Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section II: Of Time - Critique of Pure Reason
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Section II: Of Time - Friedrich Max Müller, Critique of Pure Reason 
Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. In Commemoration of the Centenary of its First Publication. Translated into English by F. Max Mueller (2nd revised ed.) (New York: Macmillan, 1922).
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I. Time is not an empirical concept deduced from any experience, for neither coexistence nor succession would enter into our perception, if the representation of time were not given a priori. Only when this representation a priori is given, can we imagine that certain things happen at the same time (simultaneously) or at different times (successively). [p. 31]
II. Time is a necessary representation on which all intuitions depend. We cannot take away time from phenomena in general, though we can well take away phenomena out of time. Time therefore is given a priori. In time alone is reality of phenomena possible. All phenomena may vanish, but time itself (as the general condition of their possibility) cannot be done away with.
III. On this a priori necessity depends also the possibility of apodictic principles of the relations of time, or of axioms of time in general. Time has one dimension only; different times are not simultaneous, but successive, while different spaces are never successive, but simultaneous. Such principles cannot be derived from experience, because experience could not impart to them absolute universality nor apodictic certainty. We should only be able to say that common experience teaches us that it is so, but not that it must be so. These principles are valid as rules under which alone experience is possible; they teach us before experience, not by means of experience.1
IV. Time is not a discursive, or what is called a general concept, but a pure form of sensuous intuition. Different times are parts only of one and the same time. Representation, which can be produced by a single [p. 32] object only, is called an intuition. The proposition that different times cannot exist at the same time cannot be deduced from any general concept. Such a proposition is synthetical, and cannot be deduced from concepts only. It is contained immediately in the intuition and representation of time.
V. To say that time is infinite means no more than that every definite quantity of time is possible only by limitations of one time which forms the foundation of all times. The original representation of time must therefore be given as unlimited. But when the parts themselves and every quantity of an object can be represented as determined by limitation only, the whole representation cannot be given by concepts (for in that case the partial representations come first), but it must be founded on immediate intuition.1
Conclusions from the foregoing concepts
a. Time is not something existing by itself, or inherent in things as an objective determination of them, something therefore that might remain when abstraction is made of all subjective conditions of intuition. For in the former case it would be something real, without being a real object. In the latter it could not, as a determination [p. 33] or order inherent in things themselves, be antecedent to things as their condition, and be known and perceived by means of synthetical propositions a priori. All this is perfectly possible if time is nothing but a subjective condition under which alone2 intuitions take place within us. For in that case this form of internal intuition can be represented prior to the objects themselves, that is, a priori.
b. Time is nothing but the form of the internal sense, that is, of our intuition of ourselves, and of our internal state. Time cannot be a determination peculiar to external phenomena. It refers neither to their shape, nor their position, etc., it only determines the relation of representations in our internal state. And exactly because this internal intuition supplies no shape, we try to make good this deficiency by means of analogies, and represent to ourselves the succession of time by a line progressing to infinity, in which the manifold constitutes a series of one dimension only; and we conclude from the properties of this line as to all the properties of time, with one exception, i.e. that the parts of the former are simultaneous, those of the latter successive. From this it becomes clear also, that the representation of time is itself an intuition, because all its relations can be expressed by means of an external intuition.
c. Time is the formal condition, a priori, of all phenomena whatsoever. Space, as the pure form of all [p. 34] external intuition, is a condition, a priori, of external phenomena only. But, as all representations, whether they have for their objects external things or not, belong by themselves, as determinations of the mind, to our inner state, and as this inner state falls under the formal conditions of internal intuition, and therefore of time, time is a condition, a priori, of all phenomena whatsoever, and is so directly as a condition of internal phenomena (of our mind) and thereby indirectly of external phenomena also. If I am able to say, a priori, that all external phenomena are in space, and are determined, a priori, according to the relations of space, I can, according to the principle of the internal sense, make the general assertion that all phenomena, that is, all objects of the senses, are in time, and stand necessarily in relations of time.
If we drop our manner of looking at ourselves internally, and of comprehending by means of that intuition all external intuitions also within our power of representation, and thus take objects as they may be by themselves, then time is nothing. Time has objective validity with reference to phenomena only, because these are themselves things which we accept as objects of our senses; but time is no longer objective, if we [p. 35] remove the sensuous character of our intuitions, that is to say, that mode of representation which is peculiar to ourselves, and speak of things in general. Time is therefore simply a subjective condition of our (human) intuition (which is always sensuous, that is so far as we are affected by objects), but by itself, apart from the subject, nothing. Nevertheless, with respect to all phenomena, that is, all things which can come within our experience, time is necessarily objective. We cannot say that all things are in time, because, if we speak of things in general, nothing is said about the manner of intuition, which is the real condition under which time enters into our representation of things. If therefore this condition is added to the concept, and if we say that all things as phenomena (as objects of sensuous intuition) are in time, then such a proposition has its full objective validity and a priori universality.
