The Religious Significance of Kant's Copernican Revolution

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The Religious Significance of Kant's Copernican Revolution

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Title: The Religious Significance of Kant's Copernican Revolution
Author: Lockwood, Charles Evans
Citation: Lockwood, Charles Evans. 2014. The Religious Significance of Kant's Copernican Revolution. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation argues that Immanuel Kant's critical philosophy must be understood as an attempt to hold together a robust commitment to divine transcendence and an affirmation of immanent human activity. This argument is developed through an examination of Kant's Copernican revolution, or his account of how human beings must play an active rather than merely passive role in the theoretical and practical domains. Kant's revolution involves an appeal to what can be called our self-legislation, or our role in giving ourselves laws that structure our cognition and volition. A persistent strand of interpretation has maintained that Kant's emphasis on our self-legislation, signaled through his Copernican revolution, rules out any significant role for religious or theological claims. Indeed, Kant is often seen as initiating a modern anthropocentric turn, marking the shift away from a pre-modern theocentric perspective. This dissertation shows, however, that rather than privileging either a God-centered or a human-centered perspective, Kant is instead concerned both with what the divine and human share and with what distinguishes them from one another, and this theme is borne out in Kant's theoretical philosophy, his practical philosophy, and his philosophy of religion.
The dissertation is divided into three parts, each of which corresponds to one of Kant's famous three questions: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope? These questions map on to Kant's theoretical philosophy, practical philosophy, and philosophy of religion, respectively. Kant sometimes added a fourth question: What is the human being? The dissertation suggests that Kant's answers to these first three questions involve an account of what it means to be a human being and thereby also serve to address his fourth question. This examination of Kant's Copernican revolution suggests that his anthropology is not a substitute for a discarded theology, but is itself theologically inflected. The dissertation draws on a number of works from Kant's mature corpus, including his three Critiques and Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, as well as other works of his theoretical and practical philosophy, including the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics and Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.
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