Is Kantian hope a feeling?

Rachel E Zuckert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Scopus citations


Kant famously identifies three (later four) major questions to be addressed by reason. Two of these questions are frequently discussed, recognizably central philosophical questions: What can I know? What ought I to do? But Kant’s third question is unusual: What may I hope Or, more properly: What am I permitted to hope? (Was darf ich hoffen?) This question is not frequently discussed in philosophy (or elsewhere), and it is unclear what sort of question or issue, or corresponding answer, is envisioned by it. Why are hopes of central interest to reason? What does philosophy have to offer concerning hope, specifically concerning (as it sounds) permission to hope? Kant’s own understanding of this question and his answers to it are likewise not as easily identifiable as his responses to the other questions: his two first Critiques (along with the Groundwork and other works) respectively aim to answer the questions concerning human knowledge and moral obligations, while the Anthropology (like all his works generally) speaks to the global question concerning human nature. By contrast, Kant mentions hope infrequently, and never provides an explicit analysis of what it is or what its philosophical significance - its centrality to reason’s interests - might be. There are, of course, Kantian arguments and doctrines that appear to be within the purview of hope, and Kant does so characterize them, if without much comment. Kant argues that we may and should believe in God’s existence and in our own immortality, so that we may believe that our ultimate moral aims - to perfect our own virtue and to realize the highest good, the proportionate union of virtue and happiness - are achievable, that we may (in short) hope to be happy, succeed in improving ourselves, and enjoy a blessed afterlife. He argues that we may interpret human history as having been politically progressive, and thus understand historical forces as potentially supporting the realization of further, not yet accomplished moral and political goals (as well as maintaining achieved progress). And, in the third Critique, Kant suggests that we may and ought to judge nature as “purposive” for us, as amenable to scientific investigation and explanation, and (again) as amenable to the realization of our moral and political purposes; we may take it, in other words, that nature is in some rather undefined sense friendly to us, that it will accommodate, not thwart, our highest aims.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationKant and the Faculty of Feeling
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781316823453
ISBN (Print)9781107178229
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Is Kantian hope a feeling?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this