Home » Michael Hampe “Immanuel Kant didn’t believe in theology” – kath.ch

Michael Hampe “Immanuel Kant didn’t believe in theology” – kath.ch

by admin
Michael Hampe “Immanuel Kant didn’t believe in theology” – kath.ch

Immanuel Kant, one of the greatest philosophers of the Enlightenment, was born 300 years ago. Deeply religious, Kant “did not believe in rational theology.” In the “Critique of Pure Reason” the philosopher refuted the ontological proof of God. Why Kant’s “sapere aude!” is still relevant today and yet was not a declaration of war on faith, explains philosophy professor Michael Hampe.

Annalena Müller

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-inflicted immaturity.” What does this most famous sentence by Immanuel Kant actually mean?

Michael Hampe*: In order to achieve knowledge, it is not enough to strive for truths; hard work and courage are required. Hard work because it takes a long time and is tiring to figure something out; Courage, because what you find out may not suit you. When people are lazy and anxious, they prefer to rely on others to think. This reliance on others is the path to immaturity because you then become dependent on other people’s insights. And the guilt of this immaturity comes from not having overcome one’s own laziness or anxiety, even though one could have overcome it.

“Enlightenment is the exit from self-inflicted immaturity,” wrote Immanuel Kant in 1783.

«Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding!” the sentence continues. Can this call also be understood as a declaration of war against the churches’ interpretive sovereignty?

Hampe: I don’t know whether Immanuel Kant produced declarations of war. The text “What is Enlightenment” goes further by comparing the roles that people have in their official capacity with what these people say publicly outside of their offices. Of course, one of the most important offices in Kant’s time was the pastorate. But officers and school teachers are also obliged by their official duty to be loyal to their “master”, which at that time was usually a prince. As a public official, you are not allowed to rail against the king or the church. Kant agrees with this.

“In the 18th century there was no concept of publicity and freedom of expression.”

But he also noted that the role of the official ends when the person leaves official business and enters the public eye. Kant points out that there is such a thing as a public person who is not an official. And in this role you have the permission, even the obligation, to use your own reason and suspend loyalty to your employer…

… According to this understanding, Professor Michael Hampe is not allowed to criticize ETH in the media, but the private individual Hampe is…

Hampe: Exactly. And this differentiation and the call for individual courage was something that in Kant’s time required courage itself. In the 18th century there was no concept of a public sphere in which free expression of opinion was permitted. Secular people and even church leaders became upset when something they didn’t like was said publicly in their private time by someone they had employed. Then you could get in trouble. To endure this took courage then as now.

See also  Affected by the declining birthrate, the number of primary and junior high school students in Japan has dropped by nearly 1 million in the past 10 years

Then as now, public criticism of secular and ecclesiastical princes required courage, says Michael Hampe.

Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” is considered one of his most important writings. Briefly summarized: What is it about?

Hampe: (laughs) In short, it’s about the impossibility of applying arguments that work in mathematics to non-mathematical objects…

…it could be a little longer…

Hampe: The so-called “metaphysics” believed that proofs that lead to insights in mathematics should also be possible in the investigation of topics such as “God,” “the human soul,” “the world as a whole.”

Can you explain that a little more clearly?

Hampe: Mathematics is about objects like numbers. As abstract objects, they cannot be experienced sensually. We don’t stumble over the number three or π in the living room, even if we have one or two apples in the circular fruit bowl. We assume that π exists somehow because we can derive the number mathematically and use it successfully in all sorts of calculations, especially those involving circles.

“It was long believed that proofs like those produced for mathematics could also be applied to God.”

In theology and philosophy there has long been the idea that such derivations and proofs about properties of non-sensory objects should also be possible for non-mathematical objects.

God for example?

Hampe: Exactly. If God is someone of whom one cannot have sensory experience, then the question arises: Can proofs such as those produced for mathematics also be applied to God. Can one prove the existence of God or his omnipotence? Kant denied that.

In doing so, Kant contradicted over 500 years of rational theology. The Catholic Church has wanted to prove God logically at least since Peter Abelard’s “sic et non” (1122)…

Hampe: … the “late” Kant no longer believed in rational theology, that’s true. In the “Critique of Pure Reason” he shows that it is an impossible project. According to Kant’s theory, it cannot work to produce statements about God, the soul and the world as a whole that are, on the one hand, universally valid and, on the other hand, not limited to specific sensory experiences.

See also  War Russia Ukraine, Merkel: "I tried to put pressure on Putin"

Peter Abelard (†1142), on the right in conversation with his lover Heloisia, is considered the founder of rational theology.

If you can’t prove God mathematically, does that mean you can’t know anything about God?

Hampe: Kant himself was a religious person. He meant that he limited knowledge to make room for faith. He would probably have simply said that we cannot make intersubjectively justifiable statements about God and that there is no science about him. Whether one can have private religious experiences that one associates with the word “God,” and even whether one should “postulate” him and immortality within the framework of a practical philosophy, as Kant puts it, is another matter .

Can you explain that?

Hampe: Kant does not rule out the possibility that there are religious experiences and moral needs that have to do with religion. He only says that such an experience cannot be conceptually controlled. For example, here (Hampe points to framed pictures above his desk): Both of us can agree that these frames are red.

“We can both agree that these picture frames are red.”

But if I tell you that I had an epiphany last night, you can believe it or not. There is nothing in this room that you or I can physically point to that would justify my having an epiphany. I can back up the statement that the picture frames are red. The statement that I had an epiphany is not.

But doesn’t that mean there isn’t a God?

Hampe: No. It just means that you can’t provide proof of God’s existence. But Kant did not want to eliminate the idea of ​​God, as Nietzsche later did. That wasn’t his concern.

See also  Udinese Market – Frattesi frees Samardzic / Sigh of relief for Pozzo

Immanuel Kant received a deeply religious, namely pietistic, upbringing. How did this shape his morals?

Hampe: Morality plays a big role in Kant. For Kant, the connection between morality and religion is very close. The famous categorical imperative also comes from Kant. The common vernacular knew a “previous version,” if you want to call it that, in the “Golden Rule”: “What you don’t want someone to do to you, don’t do that to anyone else.”

“Act in such a way that the maxim of your action could become a general law.”

Categorical Imperative, Immanuel Kant

Behind the categorical imperative, Kant also considers what actually motivates moral action. So, do we act morally because we strive for social success? Or do we follow a moral law that we find within us as “rational beings”?

What is morality after all?

Hampe: According to Kant, morality is the process of becoming rational in practice, in which one brings one’s own emotionality into a certain agreement with what is required for rational reasons. According to Kant, we act morally when we act out of respect for the moral law, the categorical imperative. This respect is a motivating feeling. The knowledge of the structure of the categorical imperative, on the other hand, is the result of rational insight.

This year marks the 300th anniversary of Kant’s birth. What else does Immanuel Kant have to say to us today?

Hampe: I think a lot. Anyone who wants to understand something, i.e. makes claims to knowledge, has to be hard-working and courageous even today. Being lazy and anxious is dangerous then as now because other people can fool you. “Sapere aude” is therefore still correct and important today. And perhaps that’s especially true in the age of fake news.

*Michael Hampe (62) is a professor of philosophy at ETH Zurich. His areas of work are the philosophy and history of empirical sciences, critical theory and metaphysics, science and the public, and techniques of self-knowledge.

© Catholic Media Center, April 21, 2024

The rights to all texts are held by the Catholic Media Center. Any further distribution is subject to a fee. The storage in electronic databases is not allowed.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy