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Section II: Antithetic of Pure Reason - 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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Antithetic of Pure Reason
If every collection of dogmatical doctrines is called Thetic, I may denote by Antithetic, not indeed dogmatical assertions of the opposite, but the conflict between different kinds of apparently dogmatical knowledge (thesis cum antithesi), to none of which we can ascribe [p. 421] a superior claim to our assent. This antithetic, therefore, has nothing to do with one-sided assertions, but considers general knowledge of reason with reference to the conflict only that goes on in it, and its causes. The transcendental antithetic is in fact an investigation of the antinomy of pure reason, its causes and its results. If we apply our reason, not only to objects of experience, in order to make use of the principles of the understanding, but venture to extend it beyond the limit of experience, there arise rationalising or sophistical propositions, which can neither hope for confirmation nor need fear refutation from experience. Every one of them is not only in itself free from contradiction, but can point to conditions of its necessity in the nature of reason itself, only that, unfortunately, its opposite can produce equally valid and necessary grounds for its support.
The questions which naturally arise in such a Dialectic of pure reason are the following. 1. In what propositions is pure reason inevitably subject to an antinomy? 2. On what causes does this antinomy depend? 3. Whether, and in what way, reason may, in spite of this contradiction, find a way to certainty?
A dialectical proposition of pure reason must have this characteristic to distinguish it from all purely sophistical propositions, first, that it does not refer to a [p. 422] gratuitous question, but to one which human reason in its natural progress must necessarily encounter, and, secondly, that it, as well as its opposite, carries with itself not a merely artificial illusion, which when once seen through disappears, but a natural and inevitable illusion, which, even when it deceives us no longer, always remains, and though rendered harmless, cannot be annihilated.
This dialectical doctrine will not refer to the unity of the understanding in concepts of experience, but to the unity of reason in mere ideas, the condition of which, as it is meant to agree, as a synthesis according to rules, with the understanding, and yet at the same time, as the absolute unity of that synthesis, with reason, must either, if it is adequate to the unity of reason, be too great for the understanding, or, if adequate to the understanding, too small for reason. Hence a conflict must arise, which cannot be avoided, do what we will.
These apparently rational, but really sophistical assertions open a dialectical battle-field, where that side always obtains the victory which is allowed to make the attack, and where those must certainly succumb who [p. 423] are obliged to keep on the defensive. Hence doughty knights, whether fighting for the good or the bad cause, are sure to win their laurels, if only they take care that they have the right to make the last attack, and are not obliged to stand a new onslaught of the enemy. We can easily imagine that this arena has often been entered, and many victories have been won on both sides, the last decisive victory being always guarded by the defender of the good cause maintaining his place, his opponent being forbidden ever to carry arms again. As impartial judges we must take no account of whether it be the good or the bad cause which the two champions defend. It is best to let them fight it out between themselves in the hope that, after they have rather tired out than injured each other, they may themselves perceive the uselessness of their quarrel, and part as good friends.
This method of watching or even provoking such a conflict of assertions, not in order to decide in favour of one or the other side, but in order to find out whether the object of the struggle be not a mere illusion, which everybody tries to grasp in vain, and which never can be of any use to any one, even if no resistance were [p. 424] made to him, this method, I say, may be called the sceptical method. It is totally different from scepticism, or that artificial and scientific agnosticism which undermines the foundations of all knowledge, in order if possible to leave nothing trustworthy and certain anywhere. The sceptical method, on the contrary, aims at certainty, because, while watching a contest which on both sides is carried on honestly and intelligently, it tries to discover the point where the misunderstanding arises, in order to do what is done by wise legislators, namely, to derive from the embarrassments of judges in law-suits information as to what is imperfectly, or not quite accurately, determined in their laws. The antinomy which shows itself in the application of laws, is, considering our limited wisdom, the best criterion of the original legislation (nomothetic), and helps to attract the attention of reason, which in abstract speculations does not easily become aware of its errors, to the important points in the determination of its principles.
This sceptical method is essential in transcendental philosophy only, while it may be dispensed with in other fields of investigation. It would be absurd in mathematics, for no false assertions can there be hidden or rendered invisible, because the demonstrations [p. 425] must always be guided by pure intuition, and proceed by evident synthesis. In experimental philosophy a doubt, which causes delay, may be useful, but at least no misunderstanding is possible that could not be easily removed, and the final means for deciding a question, whether found sooner or later, must always be supplied by experience. Moral philosophy too can always produce its principles and their practical consequences in the concrete also, or at least in possible experience, and thus avoid the misunderstandings inherent in abstraction. Transcendental assertions, on the contrary, pretending to knowledge far beyond the field of possible experience, can never produce their abstract synthesis in any intuition a priori, nor can their flaws be discovered by means of any experience. Transcendental reason, therefore, admits of no other criterion but an attempt to combine its conflicting assertions, and therefore, previous to this, unrestrained conflict between them. This is what we shall now attempt to do.1
FIRST CONFLICT OF THE TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAS [p. 426]
The world has a beginning in time, and is limited also with regard to space.
For if we assumed that the world had no beginning in time, then an eternity must have elapsed up to every given point of time, and therefore an infinite series of successive states of things must have passed in the world. The infinity of a series, however, consists in this, that it never can be completed by means of a successive synthesis. Hence an infinite past series of worlds is impossible, and the beginning of the world a necessary condition of its existence. This was what had to be proved first.
With regard to the second, let us assume again the opposite. In that case the world would be given as an infinite whole of co-existing things. Now we cannot conceive in any way the extension of a quantum, which is not given within certain limits to every intuition,1 except through the synthesis of its parts, nor [p. 428] the totality of such a quantum in any way, except through a completed synthesis, or by the repeated addition of unity to itself.1 In order therefore to conceive the world, which fills all space, as a whole, the successive synthesis of the parts of an infinite world would have to be looked upon as completed; that is, an infinite time would have to be looked upon as elapsed, during the enumeration of all co-existing things. This is impossible. Hence an infinite aggregate of real things cannot be regarded as a given whole, nor, therefore, as given at the same time. Hence it follows that the world is not infinite, as regards extension in space, but enclosed in limits. This was the second that had to be proved.
Antithesis [p. 427]
The world has no beginning and no limits in space, but is infinite, in respect both to time and space.
For let us assume that it has a beginning. Then, as beginning is an existence which is preceded by a time in which the thing is not, it would follow that antecedently there was a time in which the world was not, that is, an empty time. In an empty time, however, it is impossible that anything should take its beginning, because of such a time no part possesses any condition as to existence rather than non-existence, which condition could distinguish that part from any other (whether produced by itself or through another cause). Hence, though many a series of things may take its beginning in the world, the world itself can have no beginning, and in reference to time past is infinite.
With regard to the second, let us assume again the opposite, namely, that the world is finite and limited in space. In that case the world would exist in an empty space without limits. We should therefore have not only a relation of things in space, but also of things to space. As however the world is an absolute whole, outside of [p. 429] which no object of intuition, and therefore no correlate of the world can be found, the relation of the world to empty space would be a relation to no object. Such a relation, and with it the limitation of the world by empty space, is nothing, and therefore the world is not limited with regard to space, that is, it is infinite in extension.1
OBSERVATIONS ON THE FIRST ANTINOMY [p. 430]
On the Thesis
In exhibiting these conflicting arguments I have not tried to avail myself of mere sophisms for the sake of what is called special pleading, which takes advantage of the want of caution of the opponent, and gladly allows his appeal to a misunderstood law, in order to establish his own illegitimate claims on its refutation. Every one of our proofs has been deduced from the nature of the case, and no advantage has been taken of the wrong conclusions of dogmatists on either side.
I might have apparently proved my thesis too by putting forward, as is the habit of dogmatists, a wrong definition of the infinity of a given quantity. I might have said that the quantity is infinite, if no greater quantity (that is, greater than the number of given units contained in it) is possible. As no number is the greatest, because one or more units can always be added to it, I might have argued that an infinite given quantity, and therefore also an infinite world (infinite as regards both the past series of time and extension in space) is impossible, and therefore the world limited in space and time. I might have done this, but, in that case, my definition would not have agreed with the true concept of an infinite whole. We do not represent by it how large it is, and the concept of it is not therefore the concept of a maximum, but we conceive by it its relation only [p. 432] to any possible unit, in regard to which it is greater than any number. According as this unit is either greater or smaller, the infinite would be greater or smaller, while infinity, consisting in the relation only to this given unit, would always remain the same, although the absolute quantity of the whole would not be known by it. This, however, does not concern us at present.
The true transcendental concept of infinity is, that the successive synthesis of units in measuring a quantum, can never be completed.1 Hence it follows with perfect certainty, that an eternity of real and successive states cannot have elapsed up to any given (the present) moment, and that the world therefore must have a beginning.
With regard to the second part of the thesis, the difficulty of an endless and yet past series does not exist; for the manifold of a world, infinite in extension, is given at one and the same time. But, in order to conceive the totality of such a multitude of things, as we cannot appeal to those limits which in intuition produce that totality by themselves, we must render an account of our concept, which in our case cannot proceed from the whole to the determined multitude of the parts, but has to demonstrate the possibility of a whole by the successive synthesis of the parts. As such a synthesis would constitute a series that would never be completed, it is impossible to conceive a totality either before it, or through it. For the concept of totality itself is in this case the representation of a completed synthesis of parts, and such a completion, and therefore its concept also, is impossible.
On the Antithesis [p. 431]
The proof of the infinity of the given series of world, and of the totality of the world, rests on this, that in the opposite case an empty time, and likewise an empty space, would form the limits of the world. Now I am quite aware that people have tried to escape from this conclusion by saying that a limit of the world, both in time and space, is quite possible, without our having to admit an absolute time before the beginning of the world or an absolute space outside the real world, which is impossible. I have nothing to say against the latter part of this opinion, held by the philosophers of the school of Leibniz. Space is only the form of external intuition, and not a real object that could be perceived externally, nor is it a correlate of phenomena, but the form of phenomena themselves. Space, therefore, cannot exist absolutely (by itself) as something determining the existence of things, because it is no object, but only the form of possible objects. Things, therefore, as phenomenal, may indeed determine space, that is, impart reality to one or other of its predicates (quantity and relation); but space, on the other side, as something existing by itself, cannot determine the reality of things in regard to quantity or form, because it is nothing real in itself. Space therefore (whether full or empty1 ) may be limited by phenomena, but phenomena cannot be limited by empty space outside them. The same [p. 433] applies to time. But, granting all this, it cannot be denied that we should be driven to admit these two monsters, empty space outside, and empty time before the world, if we assumed the limit of the world, whether in space or time.
For as to the plea by which people try to escape from the conclusion, that if the world has limits in time or space, the infinite void would determine the existence of real things, so far as their dimensions are concerned, it is really no more than a covered attempt at putting some unknown intelligible world in the place of our sensuous world, and an existence in general, which presupposes no other condition in the world, in the place of a first beginning (an existence preceded by a time of non-existence), and boundaries of the universe in place of the limits of extension, — thus getting rid of time and space. But we have to deal here with the mundus phaenomenon and its quantity, and we could not ignore the conditions of sensibility, without destroying its very essence. The world of sense, if it is limited, lies necessarily within the infinite void. If we ignore this, and with it, space in general, as an a priori condition of the possibility of phenomena, the whole world of sense vanishes, which alone forms the object of our enquiry. The mundus intelligibilis is nothing but the general concept of any world, which takes no account of any of the conditions of intuition, and which therefore admits of no synthetical proposition, whether affirmative or negative.
SECOND CONFLICT OF THE TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAS [p. 434]
Every compound substance in the world consists of simple parts, and nothing exists anywhere but the simple, or what is composed of it.
For let us assume that compound substances did not consist of simple parts, then, if all composition is removed in thought, there would be no compound part, and (as no simple parts are admitted) no simple part either, that is, there would remain nothing, and there would therefore be no substance at all. Either, therefore, it is impossible to remove all composition in thought, or, after its removal, there must remain something that exists without composition, that is the simple. In the former case the compound could not itself consist of substances (because with them composition is only an accidental relation of substances, which substances, as permanent beings, must subsist without it). As this contradicts the [p. 436] supposition, there remains only the second view, namely, that the substantial compounds in the world consist of simple parts.
It follows as an immediate consequence that all the things in the world are simple beings, that their composition is only an external condition, and that, though we are unable to remove these elementary substances from their state of composition and isolate them, reason must conceive them as the first subjects of all composition, and therefore, antecedently to it, as simple beings.
Antithesis [p. 435]
No compound thing in the world consists of simple parts, and there exists nowhere in the world anything simple.
Assume that a compound thing, a substance, consists of simple parts. Then as all external relation, and therefore all composition of substances also, is possible in space only, it follows that space must consist of as many parts as the parts of the compound that occupies the space. Space, however, does not consist of simple parts, but of spaces. Every part of a compound, therefore, must occupy a space. Now the absolutely primary parts of every compound are simple. It follows therefore that the simple occupies a space. But as everything real, which occupies a space, contains a manifold, the parts of which are by the side of each other, and which therefore is compounded, and, as a real compound, compounded not of accidents (for these could not exist by the side of each other, without a substance), but of substances, it would follow that the simple is a substantial compound, which is self-contradictory.
The second proposition of the antithesis, that there exists nowhere in the world anything simple, is not intended to mean more than that the existence [p. 437] of the absolutely simple cannot be proved from any experience or perception, whether external or internal, and that the absolutely simple is a mere idea, the objective reality of which can never be shown in any possible experience, so that in the explanation of phenomena it is without any application or object. For, if we assumed that an object of this transcendental idea might be found in experience, the empirical intuition of some one object would have to be such as to contain absolutely nothing manifold by the side of each other, and combined to a unity. But as, from our not being conscious of such a manifold, we cannot form any valid conclusion as to the entire impossibility of it in any objective intuition, and as without this no absolute simplicity can be established, it follows that such simplicity cannot be inferred from any perception whatsoever. As, therefore, an absolutely simple object can never be given in any possible experience, while the world of sense must be looked upon as the sum total of all possible experience, it follows that nothing simple exists in it.
