Advertisement

Unveiling the Aesthetic in Nature: A Response to Gordon Graham’s Aesthetic Argument for the Existence of God in “Nature, Kant, and God”

  • Adrienne Dengerink ChaplinEmail author
Chapter
Part of the New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion book series (NASR, volume 5)

Abstract

The chapter responds to Gordon Graham’s aesthetic argument for the existence of God as presented in his essay “Nature, Kant, and God”. Drawing on Kant’s moral argument, Graham argues that it is a necessary presupposition of man’s intuition about the intrinsic value of nature – its “magnificence” – to assume a divine being as the guarantor of the ultimate harmony between “useless” nature and human welfare. In this response I will, first, highlight some differences between Kant’s and Graham’s uses of the terms “aesthetic ideas,” “genius” and “the sublime.” Second, with reference to Kant’s interpretation of the figure of the goddess Isis, I will highlight a tension in Kant’s view of nature that, I suggest, also underlies Graham’s premises. This tension consists of (and assumes) a basic conflict between, on the one hand, a sense of awe and respect for nature’s mystery and otherness and, on the other, a need and desire to grasp and utilize it. I will argue that this tension is rooted in a dichotomous model of nature that fails to acknowledge that humans are themselves part of nature and, together with nature, part of a larger multi-dimensional order of creation. I will draw on Reformed philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd’s critique of Kant to show how an emphasis on the Creator-creation distinction and the multi-dimensionality of the order of reality can reconceive “magnificence” as an aesthetic dimension. This conception allows for a broadening of the conception of human welfare to include the need for aesthetic contemplation and experience.

References

  1. Allison, H.E. 2001. Kant’s theory of taste: A reading of the critique of aesthetic judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cassirer, E. 1951. The philosophy of the Enlightenment. Trans. Fritz C. A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Derrida, J. 1993. On a newly arisen apocalyptic tone in philosophy. In Raising the tone of philosophy: Late essays by Immanuel Kant, transformative critique by Jacques Derrida, ed. P. Fenves, 117–171. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  4. Desmond, W. 2003. Art, origins, otherness: Between philosophy and art. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dooyeweerd, H. 1969. A new critique of theoretical thought. Vol. II. Trans. David H. Freeman and William S. Young. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  6. Dooyeweerd, D. 1979. Roots of Western culture: Pagan, secular, and Christian options. Trans. John Kraay. Toronto: Wedge Publishing Foundation.Google Scholar
  7. Graham, G. 2019. Nature, Kant, and God. In The future of creation order, eds. Govert J. Buijs and Annette K. Mosher, 85–99. Cham: Springer.Google Scholar
  8. Hadot, P. 2006. The veil of Isis: An essay on the history of the idea of nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Kant, I. 1980. Critique of pure reason. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. London: The MacMillan Press.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 1983. Metaphysical principles of virtue. In Kant’s Ethical Philosophy. Trans. James W. Ellington. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 1987. Critique of judgment. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 1993. On a newly arisen superior tone in philosophy. In Raising the tone of philosophy: Late essays by Immanuel Kant, transformative critique by Jacques Derrida, ed. P. Fenves, 51–81. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 2000. Critique of the power of judgment. Trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2002. Critique of practical reason. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  15. Lacoue-Labarthe, P., and D. Kuchta. 1991. Sublime truth (Part 1). Cultural Critique 18: 5–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. ———. 1991–1992. Sublime truth (Part 2). Cultural Critique 20: 207–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rasmussen, J. 2010. Language and the most sublime in Kant’s third critique. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (2): 155–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Seerveld, C. 1987. Early Kant & Rococo Spirit: Setting for the Critique of Judgment. Philosophia Reformata 43 (3,4): 145–167.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent Scholar and Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Theology and Religious StudiesKing’s College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations