Front Page Titles (by Subject) § 90.: Of the kind of belief in a teleological proof of the Being of God - The Critique of Judgement
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
§ 90.: Of the kind of belief in a teleological proof of the Being of God - 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 kind of belief in a teleological proof of the Being of God
The first requisite for every proof, whether it be derived from the immediate empirical presentation (as in the proof from observation of the object or from experiment) of that which is to be proved, or by Reason a priori from principles, is this. It should not persuade, but convince,1 or at least should tend to conviction. I.e. the ground of proof or the conclusion should not be merely a subjective (aesthetical) determining ground of assent (mere illusion), but objectively valid and a logical ground of cognition; for otherwise the Understanding is ensnared, but not convinced. Such an illusory proof is that which, perhaps with good intent but yet with wilful concealment of its weaknesses, is adduced in Natural Theology. In this we bring in the great number of indications of the origin of natural things according to the principle of purposes, and take advantage of the merely subjective basis of human Reason, viz. its special propensity to think only one principle instead of several, whenever this can be done without contradiction; and, when in this principle only one or more requisites for determining a concept are furnished, to add in our thought these additional [features] so as to complete the concept of the thing by arbitrarily supplementing it. For, in truth, when we meet with so many products in nature which are to us marks of an intelligent cause, why should we not think One cause rather than many; and in this One, not merely great intelligence, power, etc., but rather Omniscience, and Omnipotence—in a word, think it as a Cause that contains the sufficient ground of such properties in all possible things? Further, why should we not ascribe to this unique, all-powerful, original Being not only intelligence for natural laws and products, but also, as to a moral Cause of the world, supreme, ethical, practical Reason? For by this completion of the concept a sufficient principle is furnished both for insight into nature and for moral wisdom; and no objection grounded in any way can be made against the possibility of such an Idea. If now at the same time the moral motives of the mind are aroused, and a lively interest in the latter is added by the force of eloquence (of which they are indeed very worthy), then there arises therefrom a persuasion of the objective adequacy of the proof; and also (in most cases of its use) a wholesome illusion which quite dispenses with all examination of its logical strictness, and even on the contrary regards this with abhorrence and dislike as if an impious doubt lay at its basis.— Now against this there is indeed nothing to say, so long as we only have regard to its popular usefulness. But then the division of the proof into the two dissimilar parts involved in the argument — belonging to physical and moral Teleology respectively—cannot and must not be prevented. For the blending of these makes it impossible to discern where the proper force of the proof lies, and in what part and how it must be elaborated in order that its validity may be able to stand the strictest examination (even if we should be compelled to admit in one part the weakness of our rational insight). Thus it is the duty of the philosopher (supposing even that he counts as nothing the claims of sincerity) to expose the above illusion, however wholesome it is, which such a confusion can produce; and to distinguish what merely belongs to persuasion from that which leads to conviction (for these are determinations of assent which differ not merely in degree but in kind), in order to present plainly the state of the mind in this proof in its whole clearness, and to be able to subject it frankly to the closest examination.
But a proof which is intended to convince, can again be of two kinds; either deciding what the object is in itself, or what it is for us (for men in general) according to our necessary rational principles of judgement (proof κατ’ ἀλήθειαν or κατ’ ἄνθρωπον, the last word being taken in its universal signification of man in general). In the first case it is based on adequate principles for the determinant Judgement, in the second for the reflective Judgement. In the latter case it can never, when resting on merely theoretical principles, tend to conviction; but if a practical principle of Reason (which is therefore universally and necessarily valid) lies at its basis, it may certainly lay claim to conviction adequate in a pure practical point of view, i.e. to moral conviction. But a proof tends to conviction, though without convincing, if it is [merely]1 brought on the way thereto; i.e. if it contains in itself only objective grounds, which although not attaining to certainty are yet of such a kind that they do not serve merely for persuasion as subjective grounds of the judgement.2
All theoretical grounds of proof resolve themselves either into: (1) Proofs by logically strict Syllogisms of Reason; or where this is not the case, (2) Conclusions according to analogy; or where this also has no place, (3) Probable opinion; or finally, which has the least weight, (4) Assumption of a merely possible ground of explanation, i.e. Hypothesis.— Now I say that all grounds of proof in general, which aim at theoretical conviction, can bring about no belief of this kind from the highest to the lowest degree, if there is to be proved the proposition of the existence of an original Being, as a God, in the signification adequate to the whole content of this concept; viz. a moral Author of the world, by whom the final purpose of creation is at the same time supplied.
(1.) As to the logically accurate proof proceeding from universal to particular, we have sufficiently established in the Critique the following: Since no intuition possible for us corresponds to the concept of a Being that is to be sought beyond nature—whose concept therefore, so far as it is to be theoretically determined by synthetical predicates, remains always problematical for us—there is absolutely no cognition of it to be had (by which the extent of our theoretical knowledge is in the least enlarged). The particular concept of a supersensible Being cannot be subsumed under the universal principles of the nature of things, in order to conclude from them to it, because those principles are valid simply for nature, as an object of sense.
(2.) We can indeed think one of two dissimilar things, even in the very point of their dissimilarity, in accordance with the analogy1 of the other; but we cannot, from that wherein they are dissimilar, conclude from the one to the other by analogy, i.e. transfer from the one to the other this sign of specific distinction. Thus I can, according to the analogy of the law of the equality of action and reaction in the mutual attraction and repulsion of bodies, also conceive of the association of the members of a commonwealth according to rules of right; but I cannot transfer to it those specific determinations (material attraction or repulsion), and ascribe them to the citizens in order to constitute a system called a state.— Just so we can indeed conceive of the causality of the original Being in respect of the things of the world, as natural purposes, according to the analogy of an Understanding, as ground of the forms of certain products which we call works of art (for this only takes place on behalf of the theoretical or practical use that we have to make by our cognitive faculty of this concept in respect of the natural things in the world according to a certain principle). But we can in no way conclude according to analogy, because in the case of beings of the world Understanding must be ascribed to the cause of an effect which is judged artificial, that in respect of nature the same causality which we perceive in men attaches also to the Being which is quite distinct from nature. For this concerns the very point of dissimilarity which is thought between a cause sensibly conditioned in respect of its effects and the supersensible original Being itself in our concept of it, and which therefore cannot be transferred from one to the other.— In the very fact that I must conceive the divine causality only according to the analogy of an Understanding (which faculty we know in no other being than in sensibly-conditioned man) lies the prohibition to ascribe to it this Understanding in its peculiar signification.1
(3.) Opinion finds in a priori judgements no place whatever, for by them we either cognise something as quite certain or else cognise nothing at all. But if the given grounds of proof from which we start (as here from the purposes in the world) are empirical, then we cannot even with their aid form any opinion as to anything beyond the world of sense, nor can we concede to such venturesome judgements the smallest claim to probability. For probability is part of a certainty possible in a certain series of grounds (its grounds compare with the sufficient ground as parts with a whole), the insufficient ground of which must be susceptible of completion. But since, as determining grounds of one and the same judgement, they must be of the same kind, for otherwise they would not together constitute a whole (such as certainty is), one part of them cannot lie within the bounds of possible experience and another outside all possible experience. Consequently, since merely empirical grounds of proof lead to nothing supersensible, and since what is lacking in the series of them cannot in any way be completed, we do not approach in the least nearer in our attempt to attain by their means to the supersensible and to a cognition thereof. Thus in any judgement about the latter by means of arguments derived from experience, probability has no place.
(4.) If an hypothesis is to serve for the explanation of the possibility of a given phenomenon, at least its possibility must be completely certain.1 It is sufficient that in an hypothesis I disclaim any cognition of actuality (which is claimed in an opinion given out as probable); more than this I cannot give up. The possibility of that which I place at the basis of my explanation, must at least be exposed to no doubt; otherwise there would be no end of empty chimeras. But to assume the possibility of a supersensible Being determined according to certain concepts would be a completely groundless supposition. For here none of the conditions requisite for cognition, as regards that in it which rests upon intuition, is given, and so the sole criterion of possibility remaining is the mere principle of Contradiction (which can only prove the possibility of the thought, not of the object thought).
The result then is this. For the existence [Dasein] of the original Being, as a Godhead, or of the soul as an immortal spirit, absolutely no proof in a theoretical point of view is possible for the human Reason, which can bring about even the least degree of belief. The ground of this is quite easy to comprehend. For determining our Ideas of the supersensible we have no material whatever, and we must derive this latter from things in the world of sense, which is absolutely inadequate for such an Object. Thus, in the absence of all determination of it, nothing remains but the concept of a non-sensible something which contains the ultimate ground of the world of sense, but which does not furnish any knowledge (any amplification of the concept) of its inner constitution.
[1 ][Cf. Introd. to Logic, ix. p. 63, “Conviction is opposed to Persuasion, which is a belief from inadequate reasons, of which we do not know whether they are only subjective or are also objective.”]
[1 ][Second Edition.]
[2 ][I.e. Urtheils. First Edition had Urtheilens, the judging subject.]
[1 ]Analogy (in a qualitative signification) is the identity of the relation between reasons and consequences (causes and effects), so far as it is to be found, notwithstanding the specific difference of the things or those properties in them which contain the reason for like consequences (i.e. considered apart from this relation). Thus we conceive of the artificial constructions of beasts by comparing them with those of men; by comparing the ground of those effects brought about by the former, which we do not know, with the ground of similar effects brought about by men (reason), which we do know; i.e. we regard the ground of the former as an analogon of reason. We then try at the same time to show that the ground of the artisan faculty of beasts, which we call instinct, specifically different as it is in fact from reason, has yet a similar relation to its effect (the buildings of the beaver as compared with those of men).— But then I cannot therefore conclude that because man uses reason for his building, the beaver must have the like, and call this a conclusion according to analogy. But from the similarity of the mode of operation of beasts (of which we cannot immediately perceive the ground) to that of men (of which we are immediately conscious), we can quite rightly conclude according to analogy, that beasts too act in accordance with representations (not as Descartes has it, that they are machines), and that despite their specific distinction they are yet (as living beings) of the same genus as man. The principle of our right so to conclude consists in the sameness of the ground for reckoning beasts in respect of the said determination in the same genus with men, regarded as men, so far as we can externally compare them with one another in accordance with their actions. There is par ratio. Just so I can conceive, according to the analogy of an Understanding, the causality of the supreme World-Cause, by comparing its purposive products in the world with the artificial works of men; but I cannot conclude according to analogy to those properties in it [which are in man], because here the principle of the possibility of such a method of reasoning entirely fails, viz. the paritas rationis for counting the Supreme Being in one and the same genus with man (in respect of the causality of both). The causality of the beings of the world, which is always sensibly conditioned (as is causality through Understanding) cannot be transferred to a Being which has in common with them no generic concept save that of Thing in general.
[1 ]We thus miss nothing in the representation of the relations of this Being to the world, as far as the consequences, theoretical or practical, of this concept are concerned. To wish to investigate what it is in itself, is a curiosity as purposeless as it is vain.
[1 ][Cf. Introd. to Logic, p. 76, where the conditions of a legitimate hypothesis are laid down. See also Critique of Pure Reason, Methodology, c. i. § 3 .]