Steve Palmquist, Hong Kong Baptist University

Could a Kantian “true religion” be grounded on the principles of Dao De Jing?

Although crucial differences undoubtedly exist between Kant’s philosophy and Daoism, the two systems also have some interesting similarities. After noting a few such parallels and sketching the outlines of Kant’s philosophy of religion, this paper focuses on an often-neglected feature of what Kant says is required in order for an ethical commonwealth to become a “true religion”: the human organizers must employ four guiding principles for what Kant calls an “invisible church” (universality, purity, freedom, and unchangeableness). The paper argues that Lao Tzu’s classic text, Dao De Jing, upholds each of these principles as core features of a Daoist philosophy of life. Empirical manifestations of a Daoist-Kantian religion would surely exhibit some stark differences from Kantian churches modeled on other traditions, but this should not prevent us from recognizing their agreement on these four core principles.

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