Examining a Late Development in Kant’s Conception of Our Moral Life
On the Interactions among Perfectionism, Eschatology, and Contentment in Ethics
Keywords:Contentment, Eschatology, Immanuel Kant, Immortality, Perfectionism
In the first half, I suggest that Kant’s conception of our moral life goes through a significant shift after 1793, with reverberations in his eschatology. The earlier account, based on the postulate of immortality, describes our moral life as an endless pursuit of the highest good, but all this changes in the later account, and I point out three possible reasons for this change of heart. In the second half, I explore how the considerations Kant brings up to argue for his accounts can inform our process of formulating positions with respect to the afterlife. I argue that, in the absence of a convincing theoretical proof for or against the afterlife as well as apodictically certain knowledge of how demanding the moral law is, the Kantian strategy would be to ask which account of our moral life delivers the kind of contentment that can sustain our moral resolve. I also point out a way theists might be able to find contentment despite their moral failures by imagining God’s moral kenosis.
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