Front Page Titles (by Subject) § 78.: Of the union of the principle of the universal mechanism of matter with the teleological principle in the Technic of nature. - The Critique of Judgement
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§ 78.: Of the union of the principle of the universal mechanism of matter with the teleological principle in the Technic of nature. - Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement 
Kant’s Critique of Judgement, translated with Introduction and Notes by J.H. Bernard (2nd ed. revised) (London: Macmillan, 1914).
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Of the union of the principle of the universal mechanism of matter with the teleological principle in the Technic of nature.
It is infinitely important for Reason not to let slip the mechanism of nature in its products, and in their explanation not to pass it by, because without it no insight into the nature of things can be attained. Suppose it admitted that a supreme Architect immediately created the forms of nature as they have been from the beginning, or that He predetermined those which in the course of nature continually form themselves on the same model. Our knowledge of nature is not thus in the least furthered, because we cannot know the mode of action of that Being and the Ideas which are to contain the principles of the possibility of natural beings, and we cannot by them explain nature as from above downwards (a priori). And if, starting from the forms of the objects of experience, from below upwards (a posteriori), we wish to explain the purposiveness, which we believe is met with in experience, by appealing to a cause working in accordance with purposes, then is our explanation quite tautological and we are only mocking Reason with words. Indeed when we lose ourselves with this way of explanation in the transcendent, whither natural knowledge cannot follow, Reason is seduced into poetical extravagance, which it is its peculiar destination to avoid.
On the other hand, it is just as necessary a maxim of Reason not to pass by the principle of purposes in the products of nature. For, although it does not make their mode of origination any more comprehensible, yet it is a heuristic principle for investigating the particular laws of nature; supposing even that we wish to make no use of it for explaining nature itself,—in which we still always speak only of natural purposes, although it apparently exhibits a designed unity of purpose,—i.e. without seeking beyond nature the ground of the possibility of these particular laws. But since we must come in the end to this latter question, it is just as necessary to think for nature a particular kind of causality which does not present itself in it, as the mechanism of natural causes which does. To the receptivity of several forms, different from those of which matter is susceptible by mechanism, must be added a spontaneity of a cause (which therefore cannot be matter), without which no ground can be assigned for those forms. No doubt Reason, before it takes this step, must proceed with caution, and not try to explain teleologically every Technic of nature, i.e. every productive faculty of nature which displays in itself (as in regular bodies) purposiveness of figure to our mere apprehension; but must always regard such as so far mechanically possible. But on that account to wish entirely to exclude the teleological principle, and to follow simple mechanism only—in cases where, in the rational investigation of the possibility of natural forms through their causes, purposiveness shows itself quite undeniably as the reference to a different kind of causality—to do this must make Reason fantastic, and send it wandering among chimeras of unthinkable natural faculties; just as a mere teleological mode of explanation which takes no account of natural mechanism makes it visionary.
In the same natural thing both principles cannot be connected as fundamental propositions of explanation (deduction) of one by the other, i.e. they do not unite for the determinant Judgement as dogmatical and constitutive principles of insight into nature. If I choose, e.g. to regard a maggot as the product of the mere mechanism of nature (of the new formation that it produces of itself, when its elements are set free by corruption), I cannot derive the same product from the same matter as from a causality that acts according to purposes. Conversely, if I regard the same product as a natural purpose, I cannot count on any mechanical mode of its production and regard this as the constitutive principle of my judgement upon its possibility, and so unite both principles. One method of explanation excludes the other; even supposing that objectively both grounds of the possibility of such a product rested on a single ground, to which we did not pay attention. The principle which should render possible the compatibility of both in judging of nature must be placed in that which lies outside both (and consequently outside the possible empirical representation of nature), but yet contains their ground, i.e. in the supersensible; and each of the two methods of explanation must be referred thereto. Now of this we can have no concept but the indeterminate concept of a ground, which makes the judging of nature by empirical laws possible, but which we cannot determine more nearly by any predicate. Hence the union of both principles cannot rest upon a ground of explanation of the possibility of a product according to given laws, for the determinant Judgement, but only upon a ground of its exposition for the reflective Judgement.— To explain is to derive from a principle, which therefore we must clearly know and of which we can give an account. No doubt the principle of the mechanism of nature and that of its causality in one and the same natural product must coalesce in a single higher principle, which is their common source, because otherwise they could not subsist side by side in the observation of nature. But if this principle, objectively common to the two, which therefore warrants the association of the maxims of natural investigation depending on both, be such that, though it can be pointed to, it cannot be determinately known nor clearly put forward for use in cases which arise, then from such a principle we can draw no explanation, i.e. no clear and determinate derivation of the possibility of a natural product in accordance with those two heterogeneous principles. But now the principle common to the mechanical and teleological derivations is the supersensible, which we must place at the basis of nature, regarded as phenomenon. And of this, in a theoretical point of view, we cannot form the smallest positive determinate concept. It cannot, therefore, in any way be explained how, according to it as principle, nature (in its particular laws) constitutes for us one system, which can be cognised as possible either by the principle of physical development or by that of final causes. If it happens that objects of nature present themselves which cannot be thought by us, as regards their possibility, according to the principle of mechanism (which always has a claim on a natural being), without relying on teleological propositions, we can only make an hypothesis. Namely, we suppose that we may hopefully investigate natural laws with reference to both (according as the possibility of its product is cognisable by our Understanding by one or the other principle), without stumbling at the apparent contradiction which comes into view between the principles by which they are judged. For at least the possibility is assured that both may be united objectively in one principle, since they concern phenomena that presuppose a supersensible ground.
