Kant and Rousseau on the critique of philosophical theology: The primacy of practical reason

Philip A. Quadrio

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7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the Rousseauian background to Kant's critique of metaphysics and philosophical theology. The core idea is that the rejection of metaphysics and philosophical theology is part of a turn from theoretical to practical reason influential on European philosophy of religion, a turn we associate with Kant but that is prefigured by Rousseau. Rousseau is not, however, a thinker normally associated with the notion of metaphysical criticism, nor the notion of the primacy of practical reason. The paper draws out this dimension of Rousseau's thinking and its importance for Kantian thought. It will proceed by discussing the Kant-Rousseau connection; demonstrate the importance of practical philosophy for Kant and the critical project generally; overview Kant's critique of metaphysics; and turn to a consideration of Rousseau, particularly from the text Émile. Given the indisputable influence of Rousseau on Kant, the purpose of this paper is to explore the ways that Rousseau's own rejection of philosophical theology might be suggestive to those interested in Kant and the way in which it throws new light on Kant's philosophy of religion. As well as drawing out the Kant-Rousseau connection, it also, implicitly, defends the general orientation of these philosophers as one that is important, perhaps vital, to philosophy of religion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-193
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Critique of metaphysics
  • Kant
  • Practical reason
  • Rousseau


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