason. True, hope could be and
is of moral and/or psychological benefit to a person, but Kant did not argue for it
only on those grounds.
One of the important values of Kant's general position on hope is that it
supports a holistic interpretation of a person. Kant recognized that a human is not
merely a rational being who is capable of autonomous moral action. A person is
also a sensuous being with desires. He or she yearns for happiness in the form of
the deep, lasting satisfaction of those desires. It would have been easy for Kant to
deprecate the desires on the grounds that they merely weigh down a person in his
or her efforts to be rational and moral, but Kant resisted that. Although he did not
deny that the desires can work against virtue, he affirmed, nevertheless, that they
constitute an essential part of a person's nature and that complete human fulfillment
must include happiness as well as virtue.
The third argument outlined above reveals that Kant also tried to be realistic
with respect to human character. He was willing to consider the possibility that
people are frail and that they would not be able to perform moral actions even if
their wills were pure. His realistic assessment of human nature will be even more
obvious in his argumentation in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.
Kant's theory of hope presents a person as both rational/moral and sensuous,
but he has been severely criticized for bifurcating a human along these lines.
Greene has made the point succinctly:
Kant has analyzed man into two irreconcilable natures, the one
abstractly rational and noumenal, the other phenomenal and purely
sentient. The former is completely severed from the empirical world

Morality as the Basis for Hope

59

and all empirical motives, desires and impulses, and is intent only
upon the performance of what is often described by Kant as a joyless
duty. The latter is empty of all moral reasonableness and is concerned
solely with irrational sensuous satisfaction. Man thus bifurcated is a
thoroughly unreal creature of Kant's own imagination.124
Although such phrases as "joyless duty" and "irrational sensuous satisfaction"
are exaggerations inaccurate as a description of Kant's position, the basic point of
the criticism is serious enough to demand attention. Are a human's two sides without point of contact and mutual influence?
There is an element of truth in Greene's criticism. Kant did work with such
basic dichotomies as between noumena and phenomena, freedom and causality.
The two sides of a person merely show how those realms impinge upon him or her.
The rational/moral side is noumenal, free, and under moral law. The sensuous side
is phenomenal and subject to causal law. But even if Kant did not give a theoretical explanation of how the two are in fact related, it is wrong to suggest that he
simply considered them to be in isolation from each other. The key to their proper
relation is supplied by practical reason125~the person and only the person whose
will is morally pure (i.e., whose actions have as their rational ground only the
moral law) should experience happiness (i.e., should experience the satisfaction of
desires). Although theoretical reason cannot tell one how the sides are conjoined,
practical reason indicates that they should be and can be. Moreover, Kant held that
it is in the will that the two sides of a person do actually meet. The will chooses
to go in one direction or another. Practical reason provides the rational moral law
for the will, but the desires appeal to the will to choose for their satisfaction. If the
will accedes to reason, it chooses the moral because it is moral. Otherwise it is
affected by the desires.126 Thus, Kant held that the two sides of a person meet in
the will. This might not be entirely satisfactory, since the theoretical questions
regarding the relationship between a person's two sides are still unresolved, but it
is not true that Kant has simply divided people into "two irreconcilable natures."
Remaining Difficulties
The arguments which Kant presented are open to criticism, however. Five

60

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

difficulties will be presented.


First, in the first two arguments designed to show that the virtuous person
may hope for happiness, he asserted the principle of retributive justice as a claim
of practical reason: 'the virtuous person and only such a person should experience
that for which he or she hopes, viz., happiness.' But he did not argue for this
principle; he only asserted that it is supplied by practical reason and is necessarily
true.127 Indeed, in "On the Failure of All Attempted Theodicies," Kant claimed that
reason simply cannot understand cosmic justice.
Yet some argument would be helpful to indicate why one should accept this
principle of retributive justice at all. To be sure, no one seems more worthy of
happiness than the virtuous person, and we are often indignant when the evil prosper and the good suffer. But indignation is not reason, and Kant has not shown
why the virtuous person and only such a person should experience happiness or
how one can be sure than this is indeed a claim of practical reason. Moreover, it
is not altogether obvious that the principle should be accepted. A person could
argue, for example, that virtue is its own reward and that happiness neither is nor
should be longed for by a person truly interested in virtue. Or one might think that
the clever and prudent person is the one who ought to be happy. And perhaps even
more appealing to many would be the view that it is inhumane to claim that only
the virtuous person should experience happiness. Could it ever be right, they might
ask, for a person to will the unhappiness of another person-no matter how wicked
that person might be? It is, moreover, impossible for one to know another's
motives and moral character, so one can never promote another person's happiness
or work for his or her harm confident that one would be acting justly. So convinced is Walter Kaufmann of the unacceptability of this principle that he has
written of "The Death of Retributive Justice." He was concerned primarily with
punishments rather than rewards and argued that (1) it is impossible to specify
punishments that are exactly proportionate to crimes, (2) even if this were possible,
it would not follow that they should be imposed (because, for example, rehabilitation might better be accomplished through other means), and (3) preoccupation
with retributive justice is inhumane.128
We do not wish to argue that the objections to the principle of retributive
justice prove that the principle is unacceptable. It is true, however, that they raise

Morality as the Basis for Hope

61

doubts sufficient to require that an argument be given for this principle, and Kant
did not provide such an argument.
A second problem in Kant's theory is that he has not done what is necessary
to show how virtue and happiness could be properly coordinated even in an ideal
realm. He has not shown how it is possible that the virtuous person and only such
a person will experience happiness in an ideal realm. In the Idea of a moral world
we are to think that the morality of all people will naturally result in general
harmony and well-being, but it is not clear that all or only the virtuous would
experience happiness in that world. Although some causes of suffering like war
and crime might be eliminated, it is not obvious why such phenomena as natural
disasters, disease, and death would not continue to cause suffering. His description
of Ulis Idea needs elaboration to indicate how the virtuous could be spared this
suffering.
Likewise, it is not clear how moral laws could be coordinated with natural
laws in such a way that virtue would lead to happiness. How are natural laws to
be formulated so that truth-telling by a virtuous person will lead to happiness but
the same action by a prudent individual will not? And how are natural laws to
allow for the fact that desires vary among people in that something which contributes to happiness for one person does not for another? Kant has not shown how
the two types of laws can be coordinated in the way required. It is true that God
could continually intervene to insure that the virtuous person and only such a
person would be rewarded, but this departs so radically from the model of a Newtonian world, which Kant deeply admired, that he himself would probably have
been reluctant to accept the proposal.
A third difficulty concerns the force of postulation in Kant's arguments. The
arguments require that there be a Supreme Being, but Kant's postulation only
provides that one must hold to the Idea of a Supreme Being. (Kant would not
assert simply that God exists.) The arguments depend on an apparent equivocation
between "One must think that there is a Supreme Being" and "There is a Supreme
Being" or between "The Idea of a Supreme Being" and a "Supreme Being." To
avoid this equivocation Kant would have to show that one of the two pairs is
equivalent (which he has not done), or he would have to rework the argument so
that only the claim, "One must think that there is a Supreme Being" (or "One must

62

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

hold to the Idea of a Supreme Being") would be required. But it is not easy to see
how this could be done effectively. The premise "An ideal realm of virtue coordinated with happiness is possible if and only if there is a Supreme Being" would
not have the same force, for example, if reworded in the form, "An ideal realm of
virtue coordinated with happiness is possible if and only if one must think that
there is a Supreme Being" (or ". . . if and only if one must hold to the Idea of a
Supreme Being"). This would make Kant's argument psychological in a way
which he did not intend, and the premise would be implausible, in any case.
Further changes in other premises carry with them similar unsavory consequences.
Fourth, the arguments designed to show that it is reasonable for a virtuous
person to hope for happiness are of no personal value to one unless it is possible
to be virtuous in the first place. The problem is particularly acute if virtue is
understood to be moral perfection, as Kant in his writings on ethics implied it
should be. Moreover, Kant frequently described the moral ideals as though they
required complete virtue on the part of the members. Kant himself recognized the
difficulty in being virtuous. He addressed it most directly in Religion within the
Limits of Reason Alone, which we will examine in the next chapter. In his developed philosophy of religion, Kant was particularly concerned to show how it is
possible for a person to be virtuous, and he did provide a reasonable solution to
this difficulty.
Finally, the arguments do not indicate whether a realm of virtue and happiness such that the latter is contingent upon the former is possible in this world.
The arguments claim that the principle of justice will obtain if an ideal realm is
possible but not only if this is the case. Thus even if one assumes that an ideal
realm could only occur in some future world (as Kant apparently did in the Critique of Pure Reason), the possibility that a lesser condition could be developed in
which there would not necessarily be complete virtue or complete happiness but in
which there would still be coordination between the two cannot be dismissed for
this world. Furthermore, one need not assume from the outset that some type of
ideal realm is not itself possible in this world. Kant was also interested in the
question whether it is reasonable for the virtuous person to hope for happiness in
this world, and he was concerned to answer the question in his philosophy of
history. This issue will be considered in Chapter 4.

Morality as the Basis for

Hope

63

NOTES
'CPR, A805=B833.
2

In this chapter Kant's moral philosophy is treated in a somewhat narrower sense than is
often the case. Although the chapter will include some consideration of his postulations of God
and immortality, fuller attention will be given to them in Chapter 3 in connection with his
philosophy of religion.
3
Ibid., A805=B833. In the Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View Kant wrote that
hope is a state to which the mind gives itself over completely when the prospect of immense
good fortune opens unexpectedly. Cf. Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point
of View, trans. Mary /. Gregor (The Hague: Martinus Mj'hoff, 1974), p. 122 (VTf, 255). Hope
is aroused by the prospect of happiness as well as being directed toward it.

*Ibid., A809=B837. "Wie, wenn ich mich nun so verhalte, da ich der Glckseligkeit
nicht unwrdig sei, darf ich auch hoffen, ihrer dadurch teilhaftig werden zu knnen?" Smith has
lost the force of the "Wie" in his translation. Kant was concerned about how virtue could result
in happiness. He was interested in a basis to support hope rather than in merely a "yes" or "no"
answer.
5

Ibid., A806=B834.

Ibid., A813=B841. Notes from Kant's class lectures on ethics suggest why he rejected
the classical theories of the summum bonum. On Diogenes' and the Cynics' proposal that the
summum bonum is simplicity, he indicated that this is a "shortcut" to happiness and morality.
He rejected both the Epicurean ideal because it gives too little place to virtue and the Stoic
proposal for its denigration of happiness. He spoke more highly of the Christian ideal of
holiness, however, since it combines moral perfection with complete happiness beyond this world.
Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), pp. 6-11.
1

Cf. especially the analysis of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone in Chapter 3

below.
%
Cf footnotes 1 and 4 above. The condition in the second reformulation cited might seem
not to require virtuous conduct but rather merely the avoidance of vice, yet this is surely a
misreading. On the basis of the first reformulation we may safely assume that it means, 'If I
behave as to be worthy of happiness'i.e., 'If I am virtuous.'
9

CPR, A809=B837.

'"Cf. ibid., A806=B834, A809=B837, and A810=B838.


"Ibid., A811=B839.

64

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

12

These lecture notes should be used with some caution since they do not come from
Kant's own hand, but they can be helpful when they reinforce or shed light upon points made
elsewhere by Kant. They have been edited by Paul Menzer and are based primarily on a set of
notes from the hand of Th. Fr. Brauer dated October 12, 1780.
13

Kant, Lectures on Ethics, p. 54. Kant distinguished the two kinds of praemia as follows:

There are two kinds of praemia, auctorantia and remunerantia. The


former apply where the actions are done solely for the sake of a promised reward,
where the action is motivated by the reward. The latter apply where the action
proceeds solely from a good disposition, from pure morality, where it is not
motivated by the reward. The former are inducements, the latter recompenses.
It follows that praemia auctorantia are not, while praemia remunerantia are,
moralia and that praemia auctorantia are pragmatica. (Ibid., pp. 52-53.)
"Ibid., p. 6.
15

CPR, A813=B841.

l6

If practical reason indicates that something ought to be the case, then a hope which is
justifiable in the sense defined is a hope that this thing will be the case.
17

In Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, as we shall see in Chapter 3, Kant
suggested that hope may be directed toward attaining virtue as an intermediate goal. This, it
should be noted, is also consistent with the claim that virtue is a necessary condition for
happiness.
''Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysical Elements of Justice, Part I of The Metaphysics of
Morals, trans. John Ladd (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), pp. 18-19 (VI, 218-19).
t9

Ibid., p. 102 (VI, 333).

*>Ibid.
2X

Ibid., p. 101 (VI, 332).

22
Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, Part of The Metaphysics of
Morals, trans. James Ellington (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964), p. 159 (VI, 488).

^Religion, p. 66 (VI, 72).


M

In fact, Kant developed extremely persuasive arguments against the view that one can
discern the principle of divine justice in the world. Cf. Immanuel Kant, "On the Failure of All
Attempted Philosophical Theodicies," in Despland, Kant on History and Religion, pp. 288-89
(Vm, 260-62).
*Ibid., pp. 293-4 (VIII, 267).
t P R , A805=B833.

Morality as the Basis for

Hope

65

"ibid., A707=B735.
n

lbid., A804=B832.

Ibid., A797=B825. Kant thought that reason would reach its ultimate goal of
constructing an inclusive system of knowledge if it could apprehend the nature of three objectsfreedom (of the will), immortality (of the soul), and God. Cf. ibid., A728=B826.
*/. Gottfried Martin, and Dieter-Jrgen Lwischt, Sachindex zu Kants Kritik der reinen
Vernunft (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1967). The references for these sixteen are CPR, Bxv,
A236=B295 (twice), A630=B658, A639=B667, A713=B741, A726=B754 (twice), A741=B769,
A756=B784, A764=B792, A785=B813, A796=B824, A829=B857, A848=B876, and A849=B877.
Six times "hope" refers to the longing for a future life-A805=B833, A809=B837 (three times),
A810=B838, and A813=B841. The other occurrences are very general, refer to a desire to
accomplish a particular task within the framework of the Critique of Pure Reason, or merely
provide emphasis for a point.
31

Kant's insistence that the hope question is answered by practical rather than theoretical
reason sets him in marked contrast to some of the most prominent "Enlightenment optimists."
Such thinkers as Saint-Pierre, Turgot, and de Condorcet not only based their hope on the progress
which (what Kant would call) "theoretical reason" could see in human history. They also thought
that mankind's attainment of its hopes depended upon the further development and use of that
rational faculty.
32
Kant sometimes used the words "theoretical" and "speculative" interchangeably.
Occasionally, therefore, he called "theoretical reason," "speculative reason." Cf. CPR, A80406=B832-34.
Theoretical reason seeks to understand all events as following invariably from prior events
according to rules (A198=B243). Kant thought that humanity benefits from this reason when it
is directed toward phenomena but not when it seeks to interpret moral actions. Cf. A803=B831
and A549-50=B577-78 for a description of how reason tries also to understand human actions
in terms of causation by positing reason as a possible cause.

"Ibid., A80O=B828.
M
Ibid. To say that freedom is "noumenal" does not mean that it has some mysterious
metaphysical existence. We must think that a human is free even though we cannot perceive this
freedom or understand it on the basis of theoretical reason.

*Ibid., A807=B835.
In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant had not yet developed the concept of the categorical
imperative, but he did claim that practical reason regulates action through the use of a priori
laws.
Since practical reason regulates actions whereas theoretical reason can only seek to
understand events, Kant claimed mat it is only "in their practical, meaning thereby their moral,
employment, that the principles of pure reason have objective validity." ("Demnach haben die
Principien der reinen Vernunft, in ihrem praktischen, namentlich aber dem moralischen
Gebrauche objektive Realitt."-/*/*/., A808=B836.)

66

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

M
We will continue to capitalize "Idea" in order to indicate clearly that "idea" in Kant's
technical sense is meant.
37

CPR, A321ff.=B377ff.

3t

Ibid., A671=B699 and A771=B799.


Kant's Ideas are similar to but not identical with the "fictions" described by Hans
Vaihinger in The Philosophy of 'As if. Although Vaihinger and many other scholars claim that
they are identical, they differ on at least two points. Vaihinger claimed that the "fictions" come
in and pass out of usage according to mankind's development and that their fictional nature
comes to be recognized by the holder. Although the issue is complex, Kant would probably
disagree at least on these two points. Cf Hans Vaihinger, The Philosophy of 'As if (London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1935), esp. pp. 97ff.
39

CPR, A808=B836.

lbid.

41

Ephesians 4:11-16,1 Corinthians 12:12, and Romans 12:4-5.

42

G. Koch, "Corpus Christi mysticum," Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 1957,
I, 1871, and . Bonwetsch, "Dionysius the Areopagite," The New Schajf-Henog Religious
Encyclopedia, 1950, , 438-40.
43
On the use of the term in Roman Catholic theology, cf. Marie-Joseph le Guillou,
"Church," Sacrementum Mundi, 1968,1, 320 f.
The Lutheran theologian, Johann Gerhard, wrote the following:

Omne corpus mysticum est invisible. Ecclesia est corpus Christi mysticum.
Ergo ecclesia est invisibilis. Caput ecclesiae catholicae in hac vita est invisibile.
Ergo ipsa ecclesia est invisibilis. Antecedens patet, quia Christum, qui est
mysticum ecclesiae caput, in hac vita non videmus. I Peter 1:8. (Johann Gerhard,
Loci Theologici, V, 314.)
u
Cf. Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (3d
ed. reprint; Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, c.1899), pp. 592-99.
45

CPR, A808=B836.

"Ibid.
"Ibid.
"Ibid., A809=B837.
49
Other models are possible, too. The notion of the "Kingdom of God" developed in the
Gospels is not identical with the Church and may have been a model. Kant's notion is similar
in obvious respects to the ideal state described by Plato in the Republic although there are
important differences such as Plato's basic class structure.

Morality as the Basis for

Hope

67

'"For a thorough analysis of Kant's religious background as it affected his writing on hope
and religion, cf. Bohatec, Die Religions-philosophie Kants in der "Religion innerhalb der Grenzen
der bloen Vernunft."
"The other "marks" are holiness, catholicity (universality), and apostolicity.
52

C/. Chapter 3. Kant's theory of hope was established in his moral philosophy, but it
received its fullest expression in his philosophy of religion.
"Religion, pp. 90-128 (VI, 98-137).
M
It is likely that Kant learned Newtonian physics under Martin Knutsen at the University
of Knigsberg. Several of his early writings reveal his admiration for Newtonian science. In his
Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces (1747) and Monadologia physica (1756) he
indicated how much better established (Newtonian) physics was than metaphysics. And in
"General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens" (1755), he speculated on how Newtonian
law might be used to account for the origin and maintenance of the solar system. Gottfried
Martin has argued that Kant's Newtonian concept of nature (whereby nature is interpreted in
mechanical, mathematical laws) is basic to the critical philosophy of the Critique of Pure Reason.
Cf. Gottfried Martin, Kant's Metaphysics and Theory of Science, trans. P. G. Lucas (Manchester
University Press, 1955), pp. 67 ff.
55
In both "General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens" (1755) and Principiorum
primorum cognitionis metaphysicae nova dilucidatio" (1755), Kant developed an understanding
of nature as a harmonious system based on necessary, universal laws.
56
In "Geschichte und Naturbeschreibung der merkwrdigsten Votflle des Erdbebens"
(1757), Kant claimed that natural calamities teach mankind lessons. They remind humans, he
said, of their humanity and increase their awareness of nature's immensity. They show them that
"one is not born to erect eternal dwelling-places in this theater of vanity; one's whole life has
a far nobler end (KGS, 1,460). In "Versuch einiger Betrachtungen ber den Optimismus" (1759),
he argued that this world as a whole is the most perfect and that "everything is good in view of
the whole" (KGS, II, 35). Kant presented an argument in the Critique of Judgment (1790)
according to which nature uses calamities to promote the development in mankind of the ability
to set purposes and to attain them. Cf. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. J. H.
Bernard (New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1966), p. 281 (V, 431). In his critical period
Kant considered concepts like "Nature" to be heuristic Ideas.
57

CPR, A810=B838.

5t

lbid.

"This is my paraphrase of a portion of the passage referred to in footnote #58.


^CPR, A809-10=B837-38.
The phrase "als ob" ("as if) does not imply that the Idea is "make-believe." It indicates
more that the Idea enables a person to view something as a system or to act morally and
purposefully when without the Idea it would be difficult or impossible to do so.

68

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

61
Kant introduced these postulates on different grounds in the Critique of Practical Reason
and in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.
62

CPR, A810-11=B83<M0.

"Ibid., A811=B839.
"Ibid.
Along the same lines Kant wrote in another passage:
Thus without God and without a world invisible to us now but hoped for,
the glorious ideas of morality are indeed objects of approval and admiration, but
not springs of purpose and action. For they do not fulfill in its completeness that
end which is natural to every rational being and which is determined a priori, and
rendered necessary, by that same pure reason. Ibid., A813=B841.
In Dreams of a Spirit Seer (1766), Kant had indicated that while it is appropriate to base
the "expectation of a future life upon the feelings of a noble soul," hope leads one to
metaphysical speculations which are without rational support. Kant, Dreams of a Spirit Seer,
trans. John Manolesco (New York: Vantage Press, 1969), pp. 97-98 and 67-69 (, 373 and 34950). Such speculations were in Kant's eyes figments of the imagination, and he did not intend
the Ideas of practical reason to be considered such speculations.
65

Ibid., A814=B842.

"ibid.
61

Ibid., A815=B843.

^Foundations, p. 12 (IV, 396).


m

lbid., p. 9 (IV, 392-93).

10

Ibid., p. 12 (IV, 396). In the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), Kant would later
speak of two types of "highest goods"the "primary" good of complete virtue and the "complete"
good of virtue combined with happiness. Cf. CPrR, p. 114 (V, 110).
ll

Foundations, p. 52 (IV, 433). The law referred to in the first sentence of this passage
is the second formulation of the categorical imperative: "Act so that you treat humanity, whether
in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only."
n

Ibid., p. 57 (IV, 438). Paton lists this as the fifth formulation of the categorical
imperative. Cf. H. J. Paton, The Categorical Imperative (New York: Harper and Row, 1967),
pp. 129 and 185-198.
13

Ibid., pp. 52-53 (IV, 433-35). The full use of practical reason does not consist only in
the selection of suitable means for ends that are already given but also in the adoption of the
ends themselves.
"Jones correctly pointed out that when Kant spoke of a human as an end-in-himself, he

Morality as the Basis for Hope

69

did not mean that a person is an end in the positive sense of something that should be chosen
as an end or goal. He meant rather than a human is an end in the negative sense of something
that should not be used as a means. Cf. Hardy E. Jones, Kant's Principle of Personality
(Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1971), pp. 15-20.
7!

'Foundations, p. 36 (IV, 418).

76
In the Critique of Pure Reason the ideal is of happiness conjoined with virtue according
to the principle of retributive justice.

'"Foundations, p. 57 (IV, 438).


n

Ibid., p. 82 (IV, 463).

"Religion, pp. 4-7 (VI, 4-8). Cf. also ibid., p. 130 (VI, 139). The work will be examined
in Chapter 3.
""CPR, A805=B833.
"His concern for the difficulty of the task became even more pronounced in the Critique
of Practical Reason and Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.
82

CPrR, p. 81 (V, 78). Cf. ibid., pp. 74-92 (V, 71-90) for amplification on this point.
Cf. footnote 113 below for commentary on whether the highest good can be a proper

motive.
t3

Ibid., p. 114 (V, 110). Cf. also ibid., p. 126 (V, 122).

**Ibid.,p. 114 (V, 110).


%i

lbid., pp. 114-115 (V, 110-11).

Ibid., p. 134 (V, 129-30).

%1
Cf. ibid., pp. 115-17 (V, 111-13) for Kant's criticism of the Epicurean and Stoic schools
because of their attempts to collapse happiness into virtue and vice versa. Kant maintained that
they are two separate elements and that their connection is synthetic rather than analytic.
m

Ibid., p. 126 (V, 122).

89

ft/.,p. 118 (V, 114).

^lbid., p. 127 (V, 123).


"Ibid., pp. 129-30 (V, 125).
"Ibid., p. 44 (V, 43).
"Ibid.

70

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

""Ibid., p. 129 (V, 125).


95
A quite different problem of coordination has to do with how free acts occur in a
temporal, causal realm. Although this is an important problem of which Kant was aware, he
seems not to have had it specifically in mind here.

""Religion, p. 66 (VI, 72).


"One possibility is that a completely just society would enable the desires of virtuous
people to be satisfied in accord with natural law. But this is not as close a connection between
natural and moral law as Kant demanded. Even in a just society it is not clear how happiness
would be connected with motives rather than deeds.
98

Kant, The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, p. 149 (VI, 480).

"Ibid., p. 150 (VI, 482).


100

Ibid., pp. 150-51 (VI, 482).

Ibid., pp. 43-46 (VI, 386-88).

im

Ibid., pp. 44-45 (VI, 387).

Ibid., p. 52 (VI, 393).

1M

Ibid., pp. 52-53 (VI, 394).

l05

This indicates a weakness in the principle of retributive justice. It appears impossible


for people to know enough about others to use the principle in actions that affect others.
l06

Kant restricted the duty for the promotion of happiness to that of the well-being of
othersno doubt because he did not want to make the promotion of one's own happiness (a
prudential concern) a matter of morality and thus destroy the purity of ethics.
In the Metaphysics of Morals Kant did not describe any notion of an ideal realm in detail
but he did briefly mention "the idea of all men as brothers under one common father, who wants
happiness for everyone" p. 139 (VI, 473). One wishes that Kant had developed this notion of
an ideal family, for it contains the seeds of an interesting relationship between virtue (as an
expression of brotherhood) and happiness (as a gift from a loving father). It is different from
an ideal which uses society itself as a basic unit.
""It is remarkable just how strongly Kant felt on this particular point. In the Critique of
Practical Reason he wrote that the highest good must be possible or "the moral law[,] which
commands that it must be furtheredf,] must be fantastic, directed to empty imaginary ends, and
consequently false."-CPrR, p. 118 (V, 114).
This overstates the point, however. It may be important to save practical reason from
disrepute, but surely the entire validity of the moral law does not rest on this issue. The moral
law commands categorically. It cannot be contingent upon the realization of any particular end,
since that would make it hypothetical. Moreover, in the passage just quoted Kant claimed that
the highest good must be "furthered"not necessarily attained.

Morality as the Basis for

Hope

71

l08

Beck, A Commentary on Kant's Critique of Practical Reason (Chicago: The University


of Chicago Press, 1960), pp. 244-45. Although Beck's commentary is thorough and valuable on
many points, his consideration of the highest good is too brief.
,w

CPrR, pp. 117 ff. (V, 113 ff.).

