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Religion within Limits of Reason Alone (Torchbooks) Paperback – 1 Jun 1958

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (1 Jun. 1958)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061300675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061300677
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The Enlightenment, which began in the seventeenth century and flourished in the eighteenth, constitutes one of the great spiritual movements of modern Europe. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jpick on 19 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback
The book is excellent it has all I need for my study in theology it will help me to understand different aspects into religion
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
What can be done in the space between your ears! 17 July 2001
By E. M. Dale - Published on
Format: Paperback
Let me state up front that I do not think Kant succeeded in what he tried to do in this book. That caveat in place, Kant's book a fine attempt at grounding religious belief in something other than revelation. Now, of course that might ruffle a few feathers on both sides of the belief-fence (as it did in his day, and will continue to do), but that was Kant's goal in this text. However, no understanding of Kant's reasoning in this book (or any other of his works) can be complete without taking into account the Lutheran Pietism in which he was raised. (Regarding the review below, Kant was never Roman Catholic; the Lutheran streak is part of what made Kant who he was, for good or ill.) The subjectivism of his Pietist background had an almost incalculable affect on Kant's philosophy and metaphysics. As a matter of fact, the subjectivist principle of his "Copernican revolution" in philosophy could arguably be seen as a natural outgrowth of the personalism that his Lutheran Pietist upbringing gave to him. Members of the Pietist sects current in Kant's day believed that religion should be realized, contained, and held deep within the inner self. They also held that religion should be expressed through simplicity and obedience to moral law. Hence, to oversimplify, we get Kant's famous "starry heavens above and the moral law within" as the two things which fill him "with ever increasing wonder."

Kant was convinced that the moral basis of religion, specifically the Christian religion, was available to any and all by introspection and meditation. In this work, he sets out to show why that is the case and how it could be achieved. Kant's anti-supernaturalist project of Kant's book is explicit from the beginning, though I should point out that, as in his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant certainly does not refuse to entertain ideas such as miracles and such. He simply says that they are not he purview of speculative philosophy. This could become a naive fideism, but with Kant it (arguably) never does. What Kant wants to do is plain in his title, and clear in his text: develop the idea of religion strictly within the bounds of reason, alone. For Kant, pure philosophy was the realm of human reason, and within that realm (at least pushing against the antinomies) religion could be found and established. Anything beyond that was simply beyond the ability and thus the interest of philosophy.

This is a great translation and as good an introduction to reading Kant as any of his works.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Opinion on Kant's religion 26 Jan. 2011
By Philonous - Published on
Format: Paperback
Those who are perplexed by this book, should read "In defense of Kant's religion",would feel some-what eased by it. Anyways, to continue my review, I wanted to say is that I really enjoyed this book despite the fact that I may not necessarily agree with Kant. What made Kant very peculiar to me is his "rational pluralism" as opposed to "naive pluralism" exemplified by the new age movement. By this Kant meant that every religion has seeds of truths or moral principles that are universal among them, and as long as this is the case, then it becomes a basis for religions to get along with each other. Another interesting aspect of Kant's philosophy of religion is that he makes a distinction between the "empirical" and the "transcendental" interpretation of the scripture. Kant believes that whether or not there is evidence for the accounts of the bible is no matter, because what matters is the transcendental aspect of the accounts, which goes beyond the empirical accounts. Conservative theists make take issue with this, but I think that this argument is consistent with his whole systematic philosophy when he made a distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenal. Kant's understanding of Christ as the Platonic Archetype of the Good Person which resides in God for eternity is another fascinating aspect of it. It is through this Archetype that people acquire something that gives them the power to do good. I just feel that Kant's philosophy of religion is enriched with ideas, but at the same time Kant did not attempt to make his philosophy of religion very appealing, and I don't think he tried. My only problem is whether salvation is really gauranteed, and what conditions guarantees it, and I don't think Kant really provided those in favor of moral faith (believing that one is morally extricated from selfish condition). If one lacks self-knowledge of one's moral condition (since it is in the realm of the noumenal) then it would not make sense to confess, since one cannot acknowledge what he does not know about himself. This is very problematic in Kant's philosophy; what is more problematic is that one must indefinitely do good for almost an eternity, and may never know when he really fulfills the moral law. This does not seem very appealing, and in know way does that person really know if his actions really amount to anything close to fulfillment. Actions that are worth fulfilling are the ones that are possible to fulfill, but while Kant did not make it impossible but rather very difficult seems to raise questions about whether this hypothetical moral journey is worth taking. I'm not convinced that one must believe in the immortal soul because the moral law implicitly demands does not seem like facts follow from the moral law, since facts are descriptive not normative, whereas the moral law is normative, but not descriptive. Nonetheless, despite these problems I enjoyed this book, I recommend it to anyone who is curios enough to read it.
By Steven H Propp - Published on
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a German philosopher who is perhaps the founder of "modern" philosophy, with his focus on epistemology (theory of knowledge); he wrote many books, such as Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, Critique of Judgement, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, etc.

This book was written in 1793 when Kant was in his 70s. He notes, "However the origin of moral evil in man is constituted, surely of all the explanations of the spread and propaganda of this evil through all the members and generations of our race, the most inept is that which describes it as descending to us as an inheritance from our first parents; for one can say of moral evil precisely what the poet [Ovid] said of good: [`Race and ancestors, and those things which we ourselves have not made, I scarcely account our own']." (Pg. 35) He asks, "if a man is corrupt in the very ground of his maxims, how can he possibly bring about this revolution by his own powers and of himself become a good man? Yet duty bids us to do this, and duty demands nothing of us which we cannot do. There is no reconciliation possible here except by saying that man is under the necessity of, and is therefore capable of, a revolution in his cast of mind, but only of a gradual reform in his sensuous nature." (Bk. One, General Observation, pg. 43)

He speaks of Jesus in an oblique way: "Now if it were indeed a fact that such a truly godly-minded man ... has descended... from heaven to earth and had given men in his own person, through his teaching, his conduct, and his sufferings, as perfect an EXAMPLE of a man well-pleasing to God as one can expect to find in external experience ... and if he had... produced immeasurably great moral good upon earth by effecting a revolution in the human race---even then we should have no cause for supposing him other than a man naturally begotten... The elevation of such a holy person above all the frailties of human nature would rather, so far as we can see, hinder the adoption of the idea of such a person for our imitation... his distance from the natural man would then be so infinitely great that such a divine person could no longer be held up as an EXAMPLE to him. Man would say: If I too had a perfectly holy will, all temptations to evil would of themselves be thwarted in me; if I too had the most complete inner assurance that, after a short life on earth, I should ... become at once a partaker in all the eternal glory of the kingdom of heaven, I too should take upon myself not only willingly but joyfully all sorrows... since I would see before my eyes the glorious and imminent sequel... the idea of a demeanor in accordance with so perfect a standard of morality would no doubt be valid for us, as a model for us to copy. Yet he himself could NOT be represented to us as an EXAMPLE for our imitation, nor... as a proof of the feasibility and attainability FOR US of so pure and exalted a moral goodness." (Bk. Two, Sec. One, pg. 57-58)

He asserts, "In the affairs of life... it is impossible for us to count on miracles or to take them in to consideration at all in our use of reason... The judge (however credulous of miracles he may be in church), listens to the delinquent's claims to have been tempted of the devil exactly as though nothing had been said... the judge cannot summon the tempter and confront each with the other; in a word, he can make absolutely nothing RATIONAL out of the matter." (Bk Two, General Observation, pg. 82)

He suggests, "There is only ONE (true) RELIGION; but there can be FAITHS of several kinds. We can say further that even in the various churches, severed from one another by reason of the diversity of their modes of belief, one and the same true religion can yet be found." (Bk. Three, Div. One, Sec. V, pg. 98) Later, he states, "If it is assume that atonement has been made for the sins of mankind, it is indeed conceivable that every sinner would gladly have it applied to himself and that were it merely a matter of BELIEF (which means no more than an avowal that he wishes the atonement to be rendered for him also), he would not for an instant suffer misgivings on this score. However, it is quite impossible to see how a reasonable man, who knows himself to merit punishment, can in all seriousness believe that he needs only to credit the news of an atonement rendered for him, and to accept atonement... in order to regard his guilt as annihilated... No thoughtful person can bring himself to believe this..." (Division One, Sec. VII, pg. 107)

He observes, "Now since a pure religion of reason ... permits only the bare idea of a church... and since only the visible church, which is grounded upon dogmas, needs and is susceptible of organization by men, it follows that sovereignty under the good principle cannot, in this invisible church, be regarded as ecclesiastical service, and that this religion has no legal servants, acting as OFFICIALS of an ethical commonwealth; every member of this commonwealth receives his orders directly from the supreme legislator.... the pure religion of reason will have, as its servants (yet without their being OFFICIALS) all right-thinking men; except that, so far, they cannot be called servants of a church (that is, of a visible church, which alone is here under discussion)." (Bk. Four, pg. 140)

