Exploring Insights from the Rational and the Sacred in Moral Action:
Kant's Metaphysics of Morals and the Limits of Pure Reason

By Shahla Maghzi

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #46
Bosch Bahá'í School: California, USA
May 1–4, 2003
(see list of papers from #46)

    The story of the "deep and still existing dichotomy between the rational and the sacred"1 which arose during the Enlightenment, can be seen reflected in the work of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). His compelling insights into the necessity of a moral law, subsequent attempt to derive universal moral law from a theory of categorical imperative, and final acknowledgement of the limits of pure reason alone to achieve this aim, demonstrate the longing yet limits of a purely rational approach to provide ultimate answers to questions of moral definition and incentive. In response to the questions raised by Kant, the paper will explore selections from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá' as well as contemporary historians that address the relevance of thoughtful and tolerant inquiry into both rational and sacred insight as the foundation for cultivating knowledge and volition as a basis for moral action.

    1 The Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity, "Science, Religion and Development: Some Initial Considerations" (1997-2003).

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