Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section IX: Of the Empirical Use of the Regulative Principle of Reason with Regard to all Cosmological Ideas - Critique of Pure Reason
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Section IX: Of the Empirical Use of the Regulative Principle of Reason with Regard to all Cosmological Ideas - 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 Empirical Use of the Regulative Principle of Reason with Regard to all Cosmological Ideas
No transcendental use, as we have shown on several occasions, can be made of the concepts either of the understanding or of reason; and the absolute totality of the series of conditions in the world of sense is due entirely to a transcendental use of reason, which demands this unconditioned completeness from what presupposes as a thing by itself. As no such thing is contained in the world of sense, we can never speak again [p. 516] of the absolute quantity of different series in it, whether they be limited or in themselves unlimited; but the question can only be, how far, in the empirical regressus, we may go back in tracing experience to its conditions, in order to stop, according to the rule of reason, at no other answer of its questions but such as is in accordance with the object.
What therefore remains to us is only the validity of the principle of reason, as a rule for the continuation and for the extent of a possible experience, after its invalidity, as a constitutive principle of things by themselves, has been sufficiently established. If we have clearly established that invalidity, the conflict of reason with itself will be entirely finished, because not only has the illusion which led to that conflict been removed through critical analysis, but in its place the sense in which reason agrees with itself, and the misapprehension of which was the only cause of conflict, has been clearly exhibited, and a principle formerly dialectical changed into a doctrinal one. In fact, if that principle, according to its subjective meaning, can be proved fit to determine the greatest possible use of the understanding in experience, as adequate to its objects, this would be the same as if it determined, as an axiom (which is impossible from pure reason), the [p. 517] objects themselves a priori: for this also could not, with reference to the objects of experience, exercise a greater influence on the extension and correction of our knowledge, than proving itself efficient in the most extensive use of our understanding, as applied to experience.
Solution of the Cosmological Idea of the Totality of the Composition of Phenomena in an Universe
Here, as well as in the other cosmological problems, the regulative principle of reason is founded on the proposition that, in the empirical regressus, no experience of an absolute limit, that is, of any condition as such, which empirically is absolutely unconditioned, can exist. The ground of this is that such an experience would contain a limitation of phenomena by nothing or by the void, on which the continued regressus by means of experience must abut; and this is impossible.
This proposition, which says that in an empirical regressus I can only arrive at the condition which itself must be considered empirically conditioned, [p. 518] contains the rule in terminis, that however far I may have reached in the ascending series, I must always enquire for a still higher member of that series, whether it be known to me by experience or not.
For the solution, therefore, of the first cosmological problem, nothing more is wanted than to determine whether, in the regressus to the unconditioned extension of the universe (in time and in space), this nowhere limited ascent is to be called a regressus in infinitum, or a regressus in indefinitum.
The mere general representation of the series of all past states of the world, and of the things which exist together in space, is itself nothing but a possible empirical regressus, which I represent to myself, though as yet as indefinite, and through which alone the concept of such a series of conditions of the perception given to me can arise.1 Now the universe exists for me as a concept only, and never (as a whole) as an intuition. Hence [p. 519] I cannot from its quantity conclude the quantity of the regressus, and determine the one by the other; but I must first frame to myself a concept of the quantity of the world through the quantity of the empirical regressus. Of this, however, I never know anything more than that, empirically, I must go on from every given member of the series of conditions to a higher and more distant member. Hence the quantity of the whole of phenomena is not absolutely determined, and we cannot say therefore that it is a regressus in infinitum, because this would anticipate the members which the regressus has not yet reached, and represent its number as so large that no empirical synthesis could ever reach it. It would therefore (though negatively only) determine the quantity of the world prior to the regressus, which is impossible, because it is not given to me by any intuition (in its totality), so that its quantity cannot be given prior to the regressus. Hence we cannot say anything of the quantity or extension of the world by itself, not even that there is in it a regressus in infinitum; but we must look for the concept of its quantity according to the rule that determines the empirical regressus in it. This rule, however, says no more than that, however far we may have got in the series of empirical conditions, we ought never to assume an absolute limit, but subordinate every phenomenon, as conditioned, to another, [p. 520] as its condition, and that we must proceed further to that condition. This is the regressus in indefinitum, which, as it fixes no quantity in the object, can clearly enough be distinguished from the regressus in infinitum.
I cannot say therefore that, as to time past or as to space, the world is infinite. For such a concept of quantity, as a given infinity, is empirical, and therefore, with reference to the world as an object of the senses, absolutely impossible. Nor shall I say that the regressus, beginning with a given perception, and going on to everything that limits it in a series, both in space and in time past, goes on in infinitum, because this would presuppose an infinite quantity of the world. Nor can I say again that it is finite, for the absolute limit is likewise empirically impossible. Hence it follows that I shall not be able to say anything of the whole object of experience (the world of sense), but only of the rule, according to which experience can take place and be continued in accordance with its object.
To the cosmological question, therefore, respecting the quantity of the world, the first and negative answer is, that the world has no first beginning in time, and no extreme limit in space.
For, in the contrary case, the world would be limited by empty time and empty space. As however, [p. 521] as a phenomenon, it cannot, by itself, be either, — a phenomenon not being a thing by itself, — we should have to admit the perception of a limitation by means of absolute empty time or empty space, by which these limits of the world could be given in a possible experience. Such an experience, however, would be perfectly void of contents, and therefore impossible. Consequently an absolute limit of the world is impossible empirically, and therefore absolutely also.1
From this follows at the same time the affirmative answer, that the regressus in the series of the phenomena of the world, intended as a determination of the quantity of the world, goes on in indefinitum, which is the same as if we say that the world of sense has no absolute quantity, but that the empirical regressus (through which alone it can be given on the side of its conditions) has its own rule, namely, to advance from every member of the series, as conditioned, to a more distant member, whether by our own experience, or by the guidance of history, [p. 522] or through the chain of causes and their effects; and never to dispense with the extension of the possible empirical use of the understanding, this being the proper and really only task of reason and its principles.
We do not prescribe by this a definite empirical regressus advancing without end in a certain class of phenomena; as, for instance, that from a living person one ought always to ascend in a series of ancestors, without ever expecting a first pair; or, in the series of cosmical bodies, without admitting in the end an extremest sun. All that is demanded is a progressus from phenomena to phenomena, even if they should not furnish us with a real perception (if it is too weak in degree to become experience in our consciousness), because even thus they belong to a possible experience.
