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Extra resources for Kant's philosophy of religion
323 foil. The Pre-Critical Period 35 taken great interest. I shall content myself with translating the last paragraph of this treatise, which contains the serious lessons that Kant would have us learn from his half-serious, half-ironical discussion of attempts, whether by way of converse with unembodied spirits or by speculation on the possible nature of such beings, to transcend the world of ordinary experience. He confessed in a letter to the Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn,1 some attraction to stories of the kind that were related of Swedenborg, as well as a certain disposition to indulge the fancy that the arguments alleged in support of them might turn out to be correct, in spite of the absurdities which discredited the stories and the fantastic and unintelligible notions which discredited the attempts to account for them rationally.
Hume himself, despite his acute exposure, both in the Dialogues and in his Natural History of Religion, of the difficulties oS the current theology, seems to have remained at bottom a theist on the ground of the general impression of design made by nature upon the mind of an unprejudiced observer. ' Surely, where reasonable men treat these subjects/ says even the sceptical Philo, ' the question can never be concerning the Being, but only the Nature of the Deity. The former truth . . is unquestionable and self-evident.
That he does so regard it is the point which ultimately distinguishes his theory of knowledge from that which Herbert Spencer developed out of his theory as transmitted throught the medium of Sir William Hamilton and Dean Mansel. Herbert Spencer denies to man the possibility of a knowledge of the Absolute on the ground that knowledge as such is a relation between subject and object, so that to speak of a knowledge of what is, by definition, not in relation to anything, is to use meaningless language.