This second part of the antithesis goes far beyond the first, which only banished the simple from the intuition of the composite, while the second drives it out of the whole of nature. Hence we could not attempt to prove it out of the concept of any given object of external intuition (of the compound), but from its relation to a possible experience in general.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE SECOND ANTINOMY [p. 438]
On the Thesis
If I speak of a whole as necessarily consisting of separate parts, I understand by it a substantial whole only, as a real compound, that is, that contingent unity of the manifold, which, given as separate (at least in thought), is brought into a mutual connection, and thus constitutes one whole. We ought not to call space a compositum, but a totum, because in it its parts are possible only in the whole, and not the whole by its parts. It might therefore be called a compositum ideale, but not reale. But this is an unnecessary distinction. As space is no compound of substances, not even of real accidents, nothing remains of it, if I remove all composition in it, not even the point, for a point is possible only as the limit of a space, and therefore of a compound. Space and time do not [p. 440] therefore consist of simple parts. What belongs only to the condition of a substance, even though it possesses quantity (as, for instance, change), does not consist of the simple; that is to say, a certain degree of change does not arise through the accumulation of many simple changes. We can infer the simple from the compound in self-subsisting objects only. Accidents of a state, however, are not self-subsisting. The proof of the necessity of the simple, as the component parts of all that is substantially composite, can therefore easily be injured, if it is extended too far, and applied to all compounds without distinction, as has often been the case.
I am, however, speaking here of the simple only so far as it is necessarily given in the composite, which can be dissolved into the former, as its component parts. The true meaning of the word Monas (as used by [p. 442] Leibniz) should refer to that simple only, which is given immediately as simple substance (for example in self-consciousness), and not as an element of the composite, in which case it is better called an Atomus.1 As I wish to prove the existence of simple substances, as the elements of the composite only, I might call the thesis2 of the second antinomy transcendental Atomistic. But as this word has long been used as the name of a particular explanation of material phenomena (moleculae) and presupposes, therefore, empirical concepts, it will be better to call it the dialectic principle of monadology.
On the Antithesis [p. 439]
Against the theory of the infinite divisibility of matter, the proof of which is mathematical only, objections have been raised by the Monadists, which become suspicious by their declining to admit the clearest mathematical proofs as founded on a true insight into the quality of space, so far as space is indeed the formal condition of the possibility of all matter, but treating them only as conclusions derived from abstract but arbitrary concepts, which ought not to be applied to real things. But how is it possible to conceive a different kind of intuition from that given in the original intuition of space, and how can its determinations a priori not apply to everything, since it becomes possible only by its filling that space? If we were to listen to them, we should have to admit, beside the mathematical point, which is simple, but no part, but only the limit of a space, other physical points, simple likewise, but possessing this privilege that, as parts of space, they are able, by mere aggregation, to fill space. Without repeating here the many clear refutations of this absurdity, it being quite futile to attempt to reason away by purely discursive concepts the evidence of mathematics, I only remark, that if philosophy in this case seems to play tricks with mathematics, it does so because it [p. 441] forgets that in this discussion we are concerned with phenomena only, and their conditions. Here, however, it is not enough to find for the pure concept, produced by the understanding, of the composite the concept of the simple, but we must find for the intuition of the composite (matter) the intuition of the simple; and this, according to the laws of sensibility, and therefore with reference to the objects of the senses, is totally impossible. Though it may be true, therefore, with regard to a whole, consisting of substances, which is conceived by the pure understanding only, that before its composition there must be the simple, this does not apply to the totum substantiale phaenomenon which, as an empirical intuition in space, carries with it the necessary condition that no part of it is simple, because no part of space is simple. The monadists, however, have been clever enough to try to escape from this difficulty, by not admitting space as a condition of the possibility of the objects of external intuition (bodies), but by presupposing these and the dynamical relation of substances in general as the condition of the possibility of space. But we have no concept of bodies, except as phenomena, and, as such, they presuppose space as the necessary condition of the possibility of all external phenomena. The argument of the monadists, therefore, is futile, and has been sufficiently answered in the transcendental Æsthetic. If the bodies were things by themselves, then, and then only, the argument of the monadists would be valid.
