Front Page Titles (by Subject) § 81.: Of the association of mechanism with the teleological principle in the explanation of a natural purpose as a natural product. - The Critique of Judgement
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
§ 81.: Of the association of mechanism with the teleological principle in the explanation of a natural purpose as a natural product. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Of the association of mechanism with the teleological principle in the explanation of a natural purpose as a natural product.
According to the preceding paragraphs the mechanism of nature alone does not enable us to think the possibility of an organised being; but (at least according to the constitution of our cognitive faculty) it must be originally subordinated to a cause working designedly. But, just as little is the mere teleological ground of such a being sufficient for considering it and judging it as a product of nature, if the mechanism of the latter be not associated with the former, like the instrument of a cause working designedly, to whose purposes nature is subordinated in its mechanical laws. The possibility of such a unification of two quite different kinds of causality,—of nature in its universal conformity to law with an Idea which limits it to a particular form, for which it contains no ground in itself—is not comprehended by our Reason. It lies in the supersensible substrate of nature, of which we can determine nothing positively, except that it is the being in itself of which we merely know the phenomenon. But the principle, “all that we assume as belonging to this nature (phenomenon) and as its product, must be thought as connected therewith according to mechanical laws,” has none the less force, because without this kind of causality organised beings (as purposes of nature) would not be natural products.
Now if the teleological principle of the production of these beings be assumed (as is inevitable), we can place at the basis of the cause of their internally purposive form either Occasionalism or Pre-established Harmony. According to the former the Supreme Cause of the world would, conformably to its Idea, furnish immediately the organic formation on the occasion of every union of intermingling materials. According to the latter it would, in the original products of its wisdom, only have supplied the capacity by means of which an organic being produces another of like kind, and the species perpetually maintains itself; whilst the loss of individuals is continually replaced by that nature which at the same time works towards their destruction. If we assume the Occasionalism of the production of organised beings, all nature is quite lost, and with it all employment of Reason in judging of the possibility of such products; hence we may suppose that no one will adopt this system, who has anything to do with philosophy.
[The theory of] Pre-established Harmony may proceed in two different ways. It regards every organised being as generated by one of like kind, either as an educt or a product. The system which regards generations as mere educts is called the theory of individual preformation or the theory of evolution: that which regards them as products is entitled the system of epigenesis. This latter may also be entitled the system of generic preformation, because the productive faculty of the generator and consequently the specific form would be virtually performed according to the inner purposive capacities which are part of its stock. In correspondence with this the opposite theory of individual preformations would be better entitled the theory of involution.
The advocates of the theory of evolution, who remove every individual from the formative power of nature, in order to make it come immediately from the hand of the Creator, would, however, not venture to regard this as happening according to the hypothesis of Occasionalism. For according to this the copulation is a mere formality, à propos of which a supreme intelligent Cause of the world has concluded to form a fruit immediately by his hand, and only to leave to the mother its development and nourishment. They declare themselves for preformation; as if it were not all the same, whether a supernatural origin is assigned to these forms in the beginning or in the course of the world. On the contrary, a great number of supernatural arrangements would be spared by occasional creation, which would be requisite, in order that the embryo formed in the beginning of the world might not be injured throughout the long period of its development by the destructive powers of nature, and might keep itself unharmed; and there would also be requisite an incalculably greater number of such preformed beings than would ever be developed, and with them many creations would be made without need and without purpose. They would, however, be willing to leave at least something to nature, so as not to fall into a complete Hyperphysic which can dispense with all natural explanations. It is true, they hold so fast by their Hyperphysic that they find even in abortions (which it is quite impossible to take for purposes of nature) an admirable purposiveness; though it be only directed to the fact that an anatomist would take exception to it as a purposeless purposiveness, and would feel a disheartened wonder thereat. But the production of hybrids could absolutely not be accommodated with the system of preformation; and to the seeds of the male creature, to which they had attributed nothing but the mechanical property of serving as the first means of nourishment for the embryo, they must attribute in addition a purposive formative power, which in the case of the product of two creatures of the same genus they would concede to neither parent.
On the other hand, even if we do not recognise the great superiority which the theory of Epigenesis has over the former as regards the empirical grounds of its proof, still prior to proof Reason views this way of explanation with peculiar favour. For in respect of the things which we can only represent as possible originally according to the causality of purposes, at least as concerns their propagation, this theory regards nature as self-producing, not merely as self-evolving: and so with the least expenditure of the supernatural leaves to nature all that follows after the first beginning (though without determining anything about this first beginning by which Physic generally is thwarted, however it may essay its explanation by a chain of causes).
As regards this theory of Epigenesis, no one has contributed more either to its proof or to the establishment of the legitimate principles of its application,—partly by the limitation of a too presumptuous employment of it,—than Herr Hofr. Blumenbach.1 In all physical explanations of these formations he starts from organised matter. That crude matter should have originally formed itself according to mechanical laws, that life should have sprung from the nature of what is lifeless, that matter should have been able to dispose itself into the form of a self-maintaining purposiveness—this he rightly declares to be contradictory to Reason. But at the same time he leaves to natural mechanism under this to us indispensable principle of an original organisation, an undeterminable but yet unmistakeable element, in reference to which the faculty of matter in an organised body is called by him a formative impulse (in contrast to, and yet standing under the higher guidance and direction of, that merely mechanical formative power universally resident in matter).
[1 ][J. F. Blumenbach (1752–1840), a German naturalist and professor at Göttingen; the author of Institutiones Physiologicae (1787) and other works. An interesting account of him is given in Lever’s novel Adventures of Arthur O’Leary, ch. xix.]