Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER III: THE IDEAL OF PURE REASON - Critique of Pure Reason
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
CHAPTER III: THE IDEAL 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE IDEAL OF PURE REASON
Of the Ideal in General
We have seen that without the conditions of sensibility, it is impossible to represent objects by means of the pure concepts of the understanding, because the conditions of their objective reality are absent, and they contain the mere form of thought only. If, however, we apply these concepts to phenomena, they can be represented in concreto, because in the phenomena they have the material for forming concepts of experience, which are nothing but concepts of the understanding in concreto. Ideas, however, are still further removed from objective reality than the categories, because they can meet with no phenomenon in which they could be represented in concreto. They contain a certain completeness unattainable by any [p. 568] possible empirical knowledge, and reason aims in them at a systematical unity only, to which the empirically possible unity is to approximate, without ever fully reaching it.
Still further removed from objective reality than the Idea, would seem to be what I call the Ideal, by which I mean the idea, not only in concreto, but in individuo, that is, an individual thing determinable or even determined by the idea alone.
Humanity (as an idea), in its complete perfection, implies not only all essential qualities belonging to human nature, which constitute our concept of it, enlarged to a degree of complete agreement with the highest aims that would represent our idea of perfect humanity, but everything also which, beside this concept, is required for the complete determination of the idea. For of all contradictory predicates one only can agree with the idea of the most perfect man. What to us is an ideal, was in Plato’s language an Idea of a divine mind, an individual object present to its pure intuition, the most perfect of every kind of possible beings, and the archetype of all phenomenal copies.
Without soaring so high, we have to admit [p. 569] that human reason contains not only ideas, but ideals also, which though they have not, like those of Plato, creative, yet have certainly practical power (as regulative principles), and form the basis of the possible perfection of certain acts. Moral concepts are not entirely pure concepts of reason, because they rest on something empirical, pleasure or pain. Nevertheless, with regard to the principle by which reason imposes limits on freedom, which in itself is without laws, these moral concepts (with regard to their form at least) may well serve as examples of pure concepts of reason. Virtue and human wisdom in its perfect purity are ideas, while the wise man (of the Stoics) is an ideal, that is, a man existing in thought only, but in complete agreement with the idea of wisdom. While the idea gives rules, the ideal serves as the archetype for the permanent determination of the copy; and we have no other rule of our actions but the conduct of that divine man within us, with which we compare ourselves, and by which we judge and better ourselves, though we can never reach it. These ideals, though they cannot claim objective reality (existence), are not therefore to be considered as mere chimeras, but supply reason with an indispensable standard, because it requires the concept of that which is perfect of its kind, in order to estimate and [p. 570] measure by it the degree and the number of the defects in the imperfect. To attempt to realise the ideal in an example, that is, as a real phenomenon, as we might represent a perfectly wise man in a novel, is impossible, nay, absurd, and but little encouraging, because the natural limits, which are constantly interfering with the perfection in the idea, make all illusion in such an experiment impossible, and thus render the good itself in the idea suspicious and unreal.
This is the case with the ideal of reason, which must always rest on definite concepts, and serve as rule and model, whether for imitation or for criticism. The case is totally different with those creations of our imagination of which it is impossible to give an intelligible concept, or say anything, — which are in fact a kind of monogram, consisting of single lines without any apparent rule, a vague outline rather of different experiences than a definite image, such as painters and physiognomists pretend to carry in their heads, and of which they speak as a kind of vague shadow only of their creations and criticisms that can never be communicated to others. They may be termed, though improperly, ideals of sensibility, because they are meant to be the never-attainable model of possible empirical intuitions, and yet furnish no rule capable of being explained or examined. [p. 571]
In its ideal, on the contrary, reason aims at a perfect determination, according to rules a priori, and it conceives an object throughout determinable according to principles, though without the sufficient conditions of experience, so that the concept itself is transcendent.
Of the Transcendental Ideal (Prototypon Transcendentale)
Every concept is, with regard to that which is not contained in it, undetermined and subject to the principle of determinability, according to which of every two contradictorily opposite predicates, one only can belong to it. This rests on the principle of contradiction, and is therefore a purely logical principle, taking no account of any of the contents of our knowledge, and looking only to its logical form.
Besides this everything is subject, in its possibility, to the principle of complete determination, according to which one of all the possible predicates of things, as compared with their opposites, must be applicable [p. 572] to it. This does not rest only on the principle of contradiction, for it regards everything, not only in relation to two contradictory predicates, but in relation to the whole possibility, that is, to the whole of all predicates of things, and, presupposing these as a condition a priori, it represents everything as deriving its own possibility from the share which it possesses in that whole possibility.1 This principle of complete determination relates therefore to the content, and not only to the logical form. It is the principle of the synthesis of all predicates which are meant to form the complete concept of a thing, and not the principle of analytical representation only, by means of one of two contradictory predicates; and it contains a transcendental presupposition, namely, that of the material for all possibility which is supposed to contain [p. 573] a priori the data for the particular possibility of everything.
The proposition, that everything which exists is completely determined, does not signify only that one of every pair of given contradictory predicates, but that one of all possible predicates must always belong to a thing, so that by this proposition predicates are not only compared with each other logically, but the thing itself is compared transcendentally with the sum total of all possible predicates. The proposition really means that, in order to know a thing completely, we must know everything that is possible, and thereby determine it either affirmatively or negatively. This complete determination is therefore a concept which in concreto can never be represented in its totality, and is founded therefore on an idea which belongs to reason only, reason prescribing to the understanding the rule of its complete application.
Now although this idea of the sum total of all possibility, so far as it forms the condition of the complete determination of everything, is itself still undetermined with regard to its predicates, and is conceived by us merely as a sum total of all possible predicates, we find nevertheless on closer examination that this idea, as a fundamental concept, excludes a number of predicates which, being derivative, are given by others, or cannot stand one [p. 574] by the side of the other, and that it is raised to a completely a priori determined concept, thus becoming the concept of an individual object which is completely determined by the mere idea, and must therefore be called an ideal of pure reason.
If we consider all possible predicates not only logically, but transcendentally, that is, according to their content, which may be thought in them a priori, we find that through some we represent being, through others a mere not-being. The logical negation, which is merely indicated through the small word not, does in reality never apply to a concept, but only to its relation to another in a judgment, and is very far therefore from being sufficient to determine a concept with regard to its content. The expression, not-mortal, can in no wise indicate that mere not-being if thereby represented in an object, but leaves the content entirely untouched. A transcendental negation, on the contrary, signifies not-being by itself, and is opposed to transcendental affirmation, or a something the concept of which in itself expresses being. It is called, therefore, reality (from res, a thing), because through it alone, and so far only as it reaches, are objects something, while the opposite negation indicates a mere want, and, if [p. 575] it stands by itself, represents the absence of everything.
No one can definitely think a negation, unless he founds it on the opposite affirmation. A man born blind cannot frame the smallest conception of darkness, because he has none of light. The savage knows nothing of poverty, because he does not know ease, and the ignorant has no conception of his ignorance,1 because he has none of knowledge, etc. All negative concepts are therefore derivative, and it is the realities which contain the data and, so to speak, the material, or the transcendental content, by which a complete determination of all things becomes possible.
If, therefore, our reason postulates a transcendental substratum for all determinations, a substratum which contains, as it were, the whole store of material whence all possible predicates of things may be taken, we shall find that such a substratum is nothing but the idea of the sum total of reality (omnitudo realitatis). In [p. 576] that case all true negations are nothing but limitations which they could not be unless there were the substratum of the unlimited (the All).
By this complete possession of all reality we represent the concept of a thing by itself as completely determined, and the concept of an ens realissimum is the concept of individual being, because of all possible opposite predicates one, namely, that which absolutely belongs to being, is found in its determination. It is therefore a transcendental ideal which forms the foundations of the complete determination which is necessary for all that exists, and which constitutes at the same time the highest and complete condition of its possibility, to which all thought of objects, with regard to their content, must be traced back. It is at the same time the only true ideal of which human reason is capable, because it is in this case alone that a concept of a thing, which in itself is general, is completely determined by itself, and recognised as the representation of an individual.
The logical determination of a concept by reason is based upon a disjunctive syllogism in which the major contains a logical division (the division of the sphere of a general concept), while the minor limits that sphere to a certain part, and the conclusion determines the concept by that part. The general concept of a reality [p. 577] in general cannot be divided a priori, because without experience we know no definite kinds of reality contained under that genus. Hence the transcendental major of the complete determination of all things is nothing but a representation of the sum total of all reality, and not only a concept which comprehends all predicates, according to their transcendental content, under itself, but within itself; and the complete determination of everything depends on the limitation of this total of reality, of which some part is ascribed to the thing, while the rest is excluded from it, a procedure which agrees with the aut aut of a disjunctive major, and with the determination of the object through one of the members of that division in the minor. Thus the procedure of reason by which the transcendental ideal becomes the basis of the determination of all possible things, is analogous to that which reason follows in disjunctive syllogisms, a proposition on which I tried before to base the systematical division of all transcendental ideas, and according to which they are produced, as corresponding to the three kinds of the syllogisms of reason.