Every beginning is in time, and every limit of extension in space. Space and time, however, exist in the world of sense only. Hence phenomena only are limited in the world conditionally; the world itself, however, is limited neither conditionally nor unconditionally.
For the same reason, and because the world can never be given complete, and even the series of conditions of something given as conditioned cannot, as a cosmical series, be given as complete, the concept of the quantity of the world can be given through the regressus only, and not before it in any collective intuition. [p. 523] That regressus, however, consists only in the determining of the quantity, and does not give, therefore, any definite concept, nor the concept of any quantity which, with regard to a certain measure, could be called infinite. It does not therefore proceed to the infinite (as if given), but only into an indefinite distance, in order to give a quantity (of experience) which has first to be realised by that very regressus.
Solution of the Cosmological Idea of the Totality of the Division of a Whole given in Intuition
If I divide a whole, given in intuition, I proceed from the conditioned to the conditions of its possibility. The division of the parts (subdivisio or decompositio) is a regressus in the series of those conditions. The absolute totality of this series could only be given, if the regressus could reach the simple parts. But if all parts in a continuously progressing decomposition are always divisible again, then the division, that is, the regressus from the conditioned to its conditions, goes on in infinitum; because the conditions (the parts) are contained in the conditioned itself, and as that is given as complete in an [p. 524] intuition enclosed within limits, are all given with it. The regressus must therefore not be called a regressus in indefinitum, such as was alone allowed by the former cosmological idea, where from the conditioned we had to proceed to conditions outside it, and therefore not given at the same time through it, but first to be added in the empirical regressus. It is not allowed, however, even in the case of a whole that is divisible in infinitum, to say, that it consists of infinitely many parts. For although all parts are contained in the intuition of the whole, yet the whole division is not contained in it, because it consists in the continuous decomposition, or in the regressus itself, which first makes that series real. As this regressus is infinite, all members (parts) at which it arrives are contained, no doubt, in the given whole as aggregates; but not so the whole series of the division, which is successively infinite and never complete, and cannot, therefore, represent an infinite number, or any comprehension of it as a whole.
It is easy to apply this remark to space. Every space, perceived within its limits, is such a whole the parts of which, in spite of all decomposition, are always spaces again, and therefore divisible in infinitum. [p. 525]
From this follows, quite naturally, the second application to an external phenomenon, enclosed within its limits (body). The divisibility of this is founded on the divisibility of space, which constitutes the possibility of the body, as an extended whole. This is therefore divisible in infinitum, without consisting, however, of an infinite number of parts.
It might seem indeed, as a body must be represented as a substance in space, that, with regard to the law of the divisibility of space, it might differ from it, for we might possibly concede, that in the latter case decomposition could never do away with all composition, because in that case all space, which besides has nothing independent of its own, would cease to be (which is impossible), while, even if all composition of matter should be done away with in thought, it would not seem compatible with the concept of a substance that nothing should remain of it, because substance is meant to be the subject of all composition, and ought to remain in its elements, although their connection in space, by which they become a body, should have been removed. But, what applies to a thing by itself, represented by a pure concept of the understanding, does not apply to what is called substance, as a phenomenon. This is not an absolute subject, but only a permanent image of sensibility, nothing in fact but intuition, [p. 526] in which nothing unconditioned can ever be met with.
But although this rule of the progress in infinitum applies without any doubt to the subdivision of a phenomenon, as a mere occupant of space, it does not apply to the number of the parts, separated already in a certain way in a given whole, which thus constitute a quantum discretum. To suppose that in every organised whole every part is again organised, and that by thus dissecting the parts in infinitum we should meet again and again with new organised parts, in fact that the whole is organised in infinitum, is a thought difficult to think, though it is possible to think that the parts of matter decomposed in infinitum might become organised. For the infinity of the division of a given phenomenon in space is founded simply on this, that by it divisibility only, that is, an entirely indefinite number of parts, is given, while the parts themselves can only be given and determined through the subdivision, in short, that the whole is not itself already divided. Thus the division can determine a number in it, which goes so far as we like to go, in the regressus of a division. In an organic body, on the contrary, organised in infinitum the whole is by that very concept represented as [p. 527] divided, and a number of parts, definite in itself, and yet infinite, is found in it, before every regressus of division. This would be self-contradictory, because we should have to consider this infinite convolute as a never-to-be-completed series (infinite), and yet as complete in its (organised) comprehension. Infinite division takes the phenomenon only as a quantum continuum, and is inseparable from the occupation of space, because in this very occupation lies the ground of endless divisibility. But as soon as anything is taken as a quantum discretum, the number of units in it is determined, and therefore at all times equal to a certain number. How far the organisation in an organised body may go, experience alone can show us; but though it never arrived with certainty at any unorganised part, they would still have to be admitted as lying within possible experience. It is different with the transcendental division of a phenomenon. How far that may extend is not a matter of experience, but a principle of reason, which never allows us to consider the empirical regressus in the decomposition of extended bodies, according to the nature of these phenomena, as at any time absolutely completed.
* * * * * * * *
Concluding Remarks on the Solution of the Transcendental-mathematical Ideas, and Preliminary Remark for the Solution of the Transcendental-dynamical Ideas [p. 528]
When exhibiting in a tabular form the antinomy of pure reason, through all the transcendental ideas, and indicating the ground of the conflict and the only means of removing it, by declaring both contradictory statements as false, we always represented the conditions as belonging to that which they conditioned, according to relations of space and time, this being the ordinary supposition of the common understanding, and in fact the source from which that conflict arose. In that respect all dialectical representations of the totality in a series of conditions of something given as conditioned were always of the same character. It was always a series in which the condition was connected with the conditioned, as members of the same series, both being thus homogeneous. In such a series the regressus was never conceived as completed, or, if that had to be done, one of the members, being in itself conditioned, had wrongly to be accepted as the first, and therefore as unconditioned. If not always the object, that is, the conditioned, yet the series of its conditions was always considered according [p. 529] to quantity only, and then the difficulty arose (which could not be removed by any compromise, but only by cutting the knot), that reason made it either too long or too short for the understanding, which could in neither case come up to the idea.