""Theodore M. Greene, "The Historical Context and Religious Significance of Kant's


Religion," in Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, p. lxii.
'"Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison, The Idea of God in the Light of Recent Philosophy (2nd
ed.; London: Oxford University Press, 1920), pp. 32-33.
,12

Schopenhauer, for example, wrote,

Of course, strictly speaking, even Kant had banished eudaemonism from


ethics more in appearance than in reality, for he still leaves a mysterious
connection between virtue and supreme happiness in his doctrine of the highest
good, where they come together in an abstruse and obscure chapter; whereas
virtue is obviously quite foreign to happiness.--Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Basis
of Morality (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965) p. 49.
Cf. also Friedrich Paulsen, Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine (New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1902), pp. 320ff.; A. E. Teale, Kantian Ethics (London: Oxford University Press,
1951), p. 218; A. Dring, "Kants Lehre vom hchsten gut," Kant-Studien, IV (1900), 94ff.; and
Jeffrie G. Murphy, "The Highest Good as Content for Kant's Ethical Formalism," Kant-Studien,
LVI (1965), 105-106.
"3CPR, A806=B834.
Kant used the term "pragmatisch" to mean "having direct application in life." In "Von
den verschiedenen Rassen der Menschen" ("On the Various Races of Mankind"), he defined it
as useful "nicht blo vor die Schule sondern vor das Leben" ("not merely for school but for
life")--(KGS, ,4). Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View was a work describing what
a person can or should do to better himself or herself. In the passage quoted in the text,
"pragmatic" means "beneficial for life."
Lewis White Beck has argued that Kant was less clear and unequivocal than he might
have been on his claim that the moral law is the only motive for a moral action. He cited a
passage in the Critique of Practical Reason in which Kant asserted that,
. . .if the moral law is included as the supreme condition in the concept of the
highest good,. . .the concept of it and the idea of its existence as possible through
our practical reason are. . .the determining ground of the pure will. This is
because the moral law, included and thought in this concept, and no other object,
determines the will as required by the principle of autonomy. CPrR, p. 114 (V,
109-10).
But Kant's point was that so long as virtue is the necessary condition of happiness in the
highest good, then to say that the highest good is a proper motive for the will is tantamount to
saying that a person should act from moral law. The desire for happiness is still not allowed to
determine the will.
Kant clearly did not want to allow any ultimate motive other than the moral law, but his
mention of the highest good as a motive was unfortunate, nevertheless. One might be led to

72

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

think that the desire for the highest good could properly lead one to be moral, and this was
clearly not Kant's intention. Cf. Lewis White Beck, A Commentary on Kant's Critique of
Practical Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), pp. 242-44.
'"Hermann Cohen, Kant's Begrndung der Ethik (Berlin: Ferd. Dummlers
Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1877), p. 308. The translation is mine.
'"Religion, p. 3 (VI, 3).
"6CPR, A813=B841.
'"Religion, p. 6, footnote (VI, 7).
m

Ibid., p. 4 (VI, 4).


Kant distinguished between Willkr and Wille. The Willkr is that aspect of the will
which responds to various incentives and actually chooses. Wille represents the rational part of
the will~the part which holds the moral law before the Willkr and leads it to moral choices.
ll9

CPrR, p. 81 (V, 78). Cf. ibid., pp. 74-92 (V, 71-81) for the full statement of this view.

^Religion, p. 6, footnote (VI, 7).


Ibid., p. 4 (VI, 5)
l22

CPR, A805=B833.

Religion, p. 24 (VI, 29).

124

Greene, op.cit., p. lxiii.

l25

This is an aspect of what Kant referred to as the "primacy of practical reason." He held
that in attempts to combine speculative reason with practical reason, the latter has primacy so
long as the combination is a priori. The efforts of reason to find unity in a person must allow
moral law primacy. Cf. CPrR, pp. 124-26 (V, 119-21).
126

Kant described Wille in detail in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (p. 29
(IV, 412-13)), but his most extensive treatment of the entire subject is in Religion within the
Limits of Reason Alone, Book I. Kant's term "Gesinnung" is also translated as "will." It refers
to the basic character or disposition of a person. A person with a "good will" is thus one who
regularly chooses to follow moral law because it is moral. On this topic cf. John R. Silber, "The
Ethical Significance of Kant's Religion," in Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone,
pp. xciv-cxxiv. Wolffs analysis of the will suffers from the fact that it deals only with Wille and
not with Willkr or Gesinnung. Cf. Robert Paul Wolff, The Autonomy of Reason (New York:
Harper and Row, 1973), pp. 103-23.
J27
One might suggest that Kant's principle of retributive justice is analytic. But there is
no indication in his writings that he thought "should result in happiness for the agent" is part of
the meaning of "virtue."

Morality as the Basis for

Hope

73

128

Walter Kaufmann, Without Guilt and Justice (New York: Peter H. Wyden, 1973), p.

56.
It does not appear that Kant's penology is a necessary consequence of his moral and
political philosophy, but it does indicate how strictly he interpreted the principle of justice. His
theory of a human as a rational creature of dignity has the seeds for a penology of education, for
example.

Chapter 3
HOPE AND RELIGION
Kant's theory of hope was an outgrowth of his moral philosophy, but he gave
that theory its fullest development and expression in his philosophy of religion.1
He wrote in the Logic that "religion" answers the hope question and in his letter
to Studlin that this question is one for "philosophy of religion."2 In that same
letter he wrote that he had tried to complete his treatment of the topic in Religion
within the Limits of Reason Alone.3 We have also seen how Kant appealed to the
postulation of God in his attempt to show that it is reasonable for the virtuous
person to hope for happiness.4
In this chapter we will examine Kant's theory of hope as it is included in his
philosophy of religion. Of special importance for our purposes are Kant's development and use of the "religious postulates"viz., God and immortalityas well as
his efforts to show how it is possible for a person to be truly virtuous.
Hope and the Nature of Kant's Philosophy of Religion
Kant viewed his Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793), his most
important writing on philosophy of religion, as a work in "philosophical theology"~a discipline which he contrasted with biblical or ecclesiastical theology.
The biblical or ecclesiastical theologian, he wrote, 1) bases religious claims upon
historical events and revelations (both experiential), 2) binds people to dogmas and
practices which go beyond the dictates of practical reason, 3) presents as "absolute
truths" assertions which may be false, and 4) gives divine sanction to purely human
commands.5 Such a theologian is interested primarily in supporting, or at most

76

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

merely modifying, the doctrines of a Church.


The allegiance of the philosophical theologian, by contrast, is to pure reason.
This person bases religious claims entirely on what pure reason substantiates.
Consequently, the claims are unaffected by the vicissitudes of experience, the
uncertainties of revelation, or the subjectivity of thoughts and commands that are
not a priori.
The contrast between the two types of theology is found in a passage in
which the basic claim of the Christian Church about Jesus is contrasted with the
belief of a person who trusts only what practical reason says:
The proposition: We must believe that there was once a man
(of whom reason tells us nothing) who through his holiness and merit
rendered satisfaction both for himself (with reference to his duty) and
for all others (with their shortcomings, in the light of their duty), if we
are to hope [better: "in order to hope"] that we ourselves, though
[better: "even"] in a good course of life, will be saved by virtue of that
faith alonethis proposition says something very different from the
following: With all our strength we must strive after the holy disposition of a course of life well-pleasing to God, to be able to believe
[better: "in order to believe"] that the love (already assured us through
reason) of God toward man, so far as man does endeavor with all his
strength to do the will of God, will make good, in consideration of an
upright disposition, the deficiency of the deed, whatever this deficiency may be.6
The Christian Church's belief is historical, dogmatic, and opposed to the a priori,
necessary claims of practical reason about what we must do. Ecclesiastical or
biblical theology is laudable, he held, only insofar as its teachings coincide with
and support those of philosophical theology.
In Part I of The Strife of Faculties, published five years later in 1798, Kant
argued that the philosopher has the right to interpret Scripture according to the
Ideas and claims of practical reason. The exegetical principles which he presented
were: 1) Passages which contain theoretical teachings that purport to be holy but
that go beyond pure reason may be interpreted in favor of practical reason, but
those which contradict practical reason must be so interpreted. 2) No special
importance need be placed on the belief in doctrines which would have to be re-

Hope and Religion

77

vealed before they could be known. 3) A person's moral life is the product of his
or her own powers and not the effect of a higher cause. Passages which seem
opposed to this view must be interpreted so that they accord with it. 4) Reason
authorizes only the person whose conscience is so severe that the person cannot see
how he or she could possibly be righteous to believe in the possibility of supernatural aid.7
Philosophy of religion, as Kant understood it, is "pure" religion. It is religion
excised of all doctrines and practices which do not come directly from (pure)
practical reason.
Kant had not always held the view that practical reason is the only reliable
basis for belief in God. In two of his "pre-critical" writings, viz., "Principiorum
primorum cognitionis metaphysicae nova dilucidatio" (1755) and "The Only Possible Basis of a Proof for a Demonstration of the Existence of God" (1763), he had
argued mat there must be a Necessary Being who established the order of causation
but who is not likewise determined. This Being, he claimed, created a world designed to develop toward the goal of completeness {Vollkommenheit)?
In Dreams of a Spirit Seer (1766), Kant seemed to reject both the attempt
to establish claims about God on experience and the effort to do so through theoretical speculation. Instead, he based religious claims upon moral sensibility. The
"feelings of the noble soul" give rise to the expectation of a future life9 and to the
"felt dependence of the private will upon the Universal Will."10 Although he here
rejected his earlier religious "rationalism," he had not yet come to base religion
upon practical reason.
In the critical phase of his philosophy, Kant held that the religious beliefs
which one can reasonably and confidently hold are limited to those known through
practical reason. He viewed experience, revelation, feelings, and theoretical
speculation all as unreliable guides to beliefs about God and a future life. In two
of his later essays on religion, he specifically cautioned against going beyond what
practical reason tells us on such matters. In "On the Failure of All Attempted
Philosophical Theodicies" (1791), he reproved Job's "friends" for trying to develop
a theoretical explanation for all of the suffering in the world.11 They had attempted
to perceive ultimate moral purposes within the natural world. And in "The End of
All Things" (1794), he claimed that the religious imagery of a final judgment, a

78

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

millennium, heaven, hell, and the like is speculative and goes far beyond what
practical reason tells us.12 All we can know through practical reason about the
"end" are that we will be judged on the basis of the moral course of our lives and
that the only one who can make this judgment is a Supreme Being who "knows the
heart."13
Religion of pure reason differs from traditional religion in that it is both
based solely on practical reason and dedicated totally to the promotion of virtue in
the religious person. But there is one important feature which the two types of
religion share. Both seek to tell a person what he or she may hope. Traditional
religion offers hope for bliss and it does so in terms of speculative notions about
heaven, nirvana, God's blessings, and the like. But these concepts are not
grounded on any firm basis, according to Kant. A person has no possible way of
knowing such things. One cannot experience them and cannot form meaningful
theoretical interpretations of them.
Kant accepted it as the challenge for his philosophy of religion to answer the
same question (What may I hope?) but to do so on what he judged to be the solid
basis of practical reason. If this challenge Can be met, he thought, then the
doctrines of faith would themselves be a priori and, therefore, necessary.
Hope and the First Attempts at a Critical Philosophy of Religion: The
Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and The Critique of Practical Reason (1788)
Kant first developed the elements of a religion of pure reason in the Critique
of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason. Essentially, his strategy in
both works was to show that practical reason requires us to hold to the Ideas of a
Supreme Being and a future world as the basis for the realization of the ideals of
reason. These postulates are necessary to enable U s to understand how the virtuous
person will experience happiness. A person's primary hope is directed toward
happiness, and the religious postulates show that for the virtuous person this hope
is reasonable.
The details of this strategy varied between the two works. In the Critique
of Pure Reason, Kant wished to show that a "moral world" is possible despite the
fact that "others do not act in conformity with the law."14 He claimed that this

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world can occur if and only if there is a Supreme Being to govern nature in accord
with moral law and if there is a future life in which the governance of this Being
will result in reward for the virtuous. If one postulates these Ideas, Kant asserted,
the virtuous person's hope for happiness will not be mere wishful thinking.
In the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant attempted to show that the conditions which would make the highest good possible can indeed be fulfilled. The
complete virtue which the highest good requires is attainable if a person can continue to make moral progress beyond this world. Reason, Kant held, counts unlimited progress as perfection attained.15 And God can coordinate natural and moral
laws under the hegemony of the latter.16
Both of Kant's attempts in these two writings to establish the elements of a
religion of pure reason were preliminary. Not only did his argumentation change
between the two works, but in a subsequent book, Religion within the Limits of
Reason Alone (1793), the focus of our attention in this chapter, he did not use the
specific arguments of either of those earlier works. He did continue, however, to
seek to provide a basis for hope through religion.
Hope and the Developed Critical Philosophy of Religion:
Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793)
In his critical philosophy of religion, Kant held that the only religious beliefs
to which one can reasonably and confidently hold are those known through practical reason. His general strategy on religion in the Critique of Pure Reason and
the Critique of Practical Reason was to show that the postulation of God and
immortality are necessary to enable a virtuous person to understand how he or she
can hope to experience happiness.
In Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant developed his critical
philosophy of religion to its highest point. He continued to hold to the basic thesis
of the first two Critiques, but the focus of his concern shifted. The major issue
with which he dealt in the later work was to show how it is possible for a person
to be truly virtuous.17 He sought to indicate that a rational religion could directly
benefit a person in the effort to be moral.
In the letter to Studlin already mentioned, Kant indicated that it was in

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Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone that he had attempted to "complete the
third part of [his] plan"18--i.e., to answer the question, 'What may I hope?'.
Because of the obvious importance which the work has for the topic of hope, we
will analyze it in somewhat fuller detail.
Kant wished to develop his religion of pure reason (or philosophical theo
logy) as an improvement over traditional religion in that it would give religious
doctrine and practice a sound rational foundation. But it paralleled traditional
religion as far as some particular topics and purpose were concerned. The structure
of the work reveals that he made use of standard categories of systematic theology
by treating anthropologia (Book I), christologia (Book ), and ecclesia (Books III
and IV) in that order.19 In Book I Kant treated the topic of humanity's essential
moral character--i.e., whether mankind is by nature good or evil. Book was
devoted to the description of Christ as the ideal of individual virtue. In Books III
and rV Kant presented his views both on what the ideal ethical community would
be like as well as on the inadequacies of the "visible" Church. Kant used this
structure to show a "rational" or "logical" description of mankind's moral devel
opment moving in biblical terms from the Fall to the appearance of Christ to the
establishment of the Church (Pentecost) and finally to the present condition of the
Church. Although it might appear that Kant was attempting to justify the Christian
doctrines associated with these topics, it is more accurate to hold that he made use
of traditional religious concepts to illustrate the claims which he understood
practical reason to make. He attempted to establish a basis for what would be in
his view a better, more rational religion.
We should note that Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone is not a work
in which Kant tried to appease religious people by showing that his philosophy is
compatible with their views.20 The book contains too many negative claims about
specific doctrines and about the Church to have been intended for that purpose.
Moreover, it was this work that brought a harsh judgment from the censors upon
Kant.21 Not only did Kant use religious doctrines to illustrate a priori claims of
practical reasonhe also criticized the religious doctrines when they deviated from
those claims.

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Hope and the Highest Good Reaffirmed: The "Preface" to the First Edition
Although the concept of the highest good plays virtually no role in the body
of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone,11 Kant did introduce it in the
"Preface" to show how "morality leads inevitably to religion."23 Strictly speaking,
he claimed, morality needs no representation of an end, but,
. . .it is one of the inescapable limitations of man and of his faculty of
practical reason (a limitation, perhaps, of all other worldly beings as
well) to have regard, in every action, to the consequence thereof, in
order to discover therein what could serve him as an end and also
prove the purity of his intention. . . ,24
Practical reason itself, he asserted, presents the highest good which synthesizes all
worthy ends. It is the combination of all ends we ought to have (duties) with those
we do have (objects of desire) in such a way that the latter is contingent upon the
former.25
The Idea of the highest good leads in Kant's theory inevitably to the postulation of God. For the possibility of the highest good, Kant wrote, "we must postulate a higher, moral, most holy, and omnipotent Being which alone can unite the
two elements of the highest good."26 In the first "Preface" Kant also termed God
the "powerful moral Lawgiver."27 It is in accord with reason to think of the moral
law as if it were given by a single divine Being.
Kant's discussion here of the highest good and of the postulation of God is
surprisingly brief. Clearly he continued to hold that practical reason does give rise
to religious beliefs, but he denied that morality in itself needs any idea of an end,
he devoted less than one sentence to the argument for the postulation of God, and
he didn't even mention a future life. It is also noteworthy that Kant referred to
God as the "Lawgiver" even though there is no indication in the "Preface" why
God should have this title. The brief argument for the postulation of God is
basically the same as it was in the Critique of Practical Reason.
In the "Preface" Kant seems more concerned to reaffirm that religion is based
upon morality than to develop a position regarding hope, the highest good, or God.
His concern in the book as a whole was not to develop the same arguments he had
presented earlier in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical

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Reason. In the "Preface" he apparently restated one of those arguments primarily


to reaffirm that ethics is logically prior to religion.28

Hope and a Person's Quest for Virtue: Book I


The title of Book I, "Concerning the Indwelling of the Evil Principle with the
Good, or, On the Radical Evil in Human Nature,"29 sets the stage for the purpose
of the entire work: to show how it is possible for a person to be virtuous.30
Kant affirmed that mankind is radically evil~that there is an ineradicable
defect in humanity's moral make-up. In asserting this, Kant was both making his
own task more difficult (for he would have to show how a person can be virtuous
despite this defect) and going against the prevailing opinion of the leading Enlightenment thinkers. Since they were optimistic about humanity, they found it unacceptable to think of people as "radically evil." In a letter to Herder dated June 7,
1793, Goethe wrote concerning Kant's claim,
Kant required a long lifetime to purify his mantle of many
impurities and prejudices. And now he has wantonly tainted it with
the shameful strain of radical evil, in order that Christians too might
be attracted to kiss its hem.31
But Kant could not accept a simple optimism about mankind. He wrote,
He [any person] is evil by nature, means but this, that evil can
be predicated of man as a species; not that such a quality can be
inferred from the concept of his species (that is, of man in generalfor then it would be necessary; but rather that from what we
know of man through experience [emphasis mine] we cannot judge
otherwise of him, or, that we may presuppose evil to be subjectively
necessary to every man, even to the best.32
Evidence for the universality of evil can be found, Kant held, in many areas:
(1) in the state of nature as can be seen in the cruel deeds of primitive peoples,
(2) in civilized society as we see from the limited trust among people, from
'Schadenfreude' (inner joy in learning of the ill fortune of another), and the like
even among the most highly civilized people, and (3) in the international situation

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33

as can be found in the state of war or readiness for war in which nations exist.
But Kant's judgment about the universality of human evil was empirical and
contingent rather than a priori and necessary. It thus differs from the rest of his
description of human nature. Kant attributed humanity's evil neither to the sensuous nature nor to a corruption of practical reason. He rejected the former explanation on the grounds that people are responsible for evil even though they are not
responsible for having a sensuous nature. The latter he dismissed because pure
reason could not possibly disregard the lawotherwise it would cease to be reason
altogether.34
Kant held resolutely to the view that one is evil only if he or she is responsible for deeds, i.e., only if the person can choose to act contrary to moral law.
Mankind's evil reflects a problem in the human will (Willkr). That problem is
"ein Hang zum Bsen"--a propensity or proclivity to fall into evil.35 Literally,
"Hang" means "a steep slope." There is an original weakness in the will such that
one often "slides down the steep slope" and chooses to act contrary to the dictates
of practical reason, i.e., contrary to the moral law. Kant described this weakness
as including three dimensions: (1) "frailty" (when a person gives in to natural
inclinations even when he or she wants to be virtuous), (2) "impurity" (when one
does what the law commands partly for prudential reasons rather than solely
because the law commands it), and (3) "wickedness" (when one adopts maxims
which conflict with moral laws).36
Still, Kant rejected complete pessimism regarding human nature. He affirmed that humanity also has "eine ursprngliche Anlage zum Guten"an original
predisposition toward goodness. Nature has equipped every individual as animal,
human, and person with life, reason, and accountability, respectively. These
endowments promote goodness, for they "enjoin the observance of the law."37 And
"they are original, for they are bound up with the possibility of human nature."38
Life, which includes impulses for self-preservation, propagation, and community,
leads one to sociality, Kant held, and thus to move toward civil law. Reason leads
one to compare himself or herself with others and to desire equalityitself an
element of universal civil law. And accountability gives a person the capacity for
respect for "the moral law as in itself a sufficient incentive of the will."i9 He ac-

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knowledged that the first two can be corrupted into such things as drunkenness,
lawlessness, and rivalry, but he held that in their original forms they are genuine
capacities for goodness.40
Kant did not employ "Hang" and "Anlage" as synonyms. An "Anlage" pulls
a person in the direction of something. A "Hang" is a weakness or inadequacy
which makes one vulnerable.
The key to Kant's interpretation of humanity's moral nature lies in his understanding of the will. The Willkr stands free to choose either for the moral law
(which is provided by the Wille) or against it. There are several factors or forces
(the Anlagen) which pull a person in the direction of a choice that is moral, but the
weaknesses (Hnge) of the Willkr make a person vulnerable to choosing against
the moral law.
Kant's analysis of human moral nature also included another dimensionviz.,
"Gesinnung." The Gesinnung is a person's moral disposition-one's fundamental
moral character. The virtuous person is not merely one who frequently acts morallyhe or she is a person whose moral character (Gesinnung) is good. This disposition leads to good actions.
In Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant argued that if a person
is free to be either moral or immoral, then the possession of a good or bad moral
character must itself be a matter of free choice.41 He interpreted this character
(Gesinnung) to be a person's choice of his or her most fundamental maximthe
one on which rest all the others chosen. A basic moral character consists either in
a basic commitment always to do one's duty for duty's sake or in a rejection of
this morally pure maxim. Each individual freely chooses a logically fundamental
maximan "inner principle of maxims."42 Although it is not possible to pinpoint
that choice in time, every person makes it.43 Every accountable being freely adopts
a maxim as the subjective ground or disposition (Gesinnung) for the selection of
all other maxims.44
When an individual is evil, it is because that person has allowed his or her
egoism to interfere with morality in the selection of the fundamental maxim:
Man (even the best) is evil only in that he reverses the moral
order of the incentives when he adopts them into his maxim. He a-

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dopts, indeed, the moral along with the law of self-love; yet when he
becomes aware that they cannot remain on a par with each other but that one
must be subordinated to the other as its supreme condition, he makes the
incentive of self-love and its inclinations the condition of obedience to the
moral law.45
A person is evil by his or her own free choice. One allows self-love to dominate
over die dictates of practical reason.
Kant admitted that all are "by nature evil" in the sense that they are inevitably susceptible to die development of an impure moral character, but his analysis
did not allow him to claim that they are "evil by nature"~i.e., mat their characters
are necessarily tainted. One can only speak of individuals being good or evil in
me sensetfiateach person determines Ais or her own Gesinnung. Moreover, a person can never be certain about any odier person's basic moral nature, for humans
are not privileged to "know the heart":
In and dirough experience we can experience actions contrary
to law, and we can observe (at least in ourselves) mat they are
performed in the consciousness mat they are unlawful [better: "that
consciously they are unlawful"]; but a man's maxims, sometimes even
his own, are not thus observable; consequently the judgment that the
agent is an evil man cannot be made with certainty if grounded on
experience.46
Another person's fundamental moral choice is inscrutable.
The analysis of human nature in Book I of Religion within the Limits of
Reason Alone established the basis for Kant's major intent in that work~vfe., to
show how it is possible for a person to be virtuous. An individual cannot rid
himself or herself of die inherent "Hang" toward evil, for that weakness is something which all have by nature. But me "Hang" does not necessarily lead one to
choose a fundamental maxim mat is less than purely moral; it does not force an
individual inescapably to have a bad character (Gesinnung). To be virtuous, merefore, cannot mean to be without moral weakness. For a human to be virtuous
means that he or she has a good moral character in spite of weakness. Such a disposition or character leads to good actions.
Kant affirmed that a person must be capable of being virtuous in this sense.

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"It must be possible for a man to overcome it [the natural weakness toward evil],
since it is found in man, a being whose actions are free."47 A person's moral
responsibility requires that he or she can choose to be morally good. Were this
impossible, one would be essentially an animal and would not be a creature of
dignity.48 Our practical reason demands that we be morally good~"hence this must
be within our power."49 In other terminology: "ought" implies "can."50
But in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant rejected both the
appeal to God's grace and the proposal of gradual moral progress as answers to the
question how one could be morally good. The first implies that God could make
an evil person good through an act of grace (such as a forensic declaration of
forgiveness, which is the traditional Lutheran view, or a bestowal of special
strength to resist temptation, which is a position common in Roman Catholicism),
but Kant rejected this as a denial of a person's moral responsibility. He held that
it is simply fanciful speculation not at all in keeping with practical reason to think
that a person can be changed through supernatural works of grace.51
The second, the proposal that one can become virtuous by making gradual
moral progress, is basically the one Kant himself had offered in the Critique of
Practical Reason. But in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, he rejected
it on the grounds that a philosophical analysis of moral nature reveals that a person
is good or evil by virtue of his or her own choice of a fundamental maxim or disposition. And this choice is absolute; there is no gradual movement from one
fundamental maxim to another.52 To become moral a person must have an instantaneous conversion or "change of heart"~not merely a gradual "change of practices."53 This change will bring improvement in one's deeds, although that
improvement will be gradual.54
Kant thought it possible for a person to make the change of moral character
independently, but he did speak of two ways in which we may think that God is
involved. First, although one's actions would not reveal the drastic inner change
to people but would show only a slow progress (even if the change of character
had been complete), God, who penetrates the human heart, can immediately judge
that person good who makes a fundamental choice for moral goodness, and God
would count such a person's progress in moral conduct as the completed whole.55

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Second, God can be counted on to provide assistance in the moral progress (in
conduct) of one who has made a choice for a morally pure fundamental maxim
though by adopting a new character a person must first make himself or herself
worthy of this divine aid.56
Although it might appear that Kant had altered his earlier theory of hope by
making virtue instead of happiness hope's object, it is more accurate to assert that
virtue has become an intermediate object for hope. The ultimate goal of hope is
still happiness as it is found in the highest complete good. But, since it is
reasonable only for the virtuous person to hope for happiness, the question whether
it is possible for a person to be virtuous itself became a crucial issue. Kant needed
to show that there is a rational basis for a person to think that he or she could be
moral in the sense demanded by practical reason. Virtue has become an intermediate object for hope.
With this shift in emphasis, Kant now developed new moral "ideals," and he
attributed to God tasks more specifically associated with human virtue than he had
in the Critique of Pure Reason or the Critique of Practical Reason.51
The Ideal of Moral Perfection: Book II
In his description of how a person can become virtuous, Kant presented two
moral ideals--one of the morally perfect individual and the other of a community
which would promote virtue in its members. These are regulative Ideas provided
by practical reason. They do not describe conditions which did or will necessarily
"exist" but rather ideal states of affairs for which people ought to strive.
In Book II Kant described the Idea of a morally perfect individual--!.*?., "The
Personified Idea of the Good Principle."58 It is in fact a description of Christ
partly in theological and partly in Kantian terminology. Kant was unconcerned
about the historicity or "real existence" of Christ. His interest was, rather, to
describe a rational archetype. This is in keeping with the fact that Ideas originate
in pure reason, and pure reason does not describe the empirical.
In developing this ideal of the good principle personified, or of a person in
complete moral perfection, Kant cited and reinterpreted several traditional claims
about Christ. In the following list of quotations we see rather traditional claims
about Christ followed in parentheses by Kant's reinterpretations along the lines of

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practical reason. For example, He (Christ, the ideal) "is in Him [God] through
eternity."59 (That is, moral perfection in a person "proceeds from God's very
being."60) He is "His only begotten Son, 'the Word (the Fiatl) through which all
other things are, and without which nothing is in existence that is made.'"61 ("For
him, that is, for rational existence in the world, so far as he may be regarded in the
light of his moral destiny, all things were made."62) "Only in him and through the
adoption of his disposition can we hope 'to become the sons of God.'"63 He "has
come down to us from heaven and has assumed our humanity."64 ("This idea.. .has
established itself in man without our comprehending how human nature could have
been capable of receiving it. . . .M65) He has assumed "sorrows in fullest measure
in order to further the world's good, though he himself is holy and therefore is
bound to endure no sufferings whatsoever."66 (Man "must consider himself unworthy of the union of his disposition with such an idea of moral perfection. . . ."67)
He "would be willing. . .even, though tempted by the greatest allurements, to take
upon himself every affliction, up to the most ignominious death, for the good of
the world and even for his enemies."68 ("Man can frame to himself no concept of
the degree and strength of a force like that of a moral disposition except by
picturing it as encompassed by obstacles, and yet, in the face of the fiercest
onslaughts, victorious."69)
Kant did not explain why he identified biblical and moral language in this
rather extreme way. No doubt he wished to exalt the ideal of complete moral
goodness as highly as possible and used the special language for that purpose. And
since his philosophical theology is a rational reinterpretation of Christianity
according to the laws and ideals of practical reason, very likely he intended to
show how biblical claims about Christ are to be reinterpreted so that they describe
the rational ideal of moral perfection.
Although Kant lauded the ideal in the most exalted terms, he did not call the
personified ideal "divine," for he believed that we should not think that only a
divine being is capable of attaining this goal. In this connection he denied that the
personified ideal needs to be validated by miracles.70 Its own worthiness and
strength is sufficient testimony to its ultimate goodness. In fact, belief in miracles,
Kant claimed, can be damaging to the moral purposes of religion. They are not
needed in "the true religion," which "from now on is able to maintain itself on

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71

rational grounds."
By vividly illustrating the moral perfection for which a person should strive,
the personified Idea gives one "power" for our efforts:
Now it is our universal duty as men to elevate ourselves to this
ideal of moral perfection, that is to this archetype of the moral
disposition in all its purityand for this the idea itself, which reason
presents to us for our zealous emulation, can give us power.72
The Idea enables one to see precisely that for which he or she should strive. It
inspires a person and thereby leads one to seek the goal more zealously.
In order to show that we should think that we can indeed move toward this
ideal, Kant responded to three difficulties which might make it seem entirely
unreachable. The first difficulty is that God's holiness demands absolute compliance with moral perfection whereas a person's deeds will always appear to show
no more than partial realization of this goal.73 The second is that since there is no
guarantee that a morally good disposition will always remain such, anxiety about
this would deprive a person of security and of the feeling of "moral happiness."74
And the third is that no matter how successful one is in adopting a good disposition, a person "nevertheless started from evil, and this debt he can by no possibility wipe out."75
In answer to the first, Kant claimed that the progress in a humanity's conformity to the law can be thought of,
. . .as being judged by Him who knows the heart, through a purely
intellectual intuition, as a completed whole, because of the disposition,
supersensible in its nature, from which this progress itself is derived.76
God judges the whole person's life on the basis of the moral nature of the individual's character. In God's eyes the presence of a good disposition counts as the
attainment of the ideal.
In responding to the second difficulty, viz., that a person may be anxious
over the possible loss of a good disposition, Kant wrote specifically about hope:
If a man lacked all confidence in his moral disposition, once it
was acquired, he would scarcely be able to persevere steadfastly in it.