What we insist on therefore is the empirical reality of time, that is, its objective validity, with reference to all objects which can ever come before our senses. And as our intuition must at all times be sensuous, no object can ever fall under our experience that does not come under the conditions of time. What we deny is, that time has any claim on absolute reality, so that, without [p. 36] taking into account the form of our sensuous condition, it should by itself be a condition or quality inherent in things; for such qualities which belong to things by themselves can never be given to us through the senses. This is what constitutes the transcendental ideality of time, so that, if we take no account of the subjective conditions of our sensuous intuitions, time is nothing, and cannot be added to the objects by themselves (without their relation to our intuition) whether as subsisting or inherent. This ideality of time, however, as well as that of space, should not be confounded with the deceptions of our sensations, because in their case we always suppose that the phenomenon to which such predicates belong has objective reality, which is not at all the case here, except so far as this objective reality is purely empirical, that is, so far as the object itself is looked upon as a mere phenomenon. On this subject see a previous note, in section i, on Space.
Against this theory which claims empirical, but denies absolute and transcendental reality to time, even intelligent men have protested so unanimously, that I suppose that every reader who is unaccustomed to these considerations may naturally be of the same opinion. What they object to is this: Changes, they say, are real (this is proved by the change of our own representations, even [p. 37] if all external phenomena and their changes be denied). Changes, however, are possible in time only, and therefore time must be something real. The answer is easy enough. I grant the whole argument. Time certainly is something real, namely, the real form of our internal intuition. Time therefore has subjective reality with regard to internal experience: that is, I really have the representation of time and of my determinations in it. Time therefore is to be considered as real, not so far as it is an object, but so far as it is the representation of myself as an object. If either I myself or any other being could see me without this condition of sensibility, then these self-same determinations which we now represent to ourselves as changes, would give us a kind of knowledge in which the representation of time, and therefore of change also, would have no place. There remains therefore the empirical reality of time only, as the condition of all our experience, while absolute reality cannot, according to what has just been shown, be conceded to it. Time is nothing but the form of our own internal intuition.1 Take away the peculiar condition of our sensibility, and the idea of time vanishes, because it is not inherent in the objects, but in the subject only that perceives them. [p. 38]
The reason why this objection is raised so unanimously, and even by those who have nothing very tangible to say against the doctrine of the ideality of space, is this. They could never hope to prove apodictically the absolute reality of space, because they are confronted by idealism, which has shown that the reality of external objects does not admit of strict proof, while the reality of the object of our internal perceptions (the perception of my own self and of my own status) is clear immediately through our consciousness. The former might be merely phenomenal, but the latter, according to their opinion, is undeniably something real. They did not see that both, without denying to them their reality as representations, belong nevertheless to the phenomenon only, which must always have two sides, the one when the object is considered by itself (without regard to the manner in which it is perceived, its quality therefore remaining always problematical), the other, when the form of the perception of the object is taken into consideration; this form belonging not to the object in itself, but to the subject which perceives it, though nevertheless belonging really and necessarily to the object as a phenomenon.
Time and space are therefore two sources of knowledge from which various a priori synthetical cognitions [p. 39] can be derived. Of this pure mathematics give a splendid example in the case of our cognitions of space and its various relations. As they are both pure forms of sensuous intuition, they render synthetical propositions a priori possible. But these sources of knowledge a priori (being conditions of our sensibility only) fix their own limits, in that they can refer to objects only in so far as they are considered as phenomena, but cannot represent things as they are by themselves. That is the only field in which they are valid; beyond it they admit of no objective application. This ideality of space and time, however, leaves the truthfulness of our experience quite untouched, because we are equally sure of it, whether these forms are inherent in things by themselves, or by necessity in our intuition of them only. Those, on the contrary, who maintain the absolute reality of space and time, whether as subsisting or only as inherent, must come into conflict with the principles of experience itself. For if they admit space and time as subsisting (which is generally the view of mathematical students of nature) they have to admit two eternal infinite and self-subsisting nonentities (space and time), which exist without their being anything real, only in order to comprehend all that is real. If they take the second view (held by some metaphysical students [p. 40] of nature), and look upon space and time as relations of phenomena, simultaneous or successive, abstracted from experience, though represented confusedly in their abstracted form, they are obliged to deny to mathematical propositions a priori their validity with regard to real things (for instance in space), or at all events their apodictic certainty, which cannot take place a posteriori, while the a priori conceptions of space and time are, according to their opinion, creations of our imagination only. Their source, they hold, must really be looked for in experience, imagination framing out of the relations abstracted from experience something which contains the general character of these relations, but which cannot exist without the restrictions which nature has imposed on them. The former gain so much that they keep at least the sphere of phenomena free for mathematical propositions; but, as soon as the understanding endeavours to transcend that sphere, they become bewildered by these very conditions. The latter have this advantage that they are not bewildered by the representations of space and time when they wish to form judgments of objects, not as phenomena, but only as considered by the understanding; but they can neither account for the possibility of mathematical knowledge a priori (there being, according to them, no true and objectively valid intuition a priori), nor can they bring the laws of experience into true harmony with the a priori doctrines of mathematics. According to our theory of the true character of these original [p. 41] forms of sensibility, both difficulties vanish.
