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Kant's Moral Argument

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 12, 2020 12:01 am

Kant's Moral Argument

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 12, 2020 12:01 am

Our sense of duty to do good can only have meaning if it comes from God. Is this enough to prove that God exists? Today, R.C. Sproul responds to the influential and problematic views of Immanuel Kant.

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Can we know that God exists because the world exists Renewing Your Mind with RC Sproul is next lesser question people have pondered for the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant made it his life's work to address big ideas like that. He did come to a conclusion as to the existence of God, and that's important because his thought permeates our culture today and profound way.

There's Dr. Spruill from the series.

The consequences of ideas. If we were to try to capture the agnosticism of Immanuel Kant with respect to theology and metaphysics. It would bay with the common expression that you hear quote you can't get there from here. Kant is famous for building as it were, and scalable wall between this world and the transcendent realm of wall is so solid, so impregnable, so high you can't get over it so low you can't get under it. So why do you can get around it was so thick you can burrow through it, following up on another philosophers theory whose name was Lessing who gave us the famous metaphor of Lessing's ditch where Lessing argued that the contingent truths of history cannot get you to the eternal truths of God. You can't get there from here ON this schema. Kant made a distinction that has perhaps been more famous than anything else that is done and also perhaps more significant than anything else that he's done and that is he distinguishes between two realms. One is called the noumenal realm and the other is called the phenomenal Ralph, not the phenomenal realm is the realm of sensations.

It is the realm of appearances. It is the concrete material realm where the scientist is engaged in his exploration and in his inquiry. It is the realm where sensations occur, so I might call it the sensational realm, sensational, not in the sense of fantastic or exciting but sensational in a more literal sense, in the sense of it is the realm in which we have sensations or perceptions of physical things.

The external world to in the phenomenal world is basically the arena of investigation for the scientist, the scientist is exploring and measuring and experimenting with things that he can perceive. Now the noumenal realm is the realm of metaphysics and for Kant, there are three things that he puts in the noumenal world that is three notions are categories and they are God, the self and what he calls the doing organization or what we would call essences. Let's look at those in reverse order. What he's speaking about us essences are those metaphysical realities that all of the previous philosophers have been struggling with with their concepts of substance or the substrate and remember when we looked at lock and unlock made a distinction between primary and secondary qualities, and then Berkeley challenge that saying that all the qualities were secondary and remember Aristotle his distinction between substance and accidents. Everybody assumes that there is some kind of substratum of reality that exist beyond what we can perceive that there are real essences for Play-Doh those essences were the ideas that are the eternal ideas for Aristotle, they inhere in objects themselves, but whether you're a Platonists or an Aristotelian, you still have some concept of substance. Some ontology, some sense of being, but Kant is saying you never have a perception of substance you never have a sensation of essence or of being all that we can perceive are the external manifestations of these things as so we can't know what that essences in fact we cant even know that there is an essence that underlies these perceptions that doesn't mean that he didn't believe in essences or in substances. What he saying is we can't know them is agnostic about them and that science cannot learn anything about essences so we module abandon any pursuit of it.

And metaphysics becomes more and more speculative and less and less scientific as long as it's trying to go to the matter realm to the realm beyond physics into the metaphysical realm, trying to get to this essence not remember our study in the history of philosophy began with Thales and with the ancient quest for ultimate reality. Basically what Kant is saying here is that that quest that is going on from time immemorial is a fools errand.

You can't get there from here. Well, what about the self remembered Descartes came to conclusion that the one thing he knew with absolute certainty was that he existed. I think therefore I am now constant yes but in order to get there. He's assuming a causal relationship between his thinking and his being and he still never has a sensation or a perception of his own self so that the self is something that is speculated by Descartes on the basis of a logical deduction from his thought.

Now come back to that logical deduction element for moment but can't coined a phrase to describe our knowledge of the self and it was the phrase the transcendental apperception of the ego.

This is one of the reasons why people who are trained in philosophy have a very difficult time reading a manual caught because he seems to be fond of creating a whole new vocabulary in a whole new language. What in the world is a transcendental apperception of this ego well. Again, this is kind of an intuitive thing. We have a sort of you gotta have a sort of immediate intuitive awareness of yourself as a self it's not something that you can know theoretically you just go with it for like the pure intuitions of space and time that I mentioned earlier, but you can't penetrate to the core of the being of the person all you are left with our sensations and observe behavioral patterns and that sort of thing. You can't really get to know the self because the self remains unknowable in the theoretical sense, but when we look at this division between the noumenal world and the phenomenal world is not so much the self and the essences that have created the consternation as a result of constant agnosticism. It's the third concept, the notion of God. Now Kant grew up in a religious home and he professed a certain belief in the existence of God, but he said that we cannot prove the existence of God with rational or scientific arguments.

