Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section IV: Of the Transcendental Problems of Pure Reason, and the Absolute Necessity of their Solution - Critique of Pure Reason
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Section IV: Of the Transcendental Problems of Pure Reason, and the Absolute Necessity of their Solution - 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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Of the Transcendental Problems of Pure Reason, and the Absolute Necessity of their Solution
To attempt to solve all problems, and answer all questions, would be impudent boasting, and so extravagant a self-conceit, that it would forfeit all confidence. Nevertheless there are sciences the very nature of which requires that every question which can occur in them should be answerable at once from what is known, because the answer must arise from the same sources from which the question springs. Here it is not allowed to plead inevitable ignorance, but a solution can be demanded. We must be able, for instance, to know, according to a rule, what in every possible case is right or wrong, because this touches our obligation, and we cannot have any obligation to that which we cannot know. In the explanation, [p. 477] however, of the phenomena of nature, many things must remain uncertain, and many a question insoluble, because what we know of nature is by no means sufficient, in all cases, to explain what has to be explained. It has now to be considered, whether there exists in transcendental philosophy any question relating to any object of reason which, by that pure reason, is unanswerable, and whether we have a right to decline its decisive answer by treating the object as absolutely uncertain (from all that we are able to know), and as belonging to that class of objects of which we may form a sufficient conception for starting a question, without having the power or means of ever answering it.
Now I maintain that transcendental philosophy has this peculiarity among all speculative knowledge, that no question, referring to an object of pure reason, can be insoluble for the same human reason; and that no excuse of inevitable ignorance on our side, or of unfathomable depth on the side of the problem, can release us from the obligation to answer it thoroughly and completely; because the same concept, which enables us to ask the question, must qualify us to answer it, considering that, as in the case of right and wrong, the object itself does not exist, except in the concept.
There are, however, in transcendental philosophy [p. 478] no other questions but the cosmological, with regard to which we have a right to demand a satisfactory answer, touching the quality of the object; nor is the philosopher allowed here to decline an answer by pleading impenetrable obscurity. These questions can refer to cosmological ideas only, because the object must be given empirically, and the question only refers to the adequateness of it to an idea. If the object is transcendental and therefore itself unknown, as, for instance, whether that something the phenomenal appearance of which (within ourselves) is the thinking (soul), be in itself a simple being, whether there be an absolutely necessary cause of all things, etc., we are asked to find an object for our idea of which we may well confess that it is unknown to us, though not therefore impossible.1 The cosmological ideas alone possess this peculiarity that they may presuppose [p. 479] their object, and the empirical synthesis required for the object, as given, and the question which they suggest refers only to the progress of that synthesis, so far as it is to contain absolute totality, such absolute totality being no longer empirical, because it cannot be given in any experience. As we are here concerned solely with a thing, as an object of possible experience, not as a thing by itself, it is impossible that the answer of the transcendent cosmological question can be anywhere but in the idea, because it refers to no object by itself; and in respect to possible experience we do not ask for that which can be given in concreto in any experience, but for that which lies in the idea, to which the empirical synthesis can no more than approach. Hence that question can be solved from the idea only, and being a mere creation of reason, reason cannot decline her responsibility and put it on the unknown object.
It is in reality not so strange as it may seem [p. 480] at first, that a science should demand and expect definite answers to all the questions belonging to it (quaestiones domesticae), although at present these answers have not yet been discovered. There are, in addition to transcendental philosophy, two other sciences of pure reason, the one speculative, the other practical, pure mathematics, and pure ethics. Has it ever been alleged that, it may be on account of our necessary ignorance of the conditions, it must remain uncertain what exact relation the diameter bears to a circle, in rational or irrational numbers? As by the former the relation cannot be expressed adequately, and by the latter has not yet been discovered, it was judged rightly that the impossibility at least of the solution of such a problem can be known with certainty, and Lambert gave even a demonstration of this. In the general principles of morality there can be nothing uncertain, because its maxims are either entirely null and void, or derived from our own rational concepts only. In natural science, on the contrary, we have an infinity of conjectures with regard to which certainty can never be expected, because natural phenomena are objects given to us independent of our concepts, and the key to them cannot be found within our own mind, but in the world outside us. For that reason it cannot in many cases be found at all, and a satisfactory answer must not be expected. The questions of the transcendental [p. 481] Analytic, referring to the deduction of our pure knowledge, do not belong to this class, because we are treating at present of the certainty of judgments with reference to their objects only, and not with reference to the origin of our concepts themselves.