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He can gain such confidence, however, without yielding himself up
either to pleasing or to anxious fantasies, by comparing the course of
his life hitherto with the resolution which he has adopted. It is true,
indeed, that the man who, through a sufficiently long course of life,
has observed the efficacy of these principles of goodness, from the
time of their adoption, in his conduct, that is, in the steady improvement of his way of life, can still only conjecture from this that there
has been a fundamental improvement in his inner disposition. Yet he
has reasonable grounds for hope as well. Since such improvements,
if only their underlying principle is good, ever increase his strength for
future advances, he can hope that he will never forsake this course
during his life on earth but will press on with ever-increasing courage.
Nay, more: if after this life another life awaits him, he may hope to
continue to follow this course stillthough to all appearances under
other conditionsin accordance with the very same principle, and to
approach ever nearer to, though he can never reach, the goal of
perfection. All this he may reasonably hope because, on the strength
of what he has observed in himself up to the present, he can look
upon his disposition as radically improved.77

Kant's response to this second difficulty is important, for in it he showed


how a virtuous person can face the future with confidence. The fear that one may
fail in his or her efforts to continue to pursue a moral life is a real one. The
answer lies in a reasonable "hope." If a person can recognize moral growth and
constancy in himself or herself, then that person has grounds to think that his or
her character is good and to hope for its continuation. The person cannot be
certain of his or her morality in the future, but there is no need for despair. One
can hope for continued goodness on the basis of prior virtue, and this enables one
to enjoy "moral happiness" now.
In his response to the third difficulty (viz., that no matter how well one does
in changing his or her character, one can never make up for previous failings),
Kant claimed that a person with a new disposition is really a different person (!)
and that it would be unjust to punish the individual for what another, previous
person had done.78 Moreover, since the change is painful in itself, it is sufficient
punishment for previous immorality.79 Furthermore, Kant wrote here again that God
views a person's life in atemporal terms and counts an instantaneous change as the
duration of a completed whole.80

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Kant's treatment of the third difficulty is particularly weak, however. He has


not shown why a change of character constitutes a change in the identity of a
person. In addition, it is questionable whether the transition from a bad to a good
character does entail pain and suffering sufficient to compensate for immorality
previously endorsed. And Kant's response to this third difficulty suggests that he
himself had misgivings about the principle of retributive justiceat least when
applied to the prior immortality of a person who has become virtuous.
In the last part of Book II, Kant argued that one can have confidence in the
ultimate strength of the moral character. He did this by describing the conflict
between Christ and Satan.81 The war ends in victory for the archetype of goodness,
showing that the good character can prevail over one's propensity toward evil.
Therefore, the virtuous person should not despair. Such a person may live in hope.
In Book II of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant considered
most fully one's reasonable hope for virtue. Using a strategy parallel to that which
he had employed to show how it is possible for a virtuous person to experience
happiness, he attempted to show how it is possible for a person to be and remain
virtuous.
Practical reason provides us widi an ideal of personal moral perfectionan
Idea which we can describe in religious language. As in the case of other moral
ideals, it is a goal for which one ought to strive. It is also an end which a person
must not deem unrealistic. Kant used a principle of personal responsibility {viz.,
that a person's moral accountability requires one to be responsible for his or her
own goodness or evil) as the basis for his argument. He employed the Idea of God
to show how it is possible for one to be judged genuinely virtuous. And he indicated how the nature of a moral disposition makes it reasonable for a virtuous
person to hope for continued goodness.
One change in strategy from his earlier positions is striking, however. Kant
did not appeal to the Idea of God (or of immortality) to make the realization of the
ideal possible. A human can himself or herself adopt a morally good character.
Kant employed the Idea of God merely to show that someone is able to judge a
person as virtuous on the basis of this disposition.

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The Ideal of an Ethical Commonwealth: Books III and IV


A second ideal which Kant developed in Religion within the Limits of Reason
Alone was that of an ethical commonwealtha world-community in which all
people would be dedicated to the moral law.
Kant contrasted an ethical commonwealth with an "ethical state of nature"~a
contrast which, he claimed, parallels that between a "political commonwealth" and
a "political state of nature." In both natural states there are no accepted laws. In
a political state of nature, people war against one another, and in the corresponding
ethical state, a person's predisposition towards goodness is attacked unceasingly by
the propensity to fall into evil.82 In a political state of nature, judicial anarchy
reigns. In an ethical state of nature, moral chaos dominates. But whereas in the
former people are at war with each other, in the latter people war against both
virtue and the moral law.
Just as a political commonwealth has judicial order, so, Kant held, an ethical
world-community consists in moral order. Harmony and civil peace are the goals
of the former; virtue is the aim of the latter. Kant held that in either case the order
is provided by the establishment of, and commitment to, laws. But the judicial
laws differ from the moral laws on a number of points. Whereas the former are
established and enforced by authorities, the latter require se//-imposition.83
Particular judicial laws apply only to a single limited society, but moral laws are
universal so that they combine all people into one ethical world-community.84 And
whereas we may think of judicial laws as originating in people, moral laws are
properly viewed as coming from God, who alone knows which laws are truly virtuous.85 We may, therefore, think of an ethical commonwealth as a "people of
God."86
Kant clearly understood an ethical commonwealth in religious/ecclesiastical
terms. He conceived it to be people dedicated to moral law as the expression of
God's will. "The Concept of an Ethical Commonwealth is the Concept of a
PEOPLE OF GOD under Ethical Laws," he wrote as the title to one of the sections
in Book III.87 The title of the subsequent section is, "The Idea of a People of God
can be Realized (through Human Organization) only in the Form of a Church."88
To this "true Church" Kant ascribed the qualities of universality, purity,

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freedom, and unchangeableness.89 It is universal because it is "founded upon such


basic principles as must necessarily lead to a general unification in a single
church."90 Its purity consists in its inclusion of "no motivating forces [Triebfedern]
other than moral ones (purified of the stupidity of superstition and the madness of
fanaticism)."91 Freedom marks "both the internal relation of its members to one
another, and the external relation of the Church to political power."92 Finally, a
true Church must be based upon a priori principles not subject to contradiction or
change.93
The four "marks" of the Church in traditional theology are oneness, holiness
(set apart by, and for, God), catholicity (universality), and apostolicity (true to the
principles of its founders). Kant identified "catholicity" with authority (showing,
no doubt, his Lutheran background), so he substituted "freedom" for it. The other
characteristics Kant used parallel the traditional marks closely. "Purity" is an
appropriate moral counterpart to "holiness." The "unchangeableness" of the Church
is based on a priori reason rather than on the apostles.
Although each human should strive to realize this ideal, Kant claimed that
it can be established only through God's action:
To found a moral people of God is therefore a task whose
consummation can be looked for not from men but only from God
Himself. Yet man is not entitled on this account to be idle in this
business and to let Providence rule, as though each could apply
himself exclusively to his own private moral affairs and relinquish to
a higher wisdom all the affairs of a human race (as regards its moral
destiny). Rather must man proceed as though everything depended
upon him; only on this condition dare he hope that higher wisdom will
grant the completion of his well-intentioned endeavors.94
If a person does everything possible to actualize the ideal, then he or she may
reasonably hope that a Supreme Being will do what we cannot accomplish and will
establish the ethical commonwealth. But we may hope that a Supreme Being will
bring this to pass only if we first carry out our own role.
Kant pointed out that mankind's complete dedication to moral law can be
developed only gradually. In the initial stages it is necessary to affirm religious
doctrines and statues that go beyond the dictates of practical reason and to ground
them in a book of revelation. It is even requisite to institute temples and orders of

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94

priests. But all of this is justified only because of the initial backward condition
of the people which binds them to the sensory and the visible.
Because of the natural need and desire of all men for something
sensibly tenable, and for a confirmation of some sort from experience
of the highest concepts and grounds of reason (a need which really
must be taken into account when the universal dissemination of a faith
is contemplated), some historical ecclesiastical faith or other, usually
to be found at hand, must be utilized.95
Kant thought that any religious faith could be used for these purposes. Although
he focused his attention on, and showed preference for, Christianity (with emphasis
upon Protestantism), he saw it in the end as an ecclesiastical faith much like others,
and he could no doubt have used another world religion to illustrate his points.96
But an ecclesiastical faith is only a means to a higher endto a moral faith
which does not rest upon revelation, non-moral doctrines and statutes, temples,
priests, and the like. Moral faith is based only upon a priori moral law understood
as coming from God.
In the end religion will gradually be freed from all empirical
determining grounds and from all statutes which rest on history and
which through the agency of ecclesiastical faith provisionally unite
men for the requirements of the good; and thus at last the pure religion of reason will rule over all, "so that God will be all in all."97
Of special importance is the fact that in a moral faith, i.e., in a religion of reason,
there is no need for a clergy to exercise moral and religious authority over other
people:
The humiliating distinction between laity and clergy disappears,
and equality arises from true freedom, yet without anarchy, because,
though each obeys the (non-statutory) law which he prescribes to
himself, he must at the same time regard this law as the will of a
World-Ruler revealed to him through reason, a will which by invisible
means unites all under one common government into one state.98
To be truly moral a person must be free and autonomous.

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Kant thought that his age, that of the Enlightenment, was the time in which
humanity could finally move from an ecclesiastical faith to a moral one. In his
view people were beginning to emphasize "reasonable modesty in pronouncements
regarding all that goes by the name of revelation"99 and to indicate that a religious
narrative "must at all times be taught and expounded in the interest of morality."100
He interpreted these as signs that people were freeing themselves from orthodoxy
and were developing moral autonomy. Kant was so optimistic in this regard that
he wrote of rational beings that they have a "natural affinity with the moral predisposition" and that if truth and goodness merely become public, those qualities
"do not fail to communicate themselves far and wide."101
In an earlier essay, "What is Enlightenment?" (1784), Kant proclaimed that
the theme of the Enlightenment is, "Have courage to use your own reason."102 He
lamented the fact that rulers, clergymen, and others still set themselves up as
"guardians" who discourage independent thought.103 And he called on all people
to refuse to let others stifle their own use of reason.
It is no doubt because Kant believed that mankind was on the verge of
making great strides toward the establishment of an ethical commonwealth that he
was particularly incensed over the fact that ecclesiastical authorities were inhibiting
the development of people's full moral autonomy. In Book IV of Religion within
the Limits of Reason Alone, he launched a vitriolic attack against the ecclesiastical
system of his day.104 In his view, human statutes (as opposed to a priori moral
laws) and authoritative officials (in contrast to helpful "public teachers and
servants") had become so predominant that the Church actually promoted
"pseudo-service" ("Afierdienst") to God.105 People have fashioned a God whom
they think they can more easily satisfy. Either they have suggested that one can
please God by such morally irrelevant acts as pilgrimages, churchgoing, prayers,
and worship (as in Roman Catholicism), or they have claimed that a person can
receive God's approval if he or she merely has faith in the Son of God as a
historical person (as in Lutheranism).106 Entire systems of clerical regulations and
doctrines have been developed to support these two improper views. But a person
can only "please God," according to Kant, through autonomous moral purity. A
religion which promotes any other end is idolatrous.

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

In the "Preface" to the first edition of Religion within the Umits of Reason
Alone, Kant described a dispute he himself had had with the ecclesiastical censors.107 In 1788 the head of the state department of church and schools under
Frederick William issued an edict requiring that all books on religious subjects be
submitted to censors before publication. In 1791 Kant submitted Book I. It was
approved, and it appeared in 1792 as a journal article. But when he submitted
Book II, the censors refused publication. Although Kant was able to circumvent
the censorship by submitting the entire work to the philosophical faculty at Jena,
which approved it as a document for scholarly study and examination, he was no
doubt particularly upset that this work had been censored, since it presented views
which might help mankind to achieve a more rational, moral religion.
In conclusion, Kant endeavored in Books III and IV to show that it is reasonable for a person to hope that the ideal of an ethical commonwealth can be more
fully realized in history. Like the other ideals we have examined, an ethical
commonwealth is an Idea of reason. It pictures the community of mankind living
in dedication to the moral law.
This ideal differs in two important points from the "moral world" of the
Critique of Pure Reason as well as from the highest complete good described most
fully in the Critique of Practical Reason. For one thing, it does not include
happiness as a constituent element. Kant did not claim that the moral dedication
of the ethical commonwealth would necessarily result in happiness. Indeed, his
only concern in Books III and IV was with the promotion of virtue itself.
Secondly, Kant described the ideal as something toward which people can move
in this world. He made no appeal to immortality as a basis for its fulfillment.
Kant claimed that there are visible signs that mankind is moving closer to this
ideal108~even though he no doubt would have denied that it could ever be fully
realized within history. This is of special importance, for it shows that Kant did
not think that all realization of ideals is necessarily transhistorical. The ideal of an
ethical commonwealth may never be fully actualized in history, but mankind can
move ever closer toward it. There are thus empirical indications of humanity's
rational and moral development.
The ideals of an ethical commonwealth and of individual moral perfection
may both be interpreted as intermediate ends for hope. It is reasonable, as we have

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seen, for the individual to think that he or she can be virtuous. But one is more
than an isolated person. An individual is a social being who lives in community.
To the question, "Is it possible for mankind to become an ethical community?,"
Kant offered an affirmative answer, and he tried to show how the ideal is possible.
In his argument, Kant claimed that people must do all that is in their power
to live as an ethical commonwealth and that then they may think that God will
supplement their efforts. Although he did not here argue that people must postulate
the Idea of a God, Kant employed the concept as one of the bases for rational
hope.
But Kant also appealed to history as evidence that the hope for an ethical
commonwealth is not mere wishful thinking. The history of religion, including its
potential development into the form of a pure religion of reason, shows that mankind can move toward this ideal.
Kant identified the ethical commonwealth closely with a universal religious
body, but the religion which he promoted is far from any traditional religion. Its
primary commitment is to moral law. It is not based on revelation, tradition, or
ceremony. And yet it is a religious community, nonetheless, for it views God as
the author of its laws and as the one who established the commonwealth. Guided
by practical reason it views moral laws as if a Supreme Being were their author
and the community of people as if a Supreme Being could make it into an ethical
commonwealth.
The Opus Postumum
In 1920 Erich Adickes published an edited version of the notes Kant made
during the last decade of his life. In this edition there is no discussion of hope, but
Adickes did cite several passages that speak of God, and he concluded from them
that Kant had rejected his earlier "moral argument" for the existence of God.109
Norman Kemp Smith, too, argued that,
Kant now rejects as being untenable, and as being illegitimately
theoretical, the proof of God's existence upon which he has relied in
the Critique of Practical Reason, namely, by reference to the Summum
Bonum.110

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

If Adickes and Smith are correct, then Kant has rejected significant aspects of his
earlier theory of hope.
But their position is mistaken. Smith acknowledges in the very next sentence
(!) following the one quoted above that "Kant nowhere, in explicit terms, avows
this change of standpoint. . . ." m Adickes and Smith argue from Kant's failure to
mention the summum Bonum in the Opus Postumum as well as from a purported
emphasis he made that "the categorical imperative leads directly to God, and
affords surety of His reality."112 But this argumentation seems to presuppose the
mistaken view that Kant's philosophy of religion consisted in the search for a
single satisfactory argument for God's "reality" and that his use of one "argument"
indicates his rejection of "arguments" he had previously used.
These writers are wrong for two reasons. First, already in Religion within
the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant had referred to the Idea of God as a "Supreme
Lawgiver".113 One may think of the moral order as if it were under a Supreme
Being acting as Legislator, Ruler, and Judge.114
More important, Adickes and Smith have apparently failed to understand that
in the Opus Postumum Kant, quite consistent with his earlier views, wrote of God
as an Idea of reason. Through the use of this Idea, people are able to view the
world as having moral as well as physical unity and order. Reason, Kant claimed,
enables one to think of the world as unifiedas if all creatures were under a highest
moral Being.115 "God is not a substance but rather a personified Idea of justice and
beneficence."116 The concept of God, Kant claimed, does not refer to a hypothetical thing but may be viewed as if practical reason itself were personified.117
In holding the Idea of God, he also asserted, a moral being does not wish to verify
the existence of a being {"Existenz eines Wesens") but he only makes a judgment
according to an analogyas if all moral duties were related to one person.118 Kant
emphasized the oneness of God to bring out that through this concept the world in
its physical and moral dimensions may be thought to have unity.119 God is not the
"world-soul" as a metaphysical entity or force but is a rational Idea.120
Kant's last thoughts about God are consistent with his earlier views.
Practical reason supplies the a priori Idea of God through which humanity can
view the world as having moral order and unity.

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This is consistent with the view that practical reason presents the Idea of God
though which one can think that the moral order and unity of a highest complete
good are possible.
Conclusion
The Arguments for the Ideals of Moral Perfection and an Ethical Commonwealth
In his critical philosophy of religion Kant sought to show that religious
concepts provide necessary bases for people's reasonable hopes. He attempted to
demonstrate this with respect to the fundamental hope of a virtuous person for
happiness as well as with regard to one's intermediate hopes for personal moral
perfection and for the establishment of an ethical commonwealth.
In Chapter 2, we saw that Kant employed the Idea of a Supreme Being in
the arguments designed to show that it is reasonable for a virtuous person to hope
for happiness. In this Chapter we have seen that Kant did not always stress the use
of the Idea of God in his later works in philosophy of religion but that there is no
indication that he rejected it.
His strategy in supporting the hope for happiness was first to describe an a
priori, coherent Idea of an ideal realm in which the virtuous person would experience happiness and then to show that a virtuous individual is rationally justified in
thinking that a God would act to create an ideal realm. In Kant's argument to
show that it is reasonable for a person to hope that he or she can be morally
perfect, he also described an a priori Idea of a moral ideal. A morally perfect
individual is one whose character is absolutely pure and who, because of this
character, is able always to perform moral deeds. This is an ideal for which we
ought to strive and which we must not think is unrealistic and unapproachable.
Kant did not suggest, however, that the ideal is attainable by virtue of what
a Supreme Being might do to make a person virtuous. Human moral accountability
requires that each individual must determine his or her own moral character. Yet,
Kant argued, if a person adopts a fundamental maxim that is completely moral,
then the person may think and act as if a Supreme Being will judge him or her to
be morally pure and will give support in his or her efforts both to retain that

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Kant 's Philosophy of Hope

disposition and to bring deeds into complete conformity with the demands of practical reason. God will count the fundamental effort as attainment of the ideal. A
person can adopt a fundamental maxim that is entirely moral, Kant held, so one
can hope to attain moral perfection.
This argument may be stated in the following form:
(1)

According to practical reason, a person ought to be


completely virtuousi.e., morally perfect. (P)

(2)

Practical reason presents an ideal of a morally perfect


individual as one whose disposition is pure and who,
because of this disposition, always acts morally. (P)

(3)

A person ought to exemplify the ideal of moral perfection


as one whose disposition is pure and who, because of this
disposition, always acts morally. (1,2)

(4)

On the basis of reason a person ought to regard himself


or herself as being able to adopt a fundamental maxim
that is entirely moral. (P)

(5)

If a person adopts a fundamental maxim that is entirely


moral, this person, in accord with reason, may regard
himself or herself as if a Supreme Being would rightly
declare their disposition to be pure and judge them to
exemplify the ideal of moral perfection. (P)

(6)

On the basis of reason a person ought to regard himself


or herself as being able to exemplify the ideal of moral
perfection. (4,5)

(7)

A person may reasonable hope to attain an ideal which


according to reason he or she ought to exemplify and
ought to think he or she can exemplify. (P)

(8)

A person may reasonably hope for moral perfection.


(3,6,7)

Although a Supreme Being must judge a person to be morally perfect, the


individual, Kant claimed, is the one who must take the decisive action. The person

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101

must adopt a morally pure maxim, and thus we may think that this person is indeed
responsible for his or her own virtuous condition.
Kant argued that the ideal of moral perfection can be thought to be attainable, but he did acknowledge that it is an absolute ideal which we ourselves can
never see evidenced in our own lives. We can only judge that our lives show increasing approximation to the full ideal.
In his claim that it is reasonable for a person to hope to help establish an
ethical world-community, Kant also described an Idea of practical reasonthe ideal
of an ethical commonwealth as a "People of God." In such a community the
people would be dedicated to the moral law as if it were the will of God.121 Their
primary concern would be to be entirely moral. They would worship God not
through ritual or credal beliefs but rather through their moral lives.
Again Kant claimed that a person should seek to establish such a community
on his or her own. But he added that one may justifiably hope that God will do
what he or she is unable to do to make it a full reality. In this Kant did not appeal
to the Idea of a Supreme Being as the one who can make the judgment that is
required. Rather, he argued that humanity appears to be so weak that it would
seem hopeless to expect it to establish an ethical commonwealth on its own. "How
indeed can one expect something perfectly straight to be framed out of such
crooked wood?"122 Yet, he continued, it must not be thought impossible for an
ethical commonwealth to be established, and so people are justified in hoping that
God will make it a reality.
This argument may be stated as follows:
(1)

(2)

(3)

Practical reason presents the Idea of an ideal ethical


commonwealth in which every person is wholly dedicated
to the moral law. (P)
According to practical reason, mankind ought to become
an ethical commonwealm in which every person would
be wholly dedicated to obeying the moral law. (1)
On the basis of practical reason, a person ought to regard
humanity as if the Ideas (of practical reason) of ideals
could be realized in it. (P)

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope


(4)

(5)

On the basis of reason, a person ought to regard mankind


as if an ethical commonwealth could be established.
(2,3)
Mankind seems so perverse, however, that it does not
appear to be possible for it to establish an ethical
commonwealth. (P)

(6)

A Supreme Being, were there one, could form mankind


into an ethical commonwealth. (P)

(7)

A Supreme Being, were there one, could form mankind


into an ethical commonwealth, but humanity, it appears,
could not establish it itself. (5,6)

(8)

On the basis of reason a person ought to regard mankind


as if a Supreme Being could form it into an ethical
commonwealth. (4,7)

(9)

A person may reasonably hope for an ideal which


according to reason ought to be realized and which on the
basis of reason a person ought to think could be realized.

(P)
(10) A person may reasonably hope for the establishment of
an ethical commonwealth. (8,9)
As in the argument for moral perfection, Kant claimed that we do not experience the idealized community, but he did think we can justifiably interpret
certain events in history as signs that we are moving toward it. The development
of religion brings the religious community ever closer to the ideal.
The three ideals considered thus far (perfectly moral individual, ethical
commonwealth, summum bonum) do not stand opposed to one another. The goal
of a realm in which the virtuous person will experience happiness remains the
ultimate hope. But only a virtuous person can reasonably hope for happiness, so
it must at least be possible for a person to hope to attain that state if he or she is
to be able to entertain a rational hope for happiness. Moreover, people ought to
be virtuous not merely as individuals but also as a community, so Kant tried to
show that the goal of an ethical commonwealth is also something for which people

Hope and Religion

103

may hold rational hope.


Kant understood traditionally religious concepts to be important for hope.
The person who entertains rational hopes commits himself or herself to strive
toward ideals of reason. On the basis of practical reason one acts as if those ideals
could be fully realized through a Supreme Being who would do what a person is
unable to accomplish.
Commentary and Remaining Difficulties
In his critical philosophy of religion, Kant developed his theory of hope in
several important ways. The most important contribution he made in it was
through his consideration of the question whether a person can be virtuous. The
claim that it is reasonable for a virtuous person to hope for happiness has little
import unless one can know that it is possible for a person to be virtuous in the
first place. Kant recognized the difficulties involved in one's being virtuous, and
in his philosophy of religion he attempted to meet these problems directly.
Although his argument showing that one can be virtuous is not without
weaknesses, his analysis of human will in terms of Wille, Willkr, and Gesinnung
offers a good basis for showing that people can indeed hope to be moral. If one
is truly free with respect to the determination, of his or her own moral character,
as Kant thought one must be, then a person must be able to choose to be good or
evil. Kant's explanation of this in terms of the choice of a fundamental maxim is
insightful. It makes a person responsible, and it indicates how a person can be
virtuous, although it may under-emphasize how much at any moment one's fundamental moral choice is dictated by previous choices.
Kant's development of his theory of hope in his philosophy of religion was
good in several other ways, as well. His treatment of hope and of mankind's moral
nature shows how realistic he was in his understanding of humanity. His concern
to describe a human as a creature of freedom and responsibilityand ierefore as
a being with dignity-did not mislead him into a naive optimism regarding people's
moral capacities. He saw that a human is frail, impure, and wicked. He did not
think that even the best of individuals would be able to look at their own lives and
see in them an unbroken string or moral deeds. Yet this honest appraisal of
mankind's faults did not lead Kant to moral pessimism, either. It did, in other

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

words, not lead him to give up hope. Rather, his realistic interpretation of
humanity was an essential element in his theory of hope. It constituted a part of
the tension in a person in which hope also participates.
Through his philosophy of religion, Kant was able to bring out hope's
dynamic nature. Hope is not merely a rational expectation of something which
should or will be the case. It is, rather, a rationally justified longing for the
ultimate goals and ends in life. One is responsible for achieving them on his or her
own, and yet they all seem to be unattainable unless one has aid. Kant's most
difficult task in his theory of hope was to show how a person can reasonably think
that these ideals can be actualized without compromising one's moral responsibility.
A person cannot simply expect a Supreme Being to do everything. On the other
hand, Kant did not want one to despair over the fact that apparently a person
cannot fully realize the ideals on his or her own. Hope is the fine line between
irresponsibility and despair. It is so important because both the irresponsible
person and the despairing individual find their morality, and with it their basic
humanity, threatened. The irresponsible person denies his or her accountability,
and the despairing person gives up on his or her ability to be entirely moral.
Kant's theory of hope was not a "cheap" way for him to introduce religion
into his critical system, either. Heine claimed that Kant introduced the concept of
God in order to comfort his old servant Lampe. Heine caricatured Kant as saying,
Old Lampe must have a God, otherwise the poor fellow won't be
happy. Man should be happy in this worldso says Practical Reason,
so far as I am concernedtherefore the Practical Reason may
guarantee the existence of God.123
But Kant introduced religion and religious concepts as a basis for hope that is
directed towards humanity's nobler endsincluding the hope for moral perfection.
Kant was concerned to describe what a person should do and strive to attain. He
was not interested merely in providing comfort.
Kant's theory of hope also included a realistic assessment of religious
institutions. His appeal to the concepts of a Supreme Being and of the Church as
a "people of God" did not lead him to uncritical acceptance of Christianity or of
any other religion. Rather, he was able to distinguish that which is ideal and sup-

Hope and Religion

105

ports efforts to be moral from that which inhibits people in their struggles to
autonomous and virtuous. Kant's theory of hope provided him with an important
tool for offering an incisive and valuable critique of religious bodies and practices.
Kant's treatment of hope in the context of his philosophy of religion also
enabled him further to elucidate the primacy of virtue over happiness. In Religion
within the Limits of Reason Alone, he revealed clearly that his first concern was for
mankind's virtue. Only after one is moral may he or she reasonably hope for
happiness. Kant used his penetrating, realistic analysis of mankind's moral nature
to show that it is indeed possible for a person to think that he or she can be
virtuous.
Finally, Kant gave indication in his philosophy of religion that his theory of
hope is not merely transhistorical. He did not think that the ideals are unrelated
to history. It is true that we never find them fully realized in the world, but we do
find indications in the temporal realm which support the judgment that it is possible
for humanity to progress toward ideals. To be sure, the weight of Kant's position
is still upon the fact that the ideals are Ideas onlythat they cannot be fully
experienced in history. Yet he did not see them as irrelevant to history. As we
shall see more fully in Chapter 4, history may be viewed as if it described the
progress of mankind toward the realization of its ideals.124
Nevertheless, Kant's theory of hope as it is developed in his philosophy of
religion is open to criticism on some points. He never successfully showed in
detail how the Idea of a Supreme Being enables one to see that the highest complete good would be possible. He shifted his argumentation, as we have seen, and
he never settled on a specific description of precisely what the Idea of God allows
one to think that God will do.
In fact, it is not clear with respect to the intermediate hopes that the Idea of
God is necessary at all. With respect to the ideal of personal moral perfection, a
person ought to think and act as if a Supreme Being can judge him or her to have
attained the ideal. But if we think of God (the Idea) as judging rightly, then a
person whom, in his or her own thinking, God would declare morally pure has
reached that goal whether God judges so or not. And since we are no more privileged to know "God's" judgments than to perceive "people's hearts," even the
belief that "God" judges some people to be pure is of little particular help or value.

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

The Idea of God is not really needed either for a person to know whether or not
he or she is morally pure.
The Idea of God seems no more necessary for the ideal of an ethical
commonwealth. If people can be shaped into an ethical commonwealth, then a
person can reasonably think that this ideal is attainable. Indeed, the fact that each
person ought to think that he or she can develop a morally good disposition makes
it possible for one to think that all people could do so and could thereby form an
ethical commonwealth. But if we see how it is possible for this ideal to be attained
without reference to the Idea of God, then that Idea is not necessary for it.
Another difficulty is that although he vehemently denied that reason allows
an Idea of God as gracious and forgiving,125 he has in his theory introduced
elements of graceperhaps unintentionally. In order to show that one need not
despair over the possibility of attaining the moral ideals, Kant argued that we may
justifiably think and act as if God will do what we are unable to do to realize the
goal~so long as we first make ourselves worthy. One ought to act as if God will
judge a person to be morally perfect on the basis of his or her adoption of a
fundamental moral maxim. But if the adoption of such a maxim does not really
constitute moral perfection (over an entire lifetime), then, in judging a person to be
morally perfect, God would be declaring an individual something which he or she
is not, and an element of grace has been introduced. Indeed, our frailty, impurity,
and wickedness would seem to require some element of grace if we can have any
hope of attaining the ideals-particularly if it is true that a person can never erase
past misdeeds. A rigid principle of retributive justice and a strict notion of human
accountability without any possibility for erasing past wrongs make it virtually
impossible for one justifiably to hope that he or she can attain moral perfection in
the full sense.

Hope and

Religion

107

NOTES
'This reflects the relationship which Kant saw between morality and religion. The latter
supports and is grounded in the former. Cf. CPR, A828-31=B856-59.
2
Kant, Logik, KGS, IX, 25, and Kant, Philosophical Correspondence, p. 205. Cf. Chapter
1, section .
3

Kant, Philosophical Correspondence, p. 205.

*Cf. Chapter 2, sections 1-E, -, and -.


^Religion, pp. 120ff. (VI, 129ff.), pp. 94ff. (VI, 102ff.), and p. 175 (VI, 187).
6

Ibid.,p. 110 (VI, 120).

Der Satz: Man mu glauben, da es einmal einen Menschen, der durch


seine Heiligkeit und Verdienst sowohl fr sich (in Ansehung seiner Pflicht) als
auch fr alle andre (und deren Ermangelung in Ansehung ihrer Pflicht) genug
gethan, gegeben habe (wovon uns die Vernunft nichts sagt), um zu hoffen, da wir
selbst in einem guten Lebenswandel, doch nur Kraft jenes Glaubens selig werden
knnen, dieser Satz sagt ganz etwas anders als folgender: man mu mit allen
Krften der heiligen Gesinnung eines Gott wohlgeflligen Lebenswandels
nachstreben, um glauben zu knnen, da die (uns schon durch die Vernunft
versicherte) Liebe desselben zur Menschheit, sofern sie seinem Willen nach allem
ihrem Vermgen nachstrebt, in Rcksicht auf die redliche Gesinnung den Mangel
der That, auf welche Art es auch sei, ergnzen werde.
The translation by Greene and Hudson could be better. As indicated in the text, "Um zu" is
better translated as "in order to" and "selbst" as "even."
'Immanuel Kant, Der Streit der Fakultten, KGS, VII, 38-43.
'Immanuel Kant, "Nova Dilucidatio," trans. F. E. England, Kant's Conception of God, p.
237 (I, 404); and Immanuel Kant, "Einzig mglicher Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des
Daseins Gottes," KGS, , 108-09.
Kant, Dreams of a Spirit Seer, p. 98 (, 373).
m
lbid., p. 51 (, 335). ". . .empfundene Abhngigkeit des Privatwillens vom allgemeinen
Willen..." We disagree with Manolesco, however, that "universal will" or "general will" should
be capitalized.

"Kant, "On the Failure of All Attempted Philosophical Theodicies," pp. 285-93 (VIII,
257-67).

108

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

12
Immanuel Kant, "The End of All Things," trans. Robert E. Anchor, Kant, On History,
p. 75 (Vm, 332).
n

Ibid., p. 72 (Vm, 329-30); Religion, p. 60 (VI, 67). The "Supreme Being" and a "future
life" are Ideas and do not refer to "realities." We ought to regard ourselves as if we will be
judged by a Supreme Being and as if there will be a future life. Kant's comments about God
should be interpreted in this way.
14

CPR, A810=B838. Cf. Chapter 2 above.

"CPrR, pp. 126-28 (V, 121-24). Cf. Chapter 2. One is led by reason to think this will
occur.
16

Ibid., pp. 128-30 (V, 124-26). Cf. Chapter 2.

"Kant never questioned whether a person can be virtuous. If practical reason indicates
that we should be, then we can be. His concern, rather, was to show how this is possible.
l8

Kant, Philosophical Correspondence, p. 205.

"Lutheran systematic theologians whose writings were still influential at that time
included such figures as John Gerhard (1582-1616), John Andrew Quenstedt (1617-1688), John
William Baier (1647-1695), and David Hollaz (1646-1713). For a compendium of their views,
cf. Schmid, op. cit. These theologians emphasized the categories mentioned.
Book I of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone was published first as a separate
essay, and each of the four "Books" may be regarded as a complete essay. Yet there is an
underlying unity to the work.
^Goethe was one who apparently held this view of Kant's book. We will return to his
comment later in this chapter.
2l

On Kant's difficulty with the censors, cf. Religion., pp. 7ff. (VI, 6ff.), and Greene, op.
cit., pp. xxxii-xxxvii.
22

Kant did write of it briefly in Religion., p. 130 (VI, 139).

2i

Ibid., p. 7, footnote (VI, 8).

"ibid., p. 6, footnote (VI, 7).


"Ibid., p. 4 (VI, 5).
^Ibid., pp. 4-5 (VI, 5). That is, one ought to act as if there were a Supreme Being to
unite those two elements.
Cf. also ibid., p. 7, footnote (VI, 7-8).
'"Ibid., p. 5 (VI, 6).
28

Kant did repeat the same basic argument for the highest good and the postulation of God

Hope and Religion

109

in ibid., p. 7, footnote (VI, 7-8) and p. 130 (VI, 139). But the argument was just as brief as in
the passage cited above.
"Ibid., p. 15 (VI, 17).
3
*That is, Kant's purpose was to show how in accord with reason one can think that his
or her complete virtue is possible.
31

Quoted in Emil L. Fackenheim, "Kant and Radical Evil," University of Toronto


Quarterly, (1954), 340.
^Religion, p. 27 (VI, 32). Experience indicates that people may be regarded as evil by
nature.
"Ibid., pp. 28-29 (VI, 33-34).
"Ibid., p. 30 (VI, 34-35).
"Ibid., pp. 23-24 (VI, 28-29).
*Ibid., pp. 24-25 (VI, 29-30). The terms Kant used were "Gebrechlichkeit,"
"Unlauterkeit," and "Bsartigkeit" or "Verderbtheit."
31

Ibid., 23 (VI, 28). We may justifiably regard humanity as if people had an original
predisposition toward goodness.

"Ibid., p. 23 (VI, 27).


"'Ibid. pp. 22-23 (VI, 26-28).
41

i2

C/ ibid., pp. 21-22 (VI, 24-25). Reason indicates this.

Ibid., p. 18 footnote (VI, 23).

Ibid., p. 20 (VI, 25). We ought to regard each person as if he or she made it.

"ibid. On Kant's understanding of Gesinnung cf. Dolores M. Clark, "Moral Dispositions


in Kant's Ethics," unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1974. Clark is
wrong, however, in asserting that Kant used the Gesinnung to account for humanity's original
propensity to evil. Cf. esp. pp. 215ff of this dissertation.
45

Ibid., pp. 31-32 (VI, 36).

"Ibid., p. 16 (VI, 20).


Nun kann man zwar gesetzwidrige Handlungen durch Erfahrung bemerken,
auch (wenigstens an sich selbst) da mit Bewutsein gesetzwidrig sind; aber die

110

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

Maximen kann man nicht beobachten, sogar nicht allemal in sich selbst, mithin
das Unheil, da der Thater ein bser Mensch sei, nicht mit Sicherheit auf
Erfahrung grnden.
41

Ibid., p. 32 (VI, 37). Reason indicates that we ought to act as if this were possible.

"Cf. ibid., pp. 21-23 (VI, 26-28).


*9Ibid., p. 40 (VI, 45). "Denn ungeachtet jenes Abfalls erschallt doch das Gebot: wir
sollen bessere Menschen werden, unvermindert in unserer Seele; folglich men wir es auch
knnen. . . ."
x

Cf. also ibid., p. 43 (VI, 47): ". . .duty demands nothing of us which we cannot do."
Practical reason indicates that we should regard what ought to be as if it could be.
"ibid., p. 48 (VI, 53). One ought not act as if he or she will be forgiven by a Supreme
Being.
S2

Ibid., pp. 42-43 (VI, 47).

"Ibid., p. 42 (VI, 47).


"Ibid., p. 43 (VI, 47-48).
55
lbid. Kant claimed, quite unnecessarily and even misleadingly, that God is able to view
this progress as a unityan appeal, again, to the atemporality of God's perspective. But that has
nothing to do with the point at issue. God can judge a person good because God can see what
the fundamental maxim is.

^Ibid., p. 40 (VI, 44). One ought act as if a Supreme Being would do these things.
"In his doctoral dissertation on Kant's philosophy of religion, Albert Schweitzer argued
that Kant's system contains a tension between its critical idealism and its moral thrust. In the
Critique of Practical Reason, according to Schweitzer, Kant tried unsuccessfully to develop a
philosophy of religion consistent with critical idealism. In Religion within the Limits of Reason
Alone, Kant is said to have abandoned that strategy and to have developed a philosophy of
religion out of his moral concerns. Accordingly, Schweitzer argued, in that later work Kant
described God in more moral terms and not as a necessary postulate of reason.
But Kant did not move away from critical idealism in the later work. And there is no
disjunction between Kant's critical idealism and his moral concerns. The Critique of Practical
Reason, for example, represents a unified position consistent with both of those dimensions in
Kant's philosophy.
Cf. Albeit Schweitzer, Die Religionsphilosophie Kants in der Kritik der reinen Vernunft
bis zur Religion innerhalb der Grenzen bloen Vernunft, and Schweitzer, Kultur und Ethik,
Ausgewhlte Werke in Fnf Bnden (Berlin: Union Verlag, n.d.), , 227-37.
^Religion, p. 54 (VI, 60). This is the title of one of the sections of Book . Reason
allows us to view moral perfection as if it were personified.

Hope and Religion

111

59

Ibid., p. 54 (VI, 60). Cf. John 1:1-2.

Ibid.

61

Ibid. Cf. John 1:3.

62

Ibid.

"Ibid. Cf. John 1:12.


M

Ibid., p. 54 (VI, 61).

65

Ibid.

"Ibid., p. 55 (VI, 61).


"Ibid.
"Ibid.
m

Ibid.

10

Ibid., pp. 56-58 (VI, 62-65).

"Ibid., p. 79 (VI, 84).


12

Ibid., p. 54 (VI, 61).

Ibid., p. 60 (VI, 66).

14

Ibid., p. 61 (VI, 67).

7S

Ibid., p. 66 (VI, 72).

16

Ibid., pp. 60-61 (VI, 67). Reason would have us view our lives as if we would be so

judged.
'"Ibid., p. 62 (VI, 68).
1%

Ibid., p. 67 (VI, 72-73).

19

Ibid., p. 68 (VI, 74).

Ibid., pp. 68-69 (VI, 74-75). That is, one ought to act as if this were the case.
l

Ibid., pp. 73-78 (VI, 78-84). These figures are rational personifications-not realities.

^Ibid., p. 88 (VI, 96-97).

112

Kant's Philosophy
a

of Hope

Ibid., p. 87 (VI, 95).

Ibid., p. 88 (VI, 96).

"ibid., p. 91 (VI, 99). To emphasize their authority and unity, we are led by practical
reason to regard moral laws as if they originated in a single divine Being.
^Ibid. We may view such a community as if it were under God.
i7

ts

Ibid., p. 90 (VI, 98).

Ibid., p. 91 (VI, 100).

"9Ibid., p. 93 (VI, 101-102).


""Ibid., p. 93 (VI, 101).
"Ibid.
n

Ibid., p. 93 (VI, 102).

Ibid.
u

Ibid., p. 92 (VI, 100-01).

"Ibid., p. 100 (VI, 109).


^Kant showed, however, a serious lack of appreciation for Judaism. Cf ibid., pp. 116ff.
(VI, 125ff.).
'"Ibid., p. 112 (VI, 121). People ought to regard the moral law as unified and
authoritativeas if it came from a single divine Being. Moral law has its origin, of course, in
practical reason. Kant's suggestion amounts to understanding practical reason as if it were
divine.
n

Ibid.,p. 112 (VI, 122).

"Ibid., p. 122 (VI, 132).


m

Ibid., p. 123 (VI, 132).

""Ibid., p. 113 (VI, 122-123).


""Immanuel Kant, "What is Enlightenment?," On History, p. 3 (VUI, 35).
m

Ibid.

l04
Kant's attack was leveled both at Roman Catholic and Protestant forms of Western
Christianity. Although he did not refer to Eastern Orthodoxy, there is no reason to believe that

Hope and

Religion

113

he looked more favorable upon that branch of Christendom.


105

Walter Kaufmann suggests that "Afterdienst" "brings to mind the backside, which
Luther often used in composite words to suggest a perversion." Walter Kaufmann, Hegel: A
Reinterpretation (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1966), p. 13.
""Religion, pp. 156ff. (VI, 168ff).
""ibid., pp. 7-10 (VI, 6-11). For a fuDer treatment of this entire episode, cf. Greene,
op.cit., pp. xxxii-xxxvii.
108

Cy. footnotes 99-101 above. It is in accord with reason to view certain events in history
as if they were indications that humanity is making progress.
""Erich Adickes, Kants Opus Postumum (Berlin: Von Reutler and Richard, 1920), pp.
720ff. Adickes' view is challenged by George Schrader, John Silber, and Allen Wood. Cf.
George A. Schrader, "Kant's Presumed Repudiation of the Moral Arguments in the Opus
Postumum: An Examination of Adickes' Interpretation," Philosophy, 1951,228ff.; Silber, op.cit.,
pp. cxl ff., and Wood, op. cit., pp. 11-13.
""Norman Kemp Smith, A Commentary to Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' (2nd ed.;
New York: Humanities Press, 1962), p. 638.
111
Ibid. In fact Kant did mention summum bonum several times with reference to the Idea
of God. Cf. KGS, XXXI, 13, 14, 29, 33, and 46 as examples.

"2Adickes, op. cit., pp. 790-91.


'"Religion, p. 132 (VI, 141).
U4

Ibid., p. 131 (VI, 139).

115

KGS, , 104.

U6

nl

Ibid., , 108.

Ibid., XXII, 118.

Ibid., , 120. He views duties as if they had their basis in the commands of one
divine Being. Cf. ibid., XXI, 27.
U9

Ibid., , 127, 48f., 61, 104.

Ibid., XXI, 18, 29.

l2l
This should not be construed to mean that the moral law actually has its source outside
one's own practical reason. The "as i f in the formulation is of crucial importance.

'Religion, p. 92 (VI, 100).

114

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

123

Heinrich Heine, Deutschland, quoted in Webb, op. cit., p. 49.

124
Moltmann has criticized Kant for the letter's supposed "transcendental eschatology"the
view that there is an absolute, trans-historical ideal which we are somehow privileged to know.
Moltmann advocated instead that people should move toward an open future in which the end
is not fixed by an absolute ideal. But Kant thought that without an ideal and a direction people
are not able to progress, and Moltmann has not even considered Kant's point. Moreover,
Moltmann himself develops implications of Jesus' resurrection into what approximates an "ideal."
Cf. Moltmann, Theology of Hope, pp. 46ff.

^Religion, pp. 47ff. (VI, 5Iff.), 62 ff. (VI, 68ff.).

Chapter 4
HOPE AND HISTORY:
WHAT MAY MANKIND HOPE?
Kant formulated the question about hope in individualistic terms. 'What may
/ hope?,' he asked. If I am (or any person is) virtuous, he answered, then it is
rationally justified for me (that person) to hope for happiness. I (or any person)
may also hope to be virtuous. And although the ideals of an ethical commonwealth
and of the highest complete good (summum bonum) are Ideas of communities or
of entire realms, they show how a state of affairs is possible in which the individual can experience that for which he or she hopes.1 Kant's basic theory of hope
may be understood as "individualistic" in this sense. This does not mean, of
course, that the Ideas of practical reason do not apply with full validity to all
people equally. They are a priori-and, therefore universal and necessary.2 Nor
does it mean that in the theory Kant was not concerned about the happiness and
well-being of mankind as a whole.3 In asserting that his basic theory of hope is
"individualistic," we are claiming, rather, that its subject is the individual. In this
theory Kant was concerned to answer the question, 'What may / (or any individual)
hope?'
But in his philosophy of history Kant presented an important analogue to that
theory. There he offered what constitutes an answer to the question, 'What may
mankind hope?' This answer includes a number of parallels to the "individualistic"
position.

116

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

The Concept of Mankind


In one of his more obscure essays, "Von den verschiedenen Racen der Menschen" ("On the Various Races of Mankind"), 1775, Kant laid the foundation for
his understanding of mankind and of mankind's ideals. He claimed that, "All men
throughout the earth belong to one and the same natural species [Naturgattung]."*
He argued for this assertion by using the Buffonian rule that animals belong to the
same species if they produce fertile offspring when they mate. Humans mated in
any combination, Kant thought, produce fertile offspring, so all people must constitute a single species. All humans stem from, or could stem from, a single source,
he added as another way of asserting that humanity is a single species.5 He explained that the racial variations of skin color, hair color, and the like are due
primarily to the effects of different climatic conditions upon the "seeds" ("Keimen")
which "Nature" planted in mankind.6 Mankind develops in a variety of directions
because the "seeds" or "potentialities" ("Anlagen") are affected in different ways
by various conditions. Kant distinguished four basic "races"~white, negroid, hun,
and hindu-and claimed that their varied features are due to their adaptations to
different climates.7
In his Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (1798), Kant reaffirmed
the importance of the concept of a human species, and he described the fundamental characteristic which distinguishes humanity from all other animate beings
we know. A human is rational and has the ability to develop his or her own
reason. "He has the character which he himself creates, insofar as he is capable
of perfecting himself according to the ends that he himself adopts."8 Kant continued,
Because of this, man, as an animal endowed with the capacity
for reason (animal rationabilis) can make of himself a rational animal
(animal rationale)--and as such he first preserves himself and his
species; secondly, he trains, instructs and educates his species for
domestic society; and thirdly, he governs it as a systematic whole (that
is, a whole ordered by principles of reason) as is necessary for
society.9

Hope and History

117

It is not necessary, of course, to assert that Kant thought that there "is"
something called "mankind." Rather, "mankind" is better understood as an Idea.
We may view all people as if they constituted a unity. And just as the individual
has a life story, so we may view human history as if mankind had a life narrative
which describes its self-movement toward its full rational/social potential. Reason
enables us to view history as if it were die story of mankind's development.
Hope and the Philosophy of History
Kant understood philosophy of history to be the priori description of the
pattern in human history. The actions of individuals, he claimed, seem directed
toward independent purposes--and even toward cross-purposes. But he thought die
philosopher must,
. . .try to see if he can discover a natural purpose in this idiotic course
of things human. In keeping with mis purpose, it might be possible
to have a history wim a definite plan for creatures who have no plan
of their own.10
Kant criticized Johann Herder for presenting as a history of humanity something
mat was litde more than a miscellany of interesting data and imaginative comments
in poetic form.11 Kant thought that history makes sense only when viewed as if it
had a pattern.
More specifically, Kant understood philosophy of history to be an priori
description of the steps or stages in the "life narrative of mankind."12 The picture
of the final stage is found in the Idea of humanity's ultimate, complete develop
ment. The Idea describes a society in which people are fully rational and moral
and in which there is concord among all.13 In the essay, "Idea for a Universal
History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View" (1784), Kant claimed mat the ideal
is the full development of humanity's rational capacities and that this can occur
only in a "perfectly constituted state."14 "Nature's secret plan" is to prod people
to bring forth such a state so that mankind might be fully rational." In "Perpetual
Peace" (1795) Kant laid out a blueprint for the ideal world polity that would allow
people to be fully rational.

118

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

Kant's understanding of history reflects his teleological approach to viewing


nature and history as a whole. Already in 1755 he had argued that an uncaused
Necessary Being created a causal world leading to the greatest perfection of created
things and to the greatest happiness of people.16 In the Critique of Pure Reason
Kant justified teleological interpretations on heuristic grounds. He held that they
may be beneficial for viewing nature as a systematic whole and for making new
discoveries, but he wrote that teleological Ideas are regulative.17 That is, to assert
that it can be helpful to view the world as if it were a systematic whole with
purposes and ends is not to make an objective judgment about it. In the Critique
of Judgment Kant developed his justification for teleological judgments more fully.
Teleological interpretations, he thought, help one to understand both organisms and
nature in holistic terms.18 Such interpretations of nature enable a person to view
it as a purposive whole in which nothing occurs in vain.19
Similarly, in his developed philosophy of history Kant thought that it is
helpful for understanding human history as a whole to think of it as if there were
a "Nature" which had a secret "plan" for mankind's development. In such a plan
humanity properly occupies the highest place because people are rational. People
hold the supreme position in a purposive system since they can determine ends for
themselves.20 "Nature's" concern in this plan appears to be with mankind's rational
fulfillment rather man with its full sensuous satisfaction. According to Kant, this
is shown in that (1) human desires drive people to self-devised torments, (2) people
never rest contented and satisfied, and (3) natural disasters are often opposed to the
satisfaction of the desires.21 "Nature," it appears, has not equipped people to
develop toward complete happiness.
In Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, Kant distinguished three
rational predispositions which, he thought, set people apart from other earthly
creatures:
. . .his technical predisposition for manipulating things (a mechanical
predisposition joined with consciousness),. . .his pragmatic predisposition (for using other men skillfully for his purposes), and. . .the
moral predisposition in his being (to treat himself and others according
to the principle of freedom under laws.)22

Hope and History

119

The first of these Kant associated particularly with the special abilities a
person has for the use of hands:
The characterization of man as a rational animal is already
present in the form and organization of the human hand, partly by the
structure and partly by the sensitive feeling of the fingers and
fingertips. By this nature made him fit for manipulating things not in
one particular way but in any way whatsoever, and so for using
reason, and indicated the technical predispositionor the predisposition
for skillof his species as a rational animal.23
The pragmatic predisposition allows a person to find fulfillment as a social
creature:
[It] is a step higher. It is man's predisposition to become civilized by culture, especially the cultivation of social qualities, and his
natural tendency in social relations to leave the crude state of mere
private force and to become a well-bred (if not yet moral) being destined for concord.24
Kant did not think that people are particularly social by nature, and he suggested
that nature must prod them out of their solitariness to live in community.25 He also
thought that the development of good culture requires considerable education and
training.26
Humanity's "moral predisposition" was described in Religion within the
Limits of Reason Alone as "the predisposition to personality", i.e., as "the capacity
for respect for the moral law as in itself a sufficient incentive of the will.' People
are attracted to wickedness, but they know they are accountable. People know they
ought to live in total respect for, and compliance with, the moral law.
In the Critique of Judgment Kant described the development of mankind as
a movement from animality (living by the rudeness and violence of our inclinations) to humanity (living by reason so that people adopt their own ends and
purposes).28 If people were developed to the fullest, they would be moral beings
who adopt their ends in accordance with moral law.29
Kant argued that the complete development of rationality is such a long,
arduous process, whereas the individual's life span is so short, that the ideal may

120

Kant's Philosophy of Hope

be thought to be attainable by the species but not by die individual. In Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, he wrote:
It must be noted, first of all, that when any other animal
[species] is left to its own devices, each individual attains its complete
destiny; but in man's case only the species, at most, achieves it. So
the human race can work its way up to its destiny only by progress
throughout a series of innumerable generations.30
Concerning mankind's quest for scientific knowledge, which is a part of the development of the pragmatic disposition, Kant wrote:
In the whole human species, die drive to acquire scientific
knowledge, as a form of culture that ennobles humanity, is completely
out of proportion to a man's life span. When a scholar has forged
ahead in his own field to the point where he can make an original
contribution to it, death calls him away, and his place is taken by a
neophyte who, shortly before his own deatii, after he too has taken one
step forward, in turn yields his place to anoier.31
In the "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View,"
Kant explained more fully why he diought the ideal can only be understood in
terms of die species:
Reason itself does not work instinctively, but requires trial,
practice, and instruction in order gradually to progress from one level
of insight to anoflier. Therefore a single man would have to live
excessively long in order to learn to make full use of all his natural
capacities. Since Nature has set only a short period for his life, she
needs a perhaps unreckonable series of generations, each of which
passes its own enlightenment to its successor in order finally to bring
the seeds of enlightenment to that degree of development in our race
[i.e., species] which is completely suitable to Nature's purpose. This
point of time must be, at least as an ideal, die goal of man's efforts,
for odierwise his natural capacities would have to be counted as for
die most part vain and aimless.32
It is such a long, slow process for mankind to progress toward the ideal that, Kant
diought, die individual can hardly move at all beyond die levels attained in the
most previous generations. Yet, given enough generations, people can indeed make

Hope and History

121

significant progress toward the ideal. And, in fact, one can see indications of the
development humanity has already made. Mankind has adapted successfully to the
most varied and inhospitable climatic conditions. Humanity has spread over virtually the entire globe. People have joined together in societies and established
some good governments and legal codes. They have learned to work together to
make advances in knowledge and technology.33
Kant insisted that mankind must develop itself toward its ideal. He based
this upon two arguments. First, rationality involves the adoption of ends for
oneself. The rational being is one who does not allow others to determine the
person's ends or how one can attain them. A person does these things for himself
or herself. Kant's essay, "What is Enlightenment?," was a call to this rationality.
"Have courage to use your own reason!," Kant proclaimed.34 The one who is too
lazy or cowardly to do this and the person who is restricted in what he or she can
think and say are more like cattle than people.35 Rationality thus requires the
freedom to reason as well as the courage and energy to think. If rationality
consists in adopting ends for oneself, then mankind's progress toward the ideal
must include increasing self-determination. Growth in rationality requires that
mankind take responsibility upon itself for seeing what it should become and how
it can get there.
Secondly, parallel to his insistence that the individual must make himself or
herself worthy of happiness, Kant thought it improper for mankind to experience
its goal without making itself worthy of the same by developing itself. In the "Idea
for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View," Kant claimed that,
Nature has willed that man. . .should partake of no other
happiness or perfection than that which he himself, independently of
instinct, has created by his own reason?6
One "should work himself upward so as to make himself, through his own actions,
worthy [wrdig] of life and of well-being."37 In Anthropology from a Pragmatic
Point of View, Kant wrote,
The sum total of what pragmatic anthropology has to say about
man's destiny and the character of his development is this: man is

122

Kant's Philosophy of Hope


destined by his reason to live in a society with men and in it to cultivate himself, to civilize himself, and to make himself moral by the
arts and sciences. No matter how strong his animal tendency to yield
passively to the attractions of comfort and well-being, which he calls
happiness, he is still destined to make himself worthy [emphasis mine]
of humanity by actively struggling with the obstacles that cling to him
because of the crudity of his nature.38

Mankind is not worthy of attaining its ideal unless it develops itself.


One of mankind's resources which makes development possible is its educability. Mankind is able to learn from the pain and suffering caused by errors.
People are able to acquire knowledge and to communicate it to succeeding generations.39 Kant believed that each person even has a duty to pass information and
insights on to posterity so that mankind can make constant progress.40
A second resource is humanity's natural sympathy for, and inclination
toward, justice, morality, and the free use of reason. In Part II of The Strife of the
Faculties (1798), Kant argued that the great outpouring of sympathy and support
for the French Revolution demonstrated these basic human inclinations. At that
time Kant's own enthusiasm for the Revolution was so great that he wrote:
Such a phenomenon [the Revolution] in human history is not to
be forgotten, because it has revealed a tendency and faculty in human
nature for improvement such that no politician, affecting wisdom,
might have conjured out of the course of things hitherto existing, and
one which nature and freedom alone, united in the human race in conformity with inner principles of right, could have promised.41
And in the same vein:
For that event [the Revolution] is too important, too much
interwoven with the interest of humanity, and its influence too widely
propagated in all areas of the world not to be recalled on any favorable occasion by the nations which would then be roused to a repetition of new efforts of this kind.42
The memory of the Revolution can be an incentive for humanity's future efforts to
establish peace.43

Hope and History

123

Kant believed that mankind was on the threshold of a great period of


advancement. Until his own age, he thought, dogmatism and authoritarianism both
in the Church and the state had hindered people from fully exercising and using
their freedom. He lamented the fact that rulers, clergymen, and others had set
themselves up as "guardians" who discourage independent thought.44 Kant was
particularly concerned that scholars be allowed to work and think without restrictions. The "freedom of the pen" is the public's only recourse when a ruler acts
contrary to the public will.45 But he thought that people could throw off the
restrictions and exercise reason fully. As we have already mentioned, in his essay
"What is Enlightenment?," Kant called people to have the courage to use their own
reason.46
Yet Kant was not naively optimistic about mankind's future developmenteven if mankind were to use its reason fully. His philosophy of history was
"realistic." This is shown first by the fact that he firmly rejected a "eudaemonistic"
understanding of human history according to which mankind's moral make-up is
improving.47 People's moral propensities and predispositions do not change, but
this is not to assert that they cannot improve in the adoption of moral maxims and
in moral conduct.48
Secondly, Kant held that people require interaction with one another to
develop rational/moral capabilities. But mankind is naturally asocial, Kant thought,
so human gifts do not develop as readily as they might. People naturally shy away
from their neighbors.49
Thirdly, mankind is frequently hostile and engages in war and other forms
of conflict. Instead of cooperating to attain the species' ideal, people live in strife
and tension.50
For heuristic purposes, Kant's theory holds, one is rationally justified in
viewing history as if it were the story of mankind's progress. And to understand
how such progress is possible, a rational humanity may interpret history as if
nature prodded people according to a plan. Natural and human threats to human
survival have forced people to band together in social groupings.51 Within these
communities knowledge has been shared and civil law developed thereby enabling
humanity to move gradually toward the rational/moral ideal. Wars may be viewed

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as if "Nature" has used them to bring mankind out of its laziness and to enable a
person, "propelled by vainglory, lust for power, and avarice, to achieve a rank
among his fellows whom he cannot tolerate but from whom he cannot withdraw."52
"Nature" has turned conflict and competition to mankind's benefit. People may
view history as if "Nature" were leading them to see the ultimate fniitlessness of
not living in peace and harmony53 and as if it were training us to develop an ideal
international political community.
Kant also wrote that mankind may understand its education to be as //"Providence" were its teacher.
It is only from Providence that man anticipates the education of
the human race, taking the species as a whole-that is, collectively
(universorum) and not in terms of all of its individual members (singulorum) where the multitude does not form a system but only an aggregate gathered together. Only from Providence does he expect his
species to tend toward the civil constitution it envisages, which is to
be based on the principle of freedom but at the same time on the principle of constraint in accordance with law. That is, he expects it from
a wisdom that he is not his, but is yet the Idea of his own reason, an
Idea that is impotent (by his own fault).54
A person, it seems, cannot educate himself or herself effectively, for,
. . .those who are supposed to educate him are again men who are
themselves still involved in the crudity of nature and are supposed to
bring about what they themselves are in need of.55
One may think of "Providence" as the educator.
Kant's philosophy of history describes mankind's story as a movement
toward an ideal in which its rational/moral capacities will be fully developed. Kant
presented an ideal for which people should strive. And he attempted to show how
people can think they are able to approach the idealeven against apparently
insuperable odds. Kant appealed to the Ideas of "Nature" and "Providence" to
show how we can understand human history as the story of mankind's progress.

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The Ideal Polity


In "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View," Kant
claimed that mankind's highest development is only possible in "a universal civic
society which administers law among men."56 Such a society would offer maximal
freedom under completely just civil laws. It would encourage people's full use of
reason and their highest efforts to be moral:
The highest purpose of Nature, which is the development of all
the capacities which can be achieved by mankind, is attainable only
in society, and more specifically in the society with the greatest
freedom. Such a society is one in which there is mutual opposition
among the members, together with the most exact definition of
freedom and fixing of its limits so it may be consistent with the
freedom of others. Nature demands that humankind should itself
achieve this goal like all its other destined goals. Thus a society in
which freedom under external laws is associated in the highest degree
with irresistible power, i.e., a perfectly just civic constitution, is the
highest problem Nature assigns to the human race; for Nature can
achieve her other purposes for mankind only upon the solution and
completion of this assignment.57
A person does not wish to enter into such a state, for one selfishly protects personal
freedom.58 But through reason history can be viewed as if "Nature" used friction
among people to force them to make lawful civic states and as if it used wars and
the high cost of preparing for war to force states into what will eventually be a
"league of nations"~i.e., states united to preserve peace.59 In the end, nations will
see war as destructive and as so harmful to mankind's development that they will
give it up and will live in peace.60
In the essay "Perpetual Peace" (1795), Kant described the development of an
ideal polity more fully in both its national and international dimensions. The basic
unit which he employed in the description was that of the individual nation or state
(which may be thought of as analogous to a moral person). As a just civil state
can be formed out of individuals through their mutual antagonism, so, it is reasonable for one to think, a just federation of states can be formed out of autonomous
states through their war and conflict.

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope


Kant insisted that each state is autonomous and cannot rightly be absorbed

into another nation:


A state is not, like the ground which it occupies, a piece of property
(Patrimonium). It is a society of men whom no one else has any right
to command or to dispose except the state itself. It is a trunk with its
own roots. But to incorporate it into another state, like a graft, is to
destroy its existence as a moral person, reducing it to a thing.61
A federation should promote respect for the autonomy of states. When such a
federation is formed, nations will be less inclined to impose their will on one
another through wars and other measures.62
Kant thought that states should be organized as constitutional republics in
which the freedom and rights of every individual would be respected and in which
the laws would be entirely just. In such a state the people would develop their own
laws, and every citizen would have equal rights and privileges.63 This condition
would also promote peace:
If the consent of the citizens is required in order to decide that
war should be declared (and in this constitution it cannot but be the
case), nothing is more natural than that they would be very cautious
in commencing such a poor game, decreeing for themselves all the
calamities of war.64
If the autonomy of individuals would be maintained in states under just civil
laws, then every individual would be able to pursue his or her own type of happiness most freely and could develop his or her own rational gifts.65 And if nations
would respect the same autonomy in other states, there would also be freedom for
states to pursue their own particular ends.
The justice and goodness of civil law in a just state would promote personal
morality. Civil law "actually facilitates the development of the moral disposition
to a direct respect for the law by placing a barrier against the outbreak of unlawful
inclinations."66 Kant thought that moral goodness in turn facilitates good political
leadership. The "moralizing politician" will justify the use of power and immorality to "help" people on "the pretext that human nature is not capable of the good
as reason prescribes it."67 In contrast to this, the "moral politician," respecting the

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freedom and dignity of the individual, seeks to rule in accord with universal moral
law. Thus civil and moral development promote each other.
Kant thought that happiness should result for people from the experience of
freedom and harmony, but he was leery of any ruler trying to make people happy.
His (universalizable) principle of freedom brings this out:
No one can compel me to be happy in accordance with his
conception of the welfare of others, for each may seek his happiness
in whatever way he sees fit, so long as he does not infringe upon the
freedom of others to pursue a similar end which can be reconciled
with the freedom of everyone else within a workable general law.68
The ideal polity parallels and extends the Idea of a "kingdom of ends." At
the national level each individual would be able to function freely within the
context of universal civil laws. A person would be able to pursue his or her own
ends so long as he or she does not treat others as means. Conflict and strife would
diminish between individuals. Similarly, at the international level each state would
relate with other states according to universal civil law and would not abuse the
rights of other nations. Each state would be able to pursue its own ends so long
as it did not interfere with those of other nations. Wars would cease.
But Kant understood this to be an ideal only. It is a goal which mankind can
approach and toward which it is moving, but it is an infinite ideal for which
humanity will always have to strive.
Conclusion
Kant's Position: Philosophy of History as an Analogue to Individual Hope
Kant's philosophy of history parallels his "individualistic" theory of hope in
several respects. The fundamental distinction between the two is that the former
treats mankind (the human species) as if history were the story of its development
whereas the latter deals with the individual human being as subject.
The parallels between Kant's description of the individual and of mankind
are striking. Each has a life or history. The individual's life may extend beyond

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this world into a future realm, but the history of mankind covers every generation
from humanity's beginning to future ages. The story of each describes the struggle
to develop special capacities fully. To approach fulfillment each must fight against
seemingly insuperable obstacles in its own characterfrailty, impurity and wickedness in the individual; sloth, envy, and asociality in mankind. But each is gifted
with traits that help in the strugglelife, rationality, and accountability in the
individual; educability and an inclination to approve of civil justice and freedom
in mankind.
The parallel between the two aspects of Kant's philosophy extends to the
development of a priori infinite ideals to describe the respective goals. In the case
of the individual, one ideal is personal moral perfection but one's hope also extends
to participation in a realm in which the virtuous person can be happy because he
or she has been virtuous. For mankind the ideal is the full development of
rationality, and this will occur only when people live in absolute peace and
harmony. Mankind's full development can occur only if states become republics
and only if nations relate to one anther peaceably and lawfully.
Both mankind and the individual ought to act as if the ideal could be
attained.69 But in neither case did Kant think it would be just if the subject attained
the ideal through no particular effort of his or her own. Mankind/the individual
must make itself/himself worthy of the ideal. The subject must do all it possibly
can to actualize the ideal. Yet in both cases we ought to act as if a supernatural
force or being will do what apparently even a worthy mankind/person is unable to
do. One is justified in viewing history as if "Nature" and "Providence" were
guiding mankind; likewise, one is justified in hoping that a Supreme Being will
make the ideals possible for the individual.
Kant held that mankind/the individual should act as if the ideal could be
approached, and certain things we observe in this world support the judgment that
it can be. The history of mankind appears to be such that it is making gradual,
albeit slow and painful, progress toward its ideals. An event like the French
Revolution and the popular support it received supports the view that mankind is
indeed moving in the right direction. Such events will spur people toward continued progress in the future. So, too, it is possible for one to observe in an indi-

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129

vidual's deeds a gradual (though slow and painful) advance in doing good, which
may indicate the presence of a morally pure fundamental maxim. Good deeds in
this life support the efforts of mankind/the individual to attain ideals and may serve
as incentives for future efforts.
Development in the two areas may also be viewed as mutually supportive.
An individual's moral growth contributes to the establishment of a just society and
to the development of rationality. Mankind's movement toward an ideal polity and
the full development of rationality assist the individual in striving for virtue and for
happiness.
Mention should be made here of the fact that the ideal of an ethical commonwealth is an important bridge between Kant's social philosophy of history and his
individualistic theory of hope.70 On the surface it appears to have more in common
with the former. It is a historical ideal of people living under moral law, and it can
be attained only through humanity's gradual progress over many generations. But
Kant did not include it in any of the writings which deal expressly with philosophy
of history, and it differs from the ideals of the philosophy of history in that its
focus is entirely moral. It presents humanity as living together as the people of
God in total dedication to moral law. In his philosophy of history Kant was concerned about the total rational development of mankind and about the ideal civil
community in which this could occur. A civil state should be governed by just
civil law, but the purpose of its laws is to protect the equal freedoms of every
citizen. Civil laws do not concern themselves with motives.71 They deal with
external actions so that people will not infringe upon one another's freedoms.
The ethical commonwealth is an ideal which combines important features of
Kant's basic theory of hope and his philosophy of history. Like the former, it is
concerned with moral character. It describes humanity as moving toward a high
moral ideal. But like the latter, it is concerned with the development of all people
as a single community and is a fully social Idea. It considers mankind as if history
were the story of its development.

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Commentary and Criticism


One important contribution to the understanding of hope that Kant made in
his philosophy of history was to show more fully the relation of ideals to history.
Mankind's ultimate ends are infinite. Their absolute perfection can only be approximated. Yet we can see signs in history that humanity is gradually approaching
them. Given enough time, one can reasonably think that the progress made toward
the ideal can be great indeed. The ideal will never be fully realized in history, but
it is not unrelated to history, either. The purpose of the ideal is to provide rational
focus or direction now for mankind's development within history. Mankind ought
to act as if it could approach its ideals, and various signs in history support the
judgment that it can.
This sheds light on how the ideal of personal virtue may also be understood.
It is not important as a picture of what a person will be like in a future life. Its
primary purpose is to allow one to see direction in life now. Although the time in
any person's life is extremely limited, an individual can see indications in his or
her decisions and deeds now of whether he or she is approaching the infinite deal.
Kant had not always linked ideals so closely with history. In the Critique
of Pure Reason, as we have seen, he thought of the highest good as occurring in
a future realm. Kant could also have treated that ideal in a more historical light,
however.72 If progress toward an ideal polity and an ideal moral community would
promote happiness, then one may look for the highest complete good to be more
fully approximated as mankind moves closer toward the two ideal communities.
Although no infinite ideal will ever be fully attained, it is in accord with Kant's
system to view history as if even the highest complete good could be approximated
in history more and more closely.
A second important contribution made by Kant's philosophy of history is that
it provided a full social dimension to his philosophy. A person is more than an
individual. A human is a member of a species and may be understood as sharing
a single history with all other people. Because Kant's philosophy of history is
analogous to his "individualistic" theory of hope, his philosophy includes, in a
sense, "social hope" as well as individual hope. A person can find fulfillment in
his or her own virtue and happiness. "Mankind" can find it in rationality and an

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ideal polity.
These two contributions reveal weaknesses in several important criticisms
that have been offered of Kant's views on hope. Lucien Goldmann has claimed
that Kant connected hope primarily with transcendent religion rather than with
history. Goldmann never concealed his own sympathies for the ideas of Marx and
Lukcs, and he thought it a serious weakness that Kant did not, like those later
thinkers, give more attention to the development of social ideas within history:
Why must we believe not in a human, historical and immanent
realization in the future, but in a superhuman and supernatural
realization in eternity? Why must practical interest lead reason not to
a philosophy of history but to a transcendent religion? This question
is all the more natural in that Kant's works contain almost all the
basic elements of a philosophy of history, but without their carrying
sufficient existential weight to replace the philosophy of religion.
Kant hoped for a historical development towards a better community,
towards a society of citizens of the world, toward perpetual peace, and
that hope is clearly expressed in his works. But it never became
strong enough to render superfluous the practical postulate of a
superhuman being who would bring about the eternal realization of
uiis higher community: the kingdom of God. What was later to seem
obvious to Marx and Lukcs seemed impossible to Kant, for all that
he had clearly perceived and analyzed the problem.73
Goldmann excused Kant, however, on the grounds that the "economic and
political backwardness" in Prussia at the time made historical progress seem
Utopian.74 "Not even the greatest and most profound thinkers can free themselves
from the conditions in which they live," he added.75
But Goldmann was mistaken on several points. First, Kant's developed
philosophy of religion is not adequately characterized as "transcendent." Kant was
interested in the application which the religious ideals of practical reason can have
for people in this world. It is rational for us to view history as if mankind were
moving toward an ethical commonwealth and one may interpret his or her own life
now as if progressing toward the ideal of complete virtue. It is true that Kant's
treatment of the highest complete good might seem to be offered in "transcendent"
terms and that Kant could have given more attention to how we may move toward
this ideal in history. But it is not true that his religious ideals are in general simply

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"transcendent." They are transcendental, but that does not mean they are unrelated
to history. Secondly, Kant's philosophy of history is a well-developed analogue
to his individualistic theory of hope. He described social, historical ideals, and he
showed how we can rationally view history as if mankind were progressing toward
them. These ideals were not of secondary importance to Kant. In fact, one of the
religious ideals was thoroughly social and historical in natureviz., an ethical
commonwealth. Kant did develop a theory of "historical progress" related both to
philosophy of history and philosophy of religion. He did not fail to have an
adequate notion of progress because of any "economic and political backwardness"
in which he supposedly lived.
A criticism raised by both Goldmann and Clement Webb is that Kant's
theory was too individualistic. They charge that he did not give adequate attention
to the social dimension of hope.76 It is true that Kant gave a place to personal
happiness and virtue, but he also described ideals of reason which were social in
nature and which had to do with the development of mankind as a species. The
ethical commonwealth and the ideal polity are entirely social ideals. Even the ideal
of the highest complete good is partly social in nature. Although its primary
purpose was to show how the virtuous individual could experience happiness, it is
an ideal in which people live together in virtue, concord, and happiness.77 And the
a priori nature of all Ideas means that they have validity for all people.
Finally, in his excellent work on Kant's philosophies of history and religion,
Michel Despland has claimed that Kant's theory of hope contains a problematic
tension between the "ethico-religious and the ethico-juridical" tendencies.78 This
tension means, he wrote,
. . .that neither philosophy of history nor philosophy of religion ever
become for Kant a perfectly unified whole, nor did they both ever
become part of an even grander thing, such as a philosophy of the
spirit for instance. Kant did not provide us with a complete solution
to what we may hope and to what are the grounds for such a hope.
The summary I gave above of Kant's position on hope was negative
in formulation: "Evil will not have the last word either in one's own
heart or in history." This is not fortuitous. The positive affirmations
of the ethico-juridical and of the ethico-religious tendencies are each
negated by the other. Hope is kept as something which transcends
current anticipations or yearnings. A system of hope appears to be a

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contradiction in terms.79
While it is true that Kant did not combine his basic theory of hope and his
philosophy of history into a single systematic whole, they stand in a harmonious
and analogous relation to each other rather than in tension. Of the supposed
conflict, Despland wrote:
The tension between the two tendencies corresponds more accurately in his [Kant's] sense of the duality and tragic dimension of our
predicament of being caught between two worlds. The two tendencies
are complementary, although each relativizes the other. A purely individual and eschatological salvation is really no salvation at all. 1 have
hope even if I keep failing historically, but mankind as a whole has
hope only if it does not forever fail historically.80
There is a tension in Kant's theory, but it is between the purity of the ideals for
which people should strive and their weaknesses which lead people to stumble and
fall. This tension, however, pervades both Kant's basic theory of hope and his
social philosophy of history. Hannah Arendt was more correct than Despland when
she wrote of Kant that he found out that action doesn't fulfill either of modern
humanity's hopes (for moral purity or for peace, happiness, and order).81 The
tension is between the call of the ideal and our continued failures in this world.
This tension cuts across distinctions between eschatology and history, individual
and society, or religion and polity. All of the ideals for the individual and the
species stand in tension with our repeated failures.
The real problem is not that Kant's position fails to present a systematic
whole. Indeed, Kant held that mankind's efforts toward an ideal polity assist the
individual in his or her attempts to be virtuous and to experience happiness. And
the individual's struggles to realize ideals benefit mankind.
The problem is, rather, in humanity itself. A person is a creature who lives
in tension. This tension is not between two "worlds" (the historical and the eternal)
or between being an individual and also a member of the species. It lies between
the ideal and the failures in one's life. Kant clearly saw the tension in which we
live.
Despland would call this a "tragic" view of humanity, but Kant would be
unhappy with that ascription. Indeed, there is a fine line between the "tragic" and

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the "noble." We shall argue in Chapter 5 that Kant's theory presents a "noble"
view of mankind.82
These comments on Despland introduce two important strengths of Kant's
philosophy of history relative to hope. First, the social ideals which he presented
are worthy. His picture of republican governments coexisting in peace and harmony under civil law continues to be an inspiring social ideal, as is testified in Carl
Friedrich's Inevitable Peace}3 His description of mankind's full rational development in terms of autonomy, knowledge, and virtue respects the great potential in
mankind. Kant's social ideals did not sacrifice individual freedoms and rights or
the importance of civil law.
But in conjunction with this, Kant was also able to present a realistic
interpretation of humanity. He believed that mankind can and should progress, but
he recognized that repeated deeds of malice, hostility, calumny, and all manner of
immorality describe little more than repeated failure in the effort to develop. We
are lazy, envious, and asocial, and all of these features inhibit our development.
As in his basic theory of hope, Kant did not underestimate those essential human
qualities which stand opposed to the realization of our ideals.
But Kant's philosophy of history relative to hope is not without shortcomings. His discussions of "Nature" and "Providence" are weak. According to
him, it is in accord with reason for us to view history as if "Nature" had provided
a plan for human development and had arranged certain types of events in keeping
with that plan. But "Nature" is a theoretical concept which has no explanatory
power. One may judge that particular purposes are present in the world and then
think of them as if "Nature" were their source, but one cannot use the concept of
"Nature" to find or understand purposes previously unknown. A holistic, teleological interpretation of this world and its history will allow one to understand
things in terms of purpose and development, and such an interpretation may enable
understandings which are not otherwise possible, but the special concept of
"Nature" contributes little to this interpretation. It is possible to understand beings
in terms of potentialities, capacities, and purposes and to develop ideals of their
realizationall without reference to "Nature" as if it were the source of purposes.
Neither does the concept help to account for the progress mankind has made.
Human educability and our awareness of our responsibility to develop in the

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135

direction of ideals of pure reason are far more effective concepts for this purpose.
Humanity progresses because it can learn, and reason gives direction for this
development. Indeed, to think that everything which occurs is as if it fit into a
plan of "Nature" could both make people feel relieved of some of the responsibility
of development that they should bear and make them callous to some of the intense
suffering in the world. Any attempt to justify the wars which have occurred in
history, for example, stands in tension with the repulsion for war which Kant felt
and which it is quite appropriate for one who is concerned about general human
well-being to feel.
Similar comments apply to Kant's reference to "Providence" {"Vorsehung")
as the educator of the human race. We can understand humanity as capable of
educating itself.84 Through experience and reflection, a person can learn and then
pass the knowledge on to other people. Perhaps Kant appealed to the Idea of
"Providence" on the basis of an authoritarian model of education according to
which the fully informed are to teach the ignorant. But, of course, other models
of education are possible. For example, one who has experienced more or who has
learned more from others may pass this knowledge along even though this teacher
is far from fully informed. And Kant's interpretation of humanity supports such
a model. Mankind has the responsibility to progress toward ideals on its own, and
it has the reason, the capacity for experience, the ability to communicate, and the
direction (ideals) to do so. Mankind need not think of its growth as if "Providence" were his teacher.
A second weakness in Kant's position is that he was at times too optimistic.
Despite his realistic interpretation of humanity, he sometimes wrote as if mankind
were about to make great strides, and he bordered on making predictions along
those lines.85 Even if this "optimism" was grounded entirely upon heuristic notions
and not intended to be objective, it was still out of keeping with his general
position. The full awareness of humanity's shortcomings guards against the view
that its progress is inevitable.

