Public Religion & Secular State: A Kantian Approach

Main Article Content

Mehmet Ruhi Demiray


This paper argues that Kant’s distinction between “civil union” (i.e., the state) and “ethical community” can be of great value in dealing with a problem that causes considerable trouble in contemporary political and social philosophy, namely the question of the normative significance and role of religion in political and social life. The first part dwells upon the third part of Kant`s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason with the intention of exposing the general features of ethical community. It highlights the fact that Kant considers publicity, and indeed public authority, to be constitutive of the ethical community. The second part discusses his argument that we have a unique ethical duty to enter into an ethical community. This discussion clarifies the constitutive purpose of ethical community and sets forth why Kant thought that the ethical community should have a religious form. The third part presents an account of the constitutive purpose of the state (i.e. the political-legal community) in light of the Doctrine of Right. Throughout these steps, as is concluded,  the essentials of a model for the relations between law, ethics, and religion emerge, which shows the way in which both religious and secularist worries can be met on a principled basis.

Author Biography

Mehmet Ruhi Demiray, University of Siegen, Germany

Dr. Mehmet Ruhi Demiray
Philipp Schwartz Fellow
Department of Philosophy
University of Siegen, Germany
Honorary Research Fellow
Keele University, UK
Founding Member
Kocaeli Academy for Solidarity 
Izmit / Turkey 



Audi R. (2011), Democratic Authority and the Separation of Church and State, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Audi R., Wolterstorff N. (1997), Religion in the Public Square, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham (MD).

Chambers S. (2011), “Secularism minus Exclusion,” Good Society Journal 19 (2): 16–21.

Greenawalt K. (1995), Private Consciences and Public Reasons, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Greenawalt K. (2007), “What are Public Reasons?,” Journal of Law, Philosophy and Culture 1 (1): 79–105.

Griffin L.C. (2003), “Fundamentalism from the Perspective of Liberal Tolerance,” Cardozo Law Review 24 (4): 1631–1644.

Kant I. (1991), On the Common Saying: ‘This May Be True in Theory, But It Does Not Apply in Practice’, trans. H.B. Nisbet, [in:] I. Kant, Political Writings, H.S. Reiss (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 61–92.

Kant I. (1996), Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, trans. G. di Giovanni, [in:] I. Kant, Religion and Rational Theology, A.W. Wood (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 39–215.

Kant I. (2009), Metaphysics of Morals, trans. M.J. Gregor, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Kant I. (2015), Critique of Practical Reason, trans. M. J. Gregor, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Laborde C. (2013), “Political Liberalism and Religion: On Separation and Establishment,” Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (1): 67–86.

Macedo S. (1995), “Liberal Civic Education and Religious Fundamentalism: The Case of God v. John Rawls,” Ethics 105: 468–496.

Maclure J., C. Taylor (2011), Secularism and Freedom of Conscience, trans. J.M. Todd, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA).

Michalson G.E. et al. (2014), Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason: A Critical Guide, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Muchnik P. (2014), “Kant’s Religious Constructivism,” [in:] Kant's Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason: A Critical Guide, G. Michalson (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 193–213.

Nussbaum M. (2010), Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America's Tradition of Religious Equality, Basic Books, New York.

O’Neill O. (1997), Kant on Reason and Religion, [in:] Tanner Lectures on Human Values 18, G. B. Peterson (ed.), Utah University Press, Utah: 267–308.

O’Neill O. (2012), “Kant and the Social Contract Tradition,” [in:] Kant’s Political Theory: Interpretations and Applications, E. Ellis (ed.), The Pennsylvania Press, Pennysylvania: 25–41.

Rawls J. (2011), Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, New York.

Rawls J. (1997), “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” The University of Chicago Law Review 64 (3): 765–807.

Rorty R. (1994), “Religion as Conversation-Stopper,” Common Knowledge 3 (1): 1–6.

Tampio N. (2014), “Pluralism in the Ethical Community,” [in:] Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason: A Critical Guide, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 175–192.

Weithman P. (2001), Religion and the Obligations of Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Wood A. (2009), Kant`s Rational Theology, Cornell University Press, London.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
DEMIRAY, M. Public Religion & Secular State: A Kantian Approach. Diametros, v. 54, n. 54, p. 30-55, 6 jan. 2018.
Special Issue "Enlightenment and Secularism"