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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Kant: The One Possible Basis (Part 3)

Even in his pre-critical stage Kant firmly believed that a demonstration for God’s existence must meet certain criteria. For instance, for a thing to be mathematically certain it must be arrived at in only one way. If there are multiple ways in which something could be proven, then the proofs themselves suffer some error and are thus suspect. This is confirmed by Kant when he declares, "Conviction of the great truth, that there is a God, must if it is to be of the highest mathematical certainty, have this property: that it can be achieved in only one way." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 223.]

Therefore, in his pre-critical stage Kant believed that logical grounding of proofs was necessary since he thought that mere concepts are not subject to formal analysis. In the introduction of the translation of Kant’s essay, Gordon Treash declares,

"The Cartesian method proceeds from the possibilities of things as a ground to the existence of the primordial actuality as a consequence derived from this ground. The Kantian argument completely inverts the process. It moves from the possibilities, as consequences, to the necessary being as their ground." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 15]

This is perhaps the best description of what Kant is trying to accomplish in his pre-critical essay regarding what he thinks is illicitly missed in the Cartesian ontological argument. Of all the proofs which have been offered prior to Kant, the ontological proof is the one which Kant thinks has the greatest possibility of providing an a priori synthetic judgment. However, Kant believes the ontological argument does not have a proper beginning or grounding, and thus he attempts to correct what he thinks is lacking. Kant himself declares,

"I note only the following here: the ground of proof we give for the existence of God is built simply upon [the fact] that something is possible. Thus it is a proof which may be adduced completely a priori. Neither my existence nor that of other minds nor that of the corporeal world is presupposed. In fact it is deduced from the internal mark of absolute necessity. In this way the existence of this being is known from what really constitutes its absolute necessity and thus entirely genetically." [Ibid., 95]

In commenting on this remark, Treash points out that "Kant notes that he has provided a properly ‘genetic’ foundation for demonstrating the existence of God, genetic because it has been derived only from the characteristics of absolute necessity. The existence of the absolutely necessary being is known through what constitutes the being’s necessity." Treash goes on to point out "the one foundation for demonstrating this existence is due to be uncovered by analysis of how that being functions in the world. That God is the necessary being will be shown by proving that there is a function which is absolutely essential and can be assumed only by a being which cannot not be." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 13]

Therefore, Kant’s intent is to demonstrate that God is necessary simply because some things are possible. Kant is looking for the basis or ground of possibility and a thing or a being which is that basis cannot not exist. For if this being, which is the basis or ground of possibility were denied, all existence and all possibility would be denied as well. Bernard M.G. Reardon, writing about pre-critical Kant, delineates further upon this idea by declaring, "if human thought can admit possibility - and we are unable in fact to deny it without thinking, and to think is implicitly to affirm possibility - then it must also admit the ground of possibility, i.e. an actual being antecedent to any merely possible being." [Bernard M.G. Reardon, Kant as Philosophical Theologian (Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books, 1988), 32. Emphasis in the original.]

However, denying the possibility of existence entails a contradiction, and Kant affirms,

"There is only one God and only one argument through which it is possible to apprehend his existence with the perception of the necessity which positively eliminates any opposition. A judgment of this sort can lead immediately to the nature of the object itself. Any other thing that may exist anywhere may also not exist. Accordingly, experience of contingent things cannot give an adequate argument by which to comprehend the existence of something of which it is that it not be." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 237.]

Furthermore, as Treash points out, "It is not possible for there to be nothing, for the very possibility of total non-being would itself have to be at least a possibility." [Ibid., 14] This is an a priori demonstration. However, where it departs from the Cartesian ontological argument is in that God’s necessity is not demonstrated in how God is conceived. Rather, it stems from "the nature of possibility itself." [Ibid.] Thus Kant’s method moves from possibility to necessity.

Possibility is, in this method, consequence, and necessity is its grounding. Therefore, Kant’s method is not merely an analytic judgement, but is synthetic, which seems to possibly answer the problems Kant sees in the Cartesian ontological argument as a purely analytic judgement. However, at this point Kant is not willing to ‘die in the ditch,’ if you will, for this method, but it at least demonstrates the pre-critical development in Kant’s thinking.


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