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of Hope

NOTES
'The ideal of an ethical commonwealth provides a special bridge between Kant's social
philosophy of history and his individualistic theory of hope, and it will receive special attention
in the "Conclusion" section of this chapter.
2

"Individualistic" is meant only in the sense of using the individual as subject. Later in
this chapter we will disagree with a criticism which Goldmann, Webb, and other have raised
against Kant-viz., that his theory is "individualistic" in a much stronger sense.
3

C/. CPR, A851=B879.

""Immanuel Kant, "Von den verschiedenen Racen der Menschen," KGS, , 429.
Hbid., pp. 429-30.
6

Ibid., pp. 432-35.

Ibid., pp. 435ff.

Kant, Anthropology, p. 183 (VII, 321).

Ibid., p. 183 (VII, 321-22).

10

Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," p. 12 (VIII, 18).

"Cf. Immanuel Kant, "Reviews of Herder's Ideas for a Philosophy of the History of
Mankind," On History, p. 27 (VIII, 45). Herder rejected the view that history shows a single,
general pattern of development. His work is a comparative morphology both of organism types
and of societies in which he attempted to show that each has its own driving spirit but that they
all develop along parallel lines. Herder thought that the key to humanity's particular pattern of
development is its upright posture.
12

Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 11, 24-26 (Vm, 17-18, 29-31). Cf also Kant,
"Reviews of Herder's Ideas," p. 51 (VIII, 65).
13

Kant, Anthropology, pp. 183-86 (VII, 322-25).

14

Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," ppU5-19, 21 (VIE, 20-22, 27).

"Ibid., p. 21 (Vm, 27). That is, it is in accord with reason to view history as if there
were a "Nature" that had such a secret plan.
16

Kant, "Nova Dilucidatio," p. 237 (I, 404).

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History

137

"CPR, A687ff.=B715ff.
'Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. J. H. Bernhard (New York: Hafner
Publishing Company, 1966), pp. 219-20 (V, 373-74). Cf. also Immanuel Kant, "First Introduction
to the Critique of Judgment," trans. James Haden (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Menill, 1965), pp. 16-17
(XX, 211-12). They are regulativenot determinative. They do not describe anything we
perceive in phenomena.
"Kant, Critique of Judgment, pp. 226ff. (V, 379ff.). For detailed treatments of the
relation between teleological and causal explanations, cf. J. D. McFarland, Kant's Concept of
Teleology (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 1970), passim., and Ernst Cassirer, Kants
Leben und Lehre (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1923), 366-77.
20

Immanuel Kant, "Conjectural Beginning of Human History," trans. Emil L. Fackenheim,


On History, p. 59 (Vffl, 114).
21

Kant, Critique of Judgment, p. 280 (V, 430).

22

Kant, Anthropology, p. 183 (VII, 322).

23

Ibid., pp. 184f. (VII, 323).

"Ibid., p. 185 (VII, 323).


"Ibid., p. 184 (Vn, 322-23).
26

Ibid., p. 185 (VII, 324).

'"Religion, pp. 22f. (VI, 26ff.). Cf. Chapter 3, the analysis of Book I of Religion.
28

Kant, Critique of Judgment, pp. 283-84 (V, 433-34).

"Md., p. 285 (V, 435).


'Kant, Anthropology, p. 185 (Vn, 324).
3l

Ibid., pp. 186f. (Vn, 325f.).

Universal History," p. 13 (Vin, 19).

33

These advances are described in several of Kant's essays relating to mankind's


development including "Von den verschiedenen Racen der Menschen" (KGS, , 427ff.),
"Bestimmung des Begriffs einer Menschenrace" (KGS, VIE, 89ff.), and "Idea for a Universal
History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View" (KGS, Vm, 15ff.).
M

Kant, "What is Enlightenment?," p. 3 (VUI, 35).

'Ibid., pp. 3ff. (Vm, 35ff.).

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Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

''Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," p. 13 (VHI, 19).


"Ibid., p. 14 (Vm, 20).
38

Kant, Anthropology, p. 186 (VII, 324-25).

39

C/ Ibid., pp. 186-89 (VII, 325-29).

""Immanuel Kant, "On the Common Saying: "This May be True in Theory, but it does not
Apply in Practice,'" Kant's Political Writings, ed. Hans Reiss (Cambridge: University Press,
1970), pp. 88-89 (Vm, 309). Cf. aiso Kant, Opus Postumum, KGS, XXII, 622-23.
""Immanuel Kant, "An Old Question Raised Again: Is the Human Race Constantly
Progressing?," On History, p. 147 (VII, 88).
"Ibid.
43

The philosopher has a special responsibility for helping mankind to use these two
resources. By developing the Ideas of the ideals most fully, this person calls people to strive to
attain them through education and political/social development. The philosopher should speak
out against rulers when they do not hear the will of the people and when they inhibit mankind's
progress. Cf. Kant, "On the Common Saying," p. 79 (VIII, 297). In a sense the philosopher is
a "prophet" calling rulers and ruled alike to strive toward the ideal. No doubt Kant was so upset
by the censors' refusal to allow the publication of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone
because he saw this writing as such a call for people to use their resources to develop toward
moral purity. Cf. Chapter 3, the analysis of Books and IV of Religion.
"Kant, "What is Enlightenment?," pp. 3ff. (VIII, 35ff.) and Religion, pp. 139ff. (VI,
149ff.).
45

Kant, "On the Common Saying," p. 85 (VIII, 304). Cf. also Religion, pp. 7ff. (VI, 6ff.).

""TCant, "What is Enlightenment?," p. 3 (VIII, 35).


47
Kant, "An Old Question Raised Again," p. 140 (VII, 81-82).
("eudciemonistisch") was Kant's word.
m

"Eudaemonistic"

Cf the "Conclusion" section of chapter 2.

49

Kant, Anthropology, p. 184 (VQ, 322-23). Cf. also Kant, "Idea for a Universal History,"
p. 15 (Vm, 21).
"Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 15ff. (Vm, 2Iff.).
51
Kant, Anthropology, p. 190 (Vn, 330). Cf. also Kant, "Idea for a Universal History,"
pp. I6ff. (Vm, 22ff.).
52

Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," p. 15 (VIII, 21). Cf. also Kant, Anthropology, p.
190 (Vn, 330); Kant, "Perpetual Peace," trans. Lewis White Beck, On History, pp. 108ff. (VIII,

Hope and History

139

363ff.); Kant, Critique of Judgment, p. 283 (V, 433); and Kant, "Idea for a Universal History,"
pp. 15ff. (Vm, 20ff.). Kant, however, felt a deep repugnance for war, and in "Perpetual Peace"
he developed a plan to provide for its extirpation.
53

Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," p. 23 (VIII, 28).

Kant, Anthropology, p. 188 (Vn, 328).

"Ibid., p. 186 (VII, 325). Kant's distinction between "Nature" and "Providence" appears
to be based on that between "training" and "education," but he never developed it.
56

Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," p. 16 (VIII, 22).

51

Ibid.

5S

Ibid., p. 17 (Vm, 23).

59

Ibid., pp. 18-19 (Vffl, 24-25).

Ibid., p. 23 (Vm, 28). Kant opposed the use of war and conflict by rational beings.

61
Kant, "Perpetual Peace," p. 86 (VIII, 344). It is noteworthy that Kant never suggested
that a single world government would be good. He assumed that the right of national sovereignty
should not be overridden.
62

Ibid., pp. 87ff. (VIII, 345ff.).

lbid., p. 94 (VIII, 350).

"Ibid., pp. 94-95 (VIII, 351).


65

C/. Kant, "On the Common Saying," p. 63 (Vffl, 277).

"Kant, "Perpetual Peace," p. 123 footnote (Vffl, 375-76).


61

Ibid., p. 121 (VHI, 373).

Kant, "On the Common Saying," p. 63 (Vffl, 290).

^But Kant did not think that mankind will fully realize the ideals. In the Metaphysics of
Morals, for example, he called the ideal polity "an Idea that cannot be realized." Kant,
Metaphysical Elements of Justice, p. 124 (VI, 350).
la
Cf. Religion, pp. 88ff. (VI, 96ff.), and Chapter 3, the analysis of Books III and IV or
Religion.
n

Cf. The Metaphysical Elements of Justice, pp. 19-21 (VI, 219-21).

72

In the Critique of Judgment Kant did write of this ideal in historical terms. Kant,

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Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

Critique of Judgment, p. 301 (V, 450).


"Goldmann, op. cit., pp. 198-99.
74

Ibid., p. 199.

15

Ibid., p. 200.

Ibid., p. 216; Webb, op.cit., pp. 208-210.


"On the importance both of the individual and of mankind in Kant's philosophy, cf.
Sidney Axinn, "Kant, Logic, and the Concept of Mankind," Ethics, LXVUI (1957-58), 286-291,
and "A Study of Kant's Philosophy of History" (unpublished Doctor's dissertation, University
of Pennsylvania, 1955), pp. 23-38.
Even the fact that Kant described the ideals as goals for all people indicates that his
philosophy was not overly individualistic. The ideals are necessary and universal.
Goldmann erred on another important matter regarding Kant's theory of hope. He
interpreted Kant's aesthetical theory as an aspect of his theory of hope. But Kant himself never
associated the two in this way. Cf. Goldmann, op. cit., pp. 182-93.
78

Despland, op. cit., pp. 275-80.

"Ibid., p. 280.
m

Ibid., pp. 278-79.

81

Hannah Arendt, "The Concept of History," Between Past and Future: Six Exercises in
Political Thought (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1963), p. 84. Cf. also J. Pieper,
Hope and History (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969), p. 47, in which he argues that Kant
attempted to keep the eschatological and historical dimensions of mankind's future together.
82

Despland is also wrong in claiming that Kant's attempt to synthesize the religious and
historical in the ideal of an ethical commonwealth was unsuccessful and later abandoned. Kant
never indicated that he rejected it, and the ideal's features are consistent with those of the other
ideals Kant later described. Cf. Despland, op. cit., pp. 276-78.
83
Carl Joachim Friedrich, Inevitable Peace (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1948). Friedrich developed parallels between Kant's ideal and the then newly-formed United
Nations.
u

Cf Kant, Anthropology, p. 188 (VII, 328).


Cf especially Kant, "An Old Question Raised Again," pp. 143ff. (VIII, 85ff.).

Chapter 5
CONCLUSION
A General Description of Kant's Views on Hope
A concise summary of Kant's central position could read as follows:
In his moral philosophy and philosophy of religion, Kant presented a theory
of hope in which he specified hope's basic nature, its preconditions, its justification, its content, and its function or purpose. This theory is essentially individualistic, but in his philosophy of history Kant developed a social analogue to
that theory in which mankind rather than the individual is the subject.1 In this
theory one's basic hope is for the lasting, deep satisfaction of his or her desires
(happiness), but only the virtuous person can have rational justification for this
hope. Reason provides a priori Ideas of a range of ideal conditions. These Ideas
fill out the content of hope and are the basis for its rational justification. Reason
also shows how it is possible for the ideals to be realized.
In filling out this brief description, it may be useful to use the six questions
which were developed in Chapter 1.
1. 'What is the basic nature ofhopeV
Kant understood a person's basic hope to be the longing for the satisfaction
of his or her desires.2 Every human is sensuous as well as rational and moral. As
a sensuous being, one can find fulfillment only in the lasting, rich satisfaction of
desires (GlcLeligkeit, happiness).3 A person hopes--/.., one longs for this
satisfaction.
Kant's theory of hope is marked by its holistic interpretation of the indi-

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

vidual. He understood a person to be a rational being. This rationality includes


capacities to adopt and pursue one's own ends, to know moral law, and to act in
accord with and because of that law.4 But Kant emphasized humanity's sensuous
side as well. Hope is directed toward the full, lasting satisfaction of desires. A
person has desires which he or she longs to satisfy.
But Kant distinguished hope that is rationally justified from that which is
not. According to practical reason, the virtuous person, and only such a person,
should experience that for which he or she hopes.6 The immoral person may long
and strive for happiness, but practical reason gives such an individual no basis to
expect that it will be experienced. But human reason informs us that the virtuous
person should experience the happiness for which he or she hopes. It presents
virtue as the necessary and sufficient condition for the reasonable expectation of
happiness. The virtuous person, therefore, may reasonably expect to experience
happiness. For this person hope is rationally justified.
5

Practical reason provides us with a priori Ideas of ideal conditions which


show how a virtuous person can experience happiness and which indicate how it
is possible for an individual to be virtuous. These Ideas constitute our total
fulfillment as rational and sensuous humans.7 They incorporate both the natural
longing for happiness as well as practical reason's demand for virtue. They are
ends which reason presents for us, and they are worthy of our longing and striving.
2. 'What are the preconditions for hopeV
There is, of course, no prerequisite for longing for the satisfaction of desires.
Every human longs and strives for this by nature. But our practical reason does
present a precondition for the reasonable expectation of happiness~v/z., virtue.
Rationally justified hope presupposes virtue in the one who hopes.
3. 'What justifies hopeV
Kant's primary concern in his theory of hope was to show how and why a
virtuous person could expect to experience happiness.8 He argued in the Critique
of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason mat reason provides us with
a priori Ideas which show how a virtuous person can experience happiness as a
result of his or her virtue.9 The Ideas are not developed out of personal experience

Conclusion

143

or sentiments but are based rather on what pure reason shows ought to be the case.
Kant understood these ideals to be universal and necessary. They are valid for all
people without qualification. They do not change, and every rational creature is
capable of knowing them.
Kant did not try to justify hope by appealing to our psychological~or even
moralneeds. He thought that hope does play important theoretical and moral
functions for people, but he did not argue for it on that basis.10 Nor did he claim
that experience is the grounds for the justification of hope. Indeed, in Religion
within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793), Kant wrote as though experience gives
more basis for despair than for hope, for it reveals humanity's repeated failures to
establish a better life." Rather, Kant appealed to pure reason for the justification
of hope. Reason holds before us a priori Ideas of perfect or ideal conditions.
Through Ideas we are able to see how virtue can lead to happiness, and we ought
to act as if the ideals could be realized.
But Kant also attempted to demonstrate that the ideal conditions can become
a reality. Unless it is possible for ideals to be actualized, they are empty, fantastic
notions and, Kant believed, hope would still be without justification.12 Nevertheless, he did not predict that these ideals will become reality. He wished instead to
show that a person ought to act as if the ideals which reason informs us should be
the case, could be realized.
Kant thought that pure reason shows us how these ideals can be actualized.
Reason presents Ideas of a Supreme Being and of immortality for this purpose.13
One ought to act as if a Supreme Being could do what the person is apparently
unable to do to fully realize the ideal and as if this could occur in a future world
if it seems not to be possible in the present one. (Cf. the "Conclusion" sections of
chapters 2 and 3 for the developed arguments which Kant gave.) Later, we will
argue that Kant was not asserting that such a Being exists or that there will be a
life after death. Nevertheless, he did clearly affirm that practical reason presents
these Ideas and that we ought to act as if the ideals of practical reason could be
realized through them.
In presenting the Idea of a Supreme Being, practical reason is not excusing
a person from his or her own responsibilities, however. One ought to strive to
realize the ideals himself or herself.14 Reason presents the ideals as conditions

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

which ought to occur, and we should do what we can to realize them.


In his discussion of the ideal of moral perfection as it is found in Religion
within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant claimed that a person may be able to perceive changes in his or her life which would indicate movement toward the ideal,
and he asserted that the perception of these changes can support one's hope for
moral perfection. An individual's moral nature is not discernible to another
personsometimes not even to the individual himself or herself, but if one can see
evidence in his or her life of increasing conformity between one's deeds and the
demands of the moral law, then that person has some evidence to think that his or
her disposition will be judged to be moral.15
Yet throughout his writings Kant's basic justification for hope was in the
Ideas of pure reason. Reason presents the ends for which one can justifiably hope
and strive, and reason shows how people may think it is possible for the ideals to
be realized.
4. 'What is the content ofhopeT
A person's natural, basic hope is directed toward happiness as the full,
lasting satisfaction of desires. But only the virtuous person has rational justification for the hope for happiness. Practical reason presents Ideas of ideal conditions which indicate how it is possible for the virtuous person to experience happiness because of his or her virtue and how it is possible for a person to be virtuous.
Through its Ideas practical reason provides ends for humans. The Ideas fill out the
content of hope that is rationally justified.
The primary ideal of practical reason for Kant is the Idea of summum bonum
or the highest complete good, which Kant developed most fully in the Critique of
Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason. This ideal incorporates a
person's full virtue and happiness conjoined in such a way that the latter is contingent upon the former. This Idea presupposes that the natural and moral realms
would be coordinated so that the person whose motives were moral would experience happiness as a consequence of virtue.16 Such a coordinated world is referred
to by Kant as the Idea of a "moral world."
But Kant developed additional, intermediate ideals. Since virtue is the
precondition for the rational expectation of happiness, it must be possible for a

Conclusion

145

person to be virtuous. If mat were not possible, no one could hold a justified hope
for happiness. In Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant appealed to
Ideas of practical reason to provide a basis for a person to think that he or she can
be virtuous. He described the Idea of a morally perfect individual as an ideal
toward which every person ought to strive." Such a completely virtuous individual
is one whose disposition (Gesinnung) is absolutely pure and who, because of this
disposition, is able always to perform moral deeds.18 Kant also developed the Idea
of an ethical commonwealth (an ideal church) as a community of all people living
in complete dedication to the moral law." People can form themselves into a
moral community in which all people would live together in total dedication to the
moral law as if it were the will of God.20 They would worship God not through
ritual or through creedal beliefs but rather through their moral lives. Such a
condition would both exhibit and promote the virtue that is demanded by practical
reason. And Kant thought that although people seem too perverse to make an ethical commonwealth themselves, we ought to act as if "God" would help reshape us.
Reason allows us justifiably to hope that "God" will establish an ethical commonwealth.21
These three primary Ideas--(l) the summum bonum with its coordinated Idea
of a moral world, (2) the morally perfect individual, and (3) an ethical commonwealthpresent virtue conjoined with happiness, complete virtue in the individual,
and a community of people dedicated to the moral law as content for humanity's
rationally justified hope.
In his philosophy of history, Kant developed a social analogue to individual
hope. In that analogue he described the movement of mankind (considered as a
unit) toward the ideal of the full development of rationality in a world in which all
people would live in peace and harmony. Such a world is another rational Idea
which we ought to believe is attainable and which we ought to seek to fulfill. The
human species naturally seeks its fulfillment in the full exercise of reason.22 In the
story of mankind's development, the people in each succeeding generation can and
should be more and more autonomousexercising their freedom more fully to adopt
and pursue their own ends in accord with moral and civil law.23
But Kant thought that until people live together peacefully, harmoniously,
and wim general respect for just civil law, it will not be possible for humanity to

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develop its rational capacities to the highest level.24 He believed that a condition
of peace and harmony would allow both individuals and states the freedom to
pursue their own ends (in accord with civil law) without interference.25 It would
thereby increase the happiness of the citizens.26 The Idea of an ideal world polity
make this peace and harmony possible. This Idea is of a federation of nation-states
which respect one another's autonomy, which coexist in peace and harmony, and
which relate with each other according to just international law.27 Each state
should itself be a republic in which civil law would apply to all citizens equally.28
Kant also held that we are rationally justified in believing that our continued
movement toward mankind's ideals is possible. They are not empty or fantastic.
We should think of ourselves as moving toward them with the aid of "Nature"
(through our instincts) and "Providence" (through our education as a species). We
may rationally regard mankind's development to be as /"Nature" had a plan for
it. Mankind's make-up and the conditions in which people live lead them naturally
and instinctively to develop reason and to progress toward a more lawful, harmonious civil society.29 And mankind is able to assimilate knowledge and to develop
reason, but it needs a teacher for this. "Providence" is seen as the "educator" of
the species.30
Furthermore, Kant thought that we can regard certain aspects of history as
evidence of two traits in mankind which promote movement towards its ideals.
The one trait is the human educability already mentioned.31 People are able to
learn from their failures and new experiences, and they can pass this knowledge on
to successor generations. In addition, we may regard the popular approval which
the French Revolution, for example, has won as evidence that humanity has an inherent sympathy for the development of freedom in accord with civil law.32 The
memory of an event like the French Revolution can serve as an incentive for
humanity's continued efforts to progress toward ideals.
In Kant's social analogue, then, mankind has the Idea of a fully rational
humanity living in peace and harmony and the subordinate Idea of an ideal world
polity.

Conclusion

147

5. 'What is the function or purpose of hope?


Hope does serve an important purpose according to Kant. It provides
directionan endfor actions and life.33 It appears to make purposeful one's
present efforts to be virtuous. Although Kant did not define moral lightness in
teleological terms, he did understand rationality partly in terms of the adoption and
justification of ends.34 As a rational being, a human longs to see an end toward
which his or her actions are leading. The moral law can be the only ground or
basis for virtuous action, but one sometimes needs an incentive in addition to
respect for moral law to move him or her to virtuous action.35 By offering an end
or goal, hope can serve as that incentive. According to Kant, it can stimulate a
person to action without corrupting moral purity.36
Moreover, hope helps us to continue our struggle to attain reason's ideals
even though we often experience repeated setbacks and failures. Hope helps us to
maintain our moral strength and courage in the face of adversity.
Kant did not attempt to justify hope on the grounds that it serves these
functions, however. As we have seen, he justified hope through the use of the a
priori Ideas which practical reason provides for us.37
6. 'What is the identity of the one who hopesT
A human, as both a sensuous and a rational/moral being, is the one who
hopes. A person has desires which he or she longs to satisfy, and a person is able
to determine how to do this. One is also able to know the Ideas of pure reason and
to direct oneself toward reason's ideals.
Kant's theory of hope (as developed particularly in the Critique of Pure
Reason, the Critique of Practical Reason, and Religion within the Limits of Reason
Alone) is individualistic in nature in the sense that he was concerned in it primarily
to answer the question 'What may I hope?' Every person, being rational, can
determine his or her own ends and strive to attain them. And the Ideas which we
have examined give the individual a basis for the reasonable expectation of
happiness as a result of virtue as well as for the expectation of moral perfection
itself.
And in the analogue to this provided by his philosophy of history, Kant

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

claimed that it is reasonable to regard history as if it were the story of mankind's


development. We may understand mankind to constitute a single species and as
having Ideas or ideals for which it, too, ought to strive.38 We may regard mankind
as longing and striving for its fulfillment just as the individual does.39 Like the
individual, mankind has a life or history in which it is possible to interpret some
events as if they were evidence of development toward the ideal.40 And reason
enables mankind to think that its ideals are attainable.41 Kant's philosophy of
history may be understood as his attempt to answer the question 'What may mankind hope?' or 'What may we hope for mankind?'
An Evaluation of Kant's Position on Hope
I. The ideals which Kant presented for humanity are worthy and important.
Kant presented a variety of ideals in his moral philosophy, philosophy of
religion, and philosophy of history. They describe the summum bonum or the
highest complete good, the moral world, the morally perfect individual, an ethical
commonwealth, mankind as fully rational, and an ideal polity. Considered as a
whole, the dominant values in these Ideas are (1) happiness (the full, lasting
satisfaction of desires), (2) virtue (the moral character of one who does what the
moral law commands because it so orders), (3) peace and harmony among people
(due to their living together in mutual respect under universal civil law), and (4)
the full development of human rationality (including the free adoption and pursuit
of ends as well as the knowledge of, and obedience to, moral law).
In Kant's philosophy there are various relationships among these values. He
thought that happiness should be contingent upon virtue.42 The full development
of rationality would correlate with growth in virtue (since virtue is based upon the
use of practical reason), but he did not reduce one to the other.43 Kant thought mat
peace and harmony among people would promote the full development of humanity's rationality, virtue, and happiness, and that it would in turn be supported by the
development of human rationality and virtue.44
One of the strengths of Kant's position is in its ethical pluralism. He did not
attempt to describe the Ideas in terms of only a single value. Although arguments

Conclusion

149

could be developed through which one would try to show that one or more of the
values mentioned above is reducible to the others, Kant did not attempt such a
reduction.45 He was, it appears, fully sensitive to the particularities in each of these
values. He thus avoided the lack of careful discrimination which the determination
to reduce concepts or values sometimes includes. Kant's pluralism also testifies
to his intellectual honesty. The high value which he placed upon virtue might have
led him to describe happiness, peace, and rationality in terms of virtue for the sake
of having all values reducible to virtue and not because the unbiased examination
of them reveals that they are so reducible.
It is not obvious how one would best argue that a particular quality is a value
and that it is irreducible to others. One approach is to try to imagine an ideal
world and to discern those features which a) would be important to include in that
world and b) could be decreased or removed without an equivalent decrease or loss
in any of the other important features. It appears that such a world should include
happiness, virtue, peace and harmony, and rationality. And it likewise seems that
a full description of such a world would best include specific mention of all four.
Worlds can be imagined in which any one of these qualities could be decreased or
removed without an equivalent decrease or loss in the others.46 Any world without
a high degree of all four would be less than ideal.
One could also argue for these values in terms of specific human capacities.
One might claim that humanity has the ability or potential to be virtuous and
rational, that people's desires call for their lasting satisfaction in the form of
happiness, and that, as a social being, a human has the potential to live peacefully
with others. This argument is more difficult to establish, however, since it is
debatable which capacities or potentials a human does indeed have. One would
also need a criterion to distinguish capacities for good from potential for evil.
Nevertheless, the argument has not been without appeal, and Kant himself employed it.47
We will not claim, however, that the above list of ultimate values is
complete. Other candidates for inclusion are creativity, aesthetic richness (beauty),
and economic development. Kant, of course, did include aesthetics in his critical
system (Part I of the Critique of Judgment), but it did not find specific mention in
his Ideas for hope. But Kant should not be judged too harshly for failing to

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

include these or other values in this portion of his critical philosophy.