He said that the traditional arguments, the teleological argument, which was the one that impressed him the most, which was the argument from design that is that this world manifests an incredible pattern of design and purpose and harmony and such design points to a cosmic designer. How can you possibly have design without a designer and can't do.

His deathbed was very much impressed with that argument, but he said it wasn't conclusive because were not sure that that design is not something that we are adding to this experience that were happening. Maybe we are the ones who are imposing design with our own minds and is not something that were simply encountering but the other arguments. The cosmological argument and the ontological argument are usually distinguished from one another and the cosmological argument usually means that you reason back to the existence of God as the first cause for the world that we perceive and that is based upon cause and effect or on the law of causality. So we reason back from this finite contingent world back to an infinite and independent eternal self existent being as we've seen with Thomas Aquinas. You remember when we had a brief look at Anselm that Anselm posed his version of the ontological argument and the ontological argument of Anselm was recast both by Descartes and then by a later philosopher by the name of Christian Wolf and Christian Wolf was the one that can't critique most sharply, and he basically says this that all of the arguments for the existence of God in the final analysis, come back to the ontological argument their arguments from being and he says that is, Kant says that existence is not an attribute, and that fundamentally made the same argument against the ontological argument that God hello did I guess Anselm's argument that in terms of the idea of God. There is no difference between the idea of a fictional God and the idea of an existing God member when Anselm said God is that which no greater than can be conceived as an gone elusive hey I have this imaginary island.

The most perfect doll in conceivable just because I can conceive of a perfect island does not mean that that island actually exists in reality and Anselm replied by saying well that's true with respect islands, but were talking here about the most perfect being, and that being cannot be conceived as not being because of your thinking about is not being you're not really thinking of what were talking about here. Wolcott talked again about this difference between 100 guilders are golden hundred dollars imaginary dollars in 100 real dollars in terms of the idea of dollars. There's no difference is still the same idea of a dollar whether it exists or doesn't exist and so he rejected ontological arguments for God and at the same time rejected the cosmological argument for God because he said even though he was committed to the law of non-contradiction and the law of causality that are necessary to his categories to order the sensations that we have the assumption that is made by classical theists is that those categories that work and are necessary transcendental. He to sort out sensations in this world like the law, causality, and the law of non-contradiction, without which you can't sort out this massive sensations that you have. How do we know that we can transfer those things to the metaphysical realm.

Just because a raindrop requires a cause doesn't mean that we can move from the phenomenal world where causality works and jump over this to the noumenal world because we have no perception of it, no sensation, not to buttress his critique of classical theism. He also set up a case of what he calls antinomies.

He says if you argue philosophically for the existence of God, you run into irreconcilable contradictions where you can talk about free will or sovereignty issues of that kind and one school of thought argues for the ultimacy of human freedom.

The other one for the ultimacy of sovereignty and those two are incompatible.

And so that rational speculation leads you ultimately to contradictions and because these antinomies persist in philosophical speculation about God. You can't really know which one of the poles of the contradiction is true or even if you can apply logic to this supra-metaphysical world is because it applies here in this realm, what are you does not mean that it must apply appear so with logic, causality, intuition, all of the things that we have we can get over this wall not much of subsequent philosophy is an attempt to smash that wall down or somehow to get around the wall to recover and to restore a ground basis for metaphysics and/or for theology. I've often said, for example, the Paul in Romans one argues that God is known.

He is known through the creature through the creation through the things that are made. Kant is saying you cannot know that God exists from the phenomenal realm. Now I say this if I can be transcendental for second if caught is right then. Manifestly, Paul is wrong and if Paul is right, then Kant is made an error and I'm obviously convinced that Paul is right and what I have been a stick in the mud with respect to classical apologetics is that I'm saying that the task of the Christian philosopher in our day is the mark. This won't and not just lie down and play dead at the feet of caught but many theologians have abandoned natural reason and natural theology altogether because of the Kantian critique now quickly in the time that we have left though. Can't says we cannot know the existence of God through theoretical thought. In addition to his critique of pure reason.

