Kant’s Critique of Mysticism: (2) The Critical Mysticism

Stephen R. Palmquist

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    This is the second of a series of two articles examining Kant’s attitude toward mystical experiences and the relation between his interest in these and his interest in constructing a Critical System of metaphysics. “The Critical Mysticism” explores the extent to which Kant’s writings prior to his Opus Postumum (and not including [DREAMS]) contain a more developed theory of mystical experience. Traditionally Kant has been regarded as against all brands of mysticism. This arises partly from his narrow use of “mystical,” but primarily from a misunderstanding by commentators of his statements concerning the possibility of supersensible experience. The latter misunderstanding can be easily corrected by clearly distinguishing between “immediate experience” and experience in Kant’s technical sense of “empirical knowledge.” Kant never denies the possibility of an immediate ex-perience of supersensible reality, but only the supposition that such experiences can establish empirical knowledge. The character of his Critical mysticism can be discerned, even without examining Kant’s Opus Postumum (which was to describe fully his Critical mysticism). For on numerous occasions he explains the two respects in which an immediate supersensible experience is not only acceptable, but supports and is supported by his Critical System. The mysteries of nature and the moral law provide the two sides of Kant’s mystical coin, both in theory and in the discipline of his own life.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)67-94
    Number of pages28
    JournalPhilosophy and Theology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 1989


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