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Kant, Modality, and the Most Real Being

Author(s): Chignell, Andrew

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Abstract: Kant's speculative theistic proof rests on a distinction between “logical” and “real” modality that he developed very early in the pre-critical period. The only way to explain facts about real possibility, according to Kant, is to appeal to the properties of a unique, necessary, and “most real” being. Here I reconstruct the proof in its historical context, focusing on the role played by the theory of modality both in motivating the argument (in the pre-critical period) and, ultimately, in undoing it as a source of knowledge of God's existence (in the critical period). Along the way I examine Kant's version of the now-popular “actualist” thesis that facts about what is possible must be explained by facts about what is actual. I conclude by discussing why the critical Kant claims both that there are rational grounds for accepting the conclusion of his theistic proof, and that such acceptance can not count as knowledge. This is important, I argue, because the same considerations ultimately motivate his prohibition on knowledge of things-in-themselves generally.
Publication Date: 2009
Citation: Chignell, Andrew. "Kant, Modality, and the Most Real Being." Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 91, no. 2 (2009): 157-192.
DOI: doi:10.1515/AGPH.2009.07
Pages: 157 - 192
Language: English
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

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