But in this we have overlooked an essential distinction between the objects, that is, the concepts of the understanding, which reason tries to raise into ideas. Two of them, according to the above table of the categories, imply a mathematical, the remaining two a dynamical synthesis of phenomena. Hitherto this overlooking was of no great importance, because, in the general representation of all transcendental ideas, we always remained under phenomenal conditions, and with regard to the two transcendental-mathematical ideas also, we had to do with no object but the phenomenal only. Now, however, as we have come to consider the dynamical concepts of the understanding, so far as they should be rendered adequate to the idea of reason, that distinction becomes important, and opens to us an entirely new insight into the character of the suit in which reason is implicated. That suit had before been dismissed, as resting on both sides on wrong presuppositions. Now, however, as there seems to be in the dynamical [p. 530] antinomy such a presupposition as may be compatible with the pretensions of reason, and as the judge himself supplies perhaps the deficiency of legal grounds, which had been misunderstood on both sides, the suit may possibly be adjusted, from this point of view, to the satisfaction of both parties, which was impossible in the conflict of the mathematical antinomy.
If we merely look to the extension of the series of conditions, and whether they are adequate to the idea, or whether the idea is too large or too small for them, the series are no doubt all homogeneous. But the concept of the understanding on which these ideas are founded contains either a synthesis of the homogeneous only (which is presupposed in the composition as well as the decomposition of every quantity), or of the heterogeneous also, which must at least be admitted as possible in the dynamical synthesis, both in a causal connection, and in the connection of the necessary with the contingent.
Thus it happens that none but sensuous conditions can enter into the mathematical connection of the series of phenomena, that is, conditions which themselves are part of the series; while the dynamical series of sensuous conditions admits also of a heterogeneous condition, which is not a part of the series, but, as merely intelligible, outside it; so that a certain satisfaction is given to reason [p. 531] by the unconditioned being placed before the phenomena, without disturbing the series of the phenomena, which must always be conditioned, or breaking it off, contrary to the principles of the understanding.
Owing to the dynamical ideas admitting of a condition of the phenomena outside their series, that is, a condition which itself is not a phenomenon, something arises which is totally different from the result of the mathematical1 antinomy. The result of that antinomy was, that both the contradictory dialectical statements had to be declared false. The throughout conditioned character, however, of the dynamical series, which is inseparable from them as phenomena, if connected with the empirically unconditioned, but at the same time not sensuous condition, may give satisfaction to the understanding on one, and the reason on the other side,2 because the dialectical arguments which, in some way or other, required unconditioned totality in mere phenomena, vanish; while the [p. 532] propositions of reason, if thus amended, may both be true. This cannot be the case with the cosmological ideas, which refer only to a mathematically unconditioned unity, because with them no condition can be found in the series of phenomena which is not itself a phenomenon, and as such constitutes one of the links of the series.
Solution of the Cosmological Ideas with Regard to the Totality of the Derivation of Cosmical Events from their Causes
We can conceive two kinds of causality only with reference to events, causality either of nature or of freedom. The former is the connection of one state in the world of sense with a preceding state, on which it follows according to a rule. As the causality of phenomena depends on conditions of time, and as the preceding state, if it had always existed, could not have produced an effect, which first takes place in time, it follows that the causality of the cause of that which happens or arises must, according to the principle of the understanding, have itself arisen and require a cause.
By freedom, on the contrary, in its cosmological [p. 533] meaning, I understand the faculty of beginning a state spontaneously. Its causality, therefore, does not depend, according to the law of nature, on another cause, by which it is determined in time. In this sense freedom is a purely transcendental idea, which, first, contains nothing derived from experience, and, secondly, the object of which cannot be determined in any experience; because it is a general rule, even of the possibility of all experience, that everything which happens has a cause, and that therefore the causality also of the cause, which itself has happened or arisen, must again have a cause. In this manner the whole field of experience, however far it may extend, has been changed into one great whole of nature. As, however, it is impossible in this way to arrive at an absolute totality of the conditions in causal relations, reason creates for itself the idea of spontaneity, or the power of beginning by itself, without an antecedent cause determining it to action, according to the law of causal connection.
It is extremely remarkable, that the practical concept of freedom is founded on the transcendental idea of freedom, which constitutes indeed the real difficulty which at all times has surrounded the question of the possibility of freedom. Freedom, in its practical sense, is the [p. 534] independence of our (arbitrary) will from the coercion through sensuous impulses. Our (arbitrary) will is sensuous, so far as it is affected pathologically (by sensuous impulses); it is called animal (arbitrium brutum), if necessitated pathologically. The human will is certainly sensuous, an arbitrium sensitivum, but not brutum, but liberum, because sensuous impulses do not necessitate its action, but there is in man a faculty of determination, independent of the necessitation through sensuous impulses.
It can easily be seen that, if all causality in the world of sense belonged to nature, every event would be determined in time through another, according to necessary laws. As therefore the phenomena, in determining the will, would render every act necessary as their natural effect, the annihilation of transcendental freedom would at the same time destroy all practical freedom. Practical freedom presupposes that, although something has not happened, it ought to have happened, and that its cause therefore had not that determining force among phenomena, which could prevent the causality of our will from producing, independently of those natural causes, and even contrary to their force and influence, something determined in the order of time, according to empirical laws, and from originating entirely by itself a series of events.
What happens here is what happens generally [p. 535] in the conflict of reason venturing beyond the limits of possible experience, namely, that the problem is not physiological, but transcendental. Hence the question of the possibility of freedom concerns no doubt psychology; but its solution, as it depends on dialectical arguments of pure reason, belongs entirely to transcendental philosophy. In order to enable that philosophy to give a satisfactory answer, which it cannot decline to do, I must first try to determine more accurately its proper procedure in this task.
