This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Thursday 17 November 2022, 6.15pm to 7.45pm
  • Location: In-person only
    Room CL/A/057, Church Lane Building, Campus West, University of York (Map)
  • Audience: Open to alumni, staff, students, the public
  • Admission: Free admission, booking required

Event details

Royal Institute of Philosophy Public Lecture

The Shadow of God is a book about secularization. However, rather than treating secularization as a result of forces from outside religion it looks at it endogenously, from the point of view of the tension between faith and reason within monotheistic religion itself. This leads to the great problem of rational theology: the justification of the goodness of the world in the face of the existence of (apparent) evil.

Kant, Michael will argue, developed a distinctive, “post-Lisbon” theodicy, centred on human agency and responsibility, directed towards an afterlife of reward and punishment by a just God. Guided by this, he presents revisionist (or, as he would prefer to say, corrective) re-readings of some of the great central themes of German Idealist philosophy: Kant’s theory of freedom; the categorical imperative; Hegel’s conception of Geist and history; amongst others.

One consequence of Kant’s relentless demand for justification and its associated requirements of impartiality and transparency is that the gap between God and man is closed, but at the price of making God impersonal. In short, Kant, despite not being a secular thinker, turns out to be a secularizing one. Alongside the orientation to divine judgement and the afterlife, however, we also find in Kant a conception by which human beings see themselves as participating in a shared collective project that extends through history. This idea (“historical immortality”) runs through German Idealism although it is by no means confined to it.

Historical immortality has had very deep consequences. Its presence is everywhere within the revolutionary, conservative, progressive and nationalist movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

In this Royal Institute of Philosophy event, Michael will be presenting the main ideas of his book, followed by a conversation on the book's themes with Dr James Clarke of the University of York. This will be followed by an open audience Q&A with Michael, for a general discussion of secularization and its significance.