As I previously mentioned in my last blog post, my primary task thus far this semester has been to look at Immanuel Kant’s seemingly unique interpretation of the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13) in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. This interpretation is distinct within the larger context of Kant’s work, as the steward acts according to self-interest, rather than out of respect for the moral law, yet he still is commended and gains heavenly reward. As such, Kant has to interpret the parable rather unexpectedly in order to make the parable align with his very strict black and white notions of morality. To see if there is any precedent for Kant’s unanticipated interpretation within the Christian exegetical tradition, I have been reviewing numerous texts and series in an attempt to become familiar with the existing interpretations.
This has proven to be a bit more difficult than I previously expected. Since we are attempting to discover if any said precedent in fact exists within the Christian exegetical tradition, it can be a bit discouraging to pour over volumes of books and not really find anything. Most of the instances of citations I have found of the parable have just been passing references, so it would appear, at least for the time being, that no such precedent exists. However, since there is a seemingly limitless amount of literature to review that could perhaps mention the parable, it is a bit difficult to definitively say that no such interpretation exists. Fortunately, the Luke edition of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, which I have been long awaiting from the New York Public Library’s Inter-Library Loan service, has finally arrived at the library. This particular book will be quite helpful in letting me know if there is anything notable with regards to the parable that I may have happened to overlook.
I am quite excited to continue (and eventually complete) my work, and to present to my peers at the showcase. This entire experience has been very productive and I have learned quite a lot, not only in relation to what I’m researching, but how to research (such as research methods and writing an abstract). I think this knowledge will be quite valuable throughout the remainder of my time at Pace.
This new semester brings along with it new objectives for our research project. My professor, Dr. Miller, has completed his infinitely helpful manuscript, titled Kant’s Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason: A Reader’s Guide. As such, my responsibilities of reading Kant’s original text and Dr. Miller’s reading guide are completed. Though the finalization of the manuscript was slightly delayed, I believe it was necessary and allowed the manuscript to realize its full potential. I am profoundly proud and happy for my professor for the realization of what was certainly a time-consuming and challenging endeavor and I am exceedingly honored to have had the opportunity to provide him with assistance and feedback.
As the prodigious task of finishing the manuscript is now concluded, we have the opportunity to explore some new possible areas of research. As of now, one idea for this semester that we are currently examining is analyzing Kant’s exceptional interpretation of the Parable of the Unjust Steward, as I mentioned in my previous student blog. Specifically, we will be exploring if there is any precedent for this interpretation in the Christian exegetical tradition. Currently, I am conducting reviews of prior interpretations of the parable that I have been able to locate at locations such as the New York Public Library. Though becoming more familiarized with such an enormous library was quite a daunting task, it has been one of the more “fun” challenges in my research that I’ve encountered thus far. Additionally, we expect to receive word within the next few weeks as to whether or not the paper that we submitted for the North American Kant Society Conference in Philadelphia was accepted. I am excited to continue working this semester, as it seems that our research plans provide quite a bit more leeway than those of last semester.
Thus far, our research project has been progressing fairly close to the projection rate. I have completed reading both prefaces and Part I & II of Immanuel Kant’s Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, and I am currently working on reading Part III. The prefaces primarily establish that although religion is not necessary for morality, religion is a method of reconciling ethical behavior with a rewarding consequence (happiness in proportion to our deservedness). Part I concerns the demonstration of the natural radical evil within the human being, with a fair amount of attention given to resolving the discord between Kant’s conception of morality only being legitimate through free choice and the human being’s natural propensity to evil. In Part II, Kant analyzes the personification of the good principle, its objective reality, and the extent to which a human being could follow such an ideal as an example, if at all. Additionally, I have read the corresponding sections of Dr. Miller’s reading guide for the text, and provided appropriate feedback.
In anticipation of next semester’s objectives, I will soon begin reviewing this text for evidence in order to further develop our hypothesis. Specifically, I will be searching for examples that may potentially substantiate the claim that Kant’s Religion is an esoteric text that utilizes subtle textual strategies in order to conceal his intended message from religious censors in eighteenth-century Prussia. In addition, we will begin analyzing Kant’s unique interpretation of the Parable of the Unjust Steward. Our intention is to determine whether or not there is any precedent for said interpretation in the Christian exegetical tradition.
In conclusion, I have learned quite a lot concerning Kant’s philosophical arguments made in Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason this semester, and I look forward to our continued work.
Our research project, titled Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason: A Reader’s Guide, does exactly what the title suggests: provides readers with a guide to understanding Immanuel Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. The goal is to present advanced undergraduate as well as beginner graduate students a comprehensive explanation of the text, in addition to commentary. While my professor is writing the reading guide, my job is to examine his work in order to provide him with helpful feedback. As a member of his target audience, I can help him accurately determine which areas of the text a student is most likely to find particularly challenging. Furthermore, I am aiding in the compilation of a bibliography, mostly by locating and reviewing scholarly articles to be included.
Through this research project, I hope to gain an in-depth understanding of Kant’s religious philosophy. This will hopefully allow us to work on additional articles throughout the second semester. Moreover, on a personal level, I am hoping to further refine my reading skills. Kant’s writing is notoriously troublesome; by first reading Kant’s text independently, I am afforded the opportunity to cultivate my abilities to comprehend challenging literature. I often find myself realizing why such a reading guide is necessary throughout the process of reading such a frustrating text. Overall, I hope to aid in the development of published secondary literature for the purpose of helping fellow students.