Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kant's moral argument for God

Suppose you can't decide whether or not God exists. (Kant thinks he has arguments that show that, looking at the world around us, you can't tell one way or the other whether or not there is a God). You therefore have to choose either a theistic world-view in which it is thought that there is a God, there is free will, and there is an everlasting life, or a world in which there is no God, no free will, and when we die we feed the worms. You then ask "Which world-view will best undergird my moral life, the theistic world-view or the atheist world-view?" And Kant concludes that the only rational choice for someone seeking to be moral is to select the theistic world-view.


Blue Devil Knight said...

Well, it's a lot better than Descartes' argument.

J said...

No, it's more like you must save face with the Triablogger clowns, Feser and Co, and a few other zany biblethumpers, and therefore delete comments from anyone who points out their daily hysteria? Really, I think you're another calvinist zombie, just playing along.

I actually agree to objective morality--though not the sunday school type, nor the machivellian-papist variety.

Kant himself was not a conservative, or at least not always. He had a bust of Rousseau in his garret.

Gordon Knight said...

what does conservatism have to do with belief in God? or Christianity? except maybe that the spirit of Jesus is true Liberalism:)

I hate the assumption that Christians are conservatives, though its not like there are not lots of "Christians" to blame for this.

Historically, there was no connection between Christianity and right wing ideology until the 1970s. The church was behind the Civil rights movement, behind the social gospel.

William Jennings Bryan was, after all, a populist.

Norman Thomas was a presbyterian minister. Do I need to go on? Do I need to say that the anti-slavery movement was motivated by Christian Churches? Do I need to discuss the Quakers and congregationalists. Do I need to say what the National Congress of Churches actually does?

Crazy ass rightwingers can do their theology as they like. But historically, Christianity is not a conservative movement. Even the maligned Calvinists were on the side of the angels against the Crown!

Gordon Knight said...

Which Descartes argument?

The ontological argument, though flawed, is really interesting.

Mark Frank said...

How about no God and when we die we feed the worms, but there is free will?

J said...

Kant's moral argument for G*d looks like a variation on Pascal's Wager, really, though the wager a bit more fleshed out. It's pragmatic, not really deductive: along the lines of, G*d may exist (a possible world), so try to act righteously and further the Summum Bonnum, etc. Kant does seem to assume G*d is good (and presumably christian), without proving it--a manichaen or pagan might claim otherwise--perhaps the gods approve of war, etc.

Pascal grants the lack of evidence of God, but the Wager does not merely relate to belief, but to actions. SO in some circumstances, a Wager-like religious calculation might figure into one's decisions. A skeptic who, after deciding that no compelling evidence supports the religious hypothesis, engages in a murder spree would not likely be rewarded in the afterlife were he to LOSE the wager, and discover that God exists---whether he possessed a Kant-like mind or not (even if that is a one a thousand chance, a possibility). In some cases taking an atheist viewpoint could conceivably result in immoral or criminal actions (or totalitarian), but I don't think fear of punishment or hell or history's opinion really matters to most criminals or malefactors, whether at level of street perps, or mafiosi or Madoffs.

It's like a Polanski meme--not, "could I go to Hell for this-- but can I get away with this."

Victor Reppert said...

Mark: Compatibilist or incompatibilist free will. Kant, of course, called compatibilism a wretched subterfuge.

Mark Frank said...

Victor - compatibilist. I have no problem with this.

J said...

Kant may posit Freedom, Mind, Noumena but doesn't really prove it--those are possible speculations, but not of the same level of reality as phenomena.

And at times Kant sounds rather mechanistic: every event must have a cause, etc.

He may have been an incompatibilist, but I don't recall some knockdown argument for that view