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Grace and favor in Kant’s ethical explication of religion

  • James DiCenso
Article

Abstract

This paper discusses Kant’s assessment of the religious idea of grace in relation to autonomous ethical practice. Following Kant’s own explanation of his methods and goals in interpreting religious ideas, my focus is on the ethical import of inherited religious concepts for human beings, rather than on literal theological dogmas concerning supernatural matters. I focus on how Kant’s inquiry into the ethical significance of the idea of grace is intertwined with another less recognized concept, that of favor (Gunst). The latter concept plays a crucial role in understanding Kant’s analyses, because it establishes a criterion by which to adjudicate historically-formed ideas of grace. Insofar as grace is understood in ways that assimilate it to endeavors to win favor, it works against our capacity to follow the moral law. On the constructive side, insofar as the concept of grace is understood to support ethical practice based on the moral law, it can be a vehicle for what Kant calls rational religion. This two-sided analysis of grace is a key component of the project of the Religion and other related writings, wherein Kant offers both critical and constructive investigations of historically-formed religious ideas found in scripture, ecclesiastical institutions and other sources.

Keywords

Kant Grace Favor Religion 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for the Study of ReligionUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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