If phenomena were things by themselves, and therefore space and time forms of the existence of things by themselves, the conditions together with the conditioned would always belong, as members, to one and the same series, and thus in our case also, the antinomy which is common to all transcendental ideas would arise, namely, that that series is inevitably too large or too small for the understanding. The dynamical concepts of reason, however, which we have to discuss in this and the following section, have this peculiarity that, as they are not concerned with an object, considered as a quantity, but only with its existence, we need take no account of the quantity of the series of conditions. All depends here only on [p. 536] the dynamical relation of conditions to the conditioned, so that in the question on nature and freedom we at once meet with the difficulty, whether freedom is indeed possible, and whether, if it is possible, it can exist together with the universality of the natural law of causality. The question in fact arises, whether it is a proper disjunctive proposition to say, that every effect in the world must arise, either from nature, or from freedom, or whether both cannot coexist in the same event in different relations. The correctness of the principle of the unbroken connection of all events in the world of sense, according to unchangeable natural laws, is firmly established by the transcendental Analytic, and admits of no limitation. The question, therefore, can only be whether, in spite of it, freedom also can be found in the same effect which is determined by nature; or whether freedom is entirely excluded by that inviolable rule? Here the common but fallacious supposition of the absolute reality of phenomena shows at once its pernicious influence in embarrassing reason. For if phenomena are things by themselves, freedom cannot be saved. Nature in that case is the complete and sufficient cause determining every event, and its condition is always contained in that series of phenomena only which, together with their effect, are necessary under the law of nature. If, on the contrary, phenomena are taken for [p. 537] nothing except what they are in reality, namely, not things by themselves, but representations only, which are connected with each other according to empirical laws, they must themselves have causes, which are not phenomenal. Such an intelligible cause, however, is not determined with reference to its causality by phenomena, although its effects become phenomenal, and can thus be determined by other phenomena. That intelligible cause, therefore, with its causality, is outside the series, though its effects are to be found in the series of empirical conditions. The effect therefore can, with reference to its intelligible cause, be considered as free, and yet at the same time, with reference to phenomena, as resulting from them according to the necessity of nature; a distinction which, if thus represented, in a general and entirely abstract form, may seem extremely subtle and obscure, but will become clear in its practical application. Here I only wished to remark that, as the unbroken connection of all phenomena in the context (woof) of nature, is an unalterable law, it would necessarily destroy all freedom, if we were to defend obstinately the reality of phenomena. Those, therefore, who follow the common opinion on this subject, have never been able to reconcile nature and freedom.
Possibility of a Causality through Freedom, in Harmony with the Universal Law of Natural Necessity [p. 538]
Whatever in an object of the senses is not itself phenomenal, I call intelligible. If, therefore, what in the world of sense must be considered as phenomenal, possesses in itself a faculty which is not the object of sensuous intuition, but through which it can become the cause of phenomena, the causality of that being may be considered from two sides, as intelligible in its action, as the causality of a thing by itself, and as sensible in the effects of the action, as the causality of a phenomenon in the world of sense. Of the faculty of such a being we should have to form both an empirical and an intellectual concept of its causality, both of which consist together in one and the same effect. This twofold way of conceiving the faculty of an object of the senses does not contradict any of the concepts which we have to form of phenomena and of a possible experience. For as all phenomena, not being things by themselves, must have for their foundation a transcendental object, determining them as mere representations, there is nothing to prevent us from attributing to that transcendental object, besides the [p. 539] quality through which it becomes phenomenal, a causality also which is not phenomenal, although its effect appears in the phenomenon. Every efficient cause, however, must have a character, that is, a rule according to which it manifests its causality, and without which it would not be a cause. According to this we should have in every subject of the world of sense, first, an empirical character, through which its acts, as phenomena, stand with other phenomena in an unbroken connection, according to permanent laws of nature, and could be derived from them as their conditions, and in connection with them form the links of one and the same series in the order of nature. Secondly, we should have to allow to it an intelligible character also, by which, it is true, it becomes the cause of the same acts as phenomena, but which itself is not subject to any conditions of sensibility, and never phenomenal. We might call the former the character of such a thing as a phenomenon, in the latter the character of the thing by itself.
According to its intelligible character, this active subject would not depend on conditions of time, for time is only the condition of phenomena, and not of things by themselves. In it no act would arise or perish, [p. 540] neither would it be subject therefore to the law of determination in time and of all that is changeable, namely, that everything which happens must have its cause in the phenomena (of the previous state). In one word its causality, so far as it is intelligible, would not have a place in the series of empirical conditions by which the event is rendered necessary in the world of sense. It is true that that intelligible character could never be known immediately, because we cannot perceive anything, except so far as it appears, but it would nevertheless have to be conceived, according to the empirical character, as we must always admit in thought a transcendental object, as the foundation of phenomena, though we know nothing of what it is by itself.
In its empirical character, therefore, that subject, as a phenomenon, would submit, according to all determining laws, to a causal nexus, and in that respect it would be nothing but a part of the world of sense, the effects of which, like every other phenomenon, would arise from nature without fail. As soon as external phenomena began to influence it, and as soon as its empirical character, that is the law of its causality, had been known through experience, all its actions ought to admit of explanation, according to the laws of nature, and all that is requisite for its complete and necessary determination would be found in a possible experience.
In its intelligible character, however (though [p. 541] we could only have a general concept of it), the same subject would have to be considered free from all influence of sensibility, and from all determination through phenomena: and as in it, so far as it is a noumenon, nothing happens, and no change which requires dynamical determination of time, and therefore no connection with phenomena as causes, can exist, that active being would so far be quite independent and free in its acts from all natural necessity, which can exist in the world of sense only. One might say of it with perfect truth that it originates its effects in the world of sense by itself, though the act does not begin in itself. And this would be perfectly true, though the effects in the world of sense need not therefore originate by themselves, because in it they are always determined previously through empirical conditions in the previous time, though only by means of the empirical character (which is the phenomenal appearance of the intelligible character), and therefore impossible, except as a continuation of the series of natural causes. In this way freedom and nature, each in its complete signification, might exist together and without any conflict in the same action, according as we refer it to its intelligible or to its sensible cause.
Explanation of the Cosmological Idea of Freedom in Connection with the General Necessity of Nature [p. 542]
I thought it best to give first this sketch of the solution of our transcendental problem, so that the course which reason has to adopt in its solution might be more clearly surveyed. We shall now proceed to explain more fully the points on which the decision properly rests, and examine each by itself.
The law of nature, that everything which happens has a cause, — that the causality of that cause, that is, its activity (as it is anterior in time, and, with regard to an effect which has arisen, cannot itself have always existed, but must have happened at some time), must have its cause among the phenomena by which it is determined, and that therefore all events in the order of nature are empirically determined, this law, I say, through which alone phenomena become nature and objects of experience, is a law of the understanding, which can on no account be surrendered, and from which no single phenomenon can be exempted; because in doing this we should place it outside all possible experience, separate from all objects of possible [p. 543] experience, and change it into a mere fiction of the mind or a cobweb of the brain.
