There are only three kinds of proof for the existence of God possible from speculative reason.

All paths on which one may set forth with this aim either begin from determinate experience and the special constitution of our world of sense known a through it, and ascend from that by means of laws of causality to the highest cause outside the world; or else they are empirically grounded on an experience that is only indeterminate, i.e., on some existence; or, finally, they abstract from all experience and infer the existence of a highest cause entirely a priori from mere concepts. The first proof is the physico-theological, the second the cosmological, and the third the ontological proof. There are no more of them, and there also cannot be any more.

– Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

Of course, you can categorize the proofs that way… as a relatively idle exercise.

But Kant makes the implicit (?) claim here that his refutations are “future-proof”, i. e. his refutation of the ontological argument refutes all ontological arguments you could ever construct.

Yet if we take St. Augustine’s proof, for example, while it would be ontological (??) according to Kant’s classification, it doesn’t reason from the “concept of God” itself, which Kant – it seems – really had in mind. It reasons from the bare fact that there are abstract concepts. I don’t see how Kant’s refutation of the ontological argument (which is basically Anselm’s argument) applies to this proof.

Other proofs include the Neo-Platonic* proof (a cosmological proof, I suppose?) or C. S. Peirce “A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God” – a physico-theological proof (???). Both are very far removed from the “textbook” cosmological or physico-theological proof refuted by Kant.

Kant makes a very strong claim: That he refuted all proofs for the existence of God which pure reason could ever construct.

What are well-known critiques of Kant’s classification or at least this claim?

* admittedly, I don’t know if there really is such a thing as a Neo-Platonic proof (by Plotinus or others). A proof with this name is presented in Edward Feser’s “Five Proofs for the Existence of God”.

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    Kant's claim is usually interpreted as about proofs that make sense in his epistemological framework, and applicable to most proofs available in his time. Augustine's proof is closer to the cosmological than to the ontological one, it makes the same kinds of leaps Kant criticizes. If there is something above reason that has to be God (???). Truth is above reason so Truth is God or God is something above Truth (???). Existence is basically presupposed, so it relies on the ontological argument, and identifying the "above It" with God is no more convincing than for the "necessary being".
    – Conifold
    Sep 20, 2021 at 20:13
  • I really don't understand why people keep trying. It's a moot point.
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 18 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


No body reads the dialectic part of the critique so I sus u read the analytic as well. Judgements for Kant must be given empirical content or they are empty (meaningless). This is why concepts alone do not yield knowledge. so arguments about causes are analytic and do not tell us more then we already know. For Kant, speculative reason is meaningless if it doesnt consist of something u sense or possibly could sense. Since there is no god in nature, we can never know of his existence. so arguments for and against gods existence are meaningless. This is basically the critique of PURE reason (pure meaning no empirical aspect at all). So all of speculative reason is off the table for Kant when it comes to god (as well as freedom and immortality of the soul). We come to regard as god being there through practical reason (see his critique of practical reason). Bascially u will happiness, and it to obtain in actuality (without some luck) u must will that there is a god ganareteing that happiness as well.

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