He also wrote his critique of practical reason. Where where he kicked God out of the front door of the philosopher's house. He ran around to the side door into the kitchen door and try to sneak God back in the back door because he said even though we can't know God theoretically, for all practical purposes, we must assume the existence of God. God's existence is a practical necessity and to show that he developed his moral argument for the existence of God and again following his transcendental method is probably all heard of Kant's theories with respect to ethics where he talks about the famous concept of the categorical imperative kind of Kant's version of the Golden rule.

He says that it is the experience of people to realize that everybody has some sense of hotness some sense of duty or what we would say in simple terms, some sense of right and wrong. Now again is not going to argue psychologically for this were some psychologist might commit and say, well, the reason for that is the because the whole world spin become neurotic. As a result of Queen Victoria or the Puritans or whatever and that's why we have this troubled consciences client wasn't looking at this from a psychological perspective again. He's approach is the question transcendental a circuit.

We all have this moral sense.

This categorical imperative and absolute sense of duty to do what is right and asked this question, what would have to be true for that to be meaningful. Or put another way, what would have to be true for ethics to be meaningful and bottom line. What he concludes is there has to be a God as Dostoyevsky mentioned later if there is no God. All things are permissible because without an absolute standard of righteousness, then all ethics become our personal preferences either of the individual or of the group who is in power, but for ethics to be meaningful. Ultimately there has to be a standard and basically caught reasons this way for ethics to be meaningful. Ultimately, there must be justice because of in the final analysis, the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer an injustice prevails. There is no practical reason to seek to be ethical because crime pays and justice doesn't so for ethics to be meaningful. The first necessary condition is justice will then he asked the question what would be necessary for justice to be real. Obviously we live in a world that's topsy-turvy. It's upside down and justice does not always prevail. So, for there to be ultimate justice, something else must happen. There must be life after death. You have to survive the grave. There has to be a personal continuity of consciousness or you can never experience the full measure of justice will suppose you do survive the grave. Is that enough to ensure justice know there has to be a judgment and that judgment must be perfect and for there to be perfect judgment and perfect justice. There must be a perfect judge and in the perfections of that judge. That judge must know all the facts of the case all the mitigating circumstances, he has to have a perfect understanding of every transaction before him. If he's going to give a perfect verdict. But not only must he have all knowledge, but he must be righteous because you can have a judge who knows all the facts abutting still corrupt and could be susceptible to the broad list judge has to be impeccable in his character, but even that's not enough to guarantee justice because he must also have the power to implement is justice. He must have the power to enforce the laws of justice and as you can see before you know it you have an omnipotent, omniscient, righteous and holy judge judging people and he says without that there can be no grounds for ethics will, of course, he said, for practical purposes for civilization to survive. We must live as if there is a God.

The course the next generation. The Nietzsche's of this world came up and said okay.

Ethics aren't meaningful. There is no God.

Ethics are meaningless. Civilization is a joke. Let's face it, bite the bullet and that's where we are trying to be suspended between the meaningful and the meaningless.

As long as that wall is there. The only thing you have is the next substantial no hope that maybe some things out there and if you jump into the abyss may be, God will catch that's Dr. RC Sproul from his series on the history of philosophy. It's a series we call the consequences of ideas you're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Thursday were glad you joined us and we web as we examine the ideas of Immanuel Kant today. I think it became obvious why Dr. scrolls all the importance of studying these philosophers can't live hundreds of years ago, but as I mentioned at the beginning of our program's ideas influence our culture even in ways that we can't even imagine. Christians need to know how to counter these views this series by Dr. scrolls a great place to start in 35 messages provides an overview of philosophy, highlighting some of the most influential thinkers from Socrates and Plato to the human marks, Nietzsche, and in many others would like to send you this nine DVD set that just give a donation of any amount to litigator ministries you can give your donation online when you go to Renewing Your or you can simply call us at 800-435-4343 studying these philosophies can be a taxing exercise. No doubt it requires us to think and to think deeply. But as believers in Christ, we are called to do exactly that we here at dinner ministries are here to help you as you continue your study. If you reach a sticking point and need some help in figuring out a theological issue. You can always reach out to ask Liggett here. This is one of our newest resources. Trained team members are standing by to answer your theological questions 24 hours a day six days a week. You can get started. When you go to ask.Liggett Actually that's what will be talking about tomorrow here on the program Dr. scrolls wanted to flood the country with particular Christians who know how to think and ask legionnaire is one of those way, my colleague Nathan W.

Bingham will be joining us here in the studio. We hope you will be with us tomorrow. Here on Renewing Your Mind

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