We shall not, therefore, be justified in evading the obligation of a critical solution, at least of the questions of reason, by complaints on the narrow limits of our reason, and by confessing, under the veil of humble self-knowledge, that it goes beyond the powers of our reason to determine whether the world has existed from eternity, or has had a beginning; whether cosmical space is filled with beings ad infinitum, or enclosed within certain limits; whether anything in the world is simple, or everything can be infinitely divided; lastly, whether there is a Being entirely unconditioned and necessary in itself, or whether the existence of everything is conditioned, and therefore externally dependent, and in itself contingent. For all these questions refer to an object which can be found nowhere except in our own thoughts, namely, the absolutely unconditioned totality of the synthesis of phenomena. If we are not able to say and establish anything certain about this from our own concepts, we must not throw the blame on the [p. 482] object itself as obscure, because such an object (being nowhere to be found, except in our ideas) can never be given to us; but we must look for the real cause of obscurity in our idea itself, which is a problem admitting of no solution, though we insist obstinately that a real object must correspond to it. A clear explanation of the dialectic within our own concept, would soon show us, with perfect certainty, how we ought to judge with reference to such a question.
If people put forward a pretext of being unable to arrive at certainty with regard to these problems, the first question which we ought to address to them, and which they ought to answer clearly, is this, Whence do you get those ideas, the solution of which involves you in such difficulty? Are they phenomena, of which you require an explanation, and of which you have only to find, in accordance with those ideas, the principles, or the rule of their explanation? Suppose the whole of nature were spread out before you, and nothing were hid to your senses and to the consciousness of all that is presented to your intuition, yet you would never be able to know by one single experience the object of your ideas in concreto (because, in addition to that complete intuition, what is required is a completed synthesis, and the consciousness of its absolute totality, which [p. 483] is impossible by any empirical knowledge). Hence your question can never be provoked for the sake of explaining any given phenomenon, and as it were suggested by the object itself. Such an object can never come before you, because it can never be given by any possible experience. In all possible perceptions you always remain under the sway of conditions, whether in space or in time; you never come face to face with anything unconditioned, in order thus to determine whether the unconditioned exists in an absolute beginning of the synthesis, or in an absolute totality of the series without any beginning. The whole, in its empirical meaning, is always relative only. The absolute whole of quantity (the universe), of division, of origination, and of the condition of existence in general, with all the attendant questions as to whether it can be realised by a finite synthesis or by a synthesis to be carried on ad infinitum, has nothing to do with any possible experience. You would, for instance, never be able to explain the phenomena of a body in the least better, or even differently, whether you assume that it consists of simple or throughout of composite parts: for neither a simple phenomenon, nor an infinite composition can ever meet your senses. Phenomena require to be explained so far only as the conditions of their explanation are given in perception; but whatever may exist in them, if comprehended [p. 484] as an absolute whole, can1 never be a perception. Yet it is this very whole the explanation of which is required in the transcendental problems of reason.
As therefore the solution of these problems can never be supplied by experience, you cannot say that it is uncertain what ought to be predicated of the object. For your object is in your brain only, and cannot possibly exist outside it; so that you have only to take care to be at one with yourselves, and to avoid the amphiboly, which changes your idea into a pretended representation of an object empirically given, and therefore to be known according to the laws of experience. The dogmatical solution is therefore not only uncertain, but impossible; while the critical solution, which may become perfectly certain, does not consider the question objectively, but only with reference to the foundation of the knowledge on which it is based.
[1 ]Though we cannot answer the question, what kind of quality a transcendental object may possess, or what it is, we are well able to answer that the question itself is nothing, because it is without an object. All questions, therefore, of transcendental psychology are answerable, and have been answered, for they refer to the transcendental subject of all internal phenomena, which itself is not phenomenal, and not given as an object, and possesses none of the conditions which make any of the categories (and it is to them that the question really refers) applicable to it. We have, therefore, here a case where the common saying applies, that no answer is as good as an answer, that is, that the question regarding the quality of something which cannot be conceived by any definite predicates, being completely beyond the sphere of objects, is entirely null and void.
[1 ]Read keine in original, not eine.