But although this looks merely like a chain of causes, which in the regressus to its conditions admits of no absolute totality, this difficulty does not detain us in the least, because it has already been removed in the general criticism of the antinomy of reason when, starting from the series of phenomena, it aims at the unconditioned. Were we to yield to the illusion of transcendental realism, we should have neither nature nor freedom. The question therefore is, whether, if we recognise in the whole series of events nothing but natural necessity, we may yet regard the same event which on one side is an effect of nature only, on the other side, as an effect of freedom; or whether there is a direct contradiction between these two kinds of causality?
There can certainly be nothing among phenomenal causes that could originate a series absolutely and by itself. Every action, as a phenomenon, so far as it produces an event, is itself an event, presupposing another state, in which its cause can be discovered; and thus everything that happens is only a continuation of the series, and no beginning, happening by itself, is possible in it. Actions of natural causes in the succession of time are therefore themselves effects, which likewise [p. 544] presuppose causes in the series of time. A spontaneous and original action by which something takes place, which did not exist before, cannot be expected from the causal nexus of phenomena.
But is it really necessary that, if effects are phenomena, the causality of their cause, which cause itself is phenomenal, could be nothing but empirical; or is it not possible, although for every phenomenal effect a connection with its cause, according to the laws of empirical causality, is certainly required, that empirical causality itself could nevertheless, without breaking in the least its connection with the natural causes, represent an effect of a non-empirical and intelligible causality, that is, of a caused action, original in respect to phenomena, and in so far not phenomenal; but, with respect to this faculty, intelligible, although, as a link in the chain of nature, to be regarded as entirely belonging to the world of sense?
We require the principle of the causality of phenomena among themselves, in order to be able to look for and to produce natural conditions, that is, phenomenal causes of natural events. If this is admitted and not weakened by any exceptions, the understanding, which in its empirical employment recognises in all events nothing but nature, and is quite justified in doing so, has really all [p. 545] that it can demand, and the explanations of physical phenomena may proceed without let or hindrance. The understanding would not be wronged in the least, if we assumed, though it be a mere fiction, that some among the natural causes have a faculty which is intelligible only, and whose determination to activity does not rest on empirical conditions, but on mere grounds of the intellect, if only the phenomenal activity of that cause is in accordance with all the laws of empirical causality. For in this way the active subject, as causa phaenomenon, would be joined with nature through the indissoluble dependence of all its actions, and the noumenon1 only of that subject (with all its phenomenal causality) would contain certain conditions which, if we want to ascend from the empirical to the transcendental object, would have to be considered as intelligible only For, if only we follow the rule of nature in that which may be the cause among phenomena, it is indifferent to us what kind of ground of those phenomena, and of their connection, may be conceived to exist in the transcendental subject, which is empirically unknown to us. This intelligible ground does not touch the empirical questions, but concerns only, as it would seem, the thought in the pure understanding; and although the effects of that thought and action of the pure understanding may be discovered [p. 546] in the phenomena, these have nevertheless to be completely explained from their phenomenal cause, according to the laws of nature, by taking their empirical character as the highest ground of explanation, and passing by the intelligible character, which is the transcendental cause of the other, as entirely unknown, except so far as it is indicated by the empirical, as its sensuous sign. Let us apply this to experience. Man is one among the phenomena of the world of sense, and in so far one of the natural causes the causality of which must be subject to empirical laws. As such he must therefore have an empirical character, like all other objects of nature. We perceive it through the forces and faculties which he shows in his actions and effects. In the lifeless or merely animal nature we see no ground for admitting any faculty, except as sensuously conditioned. Man, however, who knows all the rest of nature through his senses only, knows himself through mere apperception also, and this in actions and internal determinations, which he cannot ascribe to the impressions of the senses. Man is thus to himself partly a phenomenon, partly, however, namely with reference to certain faculties, a purely intelligible object, because the actions of these faculties cannot be ascribed to the receptivity of sensibility. We [p. 547] call these faculties understanding and reason. It is the latter, in particular, which is entirely distinguished from all empirically conditioned forces or faculties, because it weighs its objects according to ideas, and determines the understanding accordingly, which then makes an empirical use of its (by themselves, however pure) concepts.
That our reason possesses causality, or that we at least represent to ourselves such a causality in it, is clear from the imperatives which, in all practical matters, we impose as rules on our executive powers. The ought expresses a kind of necessity and connection with causes, which we do not find elsewhere in the whole of nature. The understanding can know in nature only what is present, past, or future. It is impossible that anything in it ought to be different from what it is in reality, in all these relations of time. Nay, if we only look at the course of nature, the ought has no meaning whatever. We cannot ask, what ought to be in nature, as little as we can ask, what qualities a circle ought to possess. We can only ask what happens in it, and what qualities that which happens has.
This ought expresses a possible action, the ground of which cannot be anything but a mere concept; while in every merely natural action the ground must [p. 548] always be a phenomenon. Now it is quite true that the action to which the ought applies must be possible under natural conditions, but these natural conditions do not affect the determination of the will itself, but only its effects and results among phenomena. There may be ever so many natural grounds which impel me to will and ever so many sensuous temptations, but they can never produce the ought, but only a willing which is always conditioned, but by no means necessary, and to which the ought, pronounced by reason, opposes measure, ay, prohibition and authority. Whether it be an object of the senses merely (pleasure), or of pure reason (the good), reason does not yield to the impulse that is given empirically, and does not follow the order of things, as they present themselves as phenomena, but frames for itself, with perfect spontaneity, a new order according to ideas to which it adapts the empirical conditions, and according to which it declares actions to be necessary, even though they have not taken place, and, maybe, never will take place. Yet it is presupposed that reason may have causality with respect to them, for otherwise no effects in experience could be expected to result from these ideas.
Now let us take our stand here and admit it at least as possible, that reason really possesses causality [p. 549] with reference to phenomena. In that case, reason though it be, it must show nevertheless an empirical character, because every cause presupposes a rule according to which certain phenomena follow as effects, and every rule requires in the effects a homogeneousness, on which the concept of cause (as a faculty) is founded. This, so far as it is derived from mere phenomena, may be called the empirical character, which is permanent, while the effects, according to a diversity of concomitant, and in part, restraining conditions, appear in changeable forms.