The second dialectical assertion possesses this [p. 443] peculiarity, that it is opposed by dogmatical assertion which, among all sophistical assertions, is the only one which undertakes to prove palpably in an object of experience the reality of that which we counted before as belonging only to transcendental ideas, namely, the absolute simplicity of a substance, — I mean the assertion that the object of the internal sense, or the thinking I, is an absolutely simple substance. Without entering upon this question (as it has been fully discussed before), I only remark, that if something is conceived as an object only, without adding any synthetical determination of its intuition (and this is the case in the bare representation of the I), it would no doubt be impossible that anything manifold or composite could be perceived in such a representation. Besides, as the predicates through which I conceive this object are only intuitions of the internal sense, nothing can occur in them to prove a manifold (one by the side of another), and therefore a real composition. It follows, therefore, from the nature of self-consciousness that, as the thinking subject is at the same time its own object, it cannot divide itself (though it might divide its inherent determinations); for in regard to itself every object is absolute unity. Nevertheless, when this subject is looked upon externally, as an object of intuition, it would most likely exhibit some kind of composition as a phenomenon, and it must always be looked upon in this light, if we wish to know whether its manifold constituent elements are by the side of each other or not.
THIRD CONFLICT OF THE TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAS [p. 444]
Causality, according to the laws of nature, is not the only causality from which all the phenomena of the world can be deduced. In order to account for these phenomena it is necessary also to admit another causality, that of freedom.
Let us assume that there is no other causality but that according to the laws of nature. In that case everything that takes place, presupposes an anterior state, on which it follows inevitably according to a rule. But that anterior state must itself be something which has taken place (which has come to be in time, and did not exist before), because, if it had always existed, its effect too would not have only just arisen, but have existed always. The causality, therefore, of a cause, through which something takes place, is itself an event, which again, according to the law of nature, presupposes an anterior state and its causality, and this again an anterior state, and so on. If, therefore, everything takes place according to mere laws of nature, there will always be a secondary [p. 446] only, but never a primary beginning, and therefore no completeness of the series, on the side of successive causes. But the law of nature consists in this, that nothing takes place without a cause sufficiently determined a priori. Therefore the proposition, that all causality is possible according to the laws of nature only, contradicts itself, if taken in unlimited generality, and it is impossible, therefore, to admit that causality as the only one.
We must therefore admit another causality, through which something takes place, without its cause being further determined according to necessary laws by a preceding cause, that is, an absolute spontaneity of causes, by which a series of phenomena, proceeding according to natural laws, begins by itself; we must consequently admit transcendental freedom, without which, even in the course of nature, the series of phenomena on the side of causes, can never be perfect.
Antithesis [p. 445]
There is no freedom, but everything in the world takes place entirely according to the laws of nature.
If we admit that there is freedom, in the transcendental sense, as a particular kind of causality, according to which the events in the world could take place, that is a faculty of absolutely originating a state, and with it a series of consequences, it would follow that not only a series would have its absolute beginning through this spontaneity, but the determination of that spontaneity itself to produce the series, that is, the causality, would have an absolute beginning, nothing preceding it by which this act is determined according to permanent laws. Every beginning of an act, however, presupposes a state in which the cause is not yet active, and a dynamically primary beginning of an act presupposes a state which has no causal connection with the preceding state of that cause, that is, in no wise follows from it. Transcendental freedom is therefore opposed to the law of causality, and represents such a [p. 447] connection of successive states of effective causes, that no unity of experience is possible with it. It is therefore an empty fiction of the mind, and not to be met with in any experience.
We have, therefore, nothing but nature, in which we must try to find the connection and order of cosmical events. Freedom (independence) from the laws of nature is no doubt a deliverance from restraint, but also from the guidance of all rules. For we cannot say that, instead of the laws of nature, laws of freedom may enter into the causality of the course of the world, because, if determined by laws, it would not be freedom, but nothing else but nature. Nature, therefore, and transcendental freedom differ from each other like legality and lawlessness. The former, no doubt, imposes upon the understanding the difficult task of looking higher and higher for the origin of events in the series of causes, because their causality is always conditioned. In return for this, however, it promises a complete and well-ordered unity of experience; while, on the other side, the fiction of freedom promises, no doubt, to the enquiring mind, rest in the chain of causes, leading him up to an unconditioned causality, which begins to act by itself, but which, as it is blind itself, tears the thread of rules by which alone a complete and coherent experience is possible.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE THIRD ANTINOMY [p. 448]
On the Thesis