It is self-evident that for that purpose, namely, in order simply to represent the necessary and complete determination of things, reason does not presuppose [p. 578] the existence of a being that should correspond to the ideal, but its idea only, in order to derive from an unconditioned totality of complete determination the conditioned one, that is the totality of something limited. Reason therefore sees in the ideal the prototypon of all things which, as imperfect copies (ectypa), derive the material of their possibility from it, approaching more or less nearly to it, yet remaining always far from reaching it.
Thus all the possibility of things (or of the synthesis of the manifold according to their content) is considered as derivative, and the possibility of that only which includes in itself all reality as original. For all negations (which really are the only predicates by which everything else is distinguished from the truly real being) are limitations only of a greater and, in the last instance, of the highest reality, presupposing it, and, according to their content, derived from it. All the manifoldness of things consist only of so many modes of limiting the concept of the highest reality that forms their common substratum, in the same way as all figures are only different modes of limiting endless space. Hence the object of its ideal which exists in reason only is called the original Being (ens originarium), and so far as it has nothing above it, the highest Being (ens summum), and so far as everything as conditioned is subject to it, the Being of all beings (ens entium). All this however does not mean the objective relation of any real thing to other [p. 579] things, but of the idea to concepts, and leaves us in perfect ignorance as to the existence of a being of such superlative excellence.
Again, as we cannot say that an original being consists of so many derivative beings, because these in reality presuppose the former, and cannot therefore constitute it, it follows that the ideal of the original being must be conceived as simple.
The derivation of all other possibility from that original being cannot therefore, if we speak accurately, be considered as a limitation of its highest reality, and, as it were, a division of it — for in that case the original being would become to us a mere aggregate of derivative beings, which, according to what we have just explained, is impossible, though we represented it so in our first rough sketch. On the contrary, the highest reality would form the basis of the possibility of all things as a cause, and not as a sum total. The manifoldness of things would not depend on the limitation of the original being, but on its complete effect, and to this also would belong all our sensibility, together with all reality in phenomenal appearance, which could not, as an ingredient, belong to the idea of a supreme being.
If we follow up this idea of ours and hypostasise [p. 580] it, we shall be able to determine the original being by means of the concept of the highest reality as one, simple, all sufficient, eternal, etc., in one word, determine it in its unconditioned completeness through all predicaments. The concept of such a being is the concept ofGod in its transcendental sense, and thus, as I indicated above, the ideal of pure reason is the object of a transcendental theology.
By such an employment of the transcendental idea, however, we should be overstepping the limits of its purpose and admissibility. Reason used it only, as being the concept of all reality, for a foundation of the complete determination of things in general, without requiring that all this reality should be given objectively and constitute itself a thing. This is a mere fiction by which we comprehend and realise the manifold of our idea in one ideal, as a particular being. We have no right to do this, not even to assume the possibility of such an hypothesis; nor do all the consequences which flow from such an ideal concern the complete determination of things in general, for the sake of which alone the idea was necessary, or influence it in the least.
It is not enough to describe the procedure [p. 581] of our reason and its dialectic, we must try also to discover its sources, in order to be able to explain that illusion itself as a phenomenon of the understanding. The ideal of which we are speaking is founded on a natural, not on a purely arbitrary idea. I ask, therefore, how does it happen that reason considers all the possibility of things as derived from one fundamental possibility, namely, that of the highest reality, and then presupposes it as contained in a particular original being?
The answer is easily found in the discussions of the transcendental Analytic. The possibility of the objects of our senses is their relation to our thought, by which something (namely, the empirical form) can be thought a priori, while what constitutes the matter, the reality in the phenomena (all that corresponds to sensation) must be given, because without it it could not even be thought, nor its possibility be represented. An object of the senses can be completely determined only when it is compared with all phenomenal predicates, and represented by them either affirmatively or negatively. As, however, that which constitutes the thing itself (as a phenomenon), namely, the real, must be given, and as without this the thing could not be conceived at all, and as that in which the real of all phenomena is given is what we [p. 582] call the one and all comprehending experience, it is necessary that the material for the possibility of all objects of our senses should be presupposed as given in one whole, on the limitation of which alone the possibility of all empirical objects, their difference from each other, and their complete determination can be founded. And since no other objects can be given us but those of the senses, and nowhere but in the context of a possible experience, nothing can be an object to us, if it does not presuppose that whole of all empirical reality, as the condition of its possibility. Owing to a natural illusion, we are led to consider a principle which applies only to the objects of our senses, as a principle valid for all things, and thus to take the empirical principle of our concepts of the possibility of things as phenomena, by omitting this limitation, as a transcendental principle of the possibility of things in general.
If afterwards we hypostasise this idea of the whole of all reality, this is owing to our changing dialectically the distributive unity of the empirical use of our understanding into the collective unity of an empirical whole, and then represent to ourselves this whole of phenomena as an individual thing, containing in itself all empirical reality. Afterwards, by means of the aforementioned transcendental [p. 583] subreption, this is taken for the concept of a thing standing at the head of the possibility of all things, and supplying the real conditions for their complete determination.1
Of the Arguments of Speculative Reason in Proof of the Existence of a Supreme Being
Notwithstanding this urgent want of reason to presuppose something, as a foundation for the complete determination of the concepts of the understanding, reason nevertheless becomes too soon aware of the purely ideal and factitious character of such a supposition to allow itself to be persuaded by it alone to admit a [p. 584] mere creation of thought as a real being, unless it were forced by something else to seek for some rest in its regressus from the conditioned, which is given, to the unconditioned which, though in itself and according to its mere concept not given as real, can alone complete the series of conditions followed up to their causes. This is the natural course, taken by the reason of every, even the most ordinary, human being, although not every one can hold out in it. It does not begin with concepts, but with common experience, and thus has something really existing for its foundation. That foundation however sinks, unless it rests upon the immoveable rock of that which is absolutely necessary; and this itself hangs without a support, if without and beneath it there be empty space, and everything be not filled by it, so that no room be left for a why, — in fact, if it be not infinite in reality.
If we admit the existence of something, whatever it may be, we must also admit that something exists by necessity. For the contingent exists only under the condition of something else as its cause, and from this the same conclusion leads us on till we reach a cause which is not contingent, and therefore unconditionally necessary. This is the argument on which reason founds its progress towards an original being.
Now reason looks out for the concept of a [p. 585] being worthy of such a distinction as the unconditioned necessity of its existence, not in order to conclude a priori its existence from its concept (for if it ventured to do this, it might confine itself altogether to mere concepts, without looking for a given existence as their foundation), but only in order to find among all concepts of possible things one which has nothing incompatible with absolute necessity. For that something absolutely necessary must exist, is regarded as certain after the first conclusion. And after discarding everything else, as incompatible with that necessity, reason takes the one being that remains for the absolutely necessary being, whether its necessity can be comprehended, that is, derived from its concept alone, or not. Now the being the concept of which contains a therefore for every wherefore, which is in no point and no respect defective, and is sufficient as a condition everywhere, seems, on that account, to be most compatible with absolute necessity, because, being in possession of all conditions of all that is possible, it does not require, nay, is not capable of any condition, and satisfies at least in this one respect the concept of unconditioned necessity more than any other concept which, because it is deficient and in need of completion, does not exhibit any such [p. 586] characteristic of independence from all further conditions. It is true that we ought not to conclude that what does not contain the highest and in every respect complete condition, must therefore be conditioned even in its existence; yet it does not exhibit the only characteristic of unconditioned existence, by which reason is able to know any being as unconditioned by means of a concept a priori.
The concept of a being of the highest reality (ens realissimum) would therefore seem of all concepts of all possible things to be the most compatible with the concept of an unconditionally necessary Being, and though it may not satisfy that concept altogether, yet no choice is left to us, and we are forced to keep to it, because we must not risk the existence of a necessary Being, and, if we admit it, can, in the whole field of possibility, find nothing that could produce better founded claims on such a distinction in existence.
This therefore is the natural course of human reason. It begins by persuading itself of the existence of some necessary Being. In this being it recognises unconditioned existence. It then seeks for the concept of that which is independent of all condition, and finds it in that [p. 587] which is itself the sufficient condition of all other things, that is, in that which contains all reality. Now as the unlimited all is absolute unity, and implies the concept of a being, one and supreme, reason concludes that the Supreme Being, as the original cause of all things, must exist by absolute necessity.
