Reason Suppresses Feelings? Or Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques – Revised 27 June 2018

Here is a pdf version with footnotes (rather than endnotes) and page numbers:  Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Critiques June 2018

Reason Suppresses Feelings? Or Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Originally Presented at Stellenbosch University
in Stellenbosch, South Africa,
24 April 2017
Revised 27 June 2018

Reason Suppresses Feelings?[1]
Moses Mendelssohn’s Influence on Kant’s Project of Three Critiques

Abstract:  A common claim is that the proper functioning of reason requires the suppression of feelings because feelings are a debilitating, merely subjective pathology that cloud and/or distort clear thinking.  Frequently, as well, it is claimed that Enlightenment reason’s suppression of feelings is exemplified by Kant.  This paper proposes to the contrary that a more appropriate understanding of the role of feelings (not emotions, generally) for Kant’s Critical Idealism, rather than being a pathological hindrance to reason, as well as an understanding of the centrality of the third Critique is served by examining Section VII of Mendelssohn’s Morgenstunden. The feelings of awe and respect are positive and ubiquitous to theoretical and practical reason as they, not by their content but by their function, motivate creativity and the assumption of moral accountability for the decisions driving, and the actions deriving from, such creativity.

On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence (6 pages)

Pdf version with page numbers and footnotes (not endnotes): On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence

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On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence[1]

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being developed by leaps and bounds, and it is accomplishing tasks that were once thought to be uniquely the domain of human intelligence.  Some are raising concerns about the implications of this technology not with respect to what it can accomplish but with respect to what it means for understanding humanity.  No less a public figure than Henry A. Kissinger has sounded an alarm in The Atlantic with “How the Enlightenment Ends:

Philosophically, intellectually—in every way—human society is unprepared for the rise of artificial intelligence.[2]”  One can respond to this “crisis” by assuming that AI exhausts what constitutes “reason” in order to desperately seek a niche for humanity, or one can question whether what is taken to be “Enlightenment reason” has so truncated the meaning of reason that reason is left impotent in the face of the power of AI.

The irony here is that Kissinger’s reflections demonstrate what happens when a reductionist, socially constructed understanding of reason is allowed to dominate the discussion of “intelligence.”  The result is that the meaning of reason is readily reduced to pragmatic, instrumental reason informed by “analytical” critique of merely empirical data to the exclusion of what makes humanity a “rational” being in the first place – because this reductionist version is the kind of reason that we have come to elevate above everything when it comes to serving our interests.  In short, a misanthropic understanding of reason  is mistakenly viewed as a threat to human reason.

What follows proposes that we question the assumptions beneath the prevalent, anti-Enlightenment rhetoric concerning rationality not to undermine the clearly productive benefits of AI but to retrieve a far broader and beneficial understanding of reason.   This kind of “critique” (not merely analytical criticism) allows the identification of the limits to AI that, at least potentially, can illuminate a pathway through the thick and murky undergrowth of uncertainty and the fear that AI will one-day replace humanity’s role in the hierarchy of being.

In other words, in face of the purported collapse of Enlightenment Reason and its impotency over against the developments of AI, one can either join the dirge celebrating the death of reason for its being an arrogant human triumphalism or one can question whether what today is taken to be Enlightenment Reason is an adequate grasp of the discussion of reason at the end of the 18th century.  Succinctly, what “is” is not necessarily what “ought to be,” and the very exercise of investigating why “what is” is not necessarily what “ought to be” demonstrates the power of language both to confound and confuse as well as to illuminate and inform – even empower humanity individually and corporately.

