Annals of Ethics
Online ISSN : 2434-4699
What Kind of Teleological Conception Does Kant’s Ethical System Require?
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2021 Volume 70 Pages 119-132


 Although Kant repeatedly states that religion is an inevitable consequence of morality, few people take this seriously. Traditionally, it has been maintained that his ethical system and his theory of religion are theoretically disconnected and that the latter is merely an addendum from outside of his critical philosophy. However, if it is shown that the ethical system involves a teleological conception that necessarily presupposes religious notions such as God, church, and grace, the suggested disconnection cannot be accepted any longer. In this paper, I examine the inner connection between the ethical system and religious notions from such a teleological perspective. In the first section, I outline four possible variants of a teleological conception. In order to get a criterion for discussing which conception best fits Kant’s ethical system, I show that the final end of the system is the highest good in section 2. Based on this result, I indicate that for the sake of the realization of the highest good, it is necessary that I have two beliefs whenever I act towards this end in section 3; the first is the belief that no obstacles can fundamentally prevent the realizability of the highest good, and secondly, the belief that it is possible for a person to make progress towards the highest good. Finally, in sections 4 and 5, I give an answer to the title question: a strong teleological conception is required for Kant’s ethical system. Throughout this paper, I shall conclude not only that Kant’s ethical system is internally connected to the theory of religion, but also that an acknowledgement of this inner connection is necessary for our everyday moral behavior.

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