We cannot deny that this argument possesses a certain foundation, when we must come to a decision, that is, when, after having once admitted the existence of some one necessary Being, we agree that we must decide where to place it; for in that case we could not make a better choice, or we have really no choice, but are forced to vote for the absolute unity of complete reality, as the source of all possibility. If, however, we are not forced to come to a decision, but prefer to leave the question open till our consent has been forced by the full weight of arguments, that is, if we only have to form a judgment of what we really do know, and what we only seem to know, then our former conclusion does by no means appear in so favourable a light, and must appeal to favour in order to make up for the defects of its legal claims.
For, if we accept everything as here stated, namely, first, that we may infer rightly from any given existence [p. 588] (perhaps even my own only) the existence of an unconditionally necessary Being, secondly, that I must consider a being which contains all reality and therefore also all condition, as absolutely unconditioned, and that therefore the concept of the thing which is compatible with absolute necessity has thus been found, it follows by no means from this, that a concept of a limited being, which does not possess the highest reality, is therefore contradictory to absolute necessity. For, though I do not find in its concept the unconditioned which carries the whole of conditions with it, this does not prove that, for the same reason, its existence must be conditioned; for I cannot say in a hypothetical argument, that if a certain condition is absent (here the completeness according to concepts), the conditioned also is absent. On the contrary, it will be open to us to consider all the rest of limited beings as equally unconditioned, although we cannot from the general concept which we have of them deduce their necessity. Thus this argument would not have given us the least concept of the qualities of a necessary Being, in fact it would not have helped us in the least.
Nevertheless this argument retains a certain importance and authority, of which it cannot be at once deprived on account of this objective insufficiency. For suppose [p. 589] that there existed certain obligations, quite correct in the idea of reason, but without any reality in their application to ourselves, that is without any motives, unless we admitted a Supreme Being to give effect to practical laws, we should then be bound to follow the concepts which, though not objectively sufficient, are yet, according to the standard of our reason, preponderant, and more convincing than any others. The duty of deciding would here turn the balance against the hesitation of speculation by an additional practical weight; nay, reason would not be justified, even before the most indulgent judge, if, under such urgent pleas, though with deficient insight, it had not followed its judgment, of which we can say at least, that we know no better.
This argument, though it is no doubt transcendental, as based on the internal insufficiency of the contingent, is nevertheless so simple and natural, that the commonest understanding accepts it, if once led up to it. We see things change, arise and perish, and these, or at least their state, must therefore have a cause. Of [p. 590] every cause, however, that is given in experience, the same question must be asked. Where, therefore, could we more fairly place the last causality, except where there exists also the supreme causality, that is in that Being, which originally contains in itself the sufficient cause for every possible effect, and the concept of which can easily be realised by the one trait of an all-comprehending perfection? That supreme cause we afterwards consider as absolutely necessary, because we find it absolutely necessary to ascend to it, while there is no ground for going beyond it. Thus among all nations, even when still in a state of blind polytheism, we always see some sparks of monotheism, to which they have been led, not by meditation and profound speculation, but by the natural bent of the common understanding, which they gradually followed and comprehended.
There are only three kinds of proofs of the existence of God from speculative reason.
All the paths that can be followed to this end begin either from definite experience and the peculiar nature of the world of sense, known to us through experience, and ascend from it, according to the laws of causality, to the highest cause, existing outside the world; or they rest on indefinite experience only, that is, on any existence which is empirically given; or lastly, they leave all experience out of account, and conclude, entirely a priori from mere concepts, the existence of a supreme [p. 591] cause. The first proof is the physico-theological, the second the cosmological, the third the ontological proof. There are no more, and there can be no more.
I shall show that neither on the one path, the empirical, nor on the other, the transcendental, can reason achieve anything, and that it stretches its wings in vain, if it tries to soar beyond the world of sense by the mere power of speculation. With regard to the order in which these three arguments should be examined, it will be the opposite of that, followed by reason in its gradual development, in which we placed them also at first ourselves. For we shall be able to show that, although experience gives the first impulse, it is the transcendental concept only which guides reason in its endeavours, and fixes the last goal which reason wishes to retain. I shall therefore begin with the examination of the transcendental proof, and see afterwards how far it may be strengthened by the addition of empirical elements.
Of the Impossibility of an Ontological Proof of the Existence of God [p. 592]
It is easily perceived, from what has been said before, that the concept of an absolutely necessary Being is a concept of pure reason, that is, a mere idea, the objective reality of which is by no means proved by the fact that reason requires it. That idea does no more than point to a certain but unattainable completeness, and serves rather to limit the understanding, than to extend its sphere. It seems strange and absurd, however, that a conclusion of an absolutely necessary existence from a given existence in general should seem urgent and correct, and that yet all the conditions under which the understanding can form a concept of such a necessity should be entirely against us.
People have at all times been talking of an absolutely necessary Being, but they have tried, not so much to understand whether and how a thing of that kind could even be conceived, as rather to prove its existence. No doubt a verbal definition of that concept is quite easy, if we say that it is something the non-existence of which is impossible. This, however, does not make us much [p. 593] wiser with reference to the conditions that make it necessary1 to consider the non-existence of a thing as absolutely inconceivable. It is these conditions which we want to know, and whether by that concept we are thinking anything or not. For to use the word unconditioned, in order to get rid of all the conditions which the understanding always requires, when wishing to conceive something as necessary, does not render it clear to us in the least whether, after that, we are still thinking anything or perhaps nothing, by the concept of the unconditionally necessary.
Nay, more than this, people have imagined that by a number of examples they had explained this concept, at first risked at haphazard, and afterwards become quite familiar, and that therefore all further inquiry regarding its intelligibility were unnecessary. It was said that every proposition of geometry, such as, for instance, that a triangle has three angles, is absolutely necessary, and people began to talk of an object entirely outside the sphere of our understanding, as if they understood perfectly well what, by that concept, they wished to predicate of it.
But all these pretended examples are taken without exception from judgments only, not from things, and their existence. Now the unconditioned necessity of judgments is not the same thing as an absolute necessity of things. The absolute necessity of a judgment is only a conditioned necessity of the thing, or of the predicate in the [p. 594] judgment. The above proposition did not say that three angles were absolutely necessary, but that under the condition of the existence of a triangle, three angles are given (in it) by necessity. Nevertheless, this pure logical necessity has exerted so powerful an illusion, that, after having formed of a thing a concept a priori so constituted that it seemed to include existence in its sphere, people thought they could conclude with certainty that, because existence necessarily belongs to the object of that concept, provided always that I accept the thing as given (existing), its existence also must necessarily be accepted (according to the rule of identity), and that the Being therefore must itself be absolutely necessary, because its existence is implied in a concept, which is accepted voluntarily only, and always under the condition that I accept the object of it as given.
If in an identical judgment I reject the predicate and retain the subject, there arises a contradiction, and hence, I say, that the former belongs to the latter necessarily. But if I reject the subject as well as the predicate, there is no contradiction, because there is nothing left that can be contradicted. To accept a triangle and yet to reject its three angles is contradictory, but there is no contradiction at all in admitting the non-existence of the triangle and of its three angles. The same applies to the concept of an absolutely necessary Being. Remove its [p. 595] existence, and you remove the thing itself, with all its predicates, so that a contradiction becomes impossible. There is nothing external to which the contradiction could apply, because the thing is not meant to be externally necessary; nor is there anything internal that could be contradicted, for in removing the thing out of existence, you have removed at the same time all its internal qualities. If you say, God is almighty, that is a necessary judgment, because almightiness cannot be removed, if you accept a deity, that is, an infinite Being, with the concept of which that other concept is identical. But if you say, God is not, then neither his almightiness, nor any other of his predicates is given; they are all, together with the subject, removed out of existence, and therefore there is not the slightest contradiction in that sentence.
We have seen therefore that, if I remove the predicate of a judgment together with its subject, there can never be an internal contradiction, whatever the predicate may be. The only way of evading this conclusion would be to say that there are subjects which cannot be removed out of existence, but must always remain. But this would be the same as to say that there exist absolutely necessary subjects, an assumption the correctness of which I have called in question, and the possibility of which you had undertaken to prove. For I cannot form to myself the smallest concept of a thing which, if it had been removed together with all its predicates, should leave behind [p. 596] a contradiction; and except contradiction, I have no other test of impossibility by pure concepts a priori. Against all these general arguments (which no one can object to) you challenge me with a case, which you represent as a proof by a fact, namely, that there is one, and this one concept only, in which the non-existence or the removal of its object would be self-contradictory, namely, the concept of the most real Being (ens realissimum). You say that it possesses all reality, and you are no doubt justified in accepting such a Being as possible. This for the present I may admit, though the absence of self-contradictoriness in a concept is far from proving the possibility of its object.1 Now reality comprehends existence, and therefore existence is contained in the concept of a thing possible. If that thing is removed, the [p. 597] internal possibility of the thing would be removed, and this is self-contradictory.
I answer: — Even in introducing into the concept of a thing, which you wish to think in its possibility only, the concept of its existence, under whatever disguise it may be, you have been guilty of a contradiction. If you were allowed to do this, you would apparently have carried your point; but in reality you have achieved nothing, but have only committed a tautology. I simply ask you, whether the proposition, that this or that thing (which, whatever it may be, I grant you as possible) exists, is an analytical or a synthetical proposition? If the former, then by its existence you add nothing to your thought of the thing; but in that case, either the thought within you would be the thing itself, or you have presupposed existence, as belonging to possibility, and have according to your own showing deduced existence from internal possibility, which is nothing but a miserable tautology. The mere word reality, which in the concept of a thing sounds different from existence in the concept of the predicate, can make no difference. For if you call all accepting or positing (without determining what it is) reality, you have placed a thing, with all its predicates, within the concept of the subject, and accepted it as real, and you do nothing but repeat it in the predicate. If, on the [p. 598] contrary, you admit, as every sensible man must do, that every proposition involving existence is synthetical, how can you say that the predicate of existence does not admit of removal without contradiction, a distinguishing property which is peculiar to analytical propositions only, the very character of which depends on it?
I might have hoped to put an end to this subtle argumentation, without many words, and simply by an accurate definition of the concept of existence, if I had not seen that the illusion, in mistaking a logical predicate for a real one (that is the predicate which determines a thing), resists all correction. Everything can become a logical predicate, even the subject itself may be predicated of itself, because logic takes no account of any contents of concepts. Determination, however, is a predicate, added to the concept of the subject, and enlarging it, and it must not therefore be contained in it.
Being is evidently not a real predicate, or a concept of something that can be added to the concept of a thing. It is merely the admission of a thing, and of certain determinations in it. Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgment. The proposition, God is almighty, contains two concepts, each having its object, namely, God and almightiness. The small word is, is not an additional [p. 599] predicate, but only serves to put the predicate in relation to the subject. If, then, I take the subject (God) with all its predicates (including that of almightiness), and say, God is, or there is a God, I do not put a new predicate to the concept of God, but I only put the subject by itself, with all its predicates, in relation to my concept, as its object. Both must contain exactly the same kind of thing, and nothing can have been added to the concept, which expresses possibility only, by my thinking its object as simply given and saying, it is. And thus the real does not contain more than the possible. A hundred real dollars do not contain a penny more than a hundred possible dollars. For as the latter signify the concept, the former the object and its position by itself, it is clear that, in case the former contained more than the latter, my concept would not express the whole object, and would not therefore be its adequate concept. In my financial position no doubt there exists more by one hundred real dollars, than by their concept only (that is their possibility), because in reality the object is not only contained analytically in my concept, but is added to my concept (which is a determination of my state), synthetically; but the conceived hundred dollars are not in the least increased through the existence which is outside my concept.
By whatever and by however many predicates [p. 600] I may think a thing (even in completely determining it), nothing is really added to it, if I add that the thing exists. Otherwise, it would not be the same that exists, but something more than was contained in the concept, and I could not say that the exact object of my concept existed. Nay, even if I were to think in a thing all reality, except one, that one missing reality would not be supplied by my saying that so defective a thing exists, but it would exist with the same defect with which I thought it; or what exists would be different from what I thought. If, then, I try to conceive a being, as the highest reality (without any defect), the question still remains, whether it exists or not. For though in my concept there may be wanting nothing of the possible real content of a thing in general, something is wanting in its relation to my whole state of thinking, namely, that the knowledge of that object should be possible a posteriori also. And here we perceive the cause of our difficulty. If we were concerned with an object of our senses, I could not mistake the existence of a thing for the mere concept of it; for by the concept the object is thought as only in harmony with the general conditions of a possible empirical knowledge, while by its existence it is thought as contained in the whole content of experience. Through this connection with the content of the whole experience, the concept of an object [p. 601] is not in the least increased; our thought has only received through it one more possible perception. If, however, we are thinking existence through the pure category alone, we need not wonder that we cannot find any characteristic to distinguish it from mere possibility.
Whatever, therefore, our concept of an object may contain, we must always step outside it, in order to attribute to it existence. With objects of the senses, this takes place through their connection with any one of my perceptions, according to empirical laws; with objects of pure thought, however, there is no means of knowing their existence, because it would have to be known entirely a priori, while our consciousness of every kind of existence, whether immediately by perception, or by conclusions which connect something with perception, belongs entirely to the unity of experience, and any existence outside that field, though it cannot be declared to be absolutely impossible, is a presupposition that cannot be justified by anything.
The concept of a Supreme Being is, in many respects, a very useful idea, but, being an idea only, it is quite incapable of increasing, by itself alone, our knowledge [p. 602] with regard to what exists. It cannot even do so much as to inform us any further as to its possibility. The analytical characteristic of possibility, which consists in the absence of contradiction in mere positions (realities), cannot be denied to it; but the connection of all real properties in one and the same thing is a synthesis the possibility of which we cannot judge a priori because these realities are not given to us as such, and because, even if this were so, no judgment whatever takes place, it being necessary to look for the characteristic of the possibility of synthetical knowledge in experience only, to which the object of an idea can never belong. Thus we see that the celebrated Leibniz is far from having achieved what he thought he had, namely, to understand a priori the possibility of so sublime an ideal Being.
Time and labour therefore are lost on the famous ontological (Cartesian) proof of the existence of a Supreme Being from mere concepts; and a man might as well imagine that he could become richer in knowledge by mere ideas, as a merchant in capital, if, in order to improve his position, he were to add a few noughts to his cash account.
Of the Impossibility of a Cosmological Proof of the Existence of God [p. 603]
It was something quite unnatural, and a mere innovation of scholastic wisdom, to attempt to pick out of an entirely arbitrary idea the existence of the object corresponding to it. Such an attempt would never have been made, if there had not existed beforehand a need of our reason of admitting for existence in general something necessary, to which we may ascend and in which we may rest; and if, as that necessity must be unconditioned and a priori certain, reason had not been forced to seek a concept which, if possible, should satisfy such a demand and give us a knowledge of an existence entirely a priori. Such a concept was supposed to exist in the idea of an ens realissimum, and that idea was therefore used for a more definite knowledge of that, the existence of which one had admitted or been persuaded of independently, namely, of the necessary Being. This very natural procedure of reason was carefully concealed, and instead of ending with that concept, an attempt was made to begin with it, and thus to derive from it the necessity of existence, which it was only meant to supplement. Hence arose [p. 604] that unfortunate ontological proof, which satisfies neither the demands of our natural and healthy understanding, nor the requirements of the schools.
The cosmological proof, which we have now to examine, retains the connection of absolute necessity with the highest reality, but instead of concluding, like the former, from the highest reality necessity in existence, it concludes from the given unconditioned necessity of any being, its unlimited reality. It thus brings everything at least into the groove of a natural, though I know not whether of a really or only apparently rational syllogism, which carries the greatest conviction, not only for the common, but also for the speculative understanding, and has evidently drawn the first outline of all proofs of natural theology, which have been followed at all times, and will be followed in future also, however much they may be hidden and disguised. We shall now proceed to exhibit and to examine this cosmological proof which Leibniz calls also the proof a contingentia mundi.
It runs as follows: If there exists anything, there must exist an absolutely necessary Being also. Now I, at least, exist; therefore there exists an absolutely necessary Being. The minor contains an experience, the major the conclusion from experience in general to the existence of [p. 605] the necessary.1 This proof therefore begins with experience, and is not entirely a priori, or ontological; and, as the object of all possible experience is called the world, this proof is called the cosmological proof. As it takes no account of any peculiar property of the objects of experience, by which this world of ours may differ from any other possible world, it is distinguished, in its name also, from the physico-theological proof, which employs as arguments, observations of the peculiar property of this our world of sense.
The proof then proceeds as follows: The necessary Being can be determined in one way only, that is, by one only of all possible opposite predicates; it must therefore be determined completely by its own concept. Now, there is only one concept of a thing possible, which a priori completely determines it, namely, that of the ens realissimum. It follows, therefore, that the concept of the ens realissimum is the only one by which a necessary Being can be thought, and therefore it is concluded [p. 606] that a highest Being exists by necessity.