A ‘Practicing’ Kantian 31 March 2018 (2 Pages)

Pdf version with page numbers:  A Practicing Kantian

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A „Practicing Kantian“

  1. Understands that every creature has LIMITS, physically and intellectually, that keep one humble.
  2. Understands that each and every human being (regardless of physical or mental limits) possesses a spark of creativity of some kind in some region of experience that is capable of INTENTIONALLY changing nature/the world in ways that nature/the world cannot change on its own.
  3. Understands that this spark of creativity is the basis of the individual’s capability to assume RESPONSIBILITY for her/his decisions/actions unlike any other species of which we are aware – although it is possible intentionally to suppress the assumption of responsibility, to have it “beaten out” of one, or can be ignored a desperate circumstance.
  4. Understands that this spark of CREATIVITY is the basis of HUMAN DIGNITY that cannot be given or taken away much less substituted for something or someone else.
  5. Understands that the issue is not “who” but “how” we respect the dignity of others that matters. We should neither allow ourselves nor the other TO BE TREATED AS A MERE MEANS FOR OUR OR SOMEONE ELSE’S ENDS BUT ALWAYS AS AN END in themselves.
  6. Understands that when one decides and acts on the basis of one’s dignity and responsibility – even when one does so contrary to what appears to be one’s self-interest, one experiences a sense of “MORAL WORTH” and a “FEELING OF BEING ALIVE” that is superior to monetary wealth, public applause, and even health.
  7. This acknowledgement of dignity REJECTS ALL DE-HUMANIZATION BASED ON THE EXTERNAL APPEARANCES AND ACTIONS OF OTHERS (e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, religious intolerance, etc.).
  8. Understands that there are TWO SYSTEMS OF LAWS that we must assume govern all experience, for without these there is no understanding or responsibility: PHYSICAL LAWS AND MORAL LAWS.
  9. Understands that part of our intellectual limits is our inability to causally explain the origin of or to prove or disprove that these two systems of laws apply at all times and all places. They are a NECESSARY ASSUMPTION (faith) for us to live and thrive.
  10. Understands that these two systems of physical and moral laws are NEITHER THE CIVIC LAW that govern the negotiation of a social world NOR TECHNICAL AND PRAGMATIC RULES that govern the acquisition and exercising of skills but the “lawful orders” required “below” (in nature) and “above” (in the individual) them by even the civic law, technical-. and pragmatic for the achievement of justice according to the civic law and the responsible application of technical and pragmatic skills.
  11. Understands that NOT EVERYTHING THAT IS “RIGHT” IS “MORAL.” Life is not a system of repressive, mechanical legalities but a project of spirited and creative transformations that can embrace the unexpected precisely by affirming dignity.
  12. Understands that when acknowledgement for physical and moral laws are combined with human dignity by the individual, s/he deserves the HIGHEST RESPECT of others – although it is impossible for us to know the internal principles upon which another has chosen to act.
  13. Understands that when we step outside our limits to give an explanation of things for which we are incapable of accounting, WE STORM THE CITADEL OF DIVINITY AND BECOME THE MOST DANGEROUS SPECIES ON EARTH.
  14. Understands that, although everyone is capable and does lie, LYING IS WRONG not just because it deceives the other but because it erodes the individual’s internal consistency upon which all “proper” understanding and action depends.
  15. Understands that the committing of SUICIDE out of shame or financial collapse IS THE APPLICATION OF ONE’S OWN CREATIVE SPARK TO DESTROY ITSELF, the ultimate contradiction of human dignity with all the devastating shock waves that the destruction of dignity sends out through one’s world.
  16. Understands that all human capacities as well as the very universe are a GIFT, that each individual is PRICELESS (i.e., incapable of being substituted by some-one or some-thing else – including technology), that we all have a responsibility to MAINTAIN OUR HEALTH as much as our decisions influence it, to DEVELOP OUR TALENTS, and to RESPOND TO THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS – with the limit that we ourselves don’t end up requiring the aid of others because of our own generosity.
  17. Understands that we are RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT and THE PROPER TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, not capriciously sovereign over them for the mere purpose of serving our self-interest.
  18. Understands that no one is or can be perfect, but that we have an obligation to ourselves, others, and the universe TO MAKE OUR BEST EFFORT, which only the individual can know for sure, TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER TO DO SO, AND TO AFFIRM AND SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER TO THE EXTENT THAT WE CAN DISCERN THAT S/HE HAS.

Just as a “practicing Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Taoist, Shinto (not to speak of the Aboriginist religions of the world and all of the sub-sects of religion)” etc., does not require a personal grasp of the intricacies of “theology” or “religious teaching” much less a command of the ritual and history of the respective tradition involved, so too, a “practicing Kantian” does not require a grasp of Kant’s notions of “theoretical” and “practical” reason, determining and reflecting judgment, and aesthetics (beauty and the sublime) with all of their esoteric jargon.

At the risk of sinking into jargon …, Kant wrote in the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge ed., 193; AA VI, 443-444):

[…] we have a duty with regard to what lies entirely beyond the limits of our experience but whose possibility is met with [only] in our ideas, for example, the idea of God; it is called the duty of religion, the duty ‘of recognizing all our duties as […] divine commands.’  But this is not consciousness of a duty [owed] to God […] Rather, it is a duty of a human being to himself [sic.] to apply this idea, which presents itself unavoidably to reason, to the moral law in him, where it is of the greatest moral fruitfulness.  In this (practical) sense it can therefore be said that to have religion is a duty of the human being to himself.

In short, religion is concerned with “faith” in the reality of the physical law without and the moral law within, and its aim is to make us “better” human beings – not to guarantee our happiness in this or some other life.  In this respect, there is only “one” religious faith although there are many religious traditions.

The Human Spirit: Groundwork

Co-authored with James R. Cochrane (Available as of January 2018)

Title Page, Endorsements, Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, Preface, and Introduction:

Click Here

Available as Kindle e-book at  The link to download the free Kindle App in order to read Kindle e-books on a PC (or other media) is

The e-book is in pdf format, which gives page numbers that make citations accurate.

Theology and Revolution -The 1839 Zurich Revolution: A Reader in the History of Theology for the Theology of History 2 January 2018

The 1839 political revolution in Zurich, Switzerland, provides a view not only of an early, yet still relevant, clash between the natural sciences and populist religion but also of the value of distinguishing between a so-called, empirical history of theology and a Kantian theology of history.  Despite all the developments in New Testament criticism since 1835, David Friedrich Strauß’ The Life of Jesus Critically Examined continues to be valuable for insights into the gospel narratives — particularly, the issue of the understanding of miracles in the gospels.  Furthermore, Strauß’ shift from a far-Left-Wing Hegelian Speculative Theology to a Kantian Practical Religion indicates the value of the Copernican Turn in theology even for today.

This book-length project includes the translation of two historical accounts (one official, the other partisan), street pamphlets, newspaper articles, official governmental reports, and public letters pro and con as well as an overview of the political, religious, and scientific context, and presentation of the shift in David Friedrich Strauß’ theological understanding between the 1835 The Life of Jesus Critically Examined and 1864 The Life of Jesus Prepared for the German People that allow the identification of a Copernican Turn in his theological understanding.  The final chapters are samples of the significance for today of the theology of history for the understanding of humanity, the interface between religion and science, and the general study of religion.  The project ends with the “Report on the Activity of the Aid Society for the Good of the Victims of 6 September 1839” that documents the lasting effects of the uprising.

Project Overview:

Precise for 1839 Zurich Revolution



Table of Contents

Works Cited

Original German Materials in the Order of Their Appearance (List in Table of Contents):

Schultheß, Aufzeichnungen über die Straußische Bewegung und den 6. September 1839

Beschreibung des 6. Herbstmonats 1839 in Zürich

Paulus, Ueber theologische Lehrfreiheit

de Wette, Dr. Strauß und die Züricher Kirche

Strauß darf und soll nicht kommen!!

Strauß, Sensschreiben an die … Herren Bürgermeister Hirzel, Prof. Orelli und Prof Hitzig in Zürich

Antwort eines Laien auf das Sendschreiben des Hrn. D. Strauss an Hirzel, Orelli und Hitzig

Henne, Sendschreiben an den Großen Rath des Kantons Zürich

Meyer, Der Werth des geschriebenen Wortes an Henne

Kottinger, Doktor Strauß und seine Lehre. Ein freies Wort an die freien Züricher

Wirth, An dem Verfasser der Schrift: “Doctor Strauss und seine Lehre,” und das Zürichische Volk

Scherr, Ein freies und belehrendes Sendschreiben des züricherischen Seminardirektors an die Herren

Bericht über die Wirksamkeit des Hülfvereins zum Besten der am 6. September 3829 Verunglückten

Critical Idealism’s Defense of Investment in the Liberal Arts: Precise

Critical Idealism’s Defense of Investment
in the Liberal Arts:  Precise

Doug McGaughey

Welcome to Critical Idealism!

A Critical Idealist begins by asking what are the (usually, unquestioned) presuppositions of the issue at hand.  Appropriately, in my humble opinion, the usual defense of the Liberal Arts builds on issues of change, skills, knowledge, and creativity.  However, these terms are employed as if they are self-evident.  Maybe they’re not self-evident!


Succinctly, rather than acquiring skills in order to create, we are a creating species that must acquire skills – our instincts are so lousy.  The symbolic (figurative language) and responsibility (morality) are not after-thoughts or “frosting-on-the-cake” but at the very core of what it means to be and become human.  Creativity, the symbolic, and morality all require education because they are not “natural.”

The Petri Dish Only Confirms that Kant was Correct: Or Technical, Teleological, and Practical ‘Purposiveness’ in Science and Morality – Revised 23 July 2017

The linked paper was presented at the “Religion, Society, and the Science of Life” conference to be held at the Ian Ramsey Centre at St. Anne’s College in Oxford, England, 21 July 2017

The paper is a direct response to the “Call for Papers” that claims that Kant has been contradicted by scientific progress:

“’There will never be a Newton for the blade of grass,’ Kant wrote in 1784, a quarter-century before the birth of Charles Darwin, and less than a half-century before the first synthesis of an organic compound in a laboratory. Life is an object of science, but an object like no other, presenting an unparalleled field of complexity and intricacy. A single cell contains an entire world. Biology is changing, with increasing recognition of how context influences even the most basic processes. This is why the science of life is distinctive among the sciences using history, narrative, and teleological explanations. All of this sets up fascinating resonances with the humanities. Can a convergence between the humanities and biology—from Darwin and Lamarck to holism and epigenetics—shed light on human societies, narratives, and religions? This interdisciplinary conference (a joint venture between the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion and the International Society for Science and Religion) will explore the implications of the life sciences for religion, values, morality, education, and meaning.”

Pdf format:  The Petri Dish only Confirms that Kant was Correct


“Was Kant a Racist?” with Addendum on South Sea Islanders 01 May 2017 – Rejection of Slavery, Colonialism, the Inhumane Treatment of Animals, and Wanton Destruction of the Environment

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Was Kant a Racist? Can Critical Idealism Contribute to Combating Racism? With an Addendum: On South Sea Islanders in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

PDF VERSION (with page #s):  Was Kant a Racist with Addendum on South Sea Islanders Revised 10 April 18

Revised 10 April 2018 with the addition of documentation of Kant’s explicit rejection of slavery as well as rejection of colonialism, the inhumane treatment of animals, and call for the protection of the environment (page 12 and two first footnotes).

Revised 20 January 2017 with the addition of a quote (page 17 below) from the Metaphysics of Morals (AA VI, 467-468):  The statement here by Kant constitutes an explicit rejection not only of racism, ageism, sexism, power or weakness, status and prestige (e.g., aristocracy) as criteria for judging others, but it is also an implicit rejection of homophobia, nationalism, populism, and any other criteria for judging others, which are all based on merely empirical criteria of “theoretical reason” to the entire neglect of the capacities and moral significance of “practical reason.”  Thanks to Birgit Recki who cited the second of the two paragraphs of this “Remark” from the MM for a very different but equally laudable purpose in her Ästhetik der Sitten. Die Affinität von ästhetischem Gefühl und praktischer Vernunft bei Kant (Frankfurt a.M.:  Vittorio Klostermann, 2001):  255, n. 43.


Was Kant a Racist?
Can Critical Idealism Contribute to Combating Racism?

With an Addendum:  On South Sea Islanders in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

Overview: In which Kant’s comments on race are discussed in light of his philosophy of history, critiques of theoretical and practical reason, and his biological reflections on “evolution.” Humanity is seen as the “ultimate end” of nature. Although this sounds anthropocentric and suggests the justification of the indiscriminate exploitation of nature, it is manifest not by means of a culture of “skill”, but by a culture that promotes the individual’s assumption of moral responsibility for her/his decisions and actions.

“Critique, not Emotionless, Critical Thinking” – Revised 04 May 2016

“Critique, Not Emotionless Critical Thinking” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Revised version (04 May 2016) of “‘Critique,’ not ‘Criticism’”(8 March 2016) in response to Rob Jenkins’ “What is Critical Thinking, Anyway?”

Critique, Not Emotionless Critical Thinking

When one encounters the word “critique,” one readily thinks of a negative strategy, frequently of negative dismissal, in the spirit of “criticism,” or perhaps one thinks of emotionless “critical thinking.”   As a consequence, it is easy to miss a profound difference between “critique” and “critical thinking.”  Given the difference in what each does with respect to the phenomena that initiates them, the difference is so great that one can even speak of “critique” as 180 degrees opposite to both “criticism” and “critical thinking.”

Design: A Heuristic Strategy, not a Metaphysical Doctrine 11 July 2008 — Key Paper

Design: A Heuristic Strategy, not Metaphysical Doctrine by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

A Heuristic Strategy, Not Metaphysical Doctrine


Because there’s only indirect access to causes, given effects can be understood to have multiple causes, and the same cause can produce multiple effects, the criterion for the evaluation of a causal explanation is neither empirical proof nor disproof.  Rather, the evaluation must be in terms of the consequences of holding the cause for an adequate explanation of the event.  The Physico-Theological argument for design as a form of cause in nature cannot serve to give us any information about the Noumenon (God) that it presupposes – certainly not any information about anthropomorphic characteristics of that Noumenon.  Rather, its value is to confirm our confidence in the intelligibility (the rule-governed character) of nature in contrast, for example, to the chaos of nocturnal dreams.  To the extent of confidence in this intelligibility, our “explanations” of nature involve necessity, that is, a presumed necessity based upon the functional relationality that accounts for the phenomena.  Because all our capacities both theoretical (science) and practical (religion) are dependent upon the material conditions of experience, this criterion is important not only for the furtherance of the natural scientific enterprise but also for religion.  Drawing on pre-critical and critical writings of Kant, I reject the Naturalistic reading of Kant by P.F. Strawson et al. to argue that Kant’s Critical Idealism is beneficial for an investigating of the meaning and role of design in experience.

On the So-Called Conundrums in Kant’s Philosophical Theology 26 November 2017

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On the So-Called Conundrums in Kant’s Philosophical Theology

Overview: In which three conundrums of Kant’s pure religion—the good will, radical evil, and grace—are addressed, and three strategies employed for understanding the role of the afterlife in religion (noting that pure religion is concerned with the moral improvement in history of the species generally and not merely the moral improvement of the individual). We conclude with an examination of the question of Theodicy in Kant’s pure religion.

A Post-Factual World?

A Post-Factual World? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

A Post-Factual World?

The boogey-man is alive and well in our scientifically “enlightened” age:  Knowledge is profoundly under siege by a threatening relativism called the “post-factual” and “post-truth” world.  Even well-intended proponents of cultural relativism have been seduced by a “world view” that at first appears to be a challenge to all “dogmatisms” but in the end undermines the very confidence in understanding that is necessary for humanity to constructively and responsibly play its role in the order of things.  The consistent relativist, like the radical skeptic, is left with no foot on which to stand to question anything, not least the injustices of her/his own society much less injustices in another society.

Zero Sum or Principles? 13 November 2016

Zero Sum or Principles? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Zero Sum or Principles?[1]

Abstract:  If we refuse to accept materialistic reductionism that makes our social lives exhaustively the product of capricious genetics, the amygdala, and chemicals in the brain like oxytocin, we are the species that can ask what we should do.  By playing a zero sum game,[2] one knows who “won” whereas acting on principle gives one the satisfaction that one tried to do more than “win.” However, here it is claimed that the alternative of a zero sum game and principles represents not an exclusive dyad as if one can pursue one of the options only by exclusion of the other.  Both are symptomatic of humanity’s “radical” evil and “radical” goodness.  We can pursue one or the other only because we have the capacity to do both. Hence, deeper than decline, progress, or stagnation is an understanding of humanity as the source of a causal efficacy that is not reducible to physical causality and, therefore, this suggests that with humanity we find in degree an “openness” in nature that allows for creative change while demanding assumption of moral responsibility for the exercise of humanity’s creative power.

What is ‘Radical Evil?:’ A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion 16 December 2014

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The following paper was presented at at the Society for Ricoeur Studies at the University of Oregon, October 27, 2013

PDF Version:  What is ‘Radical’ Evil? A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion

What is ‘Radical’ Evil?
A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion


What follows I can best describe as a “lover’s quarrel” anchored, for my part, in deep gratitude and respect.  On the one hand, I will strenuously critique Ricoeur’s reading of Kant, particularly with respect to 1) the ontological status of “radical” evil, 2) the anchoring of morality in violence, 3) Ricoeur’s “deliberative,” hence, consequentialist ethic, and 4) his limiting of religion to historical religion.  On the other hand, the “ontology” of his theory of metaphor as well as the centrality of the “productive imagination” in his theory of discourse are applauded vigorously and can be viewed as thoroughly in harmony with the “ground” of Kant’s ethical reflections, “autonomous freedom,” which will be proposed as a more comprehensive “ground” for morality, and a more adequate “ground” for understanding of religion.

Reflections on the Symbol:  A Quasi-Transcendental Assumption that “Gives Rise to Thought”

I begin my investigation of Ricoeur’s reading of Kant by examining the notion of “symbol.”  I will seek to demonstrate that the pre-figuration, which is the symbolic for Ricoeur, functions in a quasi-transcendental sense that makes symbols a posteriori synthetic judgments and, therefore, hypothetical, not, as for Kant, a priori synthetic judgments that are categorical (I will speak to the difference between a posteriori and a priori synthetic judgment below).

Enlightenment: Reflections on Michel Foucault’s “Was ist Aufklärung? [“What is Enlightenment”] 7 February 2016

Reflections on Michel Foucault’s ‘Was ist Aufklärung?'”[1]

At least since the French „Encyclopedists,” the notion of enlightenment has been associated with knowledge of the correct facts.  As a consequence, even Kant’s famous aphorism for labelling enlightenment, Sapere Aude! (Dare to know for oneself!), has been frequently taken to mean:  assume responsibility for your own knowledge of the facts (i.e., don’t trust authorities to be providing you with the true facts)!

On Martha Nussbaum’s Reading of Kant March 31, 2016

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On Martha Nussbaum’s Reading of Kant: Aristotelian Teleology Meets Kantian Archaeology

The following is an email that was sent to Herman Waetjen, Emeritus Professor of the San Francisco Theological Seminary and Berkeley’s GTU.  During a recent visit with him in San Anselmo, Herman shared with me passages from Martha Nussbaum’s Frontiers of Justice that offer her reading of Kant on reason, morality, and humanity’s responsibilities to nature, other species, and the physically and mentally challenged. Herman had written a paper on “The Theology of Animals” for the Spring 2016 meeting of the Pacific Coast Theological Society meeting. His paper is available on-line at the PCTS webpage. This email provides my response to what I take to be a serious but, unfortunately, all too frequent “mis-reading” of Kant.  To be sure, every reading of a text is an interpretation, but that fact is no license to generate any whimsical reading that serves one’s purposes in the moment.  As Paul Ricoeur proposed: A good reading is congruent with the text and generates a plenitude of rich meaning. A poor reading is narrow and far-fetched. In my judgment, Martha Nussbaum’s reading of Kant is incredibly narrow and far-fetched, even if there are powerful voices in the academy today who share her reading.

PhD Dissertation – The University of Chicago Divinity School

The following is Doug’s Dissertation submitted to and accepted by The Divinity School of The University of Chicago in 1983.  The doctoral adviser was Prof. Paul Ricoeur, and the readers were Profs. David Tracy and Langdon Gilkey.

If one’s intellectual life is an odyssey, it would be a shock to look back over thirty-plus years at this dissertation to find myself entirely in agreement with everything in it.  I am by no means shocked.  However, back then I had the “clever” idea that one can establish a parallel between the “metaphor” that functions “at the level of the sentence” and the “symbol” that functions “at the level of the narrative.”  I have since followed Langdon Gilkey’s wise advice to read Ernst Cassirer’s corpus, especially his Philosophie der symbolischen Formen, to learn that I was addressing only a segment of symbols, that is, religious symbols.  In most circumstances, I would be now more comfortable were the reader to substitute “religious symbol” wherever “symbol” occurs. I was unable to find a publisher for this early work (I couldn’t even get a publisher to send it out to readers) so that I am posting it here.  Although I have some reservations, I am arrogant enough to believe that there are elements here that justify its being accessible on-line.

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On the Soteriological Sitnificance of the Symbol of the Kingdom of God in the Language of the Historical Jesus by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Title Page

Table of Contents



Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Selected Bibliography

Critical Idealism: A Brief Introduction

Critical Idealism:  A Brief Introduction

Critical Idealism has been out of favor at least since the Vienna Circle imperially proclaimed in the first third of the Twentieth Century that there are no such things as a priori synthetic judgments.  Because that’s what intellectuals in Europe wanted to hear as they turned away both from religious revelation and from Hegel’s spiritual meta-narrative toward the physical world, few (if any) bothered to ask just what an a priori synthetic judgment was – according to Immanuel Kant.  In fact, the Vienna Circle presupposed precisely what it denied. 

Should Foreign Language Acquisition be Required? 29 December 2016

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Should Foreign Language Acquisition be Required?
29 December 2016

According to today’s NY Times (29 December 2016), Princeton University is making the learning of a new language a mandatory requirement of its General Education program — even for those already proficient in a second language.  I’m commenting here because I don’t have a Facebook account, which the NY Times requires for commenting on their blog.

In our day, it is an incredible privilege as a US citizen to know a second language if you are not an immigrant or from a recently immigrated family.  It is a privilege because foreign languages unlike in almost all other industrialized nations are not required in elementary school, and, increasingly, they are not required in high school even for those intending to go on to college because even colleges are rapidly dropping the requirement. After all, all one needs to get ahead in the world these days is English because the whole world has committed to English as the lingua franca of research and business.  I am among the privileged able to afford two summers at Middlebury College’s Summer German School at the ripe age of 31.  I know full well that the costs in time and money make such an experience simply impossible for most Americans. Continue reading “Should Foreign Language Acquisition be Required? 29 December 2016”

Waetjen on Romans 17 November 2013

Waetjen on Romans: A Hermeneutics of Disclosure and Justice by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

