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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion

Current Postgraduate Research Students

Publication details for Professor Christopher Insole

Insole, Christopher (2019). Free Belief: The Medieval Heritage in Kant’s Moral Faith. Journal of the History of Philosophy 57(3): 501-528.

Author(s) from Durham


I argue that insofar as Kant describes faith as a free-choice, he is aligned with the medieval tradition, and with his own sources that mediate this heritage (in particular, Leibniz and Locke). The medieval tradition consistently, affirmatively, and systematically invokes freedom and the will, with reference to belief in God, without such a dimension of choice implying any deflation in the degree of commitment to this belief. However, in clarifying that the movement of the will involves “human freedom” alone, without divine action, Kant departs from this tradition. Such divine action, Kant is convinced, would destroy genuine human freedom. This conviction is the source of Kant’s repeated insistence that grace follows rather than precedes moral conversion. It is on this point concerning human freedom and grace that Kant departs from the medieval tradition, rather than with his claim that we choose to believe in God.