There are so many sophistical propositions in this cosmological argument, that it really seems as if speculative reason had spent all her dialectical skill in order to produce the greatest possible transcendental illusion. Before examining it, we shall draw up a list of them, by which reason has put forward an old argument disguised as a new one, in order to appeal to the agreement of two witnesses, one supplied by pure reason, the other by experience, while in reality there is only one, namely, the first, who changes his dress and voice in order to be taken for a second. In order to have a secure foundation, this proof takes its stand on experience, and pretends to be different from the ontological proof, which places its whole confidence in pure concepts a priori only. The cosmological proof, however, uses that experience only in order to make one step, namely, to the existence of a necessary Being in general. What properties that Being may have, can never be learnt from the empirical argument, and for that purpose reason takes leave of it altogether, and tries to find out, from among concepts only, what properties an absolutely necessary Being ought to possess, i.e. which among all possible things contains in itself the requisite [p. 607] conditions (requisita) of absolute necessity. This requisite is believed by reason to exist in the concept of an ens realissimum only, and reason concludes at once that this must be the absolutely necessary Being. In this conclusion it is simply assumed that the concept of a being of the highest reality is perfectly adequate to the concept of absolute necessity in existence; so that the latter might be concluded from the former. This is the same proposition as that maintained in the ontological argument, and is simply taken over into the cosmological proof, nay, made its foundation, although the intention was to avoid it. For it is clear that absolute necessity is an existence from mere concepts. If, then, I say that the concept of the ens realissimum is such a concept, and is the only concept adequate to necessary existence, I am bound to admit that the latter may be deduced from the former. The whole conclusive strength of the so-called cosmological proof rests therefore in reality on the ontological proof from mere concepts, while the appeal to experience is quite superfluous, and, though it may lead us on to the concept of absolute necessity, it cannot demonstrate it with any definite object. For as soon as we intend to do this, we must at once abandon all experience, and try to find out which among the pure concepts may contain the conditions of the possibility of an absolutely [p. 608] necessary Being. But if in this way the possibility of such a Being has been perceived, its existence also has been proved: for what we are really saying is this, that under all possible things there is one which carries with it absolute necessity, or that this Being exists with absolute necessity.
Sophisms in arguments are most easily discovered, if they are put forward in a correct scholastic form. This we shall now proceed to do.
If the proposition is right, that every absolutely necessary Being is, at the same time, the most real Being (and this is the nervus probandi of the cosmological proof), it must, like all affirmative judgments, be capable of conversion, at least per accidens. This would give us the proposition that some entia realissima are at the same time absolutely necessary beings. One ens realissimum, however, does not differ from any other on any point, and what applies to one, applies also to all. In this case, therefore, I may employ absolute conversion, and say, that every ens realissimum is a necessary Being. As this proposition is determined by its concepts a priori only, it follows that the mere concept of the ens realissimum must carry with it its absolute necessity; and this, which was maintained by the ontological proof, and not recognised by the cosmological, forms really the foundation of the conclusions of the latter, though in a disguised form. [p. 609]
We thus see that the second road taken by speculative reason, in order to prove the existence of the highest Being, is not only as illusory as the first, but commits in in addition an ignoratio elenchi, promising to lead us by a new path, but after a short circuit bringing us back to the old one, which we had abandoned for its sake.
I said before that a whole nest of dialectical assumptions was hidden in that cosmological proof, and that transcendental criticism might easily detect and destroy it. I shall here enumerate them only, leaving it to the experience of the reader to follow up the fallacies and remove them.
We find, first, the transcendental principle of inferring a cause from the accidental. This principle, that everything contingent must have a cause, is valid in the world of sense only, and has not even a meaning outside it. For the purely intellectual concept of the contingent cannot produce a synthetical proposition like that of causality, and the principle of causality has no meaning and no criterion of its use, except in the world of sense, while here it is meant to help us beyond the world of sense.
Secondly. The inference of a first cause, [p. 610] based on the impossibility of an infinite ascending series of given causes in this world of sense, — an inference which the principles of the use of reason do not allow us to draw even in experience, while here we extend that principle beyond experience, whither that series can never be prolonged.
Thirdly. The false self-satisfaction of reason with regard to the completion of that series, brought about by removing in the end every kind of condition, without which, nevertheless, no concept of necessity is possible, and by then, when any definite concepts have become impossible, accepting this as a completion of our concept.
Fourthly. The mistaking the logical possibility of a concept of all united reality (without any internal contradiction) for the transcendental, which requires a principle for the practicability of such a synthesis, such principle however being applicable to the field of possible experience only, etc.
The trick of the cosmological proof consists only in trying to avoid the proof of the existence of a necessary Being a priori by mere concepts. Such a proof would have to be ontological, and of this we feel ourselves quite incapable. For this reason we take a real existence (of any experience whatever), and conclude from it, as well as may be, some absolutely necessary condition of it. In that case there is no necessity for explaining its possibility, because, if it has been proved that it [p. 611] exists, the question as to its possibility is unnecessary. If then we want to determine that necessary Being more accurately, according to its nature, we do not seek what is sufficient to make us understand from its concept the necessity of its existence. If we could do this, no empirical presupposition would be necessary. No, we only seek the negative condition (conditio sine qua non), without which a Being would not be absolutely necessary. Now, in every other kind of syllogisms leading from a given effect to its cause, this might well be feasible. In our case, however, it happens unfortunately that the condition which is required for absolute necessity exists in one single Being only, which, therefore, would have to contain in its concept all that is required for absolute necessity, and that renders a conclusion a priori, with regard to such necessity, possible. I ought therefore to be able to reason conversely, namely, that everything is absolutely necessary, if that concept (of the highest reality) belongs to it. If I cannot do this (and I must confess that I cannot, if I wish to avoid the ontological proof), I have suffered shipwreck on my new course, and have come back again from where I started. The concept of the highest Being may satisfy all questions a priori which can be asked regarding the internal determinations of a thing, and it is therefore an ideal, without an equal, because the general concept distinguishes it at the same time as an [p. 612] individual being among all possible things. But it does not satisfy the really important question regarding its own existence; and if some one who admitted the existence of a necessary Being were to ask us which of all things in the world could be regarded as such, we could not answer: This here is the necessary Being.
It may be allowable to admit the existence of a Being entirely sufficient to serve as the cause of all possible effects, simply in order to assist reason in her search for unity of causes. But to go so far as to say that such a Being exists necessarily, is no longer the modest language of an admissible hypothesis, but the bold assurance of apodictic certainty; for the knowledge of that which is absolutely necessary must itself possess absolute necessity.
The whole problem of the transcendental Ideal is this, either to find a concept compatible with absolute necessity, or to find the absolute necessity compatible with the concept of anything. If the one is possible, the other must be so also, for reason recognises that only as absolutely necessary which is necessary according to its concept. Both these tasks baffle our attempts at satisfying our understanding on this point, and likewise our [p. 613] endeavours to comfort it with regard to its impotence.
That unconditioned necessity, which we require as the last support of all things, is the true abyss of human reason. Eternity itself, however terrible and sublime it may have been depicted by Haller, is far from producing the same giddy impression, for it only measures the duration of things, but does not support them. We cannot put off the thought, nor can we support it, that a Being, which we represent to ourselves as the highest among all possible beings, should say to himself, I am from eternity to eternity, there is nothing beside me, except that which is something through my will, — but whence am I? Here all sinks away from under us, and the highest perfection, like the smallest, passes without support before the eyes of speculative reason, which finds no difficulty in making the one as well as the other to disappear without the slightest impediment.
Many powers of nature, which manifest their existence by certain effects, remain perfectly inscrutable to us, because we cannot follow them up far enough by observation. The transcendental object, which forms the foundation of all phenomena, and with it the ground of our sensibility having this rather than any other supreme conditions, is and always will be inscrutable. The thing no doubt is given, but it is incomprehensible. [p. 614] An ideal of pure reason, however, cannot be called inscrutable, because it cannot produce any credentials of its reality beyond the requirement of reason to perfect all synthetical unity by means of it. As, therefore, it is not even given as an object that can be thought, it cannot be said to be, as such, inscrutable; but, being a mere idea, it must find in the nature of reason its place and its solution, and in that sense be capable of scrutiny. For it is the very essence of reason that we are able to give an account of all our concepts, opinions, and assertions either on objective or, if they are a mere illusion, on subjective grounds.
Discovery and Explanation of the Dialectical Illusion in all Transcendental Proofs of the Existence of a Necessary Being
Both proofs, hitherto attempted, were transcendental, that is, independent of empirical principles. For although the cosmological proof assumes for its foundation an experience in general, it does not rest on any particular quality of it, but on pure principles of reason, with reference to an existence given by the empirical consciousness in general, and abandons even that guidance in order to derive its support from pure concepts only. [p. 615] What then in these transcendental proofs is the cause of the dialectical, but natural, illusion which connects the concepts of necessity and of the highest reality, and realises and hypostasises that which can only be an idea? What is the cause that renders it inevitable to admit something as necessary in itself among existing things, and yet makes us shrink back from the existence of such a Being as from an abyss? What is to be done that reason should understand itself on this point, and, escaping from the wavering state of hesitatingly approving or disapproving, acquire a calm insight into the matter?
It is surely extremely strange that, as soon as we suppose that something exists, we cannot avoid the conclusion that something exists necessarily. On this quite natural, though by no means, therefore, certain conclusion, rests the whole cosmological argument. On the other side, I may take any concept of anything, and I find that its existence has never to be represented by me as absolutely necessary, nay, that nothing prevents me, whatever may exist, from thinking its non-existence. I may, therefore, have to admit something necessary as the condition of existing things in general, but I need not think any single thing as necessary in itself. In other words I can never complete the regressus to the [p. 616] conditions of existence without admitting a necessary Being, but I can never begin with such a Being.