A Hermeneutics of Disclosure and Justice:

A Reading of Herman Waetjen’s The Letter to the Romans:  Salvation as Justice and the Deconstruction of the Law


Herman Waetjen offers a profound reading of Paul that takes as its clue Romans 1:17:  “For (gar) the justice of God (dikaiosynē theou) is being revealed in it [the gospel] out of trust into trust (ek pisteōs eis pistin) even as it is written, ‘The just will live out of trust (ek pisteōs)’.”  What follows understands Herman’s project to be an example of the hermeneutics of disclosure that calls not only the Christian community but also all humanity to do justice in faith/trust.  This paper applauds enthusiastically Herman’s reading of Paul and places it in the context of the relationship between what Kant calls “historical” and “pure” religion.  In short, although one can neither prove nor disprove whether the Christ event involves an ontological change in the human condition that establishes a New Moral Order as an “historical” religion claims, one can unequivocally affirm that a deconstructed (de-mythologized) Paul challenges humanity “to become what we are” in the sense of trusting in the “law that is above law” to pursue justice “this side of the grave.”  Here we have a concrete example of “pure” religion at the core of a “historical” religion and of a New Testament scholar as vanguard engineer of the locomotive of faith rather than leading a rear guard at the back of the train defending “Reformation heresy.”

One World, One Reason, One Faith, but Many Religions: Religious Studies in an Age of Pluralism 7 March 2016

One World, One Reason, One Faith, but Many Religions: Religious Studies in an Age of Pluralism by Douglass R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

One World, One Reason, One Faith, but Many Religions:  Religious Studies in an Age of Pluralism
[With an “Excursus:  The Nihilism of Meaning and Pure Religion”]


Contrary to the popular notion that “all religions are different paths to the same God” this paper proposes that what unites all religion is not God (much less doctrine, ritual, or institutional structure) but the shared physical conditions and creative capacity that constitute humanity’s extraordinary position and responsibilities in the order of things.  Just as the conditions for reason are the same for all, yet reason is manifested differently, there is one religion that involves the communal support of the moral improvement of each individual that is manifested differently in multiple faiths.

On Peace and “Religious” Literacy: A Response to Ulrich Rosenhagen” 14 December 2015

“On Peace and Religious Literacy” by Douglas R. McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

On Peace and „Religious“ Literacy:
A Response to Ulrich Rosenhagen

Not surprisingly, the popular response to religious violence is a call to peaceful understanding of the “other.”  Given the pressing need in our climate of violence to foster the understanding of religion, Ulrich Rosenhagen at the University of Wisconsin in his commentary piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education of December 2, 2015, entitled “The Value of Teaching Religious Literacy” calls for an “immersion” approach that would establish student “learning communities” of various religious confessions sharing the same living and study space.  The goal is “to learn from one another” not “about” one another.  The principle driving this “immersion” model of religious studies is that direct experience of religious differences fosters the cultivation of our common humanity.

Studying Religion: More and Less than Mapping Territories 14 December 2015

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“Studying Religion:  More and Less than Mapping Territories”


Rather than portray Religious Studies by J. Z. Smith’s metaphor of mapping territories, here the metaphor is extended to cover Kant’s description of the human condition as consisting of three regions of experience: fields (Felde), territories (Böden), and domains (Gebiete). All three regions involve clarity of conceptualization.  Fields constitute regions of experience where there is conceptualization without rules (e.g., dreams, fantasies, hallucinations), territories regions where rules are possible but not universal (e.g., civic laws), and domains regions where rules are necessary and universal (e.g., nature and creative freedom). Concerned with all three, RS is grounded in the necessary conditions of possibility for experience where there is self-legislation (because imperceptible) of rules for its understanding and action. This paper contrasts this grounding in domains with eleven territories of RS. Neither a mere perspective on life nor limited to a single region of experience, RS focuses on pure religion at the core of all historical religion.