Summary of Immanuel Kant’s Philosophy
Immanuel Kant lived during the European Enlightenment of the 18th century. His writings laid down much of the philosophical foundation for agnosticism, along with the writings of David Hume. Kant was raised in the rationalist school of thought that stressed reasoning using propositions and axioms. After reading the writings of David Hume (empiricist), Kant changed his views to more of an empiricist school of thought that stressed reasoning from experience and not from propositions. Ultimately, Kant united the two schools of thought in the area of epistemology (the theory or science of the grounds of knowledge) to bring about his philosophical agnosticism.
Uniting two schools of thought
In uniting these two schools of thought, the ability to know reality was lost. According to Kant, we can only know the way things appear to us, but not what they really are; our minds mold and shape reality to our own form so that we can’t truly know the actual form of the reality known by the senses. We do not know what it was before our senses and our mind worked on it, we only know what it was after our senses and mind worked on it. Of course, this is self-defeating.
Kant is claiming to know the truth (reality) that we cannot know any truth (reality). Maybe the views that Kant holds are actually just the way things appear to him but not the way it really is. So why even give your view, it really isn’t the way it is, the mind has altered the reality so that no one can actually know reality, including Kant himself? Or maybe Kant is claiming to know the only truth that can be known, which is not agnosticism, but dogmatism. Either way, Kant didn’t live by his own criteria.
Kant’s gulf between ‘being’ and ‘knowing’
Another view Kant held was the idea that contradictions result when one tries to reason about reality. The unbridgeable gulf between being (reality) and knowing (mind) cannot be trespassed without inconsistencies. The first contradiction is concerning time, which states, “The world must have had a beginning, otherwise and infinite number of moments passed by now. But this is impossible, since an infinite cannot be traversed. But the world could not begin in time, otherwise there was time before time began which is impossible.”
The second contradiction states, “Not every cause has a cause, otherwise the series would never begin, which it has. So, there must be a first cause. But the series cannot have a beginning, since everything has a cause. So, there cannot be a first cause.” Kant failed to consider that idea of eternity. Time was created along with everything else. Before time was eternity. Therefore, the idea of time before time fails. Also, the idea that everything needs a cause is false. Only dependant, finite, changing, limited things need a cause. This would leave the first Cause with the attributes of independent, infinite, unchanging, and eternal; the God of Theism.
Argument against miracles
Kant’s views against the supernatural (miracles) opened the door for deism; which holds the idea that God created everything but is not involved or does not interrupt the creation with miraculous signs and wonders (resurrection, virgin birth, etc.). Kant believed that living a moral life, assuming that there is a God, was the ultimate rule of living out true religion. God can only be reached through practical (moral) reason but never through philosophical reasoning.
This left Kant with the idea that miracles are possible in theory, but impractical and unfeasible according to practical reason and universal law. But who is Kant to say that universal moral laws must determine all understanding of the world and that there are no exceptions to these laws? Many singularities that do not fall under Kant’s universal moral law exist. Through science natural law has been determined as a general description of the way things operate, but not a necessary prescription that is without exception.
Kant’s interpretation of the Scriptures was from moral reason alone and never to be taken literally because morality is the rule for truth and moral reason determines what is essential. This left the miracles of the Bible as unnecessary and senseless and morally unessential. Kant was not interested in the historical facts that support the authenticity of the Scriptures because his moral reasoning determined what was essential or unessential to religion. Kant had to disregard the miracle accounts, as irrelevant, from the historical manuscripts in order to avoid the supernatural. And he did this with no historical reason for doing so.
Just like the views of David Hume, Immanuel Kant has had a negative influence on society, secular and Christian. His views have consequentially impacted philosophy, theology, hermeneutics, apologetics, and evangelism. This article (Kant, Immanuel) falls under the first proposition in the apologetic argument for Christianity. The views of Immanuel Kant must be necessarily overthrown before the first proposition (Truth about reality is knowable) can be valid. If Kant was right then reality cannot be known for what it truly is, but can only be known as what it is to us. Thus leaving the truth about reality as unknowable and Christianity as unverifiable.