God, Revelation and Authority Vol. 1, Chapter 21

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

Who is Immanuel Kant? In the geeked out world of philosophy, there is BK and AK—Before Kant and After Kant.  He is that important even if his arguments are, in my opinion at least, wrong and his writings are as difficult to understand as Charlie Sheen after a three-day weekend in Vegas.

Kant’s apriorism begins with the self.  He dismisses the idea of innate ideas but does argue for innate forms, (of which he identified twelve categories), that separate sense experience and lead to knowledge.   Kant has no use for the “supernatural.”  He regards any resort to anything beyond our sense experience as an excuse for laziness.

Yet, Kant has been criticized that his schema doesn’t quite add up.  His skepticism of innate ideas leaves him vulnerable to the criticism that he cannot explain his own existence.  Moreover, he cannot account for the reason for his “innate categories.”  As a result, Kant’s influence has largely been one of skepticism and subjectivism.  Despite Kant’s failure, enough ink to fill an ocean and enough paper to deplete an entire national park has been used by philosophy students attempting to build upon Kant’s theory. 

Henry notes that Kant is revered despite his obvious ignorance of such an intellectual giant as Augustine.  Kant appears to have taken a rather arrogant approach that anyone who dared called himself a “theologian” was not worthy of his time.  Kant formulated his view in response to the errors he perceived in the arguments of Leibnitz and Descartes.  It would have been interesting if he had interacted with Augustine.

As an aside, we can ask today what would happen if the “new atheists” would take serious Christian thinkers like Alvin Plantinga seriously rather than dismissing them out of hand while rolling their eyes.

 Christianity teaches that innate ideas or forms are best explained as implanted by our creator.  Our ability to make sense of the world is grace.


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