Commentary Magazine

Article Preview

Kant and Judaism

- Abstract

PHILOSOPHY HAS always questioned revelation in general and revealed morality in particular. But no philosopher prior to Kant found it necessary to inquire whether all revealed morality might be less than truly moral simply by virtue of being revealed: that is to say, whether all revealed morality might be a contradiction in terms.

The most radical objection to revealed morality made by pre-Kantian philosophy was against the claim of some theologians that revelation is the sole source of our knowledge of moral law. Philosophy was forced to reject this claim. For to be obligated to any law, a man must be able to know that law; and yet, on the admission of the theologians themselves, revealed moral law is accessible only to those who possess the revealed Scriptures. This objection, however, by no means amounts to a rejection of revealed morality. In the eyes of philosophy, a law to qualify as moral must, in addition to being knowable, also be universally obligatory. Therefore, the pre-Kantian objection to revealed morality merely requires religion to provide for an access to revealed law-or rather, to the moral part of it- that is universally human and independent of revelation. If religion can do this, pre-Kantian philosophy is prepared to accept revealed law as moral.

About the Author