Mechanism, then, and the teleological (designed) Technic of nature, in respect of the same product and its possibility, may stand under a common supreme principle of nature in particular laws. But since this principle is transcendent we cannot, because of the limitation of our Understanding, unite both principles in the explanation of the same production of nature even if the inner possibility of this product is only intelligible [verständlich] through a causality according to purposes (as is the case with organised matter). We revert then to the above fundamental proposition of Teleology. According to the constitution of the human Understanding, no other than designedly working causes can be assumed for the possibility of organised beings in nature; and the mere mechanism of nature cannot be adequate to the explanation of these its products. But we do not attempt to decide anything by this fundamental proposition as to the possibility of such things themselves.
This is only a maxim of the reflective, not of the determinant Judgement; consequently only subjectively valid for us, not objectively for the possibility of things themselves of this kind (in which both kinds of production may well cohere in one and the same ground). Further, without any concept,—besides the teleologically conceived method of production,—of a simultaneously presented mechanism of nature, no judgement can be passed on this kind of production as a natural product. Hence the above maxim leads to the necessity of an unification of both principles in judging of things as natural purposes in themselves, but does not lead us to substitute one for the other either altogether or in certain parts. For in the place of what is thought (at least by us) as possible only by design we cannot set mechanism, and in the place of what is cognised as mechanically necessary we cannot set contingency, which would need a purpose as its determining ground; but we can only subordinate the one (Mechanism) to the other (designed Technic), which may quite well be the case according to the transcendental principle of the purposiveness of nature.
For where purposes are thought as grounds of the possibility of certain things, we must assume also means, whose law of working requires for itself nothing presupposing a purpose,—a mechanical law—and yet can be a subordinate cause of designed effects. Thus — in the organic products of nature, and specially when prompted by their infinite number, we assume (at least as a permissible hypothesis) design in the combination of natural causes by particular laws as a universal principle of the reflective Judgement for the whole of nature (the world),—we can think a great and indeed universal combination of mechanical with teleological laws in the productions of nature, without interchanging the principles by which they are judged or putting one in the place of the other. For, in a teleological judgement, the matter, even if the form that it assumes be judged possible only by design, can also, conformably to the mechanical laws of its nature, be subordinated as a means to the represented purpose. But, since the ground of this compatibility lies in that which is neither one nor the other (neither mechanism nor purposive combination), but is the supersensible substrate of nature of which we know nothing, the two ways of representing the possibility of such Objects are not to be blended together by our (human) Reason. However, we cannot judge of their possibility otherwise than by judging them as ultimately resting on a supreme Understanding by the connexion of final causes; and thus the teleological method of explanation is not eliminated.
Now it is quite indeterminate, and for our Understanding always indeterminable, how much the mechanism of nature does as a means towards each final design in nature. However, on account of the above-mentioned intelligible principle of the possibility of a nature in general, it may be assumed that it is possible throughout according to the two kinds of universally accordant laws (the physical and those of final causes), although we cannot see into the way how this takes place. Hence we do not know how far the mechanical method of explanation which is possible for us may extend. So much only is certain that, so far as we can go in this direction, it must always be inadequate for things that we once recognise as natural purposes; and therefore we must, by the constitution of our Understanding, subordinate these grounds collectively to a teleological principle.
Hereon is based a privilege, and on account of the importance which the study of nature by the principle of mechanism has for the theoretical use of our Reason, also an appeal. We should explain all products and occurrences in nature, even the most purposive, by mechanism as far as is in our power (the limits of which we cannot specify in this kind of investigation). But at the same time we are not to lose sight of the fact that those things which we cannot even state for investigation except under the concept of a purpose of Reason, must, in conformity with the essential constitution of our Reason, mechanical causes notwithstanding, be subordinated by us finally to causality in accordance with purposes.
METHODOLOGY OF THE TELEOLOGICAL JUDGEMENT.1
[1 ][This is marked as an Appendix in the Second Edition.]