Kant is sometimes reproved for not having devoted more attention to the question of how Transcendental philosophy itself is possible [e.g., W9:249-55]. To compensate for this neglect, Kantian philosophers tend to focus on one or more of three ways of justifying his Transcenden*tal Perspective (and particularly his infamous presupposition of the 'thing in itself'). Interpreters have stressed the role it plays: first, in the overall System to which it gives rise; second, in Kant's special theory of transcendental ideal*ism; or third, in relation to his transcendental arguments. Part Three of this book will provide a version of the first type of justification; a version of the second type will be given in VI.2; and Appendix V considers the possibility of the third type. However appealing Kant's theories may or may not turn out to be once an in*terpretation of his System brings out their consistency and coherence (and perhaps even their validity), we must concede that such an approach on its own could not provide an entirely conclusive justification for Kant's 'transcendental turn'. In this chapter, therefore, I will touch upon each of these methods, but only in order to demonstrate their secondary importance to Kant's own justification for assuming an unknowable reality as his epis*temo*logical starting point. Though almost always neglected by interpreters, this fourth method, I will argue, is his ultimate and indispensable key to jus*tify*ing the Transcendental Perspective, so it accounts for his failure to justify it explicitly in other ways.
In Kt2:371 Kant suggests it is occasionally necessary for the philosopher to adopt 'a rational faith which alone may be possible for us, sufficient to our wants, and perhaps even more salutary than knowledge itself.' Although this would appear at first sight to be precarious ground on which to build an epis*temological foundation for a philosophical system [cf. S17:241], Kant seems to treat it not only as sufficient, but as the necessary support for both his theoretical and his practical standpoints [see e.g., Kt20:142q.a.]. Establishing such an approach as philosophically valid will not only provide an initial jus*tification of his starting point, but will also play an important role in Pq20, where I will explore the theological implications of his System [s.a. Ch. X]. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, will be to demonstrate that Kant does in fact appeal to faith as the justifying key to his Transcendental Perspective, and to defend its legitimacy in this role.
Before discussing the implications of this rather unconventional claim, we must understand what Kant means by the word Glaube (translated as either 'faith' or 'belief'). Schrader may be right in saying 'the term faith is not used in any conventional sense' by Kant [S4:183]; but this does not justify his charge that it therefore 'serves to confuse the function of the critical method as applied to moral experience' . For if we make an effort to understand Kant's own special use of the word and apply it consistently, then it can serve instead to clarify the implications of his entire Critical philosophy.
Most commentators limit the application of all Kant's comments on faith to his moral philosophy, ignoring or denying their application to his epistemology [e.g., W16:109]. For instance, his claim to 'deny knowledge [Wissen], in order to make room for faith' [Kt1:xxx] is often taken out of its wider context and regarded solely as an allusion to the way the denials of the Dialectic in Kt1 make room for the faith of practical reason in Kt4. Kemp Smith's translation perpetrates this misconception by dividing Kant's one long paragraph at Kt1:xxiv-xxxi into five paragraphs. Kant's immediate point in making this assertion is indeed to stress the need for faith in one's practical employment of the ideas of 'God, freedom, and immortality'; but it is rarely acknowledged that his general argument in this passage assumes that the same 'attitude of reason' must also hold true in systemt for the thing in it*self. Just as he regards the faith of practical reason as the legitimate re*sponse to our lack of knowledge concerning God, freedom, and immortality, so also he regards the faith of theoretical reason as the legitimate response to our lack of knowledge concerning the thing in itself. The two cases are di*rectly parallel; in fact, Kant's overall purpose in the paragraph in which the statement occurs is to demonstrate their similarity, and in so doing to estab*lish the requirement of faith in the thing in itself for both epistemological and moral reflection.
Admittedly, the great majority of Kant's references to faith do concern its role in his practical, rather than in his theoretical, system; and in a few cases he even seems to deny the validity of applying it to the latter [see e.g., Kt7: 472,475]. The least ambiguous of these apparent denials comes in Kt10:69n (76-7n): 'The belief of reason ... can never be directed to theoretical cognition, for there the objectively inadequate holding-to-be-true is mere opin*ion. It [i.e., faith] is merely a presupposition of reason from a subjective, though abso*lutely necessary practical standpoint.' However, this and all such state*ments are not intended to deny the need for rational faith in the thing in itself; for such faith, though indeed theoretical, is not intended as a 'theoretical cogni*tion' of an 'object' [s.e. Kt23:396-7n(173-4n)]. Only when we aim at reach*ing empirical knowledge (i.e., only within the limits of systemt) does an appeal to faith lead to 'mere opinion'. By contrast, the thing in itself is pre*cisely that sort of subjective 'presupposition of reason' which Kant is here de*scribing as being supported on the pillar of rational faith. Once this is fully under*stood, it becomes unreasonable to regard the thing in itself as a 'wild card', slyly included in Kant's epistemology solely 'for the purpose of his ethics' [W9:159-60; s.a. 166; M6:144]; for, even though he does not always state his position explicitly, Kant uses faith in this rational presupposition to form the very ground in which his System of Perspectives is planted.