The transcendental idea of freedom is far from forming the whole content of the psychological concept of that name, which is chiefly empirical, but only that of the absolute spontaneity of action, as the real ground of imputability; it is, however, the real stone of offence in the eyes of philosophy, which finds its unsurmountable difficulties in admitting this kind of unconditioned causality. That element in the question of the freedom of the will, which has always so much embarrassed speculative reason, is therefore in reality transcendental only, and refers merely to the question whether we must admit a faculty of spontaneously originating a series of successive things or states. How such a faculty is possible need not be answered, because, with regard to the causality, according to the laws of nature also, we must be satisfied to know a priori that such a causality has to be admitted, though we can in no wise understand the possibility how, through one existence, the existence of another is given, but must for that purpose appeal to experience alone. The necessity of a first beginning of a series of phenomena from freedom has been proved so far only as it is necessary in order to comprehend an origin of the world, while all successive states may be regarded as a result in succession according to mere laws of nature. But as thus [p. 450] the faculty of originating a series in time by itself has been proved, though by no means understood, it is now permitted also to admit, within the course of the world, different series, beginning by themselves, with regard to their causality, and to attribute to their substances a faculty of acting with freedom. But we must not allow ourselves to be troubled by a misapprehension, namely that, as every successive series in the world can have only a relatively primary beginning, some other state of things always preceding in the world, therefore no absolutely primary beginning of different series is possible in the course of the world. For we are speaking here of the absolutely first beginning, not according to time, but according to causality. If, for instance, at this moment I rise from my chair with perfect freedom, without the necessary determining influence of natural causes, a new series has its absolute beginning in this event, with all its natural consequences ad infinitum, although, with regard to time, this event is only the continuation of a preceding series. For this determination and this act do not belong to the succession of merely natural effects, nor are they a mere continuation of them, but the determining natural causes completely stop before it, so far as this event is concerned, which no doubt follows them, and does not result from them, and may therefore be called an absolutely first beginning in a series of phenomena, not with reference to time, but with reference to causality.
This requirement of reason to appeal in the series of natural causes to a first and free beginning is fully confirmed if we see that, with the exception of the Epicurean school, all philosophers of antiquity have felt themselves obliged to admit, for the sake of explaining all cosmical movements, a prime mover, that is, a freely acting cause which, first and by itself, started this series of states. They did not attempt to make a first beginning comprehensible by an appeal to nature only.
On the Antithesis [p. 449]
He who stands up for the omnipotence of nature (transcendental physiocracy), in opposition to the doctrine of freedom, would defend his position against the sophistical conclusions of that doctrine in the following manner. If you do not admit something mathematically the first in the world with reference to time, there is no necessity why you should look for something dynamically the first with reference to causality. Who has told you to invent an absolutely first state of the world, and with it an absolute beginning of the gradually progressing series of phenomena, and to set limits to unlimited nature in order to give to your imagination something to rest on? As substances have always existed in the world, or as the unity of experience renders at least such a supposition necessary, there is no difficulty in assuming that a change of their states, that is, a series of their changes, has always existed also, so that there is no necessity for looking for a first beginning either mathematically or dynamically. It is true we cannot render the possibility of such an infinite descent comprehensible without the first member to which everything else is subsequent. But, if for this reason you reject this riddle of nature, you will feel yourselves constrained to reject many synthetical fundamental properties (natural forces), which you cannot comprehend any more, nay, the very possibility of change in general would be [p. 451] full of difficulties. For if you did not know from experience that change exists, you would never be able to conceive a priori how such a constant succession of being and not being is possible.
And, even if the transcendental faculty of freedom might somehow be conceded to start the changes of the world, such faculty would at all events have to be outside the world (though it would always remain a bold assumption to admit, outside the sum total of all possible intuitions, an object that cannot be given in any possible experience). But to attribute in the world itself a faculty to substances can never be allowed, because in that case the connection of phenomena determining each other by necessity and according to general laws, which we call nature, and with it the test of empirical truth, which distinguishes experience from dreams, would almost entirely disappear. For by the side of such a lawless faculty of freedom, nature could hardly be conceived any longer, because the laws of the latter would be constantly changed through the influence of the former, and the play of phenomena which, according to nature, is regular and uniform, would become confused and incoherent.
FOURTH CONFLICT OF THE TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAS [p. 452]
There exists an absolutely necessary Being belonging to the world, either as a part or as a cause of it.
The world of sense, as the sum total of all phenomena, contains a series of changes without which even the representation of a series of time, which forms the condition of the possibility of the world of sense, would not be given us.1 But every change has its condition which precedes it in time, and renders it necessary. Now, everything that is given as conditional presupposes, with regard to its existence, a complete series of conditions, leading up to that which is entirely unconditioned, and alone absolutely necessary. Something absolutely necessary therefore must exist, if there exists a change as its consequence. And this absolutely necessary belongs itself to the world of sense. For if we supposed that it existed outside that world, then the series of changes in the world would derive its origin from it, while the necessary cause itself would not belong [p. 454] to the world of sense. But this is impossible. For as the beginning of a temporal series can be determined only by that which precedes it in time, it follows that the highest condition of the beginning of a series of changes must exist in the time when that series was not yet (because the beginning is an existence, preceded by a time in which the thing which begins was not yet). Hence the causality of the necessary cause of changes and that cause itself belong to time and therefore to phenomena (in which alone time, as their form, is possible), and it cannot therefore be conceived as separated from the world of sense, as the sum total of all phenomena. It follows, therefore, that something absolutely necessary is contained in the world, whether it be the whole cosmical series itself, or only a part of it.