A related strength in Kant's position is that the Ideas include both individual
and social goals. His views were not exclusively either individualistic or social.
He was concerned both about ideals for which an individual ought to strive and
about ends toward which mankind should and can develop.
Not all would agree, of course, that both kinds of ends are necessary. Some
might see individual ideals as necessarily self-centered and immoral whereas others
might define mankind as a collection of individuals and think that it has no ideals
apart from those of the individuals which compose it. To the first there are two
responses. Kant described the Idea of a morally perfect person as an ideal for the
individual, and he made the justified hope for happiness contingent upon virtue.48
In addition, pursuit of other personal ends is not necessarily immoral. To make an
assertion that it is, is to confuse amorality with immorality. Indeed, the pursuit of
some personal goals (to grow in understanding, for example) may result in benefit
for other people.
To the concern that there are no special ideals for mankind, we should consider that even if peace and harmony are beneficial for individuals, still the ideal
itself is best understood as a description of society rather than of the individuals in
it. In addition, natural impulses to reproduce, to care for the young, and to pass
benefits on to succeeding generations are more easily described in terms of the
continuation and progress of the species than in terms of individual goals and ends.
Even if one would deny that there is anything that may properly be called "mankind," a person might still claim that societies, as well as individuals, can and
should have goals and ends. Kant himself thought of "mankind" as a heuristic
notion useful for interpreting history as a whole. And he found it so rich a concept
that he described special ideals based on it.
Still another strength of Kant's position is that the value of the ideals is not
contingent upon the validity of his views on practical reason. Kant described the
ideals as Ideas of pure reason, and he argued for them on that basis. But, as we
have shown above, independent arguments can be given for the ultimacy of the
values which are embodied in those ideals. The Ideas do describe conditions which
can be seen to be inherently good. The universality in the ideals does argue for
their a priori character. Yet the value of the ideals does not depend upon the claim

Conclusion

151

that they have their origin in pure reason (although this is not to reject Kant's
position on the point).
Finally, the ideals in Kant's philosophy exhibit the strength of being applicable to history. They are not otherworldly ideals for which people can only wait
and hope passively. It is possible in this world to move toward these ideals. This
does not require that the ideals be fully attained within history. Mankind may
never reach the infinite ideals. Yet reason leads us to hold that it is possible both
for the individual and for society to take steps toward the approximation of the
ideals. In response to the view that this is not possible, we may agree that life
seems often to be a list of unending failures in mankind's attempts to approach
these ideals, but there are moments when the ideals seem to be more fully realized,
and, as educable beings, humans may be able to learn better how to make those
moments more frequent and lasting. Kant is correct that in asserting that both the
individual's life and the history of mankind sometimes give indication of development in terms of those moments.
There are, however, several serious objections to the view that the ideals
presented by Kant are worthy and important. They include: (1) Happiness corrupts
moral purity and should not be included as an ultimate value. (2) The ideals do
not correlate with one another. (3) Kant's ideals are not of particular value to
mankind. (4) The ideals are either too transcendent or not transcendent enough.
(5) Progress toward mankind's ideals seems only to benefit the last generations.
(6) The ideals may lead to fanaticism. We will respond briefly to each of these
objections.
(1) We have already argued that Kant's treatment of happiness does not
threaten the purity of virtue which he described.49 Kant thought that happiness
should be contingent upon virtue, and he never suggested that an act could be both
virtuous and performed for the sake of obtaining happiness. Happiness is a good,
he claimed, but according to reason, it should result from virtue. Kant employed
a principle of justice to govern happiness: The virtuous person, and only such a
person, should experience happiness.50 So long as only the virtuous person is
rationally justified in hoping for happiness, Kant's inclusion of happiness in the
Ideas for hope does not corrupt the moral purity he described. Only one who acts
in accord with moral law and because of the law's demands is deserving of happi-

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Kant's Philosophy of Hope

ness.
(2) We have also argued (against Despland) that the Ideas do correlate with
one another.51 First, there is no reason to think that any of the values listed above
could not occur with the others. The values themselves seem to be consistent.
Secondly, the ideals are consistent with one another. No one of them would be
excluded by the realization of any of the others. Finally, there is no inconsistency
involved in striving for die ideals in any combination. In no case does the promotion of one exclude working toward another.
(3) It might be objected to Kant's position that the ideals are not of any
particular value to humanity. People can be happier and more contented, it could
be claimed, if they seek more limited goals and ends. If Kant's Ideas would bring
either despair or fanaticism (we will consider these shortly), this objection would
be valid. But if we assume for the moment that they do not, then the objection is
not formidable. The one raising the objection would have to show that contentment
is itself a value which does not conflict with other values or which is superior to
them. One would also have to show that he or she is not disregarding some of the
important values which Kant furthered.
The objection, of course, might not include any negative judgment about the
goodness of the conditions themselves that are described in the Ideas. It may
simply assert that the Ideas are not very helpfuli.e., that they don't serve any
valuable purpose. But Kant thought that they can help one to see an end for
actions, and this claim is not objectionable. Ends or goals can be important and
helpful to people. Lofty goals can be, too, if a person is not unrealistic about their
full realization. They can help one to see some purpose even in a small step
toward their realization. Some people may find lofty goals too discomfiting, but
this does not show that they are not of value to many. If the objector admits the
worthiness of the ideals, that person must give other support for the contention that
they are not helpful to people. Without much more argumentation and evidence,
this criticism falls.
(4) The objection might be made against Kant's views that the ideals are
either too transcendent or not transcendent enough. If we assume that the former
objection means that the ideals are unrelated to life in this world, the objection is
clearly false. Most of the ideals Kant described show conditions for which people

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should strive now in this world, and Kant thought that a person can regard history
as well as his or her own life as the story of progress toward them. It may even
be possible to take steps toward the closer approximation of the highest complete
good to the extent that more widespread virtue could result in greater peace, harmony, and freedom (with some corresponding increase in happiness). The latter
part of the objection apparently means that the ideals are too closely tied to this
world. But it seems a sufficient response to this objection to point out that the
Ideas describe conditions of perfection which no doubt will never he fully realized
in this world. Moreover, it would not be easy to develop ideals which would
embody greater perfection.
(5) It might be objected to Kant's philosophy of history that progress toward
the ideals only appears to benefit the last generations. There is a sense in which
this is true. Kant's position is based upon the thesis that history may be viewed
as if mankind has a single life or story which parallels that of an individual. But
if one rejects this on the grounds that the same "person" experiences all of an
individual's life but not all of mankind's history, then Kant's claims about mankind's ideals do seem to be weakened. Without entering into a full discussion of
the endurance of a "person," we may agree that there is an important difference
between an individual and mankind along the lines pointed out. Yet it appears that
people sometimes participate in group projects even when they do not think they
themselves will reap the benefits of their labors and that those people are happy to
make a contribution because of their identity with the group. Enthusiastically
volunteering for military service in time of war in order to defend one's country
is an example. There are people who seem to feel such an identity with mankind
(as a group) and who would very likely be pleased to devote themselves to
advancements for later generations. The objection appears to have force at most
only for those who do not feel an identity with mankind. To those who feel this
identity, the objection would not be important. And if it could be shown that a
person ought to feel a strong identity with mankind, the force of the objection
would be weakened further.
There is an additional response to this objection. It is that mankind's
progress toward its ideals is a gradual process and that all generations but the first
few enjoy some benefit from the progress previously made. It is not true that only

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the last generations benefit.


(6) A serious objection to Kant's views is that the ideals are so grandiose
that they may lead to frustration and despair. If people, even in their best efforts,
continually fail to advance toward them, the ideals might become detrimental to
and threaten more limited achievements in virtue and rationality. Kant, of course,
attempted to show how one can think that the ideals are attainable, and he
employed the Idea of a Supreme Being for this purpose.52 This might relieve one's
anxiety. But there is a more important basis in his philosophy for avoiding frustration and despair: the awareness that our progress can only be gradual. Although
the Ideas present high ideals, Kant did not generally advance unrealistic expectations about their speedy realization. Indeed, the infinite perfection of the ideals
indicates that they cannot be fully attained in this world at all. Some people might
find this response itself cause for despair rather than comfort, however. They
might think there is too great a gap between the ideals and what we can accomplish-that either there is no progress or it can occur only within very narrow limits.
Kant thought that reason enables people to regard certain things as indications that
over long periods of time they make gradual but significant progress toward the
ideal. Kant did not intend the ideals to be tantalizing wisps. It is a matter of
considerable debate, of course, whether it is possible ever to see significant
progress in the individual or in mankind toward the kinds of ideals Kant
describedno matter how much time is given. Yet Kant was not obviously wrong
on this point. There are moments when a person can claim to see evidences of
increased virtue, rationality, peace, or happiness in his or her life or in society.
And it is not apparent that humanity is restricted in its development to specific
limits far short of the infinite ideal. Although this objection is serious and difficult
to answer, an understanding of progress as gradual but also as potentially
significant over a period of time makes the term "grandiose" an inappropriate
description of Kant's ideals. This understanding can help to keep the ideals from
leading to frustration and despair.
An equally serious objection is that the ideals may lead to fanaticism. That
is, they may so fill a person with enthusiasm that he or she pursues them relentlessly and is willing to abuse people who get in the way. The best safeguard
against this, of course, is the virtue and civil order which are parts of the ideals

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themselves. The virtuous person does not use another human as a means to his or
her own ends.53 The individual who adheres to civil law would allow others to
pursue their own ends in accord with personal freedom.54 Pursuit of the ideals
promotes respect for the freedom and autonomy of other people. A person might
still be relentless in the promotion of the ideals, but this form of "fanaticism"
would not be undesirable or an objection to Kant's position.
II. Kant's theory presents a realistic interpretation of humanity but one in which
people are noble, nevertheless.
The realistic nature of Kant's interpretation is evidenced first in his
understanding of the human sensuous side. To be sure, Kant insisted that the
desires can play no role in the determination of the will if an act is to be virtuous.55
Yet he defined happiness in terms of natural desires, and he thought that according
to practical reason the virtuous person should experience happiness.56 Happiness
and virtue together constitute the highest complete good. Kant did not so idealize
humanity and virtue that he thought people could or should totally overcome their
desires. The desires are an essential part of our nature, and it is appropriate that
rationally justified hope be directed toward their satisfaction. Kant offered a
holistic interpretation of a person in which one is both sensuous and rational/moral.
Secondly, Kant emphasized, particularly in Religion within the Limits of
Reason Alone, that a human has a propensity or proclivity to fall into evil.57 A
person is "frail" in that he or she gives in to the natural inclinations even when
wanting to be virtuous. A person is "impure"--i.e., one sometimes does what the
law commands partly or solely for prudential reasons. And a person is "wicked"
in that one sometimes adopts maxims which conflict with moral laws.
Kant's realistic assessment of humanity extended also to judgments about
social institutions. The Church and the state have sometimes inhibited human
development by restricting freedom, directing thought, and diverting people from
worthy ends.58
Kant presented a picture of a human as a being who repeatedly fails in his
or her efforts to attain the ideals presented by reason. As an individual, one fails
in attempts to be fully virtuous. Viewed as mankind, we stumble in our efforts
toward full rationality and an ideal polity.59

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In view of the lofty ideals which, according to Kant, reason advances, this
may seem to make a tragic figure of a humai. We are called by reason to be
something which is apparently beyond our grasp But there is a fine line separating
a tragic figure from a noble one. The person who fights for a worthy cause and
who perseveres against seemingly overwhelming odds may be more deserving of
praise than pity. And this is particularly so if after a long, difficult struggle, the
person or mankind is able to make some progress toward worthy ends.
In the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant described a human
as a creature of "dignity" ("Wrde") because a person is an end in himself/herself.60
But in his theory of hope he presented a human as a "noble" being as well. Although both as individuals and as a species we do repeatedly fail, one is called to
strive for worthy ideals, one is able to persevere in that struggle, and one can,
reason enables us to think, make gradual progress in their direction.
If success were dependent upon the full realization of the ideals, a human
might still seem to be a pathetic figure, but it is not. A person can and should take
comfort from seeing some progress in his or her life or in mankind's history.61
But there are three major objections which might be offered and which
should be considered. They are: (1) Kant's interpretation is naive; it underestimates human weaknesses. (2) His interpretation understates human capabilities.
(3) Kant has bifurcated the person. We will respond to each of these in order.
(1) Kant's interpretation does not, in fact, underestimate human weaknesses.
He described mankind as possessing essential flaws which continually interfere
with its development. Not only did he write of humanity as frail, impure, and
wicked. He also described humanity as lazy, envious, cowardly, and asocial.62 He
strongly emphasized people's natural qualities which keep them from being more
virtuous and rational as well as from living in greater peace and harmony. "Man
is evil by nature," Kant claimed.63 This propensity toward evil cannot be extirpated
by human powers, he asserted.64 One might argue, of course, that the human condition is even worse than Kant described, but he cannot be accused of thinking that
progress toward the ideals is easy. He provided an extensive catalogue of human
ills, and this effectively weakens any claim that his interpretation of humanity is
naive.

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(2) It might also be objected that Kant understated human capabilities. He


offered too pessimistic an interpretation, it might be claimed. Kant did, however,
exalt a human highly as a creature of dignity.65 A person is an "end in himself."66
A human, Kant claimed, stands above all other creatures in being capable of rationality and morality.67 Pure reason provides a person with Ideas of worthy ideals
toward which one can make gradual progress. Kant's interpretation exalts human
capacities. To have appraised them any higher would have resulted in an unrealistic diminution of the weaknesses.
(3) Finally, the objection might also be raised that Kant has bifurcated
humanity. He has, it might be claimed, split the person into the phenomenal and
the noumenal. It is not within the scope of this study to enter into the debate on
this broader issue, but in his position on hope Kant has attempted to provide a
holistic understanding of the person. We have described his interpretation as taking
into account two "sides" of a personthe sensuous and the rational/moral, but in
his theory Kant offered a profound analysis of the will in which he emphasized die
complex interaction of these two sidesparticularly in their influence upon the
"Willkr" and the "Gesinnung."6* A person is a creature whose life consists in a
single complex interaction of dimensions. This does not resolve the difficulties
involved in understanding the relation of freedom to causality within a human, but
it does indicate that Kant has not simply divided me person into two separate and
distinct entities. In his theory, a person is essentially a single being whose life
consists in the interaction of all the dimensions. Although some might think that
this still constitutes a bifurcation, the insistent denial that a person has "sides" or
"dimensions" may lead one to a distorted interpretation which ignores some aspect
of humanity's complex nature. Kant's interpretation is holistic and realistic.
. The Ideas of a Supreme Being, of "Nature," and of "Providence" are over
emphasized in Kant's theory of hope.
This point constitutes a disagreement with Kant. Kant overstated the
importance of these Ideas for his theory of hope. He asserted that we must act as
if the ideals represented in the Ideas of pure reason can be realized. Reason
supplies the Idea of a Supreme Being (and other Ideas) to show how we may think
those ideals can be possible.69

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We are not suggesting that these Ideas serve no purpose at all in Kant's
theory. It may be of some limited value for thinking that the ideals could somehow
be fully realized. What we are contending, rather, is that the ideals can serve their
purpose without reference to the Idea of a Supreme Being and to the parallel Ideas.
Apparently, Kant did not believe this to be the case.
We have previously attempted to show that Kant's argumentation regarding
the postulation of a Supreme Being is problematic,70 but the claim which we here
offer is different. It is that Kant's theory does not require it or parallel Ideas.
Our argument is based on a distinction between fully attaining an ideal, on
the one hand, and approaching it, on the other. Kant thought that by using the Idea
of a Supreme Being (and the parallels) one is able rationally to regard his or her
life and mankind's history as if the ideals could be realized or attained. The ends
are not empty, fantastic notions. But it is sufficient for this purpose that one
merely be able to see how progress toward the ideal is possible. To be sure, in
some cases progress toward a goal is not enough. It may not be adequate for an
author's purposes if he or she can do no more than make progress toward the completion of a book without ever finishing it. A cook desires to finish the preparation
of a meal and not merely to move toward that goal. Not all ends or goals are of
that type, however. A person may have wisdom as a goal, but it is not necessary
that one be able to "finish" or "complete" any process for the efforts to be purposeful. This person does not need fully to attain the goal. The same may be said of
a politician whose goal is world peace. Steps toward that goal can be valuable
even if the full ideal is never realized.
There is, to be sure, one feature of Kant's Ideas which is more like the first
type of end than the second. The Ideas of ideals present rather definite conditionscomplete coordination of happiness with virtue, and full moral perfection, for
example. Finishing a book and completing a meal are likewise definite, whereas
wisdom or world peace may seem more vague.
But this is misleading. Movement toward the ideals of Kant's Ideas is
valuable in and of itself-just as is the case with growth in wisdom or advancement
toward world peace. The apparent definiteness of the Ideas does not mean that
they must be fully attained in order for human efforts in that direction to be
valuable.

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If progress toward Kant's ideals is possible, then those ends are not empty
and fantastic. The Ideas present infinite goals toward which people can and should
strive. They provide a focus or direction for one's entire life. Movement toward
them is inherently valuable. And through the use of the ideals, one can know and
assess this movement. They serve their purpose if a person is able rationally to act
as if he or she could make significant, albeit painstaking and gradual progress in
their direction.
Kant himself indicated that evidence of progress could show people that their
efforts are not in vain.71 And he even claimed with respect to the ideal of moral
perfection that we can act as if a Supreme Being would count progress toward the
ideal as perfection fully attained.72
Finally, it is rationally justified to view one's life and mankind's history as
if progress toward the Kantian ideals is possible. Kant himself thought that one
can have evidence of the presence of a moral disposition and of movement toward
moral perfection.73 If it is possible for each person to have such a disposition and
to make such progress, then it is also possible for this to occur more and more
throughout the human community, and this would conceivably promote greater
peace and harmony as well as corresponding increase in happiness. One can see
some evidences in history of movement toward an ethical commonwealth, Kant
thought.74 One can also reasonably think that some progress toward the happiness
and virtue of the highest complete good has been made and that further development is possible. It is, then, not at all obvious that significant progress toward the
ideals is impossible. And there seem to be specific moments both in the lives of
some individuals and in mankind's history in which a person can see evidence of
growth toward the ideals which Kant described.
In summary, the ideals in Kant's theory are not empty and fantastic even if
we do not think that they can ever be fully attained. In his theory of hope the
purpose of the Idea of a Supreme Being (and the parallel Ideas of "Nature" and
"Providence") is to provide a rational basis for believing that the ideals can be
realized. But we may think we can progress toward the ideals even without the
Ideas mentioned, so those Ideas are not as vital to Kant's theory as he indicated.
This point regarding the Idea of God applies also to the Idea of a future
world. The purpose of the Idea of a future world is to show how certain ideals can

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be fully attained.73 But this concept is not necessary to understand how mankind
can progress toward its ideals. Since progress toward the ideals is sufficient for the
ideals to be purposive, the concept of a future world is not as necessary for Kant's
philosophy of history as he implied.
We should, however, address the following objections which could be offered
against this position: (1) Our argument fails properly to distinguish between the
Idea of a Supreme Being and a Supreme Being in itself. (2) The argument makes
too strong a distinction between the Idea and a Supreme Being. (3) The Idea of
a Supreme Being is necessary to Kant's theory for reasons other than the ones we
have considered. (4) Kant did not think that the Idea of a Supreme Being was
necessary to his theory.
(1) The first objection holds that the Idea of a Supreme Being must not be
identified with a Supreme Being. In this view Kant did not contend that a Supreme
Being actually exists or even that a person must think that one does. The Idea of
a Supreme Being is heuristic and regulative. Kant was claiming, according to this
position, only that one ought to act as if there were such a Being and that one can
rationally think of the world as if there were an omnipotent, moral Governor over
it. Our argument acknowledges this distinction, however, and even builds upon it.
Its claim is not that a Supreme Being is unnecessary to Kant's theory of hope. It
is, rather, that even the heuristic, regulative Idea of a Supreme Being is not vital
for his theory. Neither a Supreme Being nor the corresponding Idea is crucial to
the theory.
(2) The second objection is that our argument makes too strong a distinction
between the Idea and a Supreme Being. According to this objection, when Kant
wrote of the Idea of a Supreme Being, he was writing about God as such, and,
although a mere Idea (by itself) might not be necessary to the theory, God is.
Although Kant did in fact make a strong distinction between the Idea and a
Supreme Being, the objection is weak, in any case. Neither is needed for Kant's
theory. All that is required for the ideals not to be empty and fantastic is that
people be able reasonably to think they can make some progress toward them.
Neither the Idea of a Supreme Being nor a Supreme Being itself is required for one
reasonably to think it at least possible for humanity or the individual to progress.
(3) Another objection which could be offered against our position is that the

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Idea of a Supreme Being is necessary to Kant's theory for reasons other than the
ones we have considered. It might be suggested, for example, that the Idea is
necessary as the source of moral law or that it is required as an ideal for mankind.
But in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant did suggest that we ought
to act as if the moral law were given by a Supreme Being.76 He did this in order
to stress the absolute authority for all people that the moral law has. But in the
Critique of Practical Reason, he argued persuasively that our ownreasongives the
moral law,77 and mere is no reason to think that he ever rejected this view.
Although Kant thought that people would respect the law more highly if they acted
as it came from a Divine Lawgiver, such a Lawgiver is not necessary for his moral
theory or for his theory of hope. The moral law is authoritative in and of itself.
In response to the suggestion that the Idea of a Supreme Being serves as an important ideal in its own right, we would claim that Kant did not write of this Idea as
an ideal but rather as that which would make other ideals possible. Kant did not
suggest that a person ought to aspire to be an absolute "Legislator," "Ruler," or
"Judge"to use words that Kant himself ascribed to God.78 A person is not called
to be a "moral Governor of the world."79 Kant even pointed out that we must not
think that the personification of moral perfection is divine.80 Although Kant
acknowledged in the Opus Postumum that we may think of practical reason in a
personified form as if it were God, he did not present the Idea of a Supreme Being
as an ideal for which people ought to long and strive.
(4) Finally, it might also be objected that Kant himself did not think the Idea
of a Supreme Being (and the parallel Ideas) to be necessary for his theory. This
is possible, but he did use the Idea of a Supreme Being to show how we may think
that an ideal world can be realized,81 and this task itself was not as important as
Kant made it out to be. It is sufficient that people be able reasonably to think and
act as if progress were possible. The arguments Kant used to show that we may
think the full realization to be possible are misleading if he did not think the Idea
of a Supreme Being is vital to his theory.

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IV. The principle of retributive justice which Kant employed in his theory may be
questioned, but the validity of his theory does not depend upon that principle.
Kant made use of a principle of justice according to which the virtuous
person, and only he, should experience happiness,82 and we have criticized him for
not providing argumentation to support that principle.83 One might argue that
virtue is its own sufficient reward and that happiness (as the satisfaction of desires)
need not be added to it. Or one might claim that the clever or prudent person is
the one who should experience happiness. Perhaps more appealing is the view that
it is inhumane to think that a person who is immoral should not experience happiness. It is not necessary that the immoral person suffer (or even be denied a
degree of happiness) for lack of virtue. Perhaps the immoral person is not as
deserving of happiness as some other people, and maybe one should not experience
happiness as a direct result of immorality, but this doesn't mean this person
shouldn't enjoy happiness at all. Kant himself claimed in the Metaphysics of
Morals that one has a duty to promote die happiness of others, and he did not make
this contingent upon the apparent virtue of other people.84
Moreover, Kant himself did not always uphold his principle of justice
strictly.85 This is most evident in his comments to the effect that a person who has
a fundamental change of disposition and adopts a moral basic maxim has become
a new person and ought not to be punished for previous wrongs.86 This may also
be found in his claims that a Supreme Being can be thought to judge progress in
virtue as if it were the completed whole.87 Kant claimed that practical reason does
not support the hope for forgiveness or grace,88 but the belief that a person is able
to make a new beginning can help one, as Kant himself saw, to hope and strive
toward ideals with confidence.
We need not here establish an alternative principle of retributive justice or
show that no such principle is acceptable. It is sufficient merely to show that the
principle is not obviously to be accepted, and that it requires argumentation which
Kant did not supply.
Kant's theory of hope does not depend upon mat particular principle, how-

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ever. The Idea of the highest complete good could be described, for example, as
including both happiness and virtue but not in such a fashion that only a virtuous
person would be happy. Such a world could still include the components which
Kant thought would complete the highest good. The other ideals, too, may be described fully without the use of Kant's particular principle of retributive justice.
There are three objections which might be raised against our position. They
are: (1) Without Kant's particular principle of retributive justice the purity of
virtue is threatened. (2) Kant's principle of justice is correct. (3) Kant did not
accept this principle of justice.
(1) With respect to the first objection, it is true that Kant's principle of
justice can be used to show that in his theory the hope for happiness need not
threaten the purity of virtue.89 But that same purity can be maintained by an
ordering of values such that virtue would always take precedence over happiness.
In this ordering the stipulation could be made that virtue ought never to be sacrificed for the sake of happiness. One's first objective should be to be fully moral.
Only when the quest for happiness does not interfere with virtue may one engage
in it. This ordering is in full harmony with Kant's system and it (with the stipulation) protects moral purity as completely as his principle of justice does. This
ordering would require support, but the basis for such an argument is already found
in the Critique of Practical Reason. There Kant attempted to show that practical
reason demands virtue in people and that moral purity should never be compromised by the quest for happiness.90
(2) A second objection to our position is that Kant's principle of justice is
correct. But this objection would be difficult to establish. The principle is not
analytic. That is, "should result in happiness (satisfaction of desires) for the agent"
is not part of the meaning of "virtue" and "should not experience happiness" is not
part of the meaning of "immoral." The person who claims that virtue is its own
sufficient reward is not misusing language; neither is the person who claims that
die immoral person need not be denied happiness. And there is no reason to think
mat the principle is true on a posteriori grounds. Standards would have to be
developed for establishing moral judgments on the basis of experience, and that in
itself is notoriously difficult. And in response to a possible claim that the principle

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is synthetic a priori, it is not obviously necessary and universal. It is not


necessary, for example, that the immoral person should not experience happiness.
(3) As a final objection, it might be asserted that Kant did not accept this
principle himself. It is true that he did not emphasize the fact that the immoral
person should not experience happiness, but his appeal to worthiness and justice
seems always to have been based on that principle." He employed the principle
in his theory of right.92 And apparently he was appealing to this principle in his
argument that it would not be just for God to forgive.93 There is strong evidence
that Kant did indeed accept the principle.
V. Kant's philosophy of hope provides too narrow a perspective on religion and
on social and political life.
While the theory of hope which Kant developed provides valuable insights
on the contributions which religion can make in the life of a person or a society,
it interprets those contributions too narrowly. The same point can be made with
respect to social and political life.
Kant's perspective on religion was ethical. He believed that the entire
purpose of religion was to support people in their efforts to be moral. Prayer,
community worship, the study of sacred documents, etc. should all be understood
from this viewpoint. They were to give the community and the individual moral
strength in the struggle against weakness, impurity, and wickedness.
This is certainly an aspect of the function and value of religion, but it is too
narrow. Among other things, religion can also give an orientation on one's place
and purpose in life, comfort and strength in times of crisis, opportunity for the
celebration of the most significant joys in life and for the marking of important
milestones, a home for cultural traditions, and a place to experience awe and
reverence. Religion should not be interpreted narrowly but richly.
Likewise, our social and political life is a colorful fabric rich in its variety
of forms and purposes. To think of it only or primarily in terms of mankind's
movement towards goals that are significantly moral in nature is to diminish other
rich and important dimensions.
One might raise the following objections, however: (1) Kant does not
narrow the focus of religion, on the one hand, and social and political life, on the

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other, in the way described. (2) Kant's perspective on diese topics is focused and
accurate; religion and social/political life are properly understood in moral terms.
(1) In response to the first objection, it must be said that Religion within the
Limits of Reason Alone, Kant's most developed position on religion, does, however,
clearly focus on the moral foundations for religion. The problem witii traditional
religion, according to Kant, is that it strays away from moral focus into an emphasis on worship practice or on beliefs about historical events and the like. To deny
this is not to take seriously the strong position which Kant took in that book. And
because of the moral thrust which Kant gave the individual, it is hardly surprising
mat mankind, when viewed as a unit analogous to the person, would also have a
history that is thoroughly moral in its focus. Kant does indeed give a narrowly
moral focus to religion and to social/political life.
(2) Wim respect to the second objection, that this narrow focus is a strength
in Kant's philosophy, we would emphasize that the aesthetic and cultural aspects
of human life are simply too rich to be ignored in the domains of religion and
social/political life. Worship can be an experience of beauty, of awareness of the
divine, of the richness of human emotion, of personal cleansing and renewal, and
much more. Social and political life can be an expression of human caring, of
pride in a heritage, of order and regularity in me midst of chaos, and the like. To
reduce it too much to the moral is to compress and distort its multifaceted texture.
Kant's theory of hope and its analogue in his philosophy of history exhibit
important strengths. His views are not without weaknesses, but they do not by any
means destroy the great strengths that his theory displays. It is fitting mat aspects
of his theory, such as his proposal for a world polity of nation-states, have inspired
people into this century.

