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On the principles and presuppositions of atheism and agnosticism in Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche

By Matthew Alun Ray


This thesis will be asking questions about the underlying structure of Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche's thoughts on atheism and agnosticism. It will begin with the work of the mature Kant, explaining how his epistemology, as articulated in the Critique of Pure Reason, treated the question of the sense experience of God and then how his theory of biblical hermeneutics treated the question of divine revelation through scripture, before examining Kant's moral proof of God, finding it not to be successful.\ud \ud I next move to a consideration of the atheistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer's chief argument against God will be seen to be an argument from exclusion, although significant difficulties will be seen to beset Schopenhauer's endeavour. He will also be seen to shape a moral philosophy which he then turns against God. This argument will be examined in some detail and it too, despite appearances, will be seen to be essentially metaphysical. Since Schopenhauer's moral philosophy is intrinsically metaphysical in this way, his moral objective to God has to be construed as relying upon the prior introduction of an element of his atheistic metaphysics and to that extent is to be considered an expression of, rather than an argument for, atheism.\ud \ud Nietzsche elaborates a metapsychological and physiological analysis of the type of person inclined towards believing in the claims of the monotheistic tradition, demonstrating how theism is connected with the yearning of escape and for the moralisation of the socially unaccountable. After investigating the Nietzschean approach to religion and atheism, I will however, conclude that Nietzsche only achieves some of his aims; and further, that those of his aims which are achieved themselves rely on certain specific empirical assumptions which are in any case problematic

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