There nowhere exists an absolutely necessary Being, either within or without the world, as the cause of it.
If we supposed that the world itself is a necessary being, or that a necessary being exists in it, there would then be in the series of changes either a beginning, unconditionally necessary, and therefore without a cause, which contradicts the dynamical law of the determination of all phenomena in time; or the series itself would be without any beginning, and though contingent and conditioned in all its parts, yet entirely necessary and unconditioned as a whole. This would be self-contradictory, because the existence of a multitude cannot be necessary, if no single part of it possesses necessary existence.
If we supposed, on the contrary, that there exists an absolutely necessary cause of the world, outside the world, then that cause, as the highest member [p. 455] in the series of causes of cosmical changes, would begin the existence of the latter and their series.1 In that case, however, that cause would have to begin to act, and its causality would belong to time, and therefore to the sum total of phenomena. It would belong to the world, and would therefore not be outside the world, which is contrary to our supposition. Therefore, neither in the world, nor outside the world (yet in causal connection with it), does there exist anywhere an absolutely necessary Being.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE FOURTH ANTINOMY [p. 456]
On the Thesis
In order to prove the existence of a necessary Being, I ought not, in this place, to use any but the cosmological argument, which ascends from what is conditioned in the phenomena to what is unconditioned in concept, that being considered as the necessary condition of the absolute totality of the series. To undertake that proof from the mere idea of a Supreme Being belongs to another principle of reason, and will have to be treated separately.
The pure cosmological proof cannot establish the existence of a necessary Being, without leaving it open, whether that Being be the world itself, or a Being distinct from it. In order to settle this question, principles are required which are no longer cosmological, and do not proceed in the series of phenomena. We should have to introduce concepts of contingent beings in general (so far as they are considered as objects of the understanding only), and also a principle according to which we might connect them, by means of concepts only, with a necessary Being. All this belongs to a transcendent [p. 458] philosophy, for which this is not yet the place.
If, however, we once begin our proof cosmologically, taking for our foundation the series of phenomena, and the regressus in it, according to the empirical laws of causality, we cannot afterwards suddenly leave this line of argument and pass over to something which does not belong as a member to this series. For the condition must be taken in the same meaning in which the relation of the condition to that condition was taken in the series which, by continuous progress, was to lead to that highest condition. If therefore that relation is sensuous and intended for a possible empirical use of the understanding, the highest condition or cause can close the regressus according to the laws of sensibility only, and therefore as belonging to that temporal series itself. The necessary Being must therefore be regarded as the highest member of the cosmical series.
Nevertheless, certain philosophers have taken the liberty of making such a salto (μετάβασις εἰς ἄλλο γένος). From the changes in the world they concluded their empirical contingency, that is, their dependence on empirically determining causes, and they thus arrived at an ascending series of empirical conditions. This was quite right. As, however, in this way they could not find a first beginning, or any highest member, they suddenly left the empirical concept of contingency, and took to the pure category. This led to a purely intelligible series, the completeness of which depended on the existence of an absolutely necessary cause, which cause, as no longer subject to any sensuous conditions, was freed also from the temporal condition of itself beginning its causality. Such a proceeding is entirely illegitimate, as may be seen from what follows.
In the pure sense of the category we call contingent that the contradictory opposite of which is possible. Now we cannot conclude that intelligible contingency from empirical contingency. Of what is being [p. 460] changed we may say that the opposite (of its state) is real, and therefore possible also at another time. But this is not the contradictory opposite of the preceding state. In order to establish that, it is necessary that, at the same time, when the previous state existed, its opposite could have existed in its place, and this can never be concluded from change. A body, for instance, which, when in motion, was A, comes to be, when at rest, = non A. From the fact that the state opposite to the state A follows upon it, we can in no wise conclude that the contradictory opposite of A is possible, and therefore A contingent only. In order to establish this, it would be necessary to prove that, at the same time when there was motion, there might have been, instead of it, rest. But we know no more than that, at a subsequent time, such rest was real, and therefore possible also. Motion at one time, and rest at another, are not contradictory opposites. Therefore the succession of opposite determinations, that is, change, in no way proves contingency, according to the concepts of the pure understanding, and can therefore never lead us on to the existence of a necessary Being, according to the pure concepts of the understanding. Change proves empirical contingency only; it proves that the new state could not have taken place according to the law of causality by itself, and without a cause belonging to a previous time. This cause, even if it is considered as absolutely necessary, must, as we see, exist in time, and belong to the series of phenomena.