Every man therefore has an empirical character of his (arbitrary) will, which is nothing but a certain causality of his reason, exhibiting in its phenomenal actions and effects a rule, according to which one may infer the motives of reason and its actions, both in kind and in degree, and judge of the subjective principles of his will. As that empirical character itself must be derived from phenomena, as an effect, and from their rule which is supplied by experience, all the acts of a man, so far as they are phenomena, are determined from his empirical character and from the other concomitant causes, according to the order of nature; and if we could investigate all the manifestations of his will to the very bottom, there would be not a single human action which we could not predict [p. 550] with certainty and recognise from its preceding conditions as necessary. There is no freedom therefore with reference to this empirical character, and yet it is only with reference to it that we can consider man, when we are merely observing, and, as is the case in anthropology, trying to investigate the motive causes of his actions physiologically.
If, however, we consider the same actions with reference to reason, not with reference to speculative reason, in order to explain their origin, but solely so far as reason is the cause which produces them; in one word, if we compare actions with reason, with reference to practical purposes, we find a rule and order, totally different from the order of nature. For, from this point of view, everything, it may be, ought not to have happened, which according to the course of nature has happened, and according to its empirical grounds, was inevitable. And sometimes we find, or believe at least that we find, that the ideas of reason have really proved their causality with reference to human actions as phenomena, and that these actions have taken place, not because they were determined by empirical causes, but by the causes of reason.
Now supposing one could say that reason [p. 551] possesses causality in reference to phenomena, could the action of reason be called free in that case, as it is accurately determined by the empirical character (the disposition) and rendered necessary by it? That character again is determined in the intelligible character (way of thinking). The latter, however, we do not know, but signify only through phenomena, which in reality give us immediately a knowledge of the disposition (empirical character) only.1 An action, so far as it is to be attributed to the way of thinking as its cause, does nevertheless not result from it according to empirical laws, that is, it is not preceded by the conditions of pure reason, but only by its effects in the phenomenal form of the internal sense. Pure reason, as a simple intelligible faculty, is not subject to the form of time, or to the conditions of the succession of time. The causality of reason in its intelligible character does not arise or begin at a certain time in order to produce an effect; for in that case it would be subject to the natural law of phenomena, which determines [p. 552] all causal series in time, and its causality would then be nature and not freedom. What, therefore, we can say is, that if reason can possess causality with reference to phenomena, it is a faculty through which the sensuous condition of an empirical series of effects first begins. For the condition that lies in reason is not sensuous, and therefore does itself not begin. Thus we get what we missed in all empirical series, namely, that the condition of a successive series of events should itself be empirically unconditioned. For here the condition is really outside the series of phenomena (in the intelligible), and therefore not subject to any sensuous condition, nor to any temporal determination through preceding causes.
Nevertheless the same cause belongs also, in another respect, to the series of phenomena. Man himself is a phenomenon. His will has an empirical character, which is the (empirical) cause of all his actions. There is no condition, determining man according to this character, that is not contained in the series of natural effects and subject to their law, according to which there can be no empirically unconditioned causality of anything that happens in time. No given action therefore (as it can be perceived as a phenomenon only) can begin absolutely by itself. Of pure reason, however, we cannot [p. 553] say that the state in which it determines the will is preceded by another in which that state itself is determined. For as reason itself is not a phenomenon, and not subject to any of the conditions of sensibility, there exists in it, even in reference to its causality, no succession of time, and the dynamical law of nature, which determines the succession of time according to rules, cannot be applied to it.
Reason is therefore the constant condition of all free actions by which man takes his place in the phenomenal world. Every one of them is determined beforehand in his empirical character, before it becomes actual. With regard to the intelligible character, however, of which the empirical is only the sensuous schema, there is neither before nor after; and every action, without regard to the temporal relation which connects it with other phenomena, is the immediate effect of the intelligible character of pure reason. That reason therefore acts freely, without being determined dynamically, in the chain of natural causes, by external or internal conditions, anterior in time. That freedom must then not only be regarded negatively, as independence of empirical conditions (for in that case the faculty of reason would cease to be a cause of phenomena), but should be determined positively also, as the faculty of beginning spontaneously a series of events. Hence nothing begins in reason itself, [p. 554] and being itself the unconditioned condition of every free action, reason admits of no condition antecedent in time above itself, while nevertheless its effect takes its beginning in the series of phenomena, though it can never constitute in that series an absolutely first beginning.
In order to illustrate the regulative principle of reason by an example of its empirical application, not in order to confirm it (for such arguments are useless for transcendental propositions), let us take a voluntary action, for example, a malicious lie, by which a man has produced a certain confusion in society, and of which we first try to find out the motives, and afterwards try to determine how far it and its consequences may be imputed to the offender. With regard to the first point, one has first to follow up his empirical character to its very sources, which are to be found in wrong education, bad society, in part also in the viciousness of a natural disposition, and a nature insensible to shame, or ascribed to frivolity and heedlessness, not omitting the occasioning causes at the time. In all this the procedure is exactly the same as in the investigation of a series of determining causes of a given natural effect. But although one believes that the act was thus determined, one nevertheless [p. 555] blames the offender, and not on account of his unhappy natural disposition, not on account of influencing circumstances, not even on acconnt of his former course of life, because one supposes one might leave entirely out of account what that course of life may have been, and consider the past series of conditions as having never existed, and the act itself as totally unconditioned by previous states, as if the offender had begun with it a new series of effects, quite by himself. This blame is founded on a law of reason, reason being considered as a cause which, independent of all the before-mentioned empirical conditions, would and should have determined the behaviour of the man otherwise. Nay, we do not regard the causality of reason as a concurrent agency only, but as complete in itself, even though the sensuous motives did not favour, but even oppose it. The action is imputed to a man’s intelligible character. At the moment when he tells the lie, the guilt is entirely his; that is, we regard reason, in spite of all empirical conditions of the act, as completely free, and the act has to be imputed entirely to a fault of reason.