If, therefore, I am obliged to think something necessary for all existing things, and at the same time am not justified in thinking of anything as in itself necessary, the conclusion is inevitable: that necessity and contingency do not concern things themselves, for otherwise there would be a contradiction, and that therefore neither of the two principles can be objective; but that they may possibly be subjective principles of reason only, according to which, on one side, we have to find for all that is given as existing, something that is necessary, and thus never to stop except when we have reached an a priori complete explanation; while on the other we must never hope for that completion, that is, never admit anything empirical as unconditioned, and thus dispense with its further derivation. In that sense both principles as purely heuristic and regulative, and affecting the formal interests of reason only, may well stand side by side. For the one tells us that we ought to philosophise on nature as if there was a necessary first cause for everything that exists, if only in order to introduce systematical unity into our knowledge, by always looking for such an idea as an imagined highest cause. The other [p. 617] warns us against mistaking any single determination concerning the existence of things for such a highest cause, i.e. for something absolutely necessary, and bids us to keep the way always open for further derivation, and to treat it always as conditioned. If, then, everything that is perceived in things has to be considered by us as only conditionally necessary, nothing that is empirically given can ever be considered as absolutely necessary.
It follows from this that the absolutely necessary must be accepted as outside the world, because it is only meant to serve as a principle of the greatest possible unity of phenomena, of which it is the highest cause, and that it can never be reached in the world, because the second rule bids you always to consider all empirical causes of that unity as derived.
The philosophers of antiquity considered all form in nature as contingent, but matter, according to the judgment of common reason, as primitive and necessary. If, however, they had considered matter, not relatively as the substratum of phenomena, but as existing by itself, the idea of absolute necessity would have vanished at once, for there is nothing that binds reason absolutely to that existence, but reason can at any time and without contradiction remove it in thought, and it was in [p. 618] thought only that it could claim absolute necessity. The ground of this persuasion must therefore have been a certain regulative principle. And so it is; for extension and impermeability (which together constitute the concept of matter) furnish the highest empirical principle of the unity of phenomena, and possess, so far as this principle is empirically unconditioned, the character of a regulative principle. Nevertheless, as every determination of matter, which constitutes its reality, and hence the impermeability of matter also, is an effect (action) which must have a cause, and therefore be itself derived, matter is not adequate to the idea of a necessary Being, as a principle of all derived unity, because every one of its real qualities is derived and, therefore, conditionally necessary only, so that it could be removed, and with it would be removed the whole existence of matter. If this were not so, we should have reached the highest cause of unity, empirically, which is forbidden by the second regulative principle. It follows from all this that matter and everything in general that belongs to the world are not fit for the idea of a necessary original Being, as a mere principle of the greatest empirical unity, but that we must place it outside the world. In that case there is no reason why we should not simply derive the phenomena of the world and their existence from other phenomena, as if there were no necessary Being at all, while at the same time we might always strive towards the completeness of that derivation, just as if such a Being, as the [p. 619] highest cause, were presupposed.
The ideal of the Supreme Being is therefore, according to these remarks, nothing but a regulative principle of reason, which obliges us to consider all connection in the world as if it arose from an all-sufficient necessary cause, in order to found on it the rule of a systematical unity necessary according to general laws for the explanation of the world; it does not involve the assertion of an existence necessary by itself. It is impossible, however, at the same time, to escape from a transcendental subreptio, which leads us to represent that formal principle as constitutive, and to think that unity as hypostasised. It is the same with space. Space, though it is only a principle of sensibility, yet serves originally to make all forms possible, these being only limitations of it. For that very reason, however, it is mistaken for something absolutely necessary and independent, nay, for an object a priori existing in itself. It is the same here, and as this systematical unity of nature can in no wise become the principle of the empirical use of our reason, unless we base it on the idea of an ens realissimum as the highest cause, it happens quite naturally that we thus represent that idea as a real object, and that object again, as it is the highest condition, as necessary. Thus a regulative principle has been changed into a constitutive [p. 620] principle, which substitution becomes evident at once because, as soon as I consider that highest Being, which with regard to the world was absolutely (unconditionally) necessary, as a thing by itself, that necessity cannot be conceived, and can therefore have existed in my reason as a formal condition of thought only, and not as a material and substantial condition of existence.
Of the Impossibility of the Physico-theological Proof
If, then, neither the concept of things in general, nor the experience of any existence in general, can satisfy our demands, there still remains one way open, namely, to try whether any definite experience, and consequently that of things in the world as it is, their constitution and disposition, may not supply a proof which could give us the certain conviction of the existence of a Supreme Being. Such a proof we should call physico-theological. If that, however, should prove impossible too, then it is clear that no satisfactory proof whatever, from merely speculative reason, is possible, in support of the existence of a Being, corresponding to our transcendental idea.
After what has been said already, it will be [p. 621] easily understood that we may expect an easy and complete answer to this question. For how could there ever be an experience that should be adequate to an idea? It is the very nature of an idea that no experience can ever be adequate to it. The transcendental idea of a necessary and all-sufficient original Being is so overwhelming, so high above everything empirical, which is always conditioned, that we can never find in experience enough material to fill such a concept, and can only grope about among things conditioned, looking in vain for the unconditioned, of which no rule of any empirical synthesis can ever give us an example, or even show the way towards it.
If the highest Being should stand itself in that chain of conditions, it would be a link in the series, and would, exactly like the lower links, above which it is placed, require further investigation with regard to its own still higher cause. If, on the contrary, we mean to separate it from that chain, and, as a purely intelligible Being, not comprehend it in the series of natural causes, what bridge is then open for reason to reach it, considering that all rules determining the transition from effect to cause, nay, all synthesis and extension of our knowledge in general, refer to nothing but possible experience, and therefore to the objects of the world of sense only, and are [p. 622] valid nowhere else?
This present world presents to us so immeasurable a stage of variety, order, fitness, and beauty, whether we follow it up in the infinity of space or in its unlimited division, that even with the little knowledge which our poor understanding has been able to gather, all language, with regard to so many and inconceivable wonders, loses its vigour, all numbers their power of measuring, and all our thoughts their necessary determination; so that our judgment of the whole is lost in a speechless, but all the more eloquent astonishment. Everywhere we see a chain of causes and effects, of means and ends, of order in birth and death, and as nothing has entered by itself into the state in which we find it, all points to another thing as its cause. As that cause necessitates the same further enquiry, the whole universe would thus be lost in the abyss of nothing, unless we admitted something which, existing by itself, original and independent, outside the chain of infinite contingencies, should support it, and, as the cause of its origin, secure to it at the same time its permanence. Looking at all the things in the world, what greatness shall we attribute to that highest cause? We do not know the whole contents of the world, still less can we measure its magnitude by a comparison [p. 623] with all that is possible. But, as with regard to causality, we cannot do without a last and highest Being, why should we not fix the degree of its perfection beyond everything else that is possible? This we can easily do, though only in the faint outline of an abstract concept, if we represent to ourselves all possible perfections united in it as in one substance. Such a concept would agree with the demand of our reason, which requires parsimony in the number of principles; it would have no contradictions in itself, would be favourable to the extension of the employment of reason in the midst of experience, by guiding it towards order and system, and lastly, would never be decidedly opposed to any experience.
This proof will always deserve to be treated with respect. It is the oldest, the clearest, and most in conformity with human reason. It gives life to the study of nature, deriving its own existence from it, and thus constantly acquiring new vigour.
It reveals aims and intention, where our own observation would not by itself have discovered them, and enlarges our knowledge of nature by leading us towards that peculiar unity the principle of which exists outside nature. This knowledge reacts again on its cause, namely, the transcendental idea, and thus increases the [p. 624] belief in a supreme Author to an irresistible conviction.
It would therefore be not only extremely sad, but utterly vain to attempt to diminish the authority of that proof. Reason, constantly strengthened by the powerful arguments that come to hand by themselves, though they are no doubt empirical only, cannot be discouraged by any doubts of subtle and abstract speculation. Roused from every inquisitive indecision, as from a dream, by one glance at the wonders of nature and the majesty of the cosmos, reason soars from height to height till it reaches the highest, from the conditioned to conditions, till it reaches the supreme and unconditioned Author of all.
But although we have nothing to say against the reasonableness and utility of this line of argument, but wish, on the contrary, to commend and encourage it, we cannot approve of the claims which this proof advances to apodictic certainty, and to an approval on its own merits, requiring no favour, and no help from any other quarter. It cannot injure the good cause, if the dogmatical language of the overweening sophist is toned down to the moderate and modest statements of a faith which does not require unconditioned submission, yet is sufficient to give rest and comfort. I therefore maintain that the physico-theological proof can never establish by itself alone the existence of a [p. 625] Supreme Being, but must always leave it to the ontological proof (to which it serves only as an introduction), to supply its deficiency; so that, after all, it is the ontological proof which contains the only possible argument (supposing always that any speculative proof is possible), and human reason can never do without it.
