Kant and Optimistic Thinking

Kant and Optimistic Thinking
Although philosophers are known for the fact that for them everything orbits around logic, they sometimes make exceptions in favor of some other aspects of the soul. Kant falls in this category. Find out more in this article.Immanuel Kant was until the age of 57 an obscure person with a life dominated by routine and a relative stability (he never traveled more than 100 miles from his home town of Konigsberg). Few ever suspected that this philosopher would make any kind of waves in the intellectual world. However, his works both shocked and amazed the world. Since it is impossible to resume his thinking in a simple article, it is more appropriate just to underline the main features of his moral theories.

The Kantian moral philosophy is very optimistic. First of all, Kant’s effort represents the last great philosophical attempt to unite in a moral system notions used on a daily basis by people, to construct, at least in appearance, a traditional morality: freedom, immortality, God, commandment, justice etc. But in fact, we see that these notions receive much deeper meanings, even in contradiction with the ones given by common sense. Still, Kant’s thinking cannot be anything but optimistic, because it tries to protect morality and its concepts by offering it a solid and fertile base. Moreover, this base, consisting of freedom, immortality and God, does not rely on knowledge, but on faith. Placing freedom in the intelligible world, Kant saves it from determinism, but at the same time he loses it to the unknown. Despite this, he does not give up faith in it and claims, as a warning that echoes through history, that absolute freedom (as it is understand today as the possibility to do whatever you please) is in fact a submission to the phenomenal world. In turn, true freedom is submission to the moral law, a submission which is not a constraint of freedom because the law is the creation of our will. But even the submission to this law requires an act of faith because in the phenomenal world it does not offer any rewards, satisfactions, not even self content or the certainty of doing a moral act.

Kant is also famous for his moral argument for the existence of God, which is not really an argument, but a statement. The German philosopher wrote that although we cannot theoretically demonstrate the existence of God, for all practical necessities we must assume his existence. The existence of God is a practical necessity.

So, what is the so called practical argument? Kant starts from the idea that every man has a certain sense of duty, of right and wrong (a moral sense). Therefore the question: what should be true in order for morality to make sense? There has to be justice. However, we live in a world where justice does not always prevail and if, in the final analysis, the bad guys prosper and the good guys suffer, then there is no rational reason for being virtuous. But what is necessary in order for justice to have sense? If justice is not served during the life of a person, then there has to be life after death, some kind of continuity of self-consciousness. However, just surviving death alone is not enough. There also has to be a judgement which applies justice. This judgement has to be perfect and because of this we need a perfect judge with the following attributes: omniscient - he has to have all the information in order to give a decision, incorruptible - he has to be above all influences, omnipotent - he must be capable of imposing his decision.

In conclusion, for practical needs, for civilization, we must live as though there is a God. Without God-who is the ultimate standard of goodness- morality is irrational and is limited to the preferences of a person or a group. Maybe here is the most obvious example of Kantian faith and therefore optimism. Kant identified all the necessary conditions for morality, but he does not remain on that level because he considers them viable. As opposed to a sociologist who in his analysis of a tribe’s believes remains distant and does not accept them, Kant studies human morality and embraces it. Put in the position to give a verdict, he states that morality is rational and thus God exists.

But, the next generations of philosophers and thinkers, the "Nietzsches" of this world, simply say that "God has died", therefore morality is meaningless, civilization is a joke. Kant could have chosen the same road; he could have rejected the conditions necessary for morality as impossible to satisfy. Instead, he tried to offer us the possibility to believe without contradictions.

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