On the Antithesis [p. 457]
If, in ascending the series of phenomena, we imagine we meet with difficulties militating against the existence of an absolutely necessary supreme cause, such difficulties ought not to be derived from mere concepts of the necessary existence of a thing in general. They ought not to be ontological, but ought to arise from the causal connection with a series of phenomena for which a condition is required which is itself unconditioned, that is, they ought to be cosmological, and dependent on empirical laws. It must be shown that our ascending in the series of causes (in the world of sense) can never end with a condition empirically unconditioned, and that the cosmological argument, based on the contingency of cosmical states, as proved by their changes, ends in a verdict against the admission of a first cause, absolutely originating the whole series
A curious contrast however meets us in this [p. 459] antinomy. From the same ground on which, in the thesis, the existence of an original Being was proved, its nonexistence is proved in the antithesis with equal stringency. We were first told, that a necessary Being exists, because the whole of time past comprehends the series of all conditions, and with it also the unconditioned (the necessary). We are now told there is no necessary Being, for the very reason that the whole of past time comprehends the series of all conditions (which therefore altogether are themselves conditioned). The explanation is this. The first argument regards only the absolute totality of the series of conditions determining each other in time, and thus arrives at something unconditioned and necessary. The second, on the contrary, regards the contingency of all that is determined in the temporal series (everything being preceded by a time in which the condition itself must again be determined as conditioned), in which case everything unconditioned, and every absolute necessity, [p. 461] must absolutely vanish. In both, the manner of concluding is quite in conformity with ordinary human reason, which frequently comes into conflict with itself, from considering its object from two different points of view. Herr von Mairan considered the controversy between two famous astronomers, which arose from a similar difficulty, as to the choice of the true standpoint, as something sufficiently important to write a separate treatise on it. The one reasoned thus, the moon revolves on its own axis, because it always turns the same side towards the earth. The other concluded, the moon does not revolve on its own axis, because it always turns the same side towards the earth. Both conclusions were correct, according to the point of view from which one chose to consider the motion of the moon.
[1 ]The antinomies follow each other, according to the order of the transcendental ideas mentioned before [p. 335 = p. 415].
[1 ]We may perceive an indefinite quantum as a whole, if it is included in limits, without having to build up its totality by means of measuring, that is, by the successive synthesis of its parts. The limits themselves determine its completeness, by cutting off everything beyond.
[1 ]The concept of totality is in this case nothing but the representation of the completed synthesis of its parts, because, as we cannot deduce the concept from the intuition of the whole (this being in this case impossible), we can conceive it only through the synthesis of its parts, up to the completion of the infinite, at least in the idea.
[1 ]Space is merely the form of external intuition (formal intuition) and not a real object that can be perceived by external intuition. Space, as prior to all things which determine it (fill or limit it), or rather which give an empirical intuition determined by its form, is, under the name of absolute space, nothing but a mere possibility of external phenomena, so far as they either exist already, or can be added to given phenomena. Empirical intuition, therefore, is not a compound of phenomena and of space (perception and empty intuition). The one is not a correlate of the other in a synthesis, but the two are only connected as matter and form in one and the same empirical intuition. If we try to separate one from the other, and to place space outside all phenomena, we arrive at a number of empty determinations of external intuition, which, however, can never be possible perceptions; for instance, motion or rest of the world in an infinite empty space, i.e. a determination of the mutual relation of the two, which can never be perceived, and is therefore nothing but the predicate of a mere idea.
[1 ]This quantum contains therefore a multitude (of given units) which is greater than any number; this is the mathematical concept of the infinite.
[1 ]It is easily seen that what we wish to say is that empty space, so far as limited by phenomena, that is, space within the world, does not at least contradict transcendental principles, and may be admitted, therefore, so far as they are concerned, though by this its possibility is not asserted.
[1 ]Rosenkranz thinks that atomus is here used intentionally by Kant as a masculine, to distinguish it from the atomon, translated by scholastic philosophers as inseparable, indiscernible, simplex, etc., while with the Greek philosophers atomus is feminine. Erdman, however, has shown that Kant has used atomus elsewhere also as masculine.
[2 ]Antithesis is a misprint.
[1 ]As formal condition of the possibility of changes, time is no doubt objectively prior to them (read dissen instead of disser); subjectively, however, and in the reality of our consciousness the representation of time, like every other, is occasioned solely by perceptions.
[1 ]The word to begin is used in two senses. The first is active when the cause begins, or starts (infit), a series of states as its effect. The second is passive (or neuter) when the causality begins in the cause itself (fit). I reason here from the former to the latter meaning.