He states, "Yet in part at least every religion, even if revealed, must contain certain principles of the natural religion. For only through reason can thought add revelation to the concept of a RELIGION, since this very concept, as though deduced from an obligation to the will of a moral legislator, is a pure concept of reason. Therefore we shall be able to look upon even a revealed religion on the one hand as a NATURAL, on the other as a LEARNED religion, and thus to test it and decide what and how much has come to it from one or the other source." (Bk Four, Pt. One, pg. 144) He adds, "recognition and respect must be accorded... to universal human reason as the supremely commanding principle in a natural religion, and the revealed doctrine, upon which a church is founded and which stands in need of the learned as interpreters and conservers, must be cherished and cultivated as merely a means, but a most precious means, of making this doctrine comprehensible, even to the ignorant, as well as widely diffused and permanent. This is the TRUE SERVICE of the church under the dominion of the good principle; whereas that in which revealed faith is to precede religion is PSEUDO-SERVICE." (Bk Four, Pt. One, Sec. Two, pg. 152-153)

He argues, "The one true religion comprises nothing but laws... those practical principles of whose unconditioned necessity we can become aware, and which we therefore recognize as revealed through pure reason... Only for the sake of a church... can there be statutes, i.e., ordinances ... which are arbitrary and contingent as viewed by our pure moral judgment. To deem this statutory faith... as essential to the service of God generally... is RELIGIOUS ILLUSION whose consequence is a pseudo-service... pretended honouring of God through which we work directly counter to the service demanded by God Himself." (Bk Four, Pt. Two, pg. 156) He also contends, "Praying, thought of as an inner formal service of God and hence as a means of grace, is s superstitious illusion... for it is no more than a stated wish directed to a Being who needs no such information regarding the inner disposition of the wisher; therefore nothing is accomplished by it, and it discharges none of the duties to which, as commands of God, we are obligated; hence God is not really served." (Pg. 182-183)

He acknowledges, "Church-going, thought of as the ceremonial public service of God in a church, in general is... not only a means to be valued by each individual for his own edification, but also a duty directly obligating them as a group... provided, that this church contains no formalities which might lead to idolatry... e.g., certain prayers to God, with His infinite mercy personified under the name of a man... But to use it as, in itself, a means of grace, as though thereby God were directly served... is an illusion which does, indeed, well comport with the case of mind of a good CITIZEN in a political commonwealth... yet which not only contributes nothing to the character of such a man, as a citizen of the kingdom of God, but rather debases it, and serves... to conceal the bad moral content of his disposition from the eyes of others, and even from his own eyes." (Pg. 186-187)

Kant's ideas on religion may not appeal to the "rational-minded" readers of his first Critique; but for anyone interested in liberal/progressive religion, it remains fascinating and valuable reading.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Which translation? 8 Oct. 2006
By Kawatteru - Published on
Format: Paperback
I assume that this "Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone" is a different translation of the same book entitled by another publisher as "Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason." The question is, which is better and for what reasons?
7 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Kant and Religion 20 July 2000
By Chris Jurgenson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Though the title may imply so, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone is not an attempt to confine religion to reason per se, but rather an attempt to display what can be perceived by reason on the subject of reason, naturally of Kant, a priori (outside of experience). When Kant encountered a topic that was outside the limits of reason (i.e. miracles) he fully conceded that reason could not explain that which is of direct Divine influence, thus making his point clear that reason can be useful within religion, but there comes a point where God takes over and reason must bow before His Sovereignty. This book contains a wealth of interesting ideas and concepts, and I personally used it to teach lessons to my Sunday School class. However, due to Kant's deeply profound writing style, this book, along with his others, is generally misunderstood, or else not understood at all. I believe that Religion would be an excellent devotional if taken in small parts over a period of time. There are many interesting concepts that could be overlooked if one rushed through, therefore it is imperative that the reader be sure to take time to think on what Kant was trying to convey. As a Christian witness, Kant made many beautiful comments on the necessity of being "Born-again" through the Son of God and on the Law of God and its influence on the sinner who is incapable of being righteous outside of this law. Kant is not someone who will be quoted in a common Sunday morning sermon, but I believe that he is an unsung Christian hero who has been disregarded due to the difficulty of his writing and his Catholic origin, at least in Protestant denominations, which to quote Catholic theologians is generally taboo. All of his works are noteworthy, but a little more effort is needed to read and understand him than the average person is willing to invest, but I believe that the insight gained from his works are well worth the effort.
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