Background to Kant
Remember that Kant was a Protestant. Since the days of the Reformation, Protestantism had been characterised by its emphasis on faith. The Catholic church on the other hand stressed the importance of reason as a foundation of faith. It is also woth remembering that Kant had rejected the so called “proofs of the existence of God” put forward by the rationalists, especially Descartes (see the Ontological Argument). He didn’t think there must be a God simply because we have an idea of God (reason). Nor did Kant agree with the conclusions of Aquinas who had decided that there must be a God because everything had to have a first cause.
Kant thought that it was essential for morality to presuppose that man has an immortal soul and that God exists and that man has free will. He refers to these as postulates – and to postulate is to assume something which ultimately cannot be proved.
1. Kant believed in the fairness of the universe.
2. He believed that everyone seeks complete happiness and virtue,
3. This he referred to as the summum bonum (the highest good)
4. Kant thought that because everyone seeks it, it must be achievable.
5. However clearly not everyone achieves it in this life. Many die unfulfilled and unhappy.
6. He thought there must be a life after death where the summum bonum is achievable.
7. If there is a life after death, there must be a God.
8. God therefore is a “postulate of practical morality”.
This argument does not state there is a God who is the source of morality and who dictates what is moral and what is not. Kant’s line is that God is required for morality and fairness to achieve its end.
I am indebted to Dr Peter Vardy for some of the wording in the 8 points above.
View this PowerPoint on the Moral Argument