How Political Is the Kantian Church?

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Stephen Palmquist


Commentators who lament that Kant offers no concrete guidelines for how to set up an ethical community typically neglect Kant’s claim in Religion that the ethical state of nature can transform into an ethical community  only by becoming a people of God—i.e., a religious community, or “church.” Kant’s argument culminates by positing four categorial precepts for church organization. The book’s next four sections can be read as elaborating further on each precept, respectively. Kant repeatedly warns against using religious norms to control people. Accordingly, he explicitly forbids the true church from adopting any standard form of political governance; it must aim to be radically non-political. Nevertheless, churches organized according to Kant’s non-coercive theocratic model contribute something essential to the ultimate political goal of achieving perpetual peace and an end to war: by approaching the ultimate ethical goal (the highest good), the true church offers an antidote to normative fragmentation.


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Palmquist, Stephen. 2020. “How Political Is the Kantian Church?”. Diametros 17 (65):95-113.
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