The Triumph of Idealism

A comment on this blog drew the above lecture by Keith Ward to my attention. There is a transcript on the Gresham College website. I have not had time to watch the video yet, but I previously shared another of his lectures on this topic, and blogged about his book More Than Matter?

Let me also use this opportunity to share a link to a recording of the THATCamp roundtable last year on religious studies.

  • Just Sayin’

    Dr. Ward is 100% awesomeness!

  • arcseconds

    I should hopefully get a chance to listen to this in the weekend, but on breif persual of the opening remarks, I’m not sure I like the idea of rehabilitating Kant on theism.

    It also seems to me that Ward is putting a bit too much emphasis on the role Kant sees God playing in morality. I guess that’s inevitable, given he wants to emphasize the role this plays in Kant’s thought, but someone who doesn’t know much about Kant could easily walk away from those opening quotes thinking that Kant’s some kind of theological voluntarist, or ‘God is the good’ sort of person, like the commenters we see here from time to time.

    But Kant is pretty clear that we have moral obligations whether or not God’s in the picture. We would have those moral obligations even if the most powerful being in existence was determined to punish us for being good! The role he thinks God has to play is a motivational role, and (interestingly), the point is not so much that you’ll be motivated by the thought of reward, but rather the idea that everything will turn out alright in the end.

    I’m not saying that Ward’s interpretation of Kant is necessarily wrong. Kant clearly did believe something of the sort. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s important for philosophy.

    His arguments for this are interesting, and certainly ought to be read, and I’m even inclined to accept them in so far as, if it helps you to do so, go for it. But there’s a reason why contemporary philosophers tend to just ignore them: they’re ultimately not very compelling, and they can be dropped without affecting the core of his moral philosophy. Certainly the conclusion that one would just fall into dispair and get all angsty-teeny about ‘what’s the point of it all’ without a belief in God seems to be contradicted by experience, and, contrariwise, belief in God is clearly not sufficient to stick at the task of being good.


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