Kant’s radical evil. Religion within the boundary of pure reason

Essay, 2013

6 Pages, Grade: 1,2


1. In what sense or senses is Evil radical for Kant?

„Der Mensch ist von Natur aus böse.“ (Human nature is evil) Stating this, Kant refers to a problem which has been from time immemorial a problem of Moral Philosophy. But what exactly does Kant mean, stating this? One interpretation could be that nature brings the evilness from the outside and makes a human evil, that it is the environment which is responsible for any human evilness. Another interpretation could be that men are evil by nature in a way that they are born evil and evilness is a human’s feature, why everybody is evil. Probably Kant did not either mean the one nor the other. To a greater degree, Kant assumes that there is an evil propensity (Hang zum Bösen) in everyone from the beginning on, which men can fall for. As written in the bible’s first book of Moses, the prehistoric men, who are meant to be Adam and Eve and serve as an orientation for Kant, were, living in the Garden of Eden, absolutely innocent until evil, represented by a snake, seduced them. As punishment for breaking God’s Law and sinning, God expelled Adam and Eve from paradise. This first fall for evil is known as original sin. Using this example, Kant explains that the human essence is good but gets spoiled. But if human beings are essentially good, why does Kant state that human nature is radically evil? And what exactly does the term evil describe anyway? God’s law, no matter in which religion, or the constitution decide what is right and what is wrong, therefore also which acting can be regarded as good and which as evil. Acting against any law will be punished and the counteracting person will be seen as being evil. That is, what already children are taught. The question now is what criteria one has to fulfill to be rightfully esteemed as being evil. But it is not enough to simply regard the acting. Crucial is the condition of maxim. The motive why an action is done makes it good or evil. Consequently, just looking at the action cannot be the criteria for a good or evil categorization of a human. Human nature, which Kant is talking about, does not only describe acting but also one’s motives for acting in a certain way. Terms such as sensuality, freedom, and reason must not be disregarded while analyzing the question of good and evil concerning human nature, since a human as a free being should be able to reasonable decide to regard or disregard the moral law. Regarding the case of Adam and Eve, humans seem to have to make their own decision although evil seems to be somehow included in human nature and also appears very powerful, since it, at least in this case, conquers good. The even most interesting question then, however, is, in what sense or senses evil is radical for Kant.


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Kant’s radical evil. Religion within the boundary of pure reason
National University of Ireland, Galway
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Melissa Grönebaum (Author), 2013, Kant’s radical evil. Religion within the boundary of pure reason, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/268385


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