The principal points of the physico-theological proof are the following. 1st. There are everywhere in the world clear indications of an intentional arrangement carried out with great wisdom, and forming a whole indescribably varied in its contents and infinite in extent.
2ndly. The fitness of this arrangement is entirely foreign to the things existing in the world, and belongs to them contingently only; that is, the nature of different things could never spontaneously, by the combination of so many means, co-operate towards definite aims, if these means had not been selected and arranged on purpose by a rational disposing principle, according to certain fundamental ideas.
3rdly. There exists, therefore, a sublime and wise cause (or many), which must be the cause of the world, not only as a blind and all-powerful nature, by means of unconscious fecundity, but as an intelligence, by freedom.
4thly. The unity of that cause may be inferred with certainty from the unity of the reciprocal relation [p. 626] of the parts of the world, as portions of a skilful edifice, so far as our experience reaches, and beyond it, with plausibility, according to the principles of analogy.
Without wishing to argue, for the sake of argument only, with natural reason, as to its conclusion in inferring from the analogy of certain products of nature with the works of human art, in which man does violence to nature, and forces it not to follow its own aims, but to adapt itself to ours (that is, from the similarity of certain products of nature with houses, ships, and watches), in inferring from this, I say, that a similar causality, namely, understanding and will, must be at the bottom of nature, and in deriving the internal possibility of a freely acting nature (which, it may be, renders all human art and even human reason possible) from another though superhuman art — a kind of reasoning, which probably could not stand the severest test of transcendental criticism; we are willing to admit, nevertheless, that if we have to name such a cause, we cannot do better than to follow the analogy of such products of human design, which are the only ones of which we know completely both cause and effect. There would be no excuse, if reason were to surrender a causality which it knows, and have recourse to obscure and indemonstrable principles of explanation, which it does not know.
According to this argument, the fitness and harmony existing in so many works of nature might prove [p. 627] the contingency of the form, but not of the matter, that is, the substance in the world, because, for the latter purpose, it would be necessary to prove in addition, that the things of the world were in themselves incapable of such order and harmony, according to general laws, unless there existed, even in their substance, the product of a supreme wisdom. For this purpose, very different arguments would be required from those derived from the analogy of human art. The utmost, therefore, that could be established by such a proof would be an architect of the world, always very much hampered by the quality of the material with which he has to work, not a creator, to whose idea everything is subject. This would by no means suffice for the purposed aim of proving an all-sufficient original Being. If we wished to prove the contingency of matter itself, we must have recourse to a transcendental argument, and this is the very thing which was to be avoided.
The inference, therefore, really proceeds from the order and design that can everywhere be observed in the world, as an entirely contingent arrangement, to the existence of a cause, proportionate to it. The concept of that cause must therefore teach us something quite definite about it, and can therefore be no other concept but that of a Being which possesses all might, wisdom, etc., in one word, all perfection of an all-sufficient Being. The [p. 628] predicates of a very great, of an astounding, of an immeasurable might and virtue give us no definite concept, and never tell us really what the thing is by itself. They are only relative representations of the magnitude of an object, which the observer (of the world) compares with himself and his own power of comprehension, and which would be equally grand, whether we magnify the object, or reduce the observing subject to smaller proportions in reference to it. Where we are concerned with the magnitude (of the perfection) of a thing in general, there exists no definite concept, except that which comprehends all possible perfection, and only the all (omnitudo) of reality is thoroughly determined in the concept.
Now I hope that no one would dare to comprehend the relation of that part of the world which he has observed (in its extent as well as in its contents) to omnipotence, the relation of the order of the world to the highest wisdom, and the relation of the unity of the world to the absolute unity of its author, etc. Physico-theology, therefore, can never give a definite concept of the highest cause of the world, and is insufficient, therefore, as a principle of theology, which is itself to form the basis of religion.
The step leading to absolute totality is entirely impossible on the empirical road. Nevertheless, that step is taken in the physico-theological proof. How then has this broad abyss been bridged over? [p. 629]
The fact is that, after having reached the stage of admiration of the greatness, the wisdom, the power, etc. of the Author of the world, and seeing no further advance possible, one suddenly leaves the argument carried on by empirical proofs, and lays hold of that contingency which, from the very first, was inferred from the order and design of the world. The next step from that contingency leads, by means of transcendental concepts only, to the existence of something absolutely necessary, and another step from the absolute necessity of the first cause to its completely determined or determining concept, namely, that of an all-embracing reality. Thus we see that the physico-theological proof, baffled in its own undertaking, takes suddenly refuge in the cosmological proof, and as this is only the ontological proof in disguise, it really carries out its original intention by means of pure reason only; though it so strongly disclaimed in the beginning all connection with it, and professed to base everything on clear proofs from experience.
Those who adopt the physico-theological argument have no reason to be so very coy towards the transcendental mode of argument, and with the conceit of enlightened observers of nature to look down upon them as the cobwebs of dark speculators. If they would only examine themselves, they would find that, after they had advanced a good way on the soil of nature and experience, and found themselves nevertheless as much removed [p. 630] as ever from the object revealed to their reason, they suddenly leave that soil, to enter into the realm of pure possibilities, where on the wings of ideas they hope to reach that which had withdrawn itself from all their empirical investigations. Imagining themselves to be on firm ground after that desperate leap, they now proceed to expand the definite concept which they have acquired, they do not know how, over the whole field of creation; and they explain the ideal, which was merely a product of pure reason, by experience, though in a very poor way, and totally beneath the dignity of the object, refusing all the while to admit that they have arrived at that knowledge or supposition by a very different road from that of experience.
Thus we have seen that the physico-theological proof rests on the cosmological, and the cosmological on the ontological proof of the existence of one original Being as the Supreme Being; and, as besides these three, there is no other path open to speculative reason, the ontological proof, based exclusively on pure concepts of reason, is the only possible one, always supposing that any proof of a proposition, so far transcending the empirical use of the understanding, is possible at all.
Criticism of all Theology based on Speculative Principles of Reason [p. 631]
If by Theology we understand the knowledge of the original Being, it is derived either from reason only (theologia rationalis), or from revelation (revelata). The former thinks its object either by pure reason and through transcendental concepts only (ens originarium, realissimum, ens entium), and is then called transcendental theology, or by a concept, borrowed from the nature (of our soul), as the highest intelligence, and ought then to be called natural theology. Those who admit a transcendental theology only are called Deists, those who admit also a natural theology Theists. The former admit that we may know the existence of an original Being by mere reason, but that our concept of it is transcendental only, as of a Being which possesses all reality, but a reality that cannot be further determined. The latter maintain that reason is capable of determining that object more accurately in analogy with nature, namely, as a Being which, through understanding and freedom, contains within itself the original ground of all other things. The former admits a cause of the [p. 632] world only (whether through the necessity of its nature or through freedom, remains undecided), the latter an author of the world.
Transcendental theology, again, either derives the existence of the original Being from an experience in general (without saying anything about the world, to which it belongs), and is then called Cosmotheology; or it believes that it can know its existence, without the help of any experience whatsoever, and by mere concepts, and is then called Ontotheology.
Natural theology infers the qualities and the existence of an author of the world from the constitution, the order, and the unity, which are seen in this world, in which two kinds of causality with their rules must be admitted, namely, nature and freedom. It ascends from this world to the highest intelligence as the principle either of all natural or of all moral order and perfection. In the former case it is called Physico-theology, in the other Ethico-theology.1
As we are accustomed to understand by the concept of God, not only a blindly working eternal nature, as the root of all things, but a Supreme Being, which, through understanding and freedom, is supposed to be the [p. 633] author of all things, and as it is this concept alone in which we really take an interest, one might strictly deny to the Deist all belief in God, and allow him only the maintaining of an original Being, or a supreme cause. But as no one, simply because he does not dare to assert, ought to be accused of denying a thing, it is kinder and juster to say, that the Deist believes in a God, but the Theist in a living God (summa intelligentia). We shall now try to discover the possible sources of all these attempts of reason.
I shall not do more, at present, than define theoretical knowledge as one by which I know what there is, practical knowledge as one by which I represent to myself what ought to be. Hence the theoretical use of reason is that by which I know a priori (as necessary) that something is, while the practical use of reason is that by which I know a priori what ought to be. If then it is certain, beyond the possibility of doubt, that something is, or that something ought to be, though both are conditioned, then a certain definite condition of it may be either absolutely necessary or presupposed only as possible and contingent. In the former case, the condition is postulated (per thesin), in the latter supposed (per hypothesin). As there are practical laws, which are absolutely necessary (the moral laws), it follows, if they necessarily presuppose [p. 634] any existence as the condition of the possibility of their obligatory power, that the existence of that condition must be postulated, because the conditioned, from which we infer that condition, has been recognised a priori as absolutely necessary. On a future occasion we shall show that the moral laws not only presuppose the existence of a Supreme Being, but that, as they are in other respects absolutely necessary, they postulate it by right, though of course practically only. For the present we leave this mode of argument untouched.