Lastly, that transcendental æsthetic cannot contain more than these two elements, namely, space and time, becomes clear from the fact that all other concepts belonging to the senses, even that of motion, which combines both, presuppose something empirical. Motion presupposes the perception of something moving. In space, however, considered by itself, there is nothing that moves. Hence that which moves must be something which, as in space, can be given by experience only, therefore an empirical datum. On the same ground, transcendental æsthetic cannot count the concept of change among its a priori data, because time itself does not change, but only something which is in time. For this, the perception of something existing and of the succession of its determinations, in other words, experience, is required.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON TRANSCENDENTAL ÆSTHETIC
In order to avoid all misapprehensions it will be necessary, first of all, to declare, as clearly as possible, what is our view with regard to the fundamental nature of [p. 42] sensuous knowledge.
What we meant to say was this, that all our intuition is nothing but the representation of phenomena; that things which we see are not by themselves what we see, nor their relations by themselves such as they appear to us, so that, if we drop our subject or the subjective form of our senses, all qualities, all relations of objects in space and time, nay space and time themselves, would vanish. They cannot, as phenomena, exist by themselves, but in us only. It remains completely unknown to us what objects may be by themselves and apart from the receptivity of our senses. We know nothing but our manner of perceiving them, that manner being peculiar to us, and not necessarily shared in by every being, though, no doubt, by every human being. This is what alone concerns us. Space and time are pure forms of our intuition, while sensation forms its matter. What we can know a priori — before all real intuition, are the forms of space and time, which are therefore called pure intuition, while sensation is that which causes our knowledge to be called a posteriori knowledge, i.e. empirical intuition. Whatever our sensation may be, these forms are necessarily inherent in it, while sensations themselves may be of the most different character. Even if we could impart the [p. 43] highest degree of clearness to our intuition, we should not come one step nearer to the nature of objects by themselves. We should know our mode of intuition, i.e. our sensibility, more completely, but always under the indefeasible conditions of space and time. What the objects are by themselves would never become known to us, even through the clearest knowledge of that which alone is given us, the phenomenon.
It would vitiate the concept of sensibility and phenomena, and render our whole doctrine useless and empty, if we were to accept the view (of Leibniz and Wolf), that our whole sensibility is really but a confused representation of things, simply containing what belongs to them by themselves, though smothered under an accumulation of signs (Merkmal) and partial concepts, which we do not consciously disentangle. The distinction between confused and well-ordered representation is logical only, and does not touch the contents of our knowledge. Thus the concept of Right, as employed by people of common sense, contains neither more nor less than the subtlest speculation can draw out of it, only that in the ordinary practical use of the word we are not always conscious of the manifold ideas contained in that thought. But no one would say therefore that the ordinary concept of Right was sensuous, containing a mere phenomenon; for Right can never become a phenomenon, being a concept of [p. 44] the understanding, and representing a moral quality belonging to actions by themselves. The representation of a Body, on the contrary, contains nothing in intuition that could belong to an object by itself, but is merely the phenomenal appearance of something, and the manner in which we are affected by it. This receptivity of our knowledge is called sensibility. Even if we could see to the very bottom of a phenomenon, it would remain for ever altogether different from the knowledge of the thing by itself.
This shows that the philosophy of Leibniz and Wolf has given a totally wrong direction to all investigations into the nature and origin of our knowledge, by representing the difference between the sensible and the intelligible as logical only. That difference is in truth transcendental. It affects not the form only, as being more or less confused, but the origin and contents of our knowledge; so that by our sensibility we know the nature of things by themselves not confusedly only, but not at all. If we drop our subjective condition, the object, as represented with its qualities bestowed on it by sensuous intuition, is nowhere to be found, and cannot possibly be found; because its form, as phenomenal appearance, is determined by those very subjective conditions.
It has been the custom to distinguish in phenomena [p. 45] that which is essentially inherent in their intuition and is recognised by every human being, from that which belongs to their intuition accidentally only, being valid not for sensibility in general, but only for a particular position and organisation of this or that sense. In that case the former kind of knowledge is said to represent the object by itself, the latter its appearance only. But that distinction is merely empirical. If, as generally happens, people are satisfied with that distinction, without again, as they ought, treating the first empirical intuition as purely phenomenal also, in which nothing can be found belonging to the thing by itself, our transcendental distinction is lost, and we believe that we know things by themselves, though in the world of sense, however far we may carry our investigation, we can never have anything before us but mere phenomena. To give an illustration. People might call the rainbow a mere phenomenal appearance during a sunny shower, but the rain itself the thing by itself. This would be quite right, physically speaking, and taking rain as something which, in our ordinary experience and under all possible relations to our senses, can be determined thus and thus only in our intuition. But if we take the empirical in general, and ask, [p. 46] without caring whether it is the same with every particular observer, whether it represents a thing by itself (not the drops of rain, for these are already, as phenomena, empirical objects), then the question as to the relation between the representation and the object becomes transcendental, and not only the drops are mere phenomena, but even their round shape, nay even the space in which they fall, are nothing by themselves, but only modifications or fundamental dispositions of our sensuous intuition, the transcendental object remaining unknown to us.
The second important point in our transcendental æsthetic is, that it should not only gain favour as a plausible hypothesis, but assume as certain and undoubted a character as can be demanded of any theory which is to serve as an organum. In order to make this certainty self-evident we shall select a case which will make its validity palpable.
Let us suppose that space and time are in themselves objective, and conditions of the possibility of things by themselves. Now there is with regard to both a large number of a priori apodictic and synthetical propositions, and particularly with regard to space, which for this reason we shall chiefly investigate here as an illustration. As the propositions of geometry are known synthetically a priori, and with apodictic certainty, I ask, whence do you take such propositions? and what does the [p. 47] understanding rely on in order to arrive at such absolutely necessary and universally valid truths? There is no other way but by concepts and intuitions, and both as given either a priori or a posteriori. The latter, namely empirical concepts, as well as the empirical intuition on which they are founded, cannot yield any synthetical propositions except such as are themselves also empirical only, that is, empirical propositions, which can never possess that necessity and absolute universality which are characteristic of all geometrical propositions. As to the other and only means of arriving at such knowledge through mere concepts or intuitions a priori, it must be clear that only analytical, but no synthetical knowledge can ever be derived from mere concepts. Take the proposition that two straight lines cannot enclose a space and cannot therefore form a figure, and try to deduce it from the concept of straight lines and the number two; or take the proposition that with three straight lines it is possible to form a figure, and try to deduce that from those concepts. All your labour will be lost, and in the end you will be obliged to have recourse to intuition, as is always done in geometry. You then give yourselves an object in intuition. But of what kind is it? [p. 48] Is it a pure intuition a priori or an empirical one? In the latter case, you would never arrive at a universally valid, still less at an apodictic proposition, because experience can never yield such. You must therefore take the object as given a priori in intuition, and found your synthetical proposition on that. If you did not possess in yourselves the power of a priori intuition, if that subjective condition were not at the same time, as to the form, the general condition a priori under which alone the object of that (external) intuition becomes possible, if, in fact, the object (the triangle) were something by itself without any reference to you as the subject, how could you say that what exists necessarily in your subjective conditions of constructing a triangle, belongs of necessity to the triangle itself? For you could not add something entirely new (the figure) to your concepts of three lines, something which should of necessity belong to the object, as that object is given before your knowledge of it, and not by it. If therefore space, and time also, were not pure forms of your intuition, which contains the a priori conditions under which alone things can become external objects to you, while, without that subjective condition, they are nothing, you could not predicate anything of external objects a priori and synthetically. It is therefore beyond the reach of doubt, and not possible [p. 49] only or probable, that space and time, as the necessary conditions of all experience, external and internal, are purely subjective conditions of our intuition, and that, with reference to them, all things are phenomena only, and not things thus existing by themselves in such or such wise. Hence, so far as their form is concerned, much may be predicated of them a priori, but nothing whatever of the things by themselves on which these phenomena may be grounded.1
Transcendental Logic [p. 50]
[1 ]I retain the reading of the First Edition, vor derselben, nicht durch dieselbe. Von denselben, the reading of later editions, is wrong; the emendation of Rosenkranz, vor denselben, nicht durch dieselben, unnecessary. The Second Edition has likewise vor derselben.
[1 ]Here follows in the Second Edition, Supplement X.
[2 ]Read allein instead of alle.
[1 ]I can say indeed that my representations follow one another, but this means no more than that we are conscious of them as in a temporal succession, that is, according to the form of our own internal sense. Time, therefore, is nothing by itself, nor is it a determination inherent objectively in things.
[1 ]Here follows in the Second Edition, Supplement XI.