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NOTES
'By "individualistic" is meant only that the subject of hope is the individual. As we have
argued in Chapter 4, the ideals are valid for all people equally, and Kant was concerned about
the development of general happiness.
2

CPR, 806=B834. Cf. Chapter 2, "Hope and Happiness." In Anthropology from a


Pragmatic Point of View, he referred to hope as an "affect" ("Affekt"). Cf. Kant, Anthropology,
p. 122 (Vn, 255).
'Ibid.
4
Kant, Anthropology, pp. 183ff. (VII, 321ff.). On rationality as the adoption of ends, cf.
also Kant, Critique of Judgment, pp. 283f. (V, 433f.); "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 13f.
(Vm, 18ff.); and "What is Enlightenment?," pp. 3ff. (Vm, 35ff.). On the ability of reason to
know moral law and to determine the will, cf. Foundations, p. 12 (IV, 396); and CPrR, p. 3 (V,
3), and pp. 29ff. (V, 30ff.).
5
In the Metaphysics of Morals Kant called hope that is not rationally justified, "only a
wish." Kant, The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, p. 151 (VI, 482).
6
CPR, A809=B837. Cf. also ibid., A806=B834 and A810=B838. Cf. Chapter 2, "Virtue
as the Sufficient and Necessary Condition. . . . "
n

lbid., A813=B84; and CPrR, p. 134 (VI, 130=31). Cf. also Kant, "Idea for a Universal
History," p. 23 (Vm, 28); Religion, p. 62 (VI, 68), p. 92 (VI, 100-01); "Perpetual Peace," p. 128
(VTA, 380); and "An Old Question Raised Again," p. 144 (VII, 85).
s

Cf. Chapter 2, "Conclusion."

CPR,A808ff.=B836ff.; CPrR, pp. 114ff. (V, HOff.); and Religion, pp. 4f. (VI, 4ff.).

I0
CPR, A805=B833, and Religion p. 4 (VI, 4), and p. 6 footnote (VI, 7). Cf. also Chapter
2, section I-C.

"Religion, pp. 28ff. (VI, 32ff.)


I2
CPR, A810=B838; CPrR, pp. 126f. (V, 122f.); and Kant, The Metaphysical Principles
of Virtue, p. 151 (VI, 482).
13

CPR, A810ff.=B838ff.; CPrR, pp. 114ff. (V, HOff.); Religion, pp. 4f. (VI, 4ff.); and
Kant, The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, p. 151 (VI, 482). Cf. Chapter 2, "Critique of
Practical Reason" and Chapter 3, "Hope and the First Attempts. . . ."
'"CPrR, p. 149 footnote (V, 144). Cf. also Religion, p. 54 (VI, 61), and p. 92 (VI, lOOf.).

Conclusion

167

"Religion, pp. 60ff. (VI, 66ff.).


,6

CPR, A811f.=B839f.; and CPrR, pp. 129f. (V, 124ff.).

"Religion, pp. 54ff. (VI, 60ff.). Cf. Chapter 3, the analysis of Book of Religion.
"Ibid., pp. 20ff. (VI, 25f.), and pp. 55ff. (VI, 62).
n

lbid., pp. 88ff. (VI, %ff.).

Ibid. Cf. Chapter 3, the analysis of Books HI and IV of Religion.


"Ibid., p. 92 (VI, lOOf.).
22

Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," p. 13 (Vm, 18f.); Anthropology, pp. 184ff. (VII,

323ff.).
M

Kant, "On the Common Saying," p. 63 (Vm, 277). Cf. also Kant, "Idea for a Universal
History," pp. 16-21 (VJJI, 22-26); "Perpetual Peace," p. 94 (VIII, 350).
^Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 16ff. (Vm, 22ff.).
"Kant, "On the Common Saying," p. 63 (Vm, 290).
26

This accords with what Kant had said about the "moral world" in CPR, A809f.=B837f.

"Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 18ff. (Vm, 24ff.); and "Perpetual Peace," pp.
85ff. (Vm, 343ff.). Cf. Chapter 4, "The Ideal Polity."
28

Kant, "Perpetual Peace," pp. 93ff. (VHI, 349ff.).

29

C/. Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. llff. (Vm, 17ff.).

'"Kant, Anthropology, p. 188 (VII, 328). Cf. Chapter 4, "Hope and the Philosophy of
History."
31

Kant, "On the Common Saying," pp. 88f. (VIII, 309); Anthropology, p. 186ff. (VII,
325ff.); and Opus Postumum, KGS, , 622f.
32

Kant, "An Old Question Raised Again," pp. 147ff. (VII, 88ff.).

"Religion, p. 4 (VI, 4), and p. 6, footnote (VI, 7). Cf CPR, A813=B841.


"Kant, Critique of Judgment, p. 281 (V, 431); Anthropology, p. 183 (VII, 322).
35

CPR, A813=B841; Religion, p. 4 (VI, 4), p. 54 (VI, 61).

^Religion, pp. 4ff. (VI, 4ff.). Cf. Chapter 2, "Retributive Justice

"

168

Kant's Philosophy
11

of Hope

Cf. above under 'What justifies hope?'

38
On Kant's view that all people constitute a single species, cf. Kant, "Von den
verschiedenen Racen der Menschen," KGS, , 429. Cf. also Chapter 4, "The Concept of
Mankind."
39

Kant, Anthropology, pp. 183ff. (VII, 322ff.); "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 15-21
(Vm, 20-27). Cf. Chapter 4, "Hope and the Philosophy of History."
""C/. especially Kant, "An Old Question Raised Again, " pp. 147ff. (VH, 88ff.)
"'Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 21-26 (Vm, 27-31).
42

CPR, A806=B834, and A809ff.=B838ff.

43

CPrR, pp. 32ff. (V, 31ff.); Religion, p. 23 (VI, 28); and Anthropology, pp. 183ff. (VII,

322ff.).
"Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 13ff. (Vm, 18ff.); "On the Common Saying,"
p. 63 (Vm,277). "Perpetual Peace," p. 112 (Vm, 366), p. 123, footnote (Vm, 37576), pp. 94ff.
(VIII, 350ff.); CPR, A809f.=B837f.
45
The closest Kant came to this was in his description of the highest complete good as
including both virtue and happiness with the latter contingent upon the former. He thought that
complete virtue would necessarily bring peace and harmony and probably that it would bring the
full development of rationality, too. Yet even here Kant did not reduce peace or rationality to
virtue.

^One can imagine a world in which disease or poverty might limit happiness even though
the other characteristics were present in a high degree. A world is imaginable in which there
would be considerable prudence but little or no virtue, and in such a world a high degree of
happiness, peace, and rationality (apart, to be sure, from the full use of practical reason) could
be found. One can imagine a world of happiness, virtue, and peace in which there is still
ignorance. Finally, although virtue and happiness are both closely tied to peace and harmony,
a world is imaginable in which there would be considerable personal morality and happiness but
in which there would be friction and war between states (which, to be sure, would result in some
diminution of happiness).
47

C/. Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 12ff. (VHI, 18ff.); CPR, A806ff.=B834ff.;
Religion, pp. 22f. (VI, 26ff.); and Anthropology, pp. 183ff. (VII, 321ff.).
w

Cf. Religion, pp. 55ff. (VI, 62ff.); Foundations, p. 12 (IV, 396); CPR, A809=B837,
A813f.=B841f.
45

C/. Chapter 2, "Retributive Justice

"

Cf. CPR, A809=B837; Kant, The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, pp. 149f. (VI, 481).

'Cf. Chapter 4, "Conclusion."

Conclusion

169

52

Cf. Chapter 2, "Conclusion" and Chapter 3, "Hope and the First Attempts. . . ."

"Foundations, p. 47 (IV, 429).


M

Kant, "On the Common Saying," p. 63 (Vffl, 277).

55

CPR, A800=B828; CPrR, pp. 19ff. (V, 21ff.).

^CPR, A809ff.=B837; Kant, 77H> Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, pp. 149f. (VI, 481).
"Religion, pp. 23ff. (VI, 28ff.).
58

Kant, "What is Enlightenment?," pp. 3ff. (Vm, 35ff.); Religion, pp. 139ff. (VI, 149ff.).

59

Kant, "Idea for a Universal History," pp. 16ff. (Vm, 22ff.); Anthropology, p. 188 (V,

327f.).
^Foundations, p. 53 (IV, 435).
"Religion, p. 62 (VI, 68); Kant, "An Old Question Raised Again," pp. 143ff. (Vn, 85ff.).
Cf. the next section below.
62
Kant, "What is Enlightenment?," pp. 3ff. (Vm, 3ff.); Anthropology, p. 184 (V, 322-23);
and "Idea for a Universal History," p. 15ff. (Vffl, 21ff.).

"Religion, p. 27 (VI, 32).


"Ibid., p. 32 (VI, 37).
"Foundations, p. 53 (IV, 435).
"Ibid., p. 46 (IV, 428).
67

Kant, Anthropology, pp. 183ff. (V, 322ff.); Religion, pp. 21ff. (VI, 26ff.).

^Religion, pp. 16ff. (VI 20ff.). Cf. CPrR, pp. 33ff. (V, 33ff.). Cf. also Chapter 2,
"Retributive Justice" and Chapter 3, the analysis of Book of Religion.
"CPR, A810ff.=B838ff.; and CPrR, pp.l26ff. (V, 122ff.). Cf. Chapter 2, "Retributive
Justice. . ." and Chapter 3, "Hope and the First Attempts. . ."
70

C/. Chapter 2, "Conclusion" and Chapter 3, "Hope and the First Attempts."

'"Religion, p. 62 (VI, 68).


72

CPrR, p. 127 (V, 123); Religion, pp. 60f. (VI, 67).

"Religion, p. 62 (VI, 68).

170

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

"Ibid., pp. 105ff. (VI, 115ff.).


75

CPR, A811=B839; CPrR, pp. 126-28 (V, 121-24).

^Religion, pp. 90ff. (VI, 98ff.).


"CPrR, pp. 32ff. (V, 3 Iff.).
n

Religion, p. 131 (VI, 139). Cf. Kant, Anthropology, p. 183 (VH, 322).

19

Ibid., p. 130 (VI, 139).

"'Ibid., pp. 56-58 (VI, 62-65).


81

CPR, A810ff.=B838ff.; and CPrR, pp. 128ff. (V, I24ff.).

Cf. Chapter 2, "Retributive Justice. . . . "

83

C/. Chapter 2, "Conclusion."

"Kant, The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, pp. 43-45 (VI, 385-88).


"Cf. Chapter 3, "Conclusion."
'"Religion, pp. 66ff. (VI, 72ff.). Cf. Chapter 3, "Hope and the Developed
"CPrR, 126ff. (V, 122ff.).
^Religion, pp. 40ff. (VI, 44ff.).
""Cf Chapter 2, "Retributive Justice. . . ."
'"CPrR, pp. 30ff. (V,30ff.).
"C/. Chapter 2, "Retributive Justice. . . ."
M

Kant, The Metaphysical Elements of Justice, p. 102 (VI, 333).

"Religion, pp. 63ff. footnote (VI, 69ff.).

"

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
A. KANT'S WRITINGS
1. GERMAN EDITIONS
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2. ENGLISH EDITIONS
Analytic of the Beautiful, trans. Walter Cerf. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963.
Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, trans. Mary J. Gregor. The Hague: M.
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The Conflict of the Faculties, trans. Mary J. Gregor. New York: Abarus Books, 1979.
Critique of Judgment, trans. J. H. Bernard. New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1966.
Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Lewis White Beck. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956.
Critique of Practical Reason and Other Writings in Moral Philosophy, ed. and trans. Lewis
White Beck. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1949.
Critique of Pure Reason, trans. N. Kemp Smith. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965.
Dreams of a Spirit Seer, trans. John Manolesco. New York: Vantage Press, 1969.
Education, trans. Annette Churton. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960.
First Introduction to the Critique of Judgment, trans. James Haden. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill,
1965.
Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals and What is Enlightenment?, trans. Lewis White Beck.
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1959.
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Lectures on Philosophical Theology, trans. Allen W. Wood and Gertrude M. Clark. Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 1978.
The Metaphysical Elements of Justice, trans. John Ladd. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965.
The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, trans. James Ellington. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964.
"Nova Dilucidatio," trans. F. E. England. Appendix to F. E. England, Kant's Conception of God.
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On History, ed. Lewis White Beck. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963.

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"On the Failure of All Attempted Theodicies," trans. Michel Despland. Appendix to Michel
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Philosophical Correspondence 1759-99, ed. and trans. Amulf Zweig. Chicago: University of
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Political Writings, ed Hans Riess. Cambridge: University Press, I960.
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1950.
Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, trans. T. M. Greene and . . Hudson. New York:
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INDEX

Adickes, Erich, 97f., 113


Afterdienst, 95, 113
Analogue, 16,115,125,127-129,130, 132f.,
141, 145f., 147f., 165
Analytic, 69, 72, 163
Anlage, 83f., 116
Anthropologia, 80
Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of
View, 26, 63, 71, 116f., 120f., 166
A posteriori, 163
Apostolicity of the Church, 67, 93
A priori, 15f., 30, 34, 44, 65, 68, 72, 76, 78,
80, 83, 93ff., 98f., 115, 117, 128,
132, Hlff., 147, 150, 164
Aquinas, Thomas, 2f., 13, 19f.
Arendt, Hannah, 133, 140
Aristotle, 2, 12, 14, 18f.
"As if," 37, 39, 41f., 66f., 81, 97-103, 105113, 117f., 123ff., 127-132, 134ff.,
143, 145f., 148, 153, 158-163
Augustine, 2f., 14, 19
Autonomy, 5, 36, 41, 54, 58, 71, 94f., 105,
125f., 134, 145f 155
Baier, John William, 108
Beck, Lewis White, 53, 71f.
Bewegungsgrund, 43, 54, 56
Bloch, Ernst, 11-14, 24
Bohatec, Josef, 26, 67
Braaten, Carl E., 25
Buber, Martin, 10f., 13f., 24
Buffonian rule, 116
Calvin, John, 20
Capps, Walter R , 17
Cassirer, Ernst, 21, 137
Categorical imperative, 65, 68, 70, 98
Catholicity of the Church, 67, 93

Censorship, 80, 96, 108, 138


Character, moral, 8, 72, 84-87, 90f., 99, 116
Christ, 12, 35, 37, 66, 80, 87-91
Christian hope, 3, 6, 8, 12
Christianity, 12, 37, 88, 94, 104, 112
Christologia, 80
Church, 12, 35ff., 66, 76, 80, 92-97, 104,
123, 145, 155
Civil law, 83, 123, 125-129, 134, 144ff.,
148, 155
Cohen, Hermann, 10, 13f., 23f., 55, 57, 72
De Condorcet, Antoine-Nicolas, 5f., 12ff.,
17, 22, 65
"Conjectural Beginning of Human History,"
137
Corpus christi mysticum, 35, 66
Corpus mysticum, 35ff., 66
Critique of Judgment, 15,17, 67,118f., 139,
149, 166
Critique of Practical Reason, 15, 27, 43-46,
47, 51, 56, 68-71, 78-79, 81, 86f.,
96f., 110, 142, 144, 147, 161, 163
Critique of Pure Reason, 15, 17, 27-40, 4144, 48, 51, 56, 62, 65, 69, 78-79, 81,
87, 96, 118, 130, 142, 144, 147
Descartes, Reno, 4
Despland, Michel, 17, 26, 132f., 134, 140,
152
Dionysius the Areopagite, 35
Disposition, moral, 31, 45, 64, 72, 76, 84ff.,
88-92, 95, 100, 106, 109, 118f., 126,
144f., 159, 162
Dring, ., 54, 71
Dreams of a Spirit Seer, 68, 77
Eastern Orthodox, 112
Ecclesia, 66, 80

186
, 2, 18f.
"The End of All Things," 77, 107
Engels, Friedrich, 22
England, F. E., 16, 26
Enlightenment, 17, 65, 82, 95
Eschatology, llf., 114, 133
Ethical commonwealth, Idea of, 92-97, 99103, 106, 115, 129, 131f., 136, 140,
145, 148, 159
Ethical pluralism, 148f.
Evolution, 7
Fackenheim, Emil L., 109, 137
Fanaticism, 21, 93, 15 If., 154f.
Forgiveness, 4, 86, 110, 162ff.
Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,
40-43, 45, 51, 72, 156
Frailty, human, 52, 83, 106, 128
French Revolution, 122, 128, 146
Freud, Sigmund, 10
Friedrich, Carl, 134, 140
Fromm, Erich, 9f., 14, 23
Fully rational humanity, 30, 117f., 146, 148
Gattung, 16, 26, 116
Gay, Peter, 21
Gerechtigkeit, 32f.
Gerhard, Johann, 66, 108
Gesinnung, 72, 84f., 103, 107,109, 145, 157
Glcklichkeit, 28
Glckseligkeit, 28, 46ff., 63, 141
God, 2ff., 10-12, 14f., 32f., 39f., 45, 48, 61,
68, 75ff., 79, 81, 86f., 89-95, 97-101,
104-107, 110, 112, 129, 145, 160ff.,
164
God, Idea of, 40, 44f., 63, 75, 79, 81, 91,
98f., 105f., 108, 113, 159f.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 82, 108
Goldmann, Lucien, 17, 26, 131f., 136, 140
Greene, Theodore, 25, 54, 58f., 71,107, 113
Hang, 83ff.
Happiness, 3, 7, 13, 27-33, 36-46, 47-53,
54f., 57-64,68-72, 75,78f., 87, 89ff.,
96, 99, 102f., 105, 115, 118, 121f.,
126f., 129f., 132f., 141-155, 158,
162ff., 166, 168f.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 6f.
Heidegger, Martin, 8, 14

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

Heine, Heinrich, 104, 114


Herder, Johann, 82, 117, 136
Heuristic, 35, 67, 118, 123, 135, 150, 160
Highest complete good, 87,96,99,105,115,
130ff., 144, 148, 153, 155, 159, 163,
168
Hobbes, Thomas, 4, 13f.
Hoffnung, 34
Holiness of the Church, 67, 93
Holiness, 63, 76, 89
Hollaz, David, 108
Hope, content or object of, 12, 14, 16, 28,
141, 144-146
Hope, function or purpose of, 12ff., 147
Hope, justification for, 12f., 142-144, 168
Hope, nature of, 5, 12ff., 141-142
Hope, preconditions for, 12ff., 141,142
Hope, rational, 97, 102f., 141f., 151
Hopes, identity of one who, 12, 14,147-148
Human nature, 28, 58, 82-87, 88, 122, 126
Hume, David, 4, 12f., 20
Huxley, Julian, 7
Idea, determinative, 137
Idea, nature of, 16, 33-40, 48-53, 61, 66ff.,
87, 91, 98f., 105,115, 118, 132, 138,
141-144, 147, 148-155, 157-162
Idea, regulative, 87, 118, 137, 160
Idea, teleological, 118
"Idea for a Universal History from a
Cosmopolitan Point of View," 15,25,
117, 120f., 125, 137ff., 166ff.
Ideal polity, Idea of, 125-127, 129ff., 132f.,
139, 148, 155
Immortality, 2, 5, 10, 44ff., 63, 65, 75, 79,
91, 96, 143
Impurity, human, 58, 83, 106, 128, 164
Incentive, 43f., 56f., 72, 83ff., 119,123,129,
146f.
Inevitable Peace, 134, 140
Invisible Church, 35, 36, 66
Jesus, 2, 18,76, 114
Judaism, 10, 112
Judicial law, 92
Jung, Carl, 10
Justice, 10, 19, 25, 31, 32-33, 36, 38, 40,
47f., 52, 55, 57, 60, 62, 64, 69f.,
72f., 91, 98, 106, 122, 126,128, 151,

187

Index
162ff.
Kant's Philosophical Correspondence, 25,
107f.
Kaufmann, Walter, 60, 73, 113
Kierkegaard, S0ren, 8, 12
Kingdom of God, 2, 10, 66
Lawgiver, Divine, 81, 98, 161
Lectures on Ethics, 63f.
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 4, 5, 13, 21
Lessing, Gotthold, 5, 17
Locke, John, 4, 14
Logic, 25, 75
Lukcs, Georg, 131
Luke, 2, 18
Luther, Martin, 2f., 12ff., 20, 113
Lutheran, 35, 37, 66, 86, 93, 95, 108
Mankind, concept of, 5f, 9ff., 14, 16, 20f
67, 80, 82-87, 93, 95ff., 101-105,
115-135, 137-141, 145-146, 148,
150f., 153-156, 158-161, 165
Marcel, Gabriel, 8f., 13
Marks of the Church, 37, 67, 93
Marx, Karl, 6f., 22, 131
"Metaphysical Elements of Justice," 32, 64,
139, 170
"Metaphysical Principles of Virtue," 32, 70,
166-170
Metaphysics, 9, 15, 20, 25, 42, 57, 65, 67f.,
98
The Metaphysics of Morals, 26, 32, 64
Metz, Johannes B., 17, 25
Mill, John Stuart, 7, 12ff, 22f.
Miracles, 88
Moltmann, Jrgen, llf, 17, 25, 114
Monotheism, 10
Moral faith, 94
Moral law, 21, 31, 35-45, 52f, 55ff, 59, 61,
70ff., 79, 81, 83ff., 92-97,101,112f.,
119, 127, 129, 142, 144f., 147f., 151,
155, 161, 166
Moral perfection, 40, 44ff, 51, 62f, 104,
106, 110, 144, 147f., 150, 159, 161
Moral perfection, Idea of, 87-91,96, 99-103,
105, 128, 144, 158
Moral world, Idea of, 33-40, 44, 48, 61, 71,
96, 144f, 148, 167

Murphy, Jeffrie G., 54


Natural law, 21, 44, 46, 61, 70
"Nature," 67, 116, 118, 124f., 128, 134ff.,
139, 146, 157, 159
Naturgattung, 116
Nazi era, 11
Necessary Being, 77, 118
Necessary condition for happiness, 28-32,
42ff., 53, 64, 71, 142, 166
New Testament, 2, 18, 35, 88, 111
Newton, Sir Isaac, 37
Newtonian physics, 37, 67
Newtonian world, 37, 42, 61
Noumenal, 34, 58f., 65, 157
"An Old Question Raised Again: Is the
Human Race
Constantly
Progressing?," 138, 140, 166-169
Old Testament, 2, 10, 14, 18f.
"On the Common Saying: "This May be
True in Theory but it does not Apply
in Practice,"' 138f., 167ff.
"On the Various Races of Mankind" ("Von
den verschiedenen Racen der
Menschen"), 26, 71, 116, 137, 168
Oneness of the Church, 37, 93
"The Only Possible Basis of a Proof for a
Demonstration of the Existence of
God," 77
Opus Postumum, 97-99, 113, 138, 161
Pannenberg, Wolfhart, 17, 25
Paul, Apostle, 2, 35
Paulsen, Friedrich, 54, 71
Peirce, Charles S., 7, 12, 14, 22
Penology, 73
People of God, 92f., 101, 104, 129
Perfection, human, 5f., 116, 118, 121, 130
"Perpetual Peace," 15, 25, 117, 125, 138f.,
166ff.
Peter, 2, 18, 66
Phenomenal, 58f., 65, 137, 157
Philo, 2f., 14, 19
Philosophical anthropology, 16, 82-87
Philosophical theology, 75f., 80, 88
Philosophy of history, 1, 16f., 26, 62, 115135, 136, 141, 145, 147f., 153, 160,
165

188
Philosophy of religion, 1, 15f., 26, 62f., 67,
75-106, 110, 13 If., 141, 148
Pietism, 37
Plato, 2, 12f., 18, 66
Postulates, 7, 10, 26, 39f., 44f., 48-51, 61,
63, 68, 75, 78f., 81, 97, 108, 110,
131, 158
Practical reason, 15, 34f., 37ff., 43, 46, 4854, 56, 58ff., 64f., 68, 70ff., 75-81,
83, 85-88, 91, 93, 97-101, 103f., 108,
110-113, 115, 131, 142-145, 147f.,
150, 155, 161, 162, 168
Predisposition, 118ff., 123
Pringle-Pattison, Seth, 54, 71
Protestant, 94, 112
"Providence," 93, 124, 128, 134f., 139, 146,
157, 159
Pure reason, 16, 30, 34f., 65, 68, 76, 78ff.,
83, 87, 135, 143f., 147, 150f., 157f.
Quenstedt, John Andrew, 108
Rationalism, 77
Rationality, 1, 3, 6f., 9, 12f., 16, 21, 28, 30,
35-45,47, 50f., 54, 58f., 65, 68, 72f.,
88, 95f., 116-119, 121, 123f., 126,
128ff., 134, 139, 141-149, 154-157,
166, 168
Realm of ends, 41-43
Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone,
5f., 15, 25f., 33, 37, 42, 45, 52, 5558, 62, 64, 68f., 72, 75, 79-97, 98,
105, 108, 110, 119, 131, 138, 143ff.,
147, 155, 161, 165
Retributive justice, 31, 32-33, 47f., 60, 69f.,
72, 91, 106, 162-164
"Reviews of Herder's Ideas for a Philosophy
of the History of Mankind," 136
Roman Catholic, 35, 66, 86, 95, 112
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 21
Saint Pierre, Abbe de, 5
Schaull, Richard, 25
Schopenhauer, Arthur, 54, 71
Schrader, George, 113
Schweitzer, Albert, 26, 110
Septuagint, 2, 17f.
Sensuous, humanity as, 28, 31, 44, 48, 50f.,
58f., 83, 118, 141f., 147, 155, 157

Kant's Philosophy

of Hope

Silber, John R., 72, 113


Skinner, B. F., 10
Smith, Norman Kemp, 97
Species, 16, 26, 82, 116, 119f., 123f., 127,
130, 132f., 145f., 148, 150, 156, 168
Spinoza, Baruch, 4, 12ff.
State of nature, 82
State of nature, ethical, 92
State of nature, political, 92
Staudlin, C. F., 15, 75, 79
Stotland, Ezra, 10
The Strife of the Faculties, 15, 26, 76, 122
Sufficient condition for happiness, 28-32,42,
44, 142, 166
Summum bonum, 16, 28,40, 53, 55, 63, 97f.,
102, 113, 115, 144, 148
Supreme Being, 37, 39,45f., 48-51, 54, 61f.,
78f., 93, 97-105, 108, 110, 128, 143,
154, 158-162
Supreme Being, Idea of, 39, 48f., 51, 61f.,
99, 101, 105, 143, 154, 157f., 160ff.
Synthetic, 69, 164
Teale, A. E., 54
Teleology, 118, 134, 137, 147
Theodicy, 4, 13, 21, 33
Theology of hope, 1, 11, 17, 24
Theoretical reason, 15, 34, 59, 65
Transcendent, 131f., 151f.
Transcendental, 34, 114, 132
Triebfeder, 43, 56, 93
Turgot, Anne Robert, 5, 17, 65
Virtue, 1, 3, 5, 12,16, 19, 27, 28-32, 33, 36,
38-55, 58, 60-64, 68f., 71f., 76, 79f.,
82-87, 90ff., 96, 99, 105, 108f., 129132, 134, 142-145, 147-155, 158,
162ff., 168
Visible Church, 80
Voltaire, Francois-Marie Arouet de, 17, 21
Vyverberg, Henry, 21
Webb, Clement C. J., 16, 132, 136
Weakness, human, 1, 52, 58, 83-86, 133,
156f., 164
"What is Enlightenment?," 15, 95, 121, 123,
166, 169
Wickedness, human, 83, 106, 119, 128,156,
164

Index
Will, 56, 72, 83f., 103, 157
Wille, 72, 84, 103, 107
Willkr, 56, 72, 83f., 103, 157
Wood, Allen W., 26, 113
Worthiness, moral, 28-32, 39f., 43f., 46,
54f., 60, 63, 87f., 106, 121f., 128,
164

189