So, for the first time my research takes me into the grounds of philosophy and to the philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). I have not studied him since my ‘A’ Levels and recall not particularly liking his ideas yet thinking he did have a point. However, his philosophy is something I remember nothing of.
Kant suggested that human concepts structure how we view the world and the laws, and through reason we know right from wrong. Concepts of space and time, and cause and effect, are all an integral part of human experience because although we never have direct experience of things, we experience the world as conveyed by our senses. Basically, experience is subjective if it has not been processed by reason.
Inscribed on Kant’s tomb are the words ‘starry heavens above and the moral law within’. This comes from the conclusion of his book ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ in which he writes:
‘Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily reflection is occupied with them: the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me. Neither of them need I seek and merely suspect as if shrouded in obscurity or rapture beyond my own horizon; I see them before me and connect them immediately with my existence.’
From these words come the suggestion that he believed in some sort of heaven, but for a man known for his theories based on realism and logic, trying to bring together reason and experience, how does heaven fit into the grand scheme of things?
Kant argues that reason does not bring metaphysical insight into God and the existence and nature of the soul, but it does enable us to make assumptions on these things. Kant does not deny the existence of God and uses the combination of experience and reason to point to his existence – but only that we can believe in him, for we can never comprehend him. He also emphasises in his work ‘Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone’ that Christianity is a moral religion, and as such has the closest relationship with reason so that, through reason, it was able to be spread at all times and among all people throughout history. However, he goes further to suggest that faiths were created in order for people to live a better life and disagrees with the need of organised religion.
Kant defines religion as the recognition of a moral disposition as divine commands. God is therefore an abstract concept of reason and for this reason God’s rules cannot interfere with freewill. He describes heaven as an ethical commonwealth made up of morally upright people, suggesting like many faiths that only the good can enter heaven. However, he emphasises again that we can have no true knowledge of any world outside the empirical, sensual world in which we live.