13th International Kant Congress
In the account of a critically disciplined religion that Kant presents in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, he accords significance to the “Son of God” (the term he uses to refer to Jesus in this text) as a function of the moral accountability that human agents have for the good and for the evil that issues from their conduct. Such accountability, as Kant tersely puts it, bears most notably upon the shaping of one’s moral character through an entire life: “The human being must make or have made himself into whatever he is or should become in a moral sense, good or evil” (RGV AA 06: 44). This accountability stems from autonomy, the capacity for moral self-governance that is central to Kant’s construal of human freedom as an exercise of practical reason; he thus continues, “These two [characters] must be an effect of his free power of choice, for otherwise they could not be imputed to him and, consequently, he could neither be morally good nor evil” (RGV AA 06: 44). This insistence on the moral accountability that issues from the autonomy of human reason is basic to the articulation of two fundamental claims that Kant’s critical construal of religion then makes about the moral import of the life and death of Jesus.
Rossi, Philip, "The Ethical Commonwealth, the "Son of God," and the Social Empowerment of Human Freedom" (2019). Theology Faculty Research and Publications. 847.
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