Such an imputation clearly shows that we imagine that reason is not affected at all by the influences of the senses, and that it does not change (although its manifestations, that is the mode in which it shows itself by its [p. 556] effects, do change): that in it no state precedes as determining a following state, in fact, that reason does not belong to the series of sensuous conditions which render phenomena necessary, according to laws of nature. Reason, it is supposed, is present in all the actions of man, in all circumstances of time, and always the same; but it is itself never in time, never in a new state in which it was not before; it is determining, never determined. We cannot ask, therefore, why reason has not determined itself differently, but only why it has not differently determined the phenomena by its causality. And here no answer is really possible. For a different intelligible character would have given a different empirical character, and if we say that, in spite of the whole of his previous course of life, the offender could have avoided the lie, this only means that it was in the power of reason, and that reason, in its causality, is subject to no phenomenal and temporal conditions, and lastly, that the difference of time, though it makes a great difference in phenomena and their relation to each other, can, as these are neither things nor causes by themselves, produce no difference of action in reference to reason.
We thus see that, in judging of voluntary [p. 557] actions, we can, so far as their causality is concerned, get only so far as the intelligible cause, but not beyond. We can see that that cause is free, that it determines as independent of sensibility, and therefore is capable of being the sensuously unconditioned condition of phenomena. To explain why that intelligible character should, under present circumstances, give these phenomena and this empirical character, and no other, transcends all the powers of our reason, nay, all its rights of questioning, as if we were to ask why the transcendental object of our external sensuous intuition gives us intuition in space only and no other. But the problem which we have to solve does not require us to ask or to answer such questions. Our problem was, whether freedom is contradictory to natural necessity in one and the same action: and this we have sufficiently answered by showing that freedom may have relation to a very different kind of conditions from those of nature, so that the law of the latter does not affect the former, and both may exist independent of, and undisturbed by, each other.
* * * * * * * *
It should be clearly understood that, in what we have said, we had no intention of establishing the reality of freedom, as one of the faculties which contain [p. 558] the cause of the phenomenal appearances in our world of sense. For not only would this have been no transcendental consideration at all, which is concerned with concepts only, but it could never have succeeded, because from experience we can never infer anything but what must be represented in thought according to the laws of experience. It was not even our intention to prove the possibility of freedom, for in this also we should not have succeeded, because from mere concepts a priori we can never know the possibility of any real ground or any causality. We have here treated freedom as a transcendental idea only, which makes reason imagine that it can absolutely begin the series of phenomenal conditions through what is sensuously unconditioned, but by which reason becomes involved in an antinomy with its own laws, which it had prescribed to the empirical use of the understanding. That this antinomy rests on a mere illusion, and that nature does not contradict the causality of freedom, that was the only thing which we could prove, and cared to prove.
Solution of the Cosmological Idea of the Totality of the Dependence of Phenomena, with Regard to their Existence in General [p. 559]
In the preceding article we considered the changes in the world of sense in their dynamical succession, every one being subordinate to another as its cause. Now, however, the succession of states is to serve only as our guide in order to arrive at an existence that might be the highest condition of all that is subject to change, namely, the necessary Being. We are concerned here, not with the unconditioned causality, but with the unconditioned existence of the substance itself. Therefore the succession which we have before us is properly one of concepts and not of intuitions, so far as the one is the condition of the other.
It is easy to see, however, that as everything comprehended under phenomena is changeable, and therefore conditioned in its existence, there cannot be, in the whole series of dependent existence, any unconditioned link the existence of which might be considered as absolutely necessary, and that therefore, if phenomena were things by themselves, and their condition accordingly belonged with the conditioned always to one and the same series of intuitions, a necessary being, as the condition of [p. 560] the existence of the phenomena of the world of sense, could never exist.
The dynamical regressus has this peculiar distinction as compared with the mathematical, that, as the latter is only concerned with the composition of parts in forming a whole or the division of a whole into its parts, the conditions of that series must always be considered as parts of it, and therefore as homogeneous and as phenomena, while in the dynamical regressus, where we are concerned, not with the possibility of an unconditioned whole, consisting of a number of given parts, or of an unconditioned part belonging to a given whole, but with the derivation of a state from its cause, or of the contingent existence of the substance itself from the necessary substance, it is not required that the condition should form one and the same empirical series with the conditioned.
There remains therefore to us another escape from this apparent antinomy: because both conflicting propositions might, under different aspects, be true at the same time. That is, all things of the world of sense might be entirely contingent, and have therefore an empirically conditioned existence only, though there might nevertheless be a nonempirical condition of the whole series, that is, an unconditionally necessary being. For this, as an intelligible condition, would not belong to the series, as a link of it (not even as the highest link), nor would it render any link of that series empirically unconditioned, [p. 561] but would leave the whole world of sense, in all its members, in its empirically conditioned existence. This manner of admitting an unconditioned existence as the ground of phenomena would differ from the empirically unconditioned causality (freedom), treated of in the preceding article, because, with respect to freedom, the thing itself, as cause (substantia phaenomenon), belonged to the series of conditions, and its causality only was represented as intelligible, while here, on the contrary, the necessary being has to be conceived as lying outside the series of the world of sense (as ens extramundanum), and as purely intelligible, by which alone it could be guarded against itself becoming subject to the law of contingency and dependence applying to all phenomena.
The regulative principle of reason, with regard to our present problem, is therefore this, that everything in the world of sense has an empirically conditioned existence, and that in it there is never any unconditioned necessity with reference to any quality; that there is no member in the series of conditions of which one ought not to expect, and as far as possible to seek, the empirical condition in some possible experience; and that we are never justified in deriving any existence from a condition outside the empirical series, or in considering it as independent and self-subsistent in the series itself; without however denying in the least that the whole [p. 562] series may depend on some intelligible being, which is free therefore from all empirical conditions, and itself contains rather the ground of the possibility of all those phenomena.
By this we by no means intend to prove the unconditionally necessary existence of such a being, or even to demonstrate the possibility of a purely intelligible condition of the existence of the phenomena of the world of sense. But as on the one side we limit reason, lest it should lose the thread of the empirical condition and lose itself in transcendent explanations incapable of being represented in concreto, thus, on the other side, we want to limit the law of the purely empirical use of the understanding, lest it should venture to decide on the possibility of things in general, and declare the intelligible to be impossible, because it has been shown to be useless for the explanation of phenomena. What is shown by this is simply this, that the complete contingency of all things in nature and of all their (empirical) conditions, may well coexist with the arbitrary presupposition of a necessary, though purely intelligible condition, and that, as there is no real contradiction between these two views, they may well both be true. Granted even that such an absolutely necessary being, as postulated by the understanding, [p. 563] is impossible in itself, we still maintain that this cannot be concluded from the general contingency and dependence of all that belongs to the world of sense, nor from the principle that we ought not to stop at any single member so far as it is contingent, and appeal to a cause outside the world. Reason follows its own course in its empirical, and again a peculiar course in its transcendental use.
