Reason, Immanence, and the Possibility of Enlightened Religion in Kant
In Kant’s Critical corpus, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone occupies a special – and not uncontroversial – place. Picking up on his concerns with God, religion and morality already present in nuce in the final sections of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant outlines in this work an "enlightened" religious standpoint that does not go beyond the rational, but instead remains strictly within "the limits of reason alone". At stake here is not just the general possibility of such a standpoint within the Critical framework, but also the more specific (but no less important) questions about the structure and function of reason’s limits, about what it means to stay within them in the transition from knowledge to morality to religion, and finally, about how religion itself gets transformed if thematized from within these limits. Without pretending to exhaust these issues, in this paper I follow one important conceptual thread that runs from Kant’s accounts of immanence and ideality in the Critique of Pure Reason to the religious standpoint in the Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone and ties the aforementioned issues together. I argue that it is Kant’s concept of immanence that allows him to present morality and then religion as immanent "expansions" of reason’s autonomous plane, and to provide a novel (immanent) re-configuration of the traditional (transcendent) Christian religious standpoint. Furthermore, on Kant’s account, this rational religious standpoint both follows from and remains irreducible to secular morality. In this, I suggest in conclusion, Kant offers a logic or grammar of immanence that goes beyond the rigid religious-secular binary, which makes his account of an »enlightened« religion, as it were, "post-Enlightenment" in character.