Wood (1970) convincingly argues that Kant’s notion of moral faith is a response to a “dialectical perplexity” or antinomy. Specifically, moral faith is a response to the threat of moral despair. In line with this suggestion, I make the case that moral faith is the resolution of a crisis about how to go on with one’s life in the face of the threat of moral despair. If this is right, then we have a potential solution to two related anxieties: (1) why the matter of our moral faith or despair deserves to be a topic of practical philosophy instead of empirical psychology, and (2) how despair could be a real threat even though Kant holds that rational beings could never truly lack faith. But, to fully see how these concerns can be answered, we must go beyond Wood’s initial analysis. I first argue that Kant’s philosophy suggests two kinds of moral faith: external and internal. I then argue that internal moral faith is analogous to self-contentment (Selbstzufriedenheit) in the second Critique’s practical antinomy. Together, these arguments suggest that moral faith is a response to a real threat of moral despair, and that both dialectically require one another within practical reason.
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