The world of sense contains nothing but phenomena, and these are mere representations which are always sensuously conditioned. As our objects are never things by themselves, we need not be surprised that we are never justified in making a jump from any member of the several empirical series, beyond the connection of sensibility, as if they were things by themselves, existing apart from their transcendental ground, and which we might leave behind in order to seek for the cause of their existence outside them. This, no doubt, would have to be done in the end with contingent things, but not with mere representations of things, the contingency of which is itself a phenomenon, and cannot lead to any other regressus but that which determines the phenomena, that is, which is empirical. To conceive, however, an intelligible ground of phenomena, that is, of the world of sense, and to conceive it as freed from the contingency of the latter, does not run counter either to the unlimited empirical regressus in the series of phenomena, nor to their general contingency. And this is really the only thing which [p. 564] we had to do in order to remove this apparent antinomy, and which could be done in this wise only. For if every condition of everything conditioned (according to its existence) is sensuous, and therefore belongs to the series, that series is again conditioned (as shown in the antithesis of the fourth antinomy). Either therefore there would remain a conflict with reason, which postulates the unconditioned, or this would have to be placed outside the series, i.e. in the intelligible, the necessity of which neither requires nor admits of any empirical condition, and is therefore, as regards phenomena, unconditionally necessary.
The empirical use of reason (with regard to the conditions of existence in the world of sense) is not affected by the admission of a purely intelligible being, but ascends, according to the principle of a general contingency, from empirical conditions to higher ones, which again are empirical. This regulative principle, however, does not exclude the admission of an intelligible cause not comprehended in the series, when we come to the pure use of reason (with reference to ends or aims). For in this case, an intelligible cause only means the transcendental, and, to us, unknown ground of the possibility of the sensuous series in general, and the existence of this, independent of all conditions of the sensuous series, and, in reference to it, unconditionally, necessary, is by [p. 565] no means opposed to the unlimited contingency of the former, nor to the never-ending regressus in the series of empirical conditions.
Concluding Remark on the Whole Antinomy of Pure Reason
So long as it is only the totality of the conditions in the world of sense and the interest it can have to reason, that form the object of the concepts of our reason, our ideas are no doubt transcendental, but yet cosmological. If, however, we place the unconditioned (with which we are chiefly concerned) in that which is entirely outside the world of sense, therefore beyond all possible experience, our ideas become transcendent: for they serve not only for the completion of the empirical use of the understanding (which always remains an idea that must be obeyed, though it can never be fully carried out), but they separate themselves entirely from it, and create to themselves objects the material of which is not taken from experience, and the objective reality of which does not rest on the completion of the empirical series, but on pure concepts a priori. Such transcendent ideas have a merely intelligible object, which may indeed be admitted as a transcendental object, of which, for the rest, we know nothing, but for which, if we wish to conceive it as a thing determined by its internal distinguishing predicates, we have neither [p. 566] grounds of possibility (as independent of all concepts of experience) nor the slightest justification on our side in admitting it as an object, and which, therefore, is a mere creation of our thoughts. Nevertheless that cosmological idea, which owes its origin to the fourth antinomy, urges us on to take that step. For the conditioned existence of all phenomena, not being founded in itself, requires us to look out for something different from all phenomena, that is, for an intelligible object in which there should be no more contingency. As, however, if we have once allowed ourselves to admit, outside the field of the whole of sensibility, a reality existing by itself, phenomena can only be considered as contingent modes of representing intelligible objects on the part of beings which themselves are intelligences,1 nothing remains to us, in order to form some kind of concept of intelligible things, of which in themselves we have not the slightest knowledge, but analogy, applied to the concepts of experience. As we know the contingent by experience only, but have here to deal with things which are not meant to be objects of experience, we shall have to derive our knowledge of them from what is necessary in itself, that is, from pure concepts of things in general. Thus the first step which we take [p. 567] outside the world of sense, obliges us to begin our new knowledge with the investigation of the absolutely necessary Being, and to derive from its concepts the concepts of all things, so far as they are intelligible only; and this we shall attempt to do in the next chapter.
THE IDEAL OF PURE REASON
[1 ]This cosmical series can therefore be neither greater nor smaller than the possible empirical regressus on which alone its concept rests. And as this can give neither a definite infinite, nor a definite finite (absolutely limited), it becomes clear that we cannot accept the quantity of the world, either as finite or as infinite, because the regressus (by which it is represented) admits of neither the one nor the other.
[1 ]It will have been observed that the argument has here been carried on in a very different way from the dogmatical argument, which was presented before, in the antithesis of the first antinomy. There we took the world of sense, according to the common and dogmatical view, as a thing given by itself, in its totality, before any regressus: and we had denied to it, if it did not occupy all time and all space, any place at all in both. Hence the conclusion also was different from what it is here, for it went to the real infinity of the world.
[1 ]Mathematical, omitted in the First and Second Editions.
[2 ]The understanding admits of no condition among phenomena, which should itself be empirically unconditioned. But if we might conceive an intelligible condition, that is to say, a condition, not belonging itself as a link to the series of phenomena, of something conditioned (as a phenomenon) without in the least interrupting the series of empirical conditions, such a condition might be admitted as empirically unconditioned, without interfering with the empirical continuous regressus.
[1 ]It seems better to read noumenon instead of phenomenon.
[1 ]The true morality of actions (merit or guilt), even that of our own conduct, remains therefore entirely hidden. Our imputations can refer to the empirical character only. How much of that may be the pure effect of freedom, how much should be ascribed to nature only, and to the faults of temperament, for which man is not responsible, or its happy constitution (merits fortunae), no one can discover, and no one can judge with perfect justice.
[1 ]After anzusehen, sind may be added for the sake of clearness, but it is often omitted in Kant’s style.