Kant describes faith as 'the moral attitude of reason in its assurance of what is beyond the reach of theoretical knowledge' [Kt7:471; s.a. 469]. He is most interested in such 'realities which transcend experience' [L3:44] when they have their primary positive function in systemp, and therefore inspire such a 'moral attitude'; nevertheless, he admits that 'even in purely theoretical judgments there is an analogon of practical judgments, to the mental enter*taining of which the term "belief" is appropriate' [Kt1:853]. Moreover, Kant says even a belief in a transcendent reality such as God depends not just on practical faith, but also on 'pure rational faith, because pure reason alone (in its theoretical as well as practical standpoint) is the source from which it springs' [Kt4:126].
In both practical and theoretical contexts, faith's 'assurance' can result from either ordinary 'contingent belief' or special 'necessary belief'. The lat*ter, strictly transcendental kind of belief, can apply only to situations in which 'I know with certainty [ich gewiss weiss] that no one can have knowl*edge [kennen könne] of any other conditions which lead to the proposed end.' Such transcendental faith does not entitle us to 'speculative knowledge' [Wissen] concerning the conditions in question [Kt2:371]; instead, it means the conditions are regarded as sufficient 'only subjectively' [Kt1:850]. For 'rational belief ... is a subjectively sufficient assent associated with the con*sciousness that it is an objectively insufficient assent; therefore ... [it] can never be con*verted by all the natural data of reason into knowledge, because the ground of assent in this case is merely subjective' [Kt20:140-1]. Accord*ing*ly, 'the expression of belief is, from the objective standpoint, an expres*sion of modesty'—i.e., of an awareness of our ignorance—yet it is 'at the same time, from the subjective standpoint, an expression of the firmness of our confi*dence' [Kt1:855; s.a. 498-9; Kt2:278]. In spite of our ignorance, there*fore, the 'conviction' which results 'is often firmer than any knowing. In knowing one still listens to counter-reasons, but not in belief, because this turns not on objec*tive grounds but on the moral interest of the subject' [Kt10:72(80)].
Ewing aptly observes that 'faith does not mean for Kant belief on author*ity or belief without ground, but believing what we have adequate grounds for believing but cannot absolutely prove' [E5:9]. Along these lines, Kant notes: 'Belief is no special source of cognition. It is a kind of holding-to-be-true with consciousness of its incompleteness' [Kt10:67n(75n)]. As such, faith always involves the formation of something like a hypothesis. Kant defines the latter as: 'The holding-to-be-true of a presupposition as a ground' [84 (92)]. In working with a hypothesis 'we conclude from the truth of the con*se*quence to the truth of the ground'; and although 'hypo*theses always re*main hypothe*ses, that is, presuppositions whose complete certainty we can never attain', nevertheless 'the more conse*quen*ces can be derived from a hy*pothesis, the more probable it is' [85(92-3)]. Kant says metaphysics itself does 'not permit of hypotheses' [86(93)]. But this does not prevent him from adopting faith in the thing in itself as the starting point of the Critical phi*losophy; on the contrary, as we shall see, this metacritical hypothesis enables him to avoid depending on such hypothe*ses at crucial points within his three Critical systems [see Kt20:141-2]. Moreover, the systematic conse*quences of presup*posing the thing in itself [see Part Three] lend a measure of 'objective valid*ity' [see note VI.22] to this hypothesis, which initially is sup*ported only by the subjective validity of faith. Thus theoretical as well as practical faith 'lies at the foundation of the critical philosophy' [W25:20], and is, in fact, 'the outlook, the Weltanschauung of the critical philosophy itself' [W24:249].
In the remainder of this chapter I will attempt to defend this interpretation of the role of faith in Kant's philosophy by relating it to three specific issues. First, I will elaborate on what it means to say the thing in itself must be accepted on faith [V.2]. I will then contrast this approach with that which regards transcendental arguments as the only valid method of justifying this as*sumption [V.3]. And finally, assuming my interpretation is correct, I will consider the relationship between theoretical faith in the thing in itself and moral faith in the ideas of practical reason [V.4]. (In Appendix V I will ex*am*ine the legitimacy of the claim made by some Kant-scholars that the thing in itself could in fact be viewed as knowable without destroying Kant's basic program.) If I am successful, I will have demonstrated not that Kant be*lieved he had established his System as undoubtedly 'true', but rather that he knew the truth of Transcendental philosophy can be fully recognized only by those who choose to fol*low his initial leap of faith.
[More to come...]