Does Tillich Have A Hidden Debt To Kant?


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After briefly recounting a strange, quasi-mystical experience I had while first reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, I devote most of this article to exploring various similarities between theories Kant developed and ideas more commonly associated with Paul Tillich. Hints are drawn from Chris Firestone’s book, Kant and Theology at the Boundaries of Reason, which argues that my interpretation of Kant echoes themes in Tillich’s ontology. Among the themes whose Kantian roots I explore are Tillich’s theories of: God as the Ground of Being; faith as ultimate concern; courage as the proper life-choice in the face of the anxiety that naturally arises out of an honest response to the human situation, given our fundamental alienation from the divine; the crucial role of cultural symbols in bringing faith into historically realistic expressions; political forms as ideally self-negating; and love as a gift that we must express with power and justice in order to be efficacious. After considering whether Kant influenced Tillich more than Tillich ever admitted, I conclude by wondering if my own effort to develop an “affirmative” interpretation of Kant’s theory of religion may have itself had a hidden influence from my prior reading of Tillich.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-88
JournalJournal of Philosophical Theological Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


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