If we only speak of that which is, not of that which ought to be, the conditioned given to us in experience is always conceived as contingent, and the condition belonging to it can therefore not be known as absolutely necessary, but serves only as a relatively necessary, or rather needful, though in itself an a priori arbitrary supposition for a rational understanding of the conditioned. If, therefore, we wish to know in our theoretical knowledge the absolute necessity of a thing, this could only be done from concepts a priori, and never as of a cause in reference to an existence which is given in experience.
I call a theoretical knowledge speculative, if it relates to an object, or such concepts of an object, which we can never reach in any experience. It is opposed to our knowledge of nature, which relates to no other objects [p. 635] or predicates of them except those that can be given in a possible experience.
From something that happens (the empirically contingent) as an effect, to infer a cause, is a principle of natural, though not of speculative knowledge. For if we no longer use it as a principle involving the condition of possible experience, and, leaving out everything that is empirical, try to apply it to the contingent in general, there does not remain the smallest justification of such a synthetical proposition, showing how from something which is, there can be a transition to something totally different, which we call cause; nay, in such purely speculative application, the concepts both of cause and of the contingent lose all meaning, the objective reality of which would be made intelligible in the concrete.
If from the existence of things in the world we infer their cause, we are using reason not naturally, but speculatively. Naturally, reason refers not the things themselves (substances), but only that which happens, their states, as empirically contingent, to some cause; but it could know speculatively only that a substance itself (matter) is contingent in its existence. And even if we were thinking only of the form of the world, the [p. 636] manner of its composition and the change of this composition, and tried to infer from this a cause totally different from the world, this would be again a judgment of speculative reason only; because the object here is not an object of any possible experience. In this case the principle of causality, which is valid within the field of experience only, and utterly useless, nay, even meaningless, outside it, would be totally diverted from its proper destination.
What I maintain then is, that all attempts at a purely speculative use of reason, with reference to theology, are entirely useless and intrinsically null and void, while the principles of their natural use can never lead to any theology, so that unless we depend on moral laws, or are guided by them, there cannot be any theology of reason. For all synthetical principles of the understanding are applicable immanently only, i.e. within its own sphere, while, in order to arrive at the knowledge of a Supreme Being, we must use them transcendentally, and for this our understanding is not prepared. If the empirically valid law of causality is to conduct us to the original Being, that Being must belong to the chain of objects of experience, and in that case it would, like all phenomena, be itself conditioned. And even if that sudden jump beyond the limits of [p. 637] experience, according to the dynamical law of the relation of effects to their causes, could be allowed, what concept could we gain by this proceeding? Certainly no concept of a Supreme Being, because experience never presents to us the greatest of all possible effects, to bear witness of its cause. If we claim to be allowed, only in order to leave no void in our reason, to supply this defect in the complete determination of that cause by the mere idea of the highest perfection and of original necessity, this may possibly be granted as a favour, but can never be demanded on the strength of an irresistible proof. The physico-theological proof, as connecting speculation with intuition, might possibly therefore be used in support of other proofs (if they existed); it cannot, however, finish the task for itself, but can only prepare the understanding for theological knowledge, and impart to it the right and natural direction.
It must have been seen from this that transcendental questions admit of transcendental answers only, that is, of such which consist of mere concepts a priori without any empirical admixture. Our question, however, is clearly synthetical, and requires an extension of our knowledge beyond all limits of experience, till it reaches the existence of a Being which is to correspond to our pure idea, though no experience can ever be adequate to it. According [p. 638] to our former proofs, all synthetical knowledge a priori is possible only, if it conforms to the formal conditions of a possible experience. All these principles therefore are of immanent validity only, that is, they must remain within the sphere of objects of empirical knowledge, or of phenomena. Nothing, therefore, can be achieved by a transcendental procedure with reference to the theology of a purely speculative reason.
If people, however, should prefer to call in question all the former proofs of the Analytic, rather than allow themselves to be robbed of their persuasion of the value of the proofs on which they have rested so long, they surely cannot decline my request, when I ask them to justify themselves, at least on this point, in what manner, and by what kind of illumination they trust themselves to soar above all possible experience, on the wings of pure ideas. I must ask to be excused from listening to new proofs, or to the tinkered workmanship of the old. No doubt the choice is not great, for all speculative proofs end in the one, namely, the ontological; nor need I fear to be much troubled by the inventive fertility of the dogmatical defenders of that reason which they have delivered from the bondage of the senses; nor should I even, without considering myself a very formidable antagonist, decline the challenge to detect the fallacy in every one of their attempts, and thus to dispose of their pretensions. But I know too well that the hope of better success [p. 639] will never be surrendered by those who have once accustomed themselves to dogmatical persuasion, and I therefore restrict myself to the one just demand, that my opponents should explain in general, from the nature of the human understanding, or from any other sources of knowledge, what we are to do in order to extend our knowledge entirely a priori, and to carry it to a point where no possible experience, and therefore no means whatever, is able to secure to a concept invented by ourselves its objective reality. In whatever way the understanding may have reached that concept, it is clearly impossible that the existence of its object could be found in it through analysis, because the very knowledge of the existence of the object implies that it exists outside our thoughts. We cannot in fact go beyond concepts, nor, unless we follow the empirical connection by which nothing but phenomena can be given, hope to discover new objects and imaginary beings.
Although then reason, in its purely speculative application, is utterly insufficient for this great undertaking, namely, to prove the existence of a Supreme Being, it has nevertheless this great advantage of being able to correct our knowledge of it, if it can be acquired from [p. 640] elsewhere, to make it consistent with itself and every intelligible view, and to purify it from everything incompatible with the concept of an original Being, and from all admixture of empirical limitations.
In spite of its insufficiency, therefore, transcendental theology has a very important negative use, as a constant test of our reason, when occupied with pure ideas only, which, as such, admit of a transcendental standard only. For suppose that on practical grounds the admission of a highest and all-sufficient Being, as the highest intelligence, were to maintain its validity without contradiction, it would be of the greatest importance that we should be able to determine that concept accurately on its transcendental side, as the concept of a necessary and most real Being, to remove from it what is contradictory to that highest reality and purely phenomenal (anthropomorphic in the widest sense), and at the same time to put an end to all opposite assertions, whether atheistic, deistic, or anthropomorphistic. Such a critical treatment would not be difficult, because the same arguments by which the insufficiency of human reason in asserting the existence of such a Being has been proved, must be sufficient also to prove the invalidity of opposite assertions. [p. 641] For whence can anybody, through pure speculation of reason, derive his knowledge that there is no Supreme Being, as the cause of all that exists, or that it can claim none of those qualities which we, to judge from their effects, represent to ourselves as compatible with the dynamical realities of a thinking Being, or that, in the latter case, they would be subject to all those limitations which sensibility imposes inevitably on all the intelligences known to us by experience?
For the purely speculative use of reason, therefore, the Supreme Being remains, no doubt, an ideal only, but an ideal without a flaw, a concept which finishes and crowns the whole of human knowledge, and the objective reality of which, though it cannot be proved, can neither be disproved in that way. If then there should be an Ethico-theology to supply that deficiency, transcendental theology, which before was problematical only, would prove itself indispensable in determining its concept, and in constantly testing reason, which is so often deceived by sensibility, and not even always in harmony with its own ideas. Necessity, infinity, unity, extra-mundane existence (not as a world-soul), eternity, free from conditions of time, omnipresence, free from conditions of space, omnipotence, etc., all these are transcendental predicates, and their purified [p. 642] concepts, which are so much required for every theology, can therefore be derived from transcendental theology only.
Of the Regulative Use of the Ideas of Pure Reason
The result of all the dialectical attempts of pure reason does not only confirm what we proved in the transcendental Analytic, namely, that all our conclusions, which are to lead us beyond the field of possible experience, are fallacious and groundless, but teaches us also this in particular, that human reason has a natural inclination to overstep these limits, and that transcendental ideas are as natural to it as categories to the understanding, with this distinction, however, that while the latter convey truth, that is, agreement of our concepts with their objects, the former produce merely an irresistible illusion, against which we can defend ourselves by the severest criticism only.
Everything that is founded in the nature of our faculties must have some purpose, and be in harmony with the right use of them, if only we can guard against a certain misunderstanding and discover their [p. 643] proper direction. The transcendental ideas, therefore, will probably possess their own proper and, therefore, immanent use, although, if their object is misunderstood, and they are mistaken for the concepts of real things, they may become transcendent in their application, and hence deceptive. For not the idea in itself, but its use only can, in regard to the whole of possible experience, be either transcendent or immanent, according as we direct them either immediately to objects wrongly supposed to correspond to them, or only to the use of the understanding in general with reference to objects with which it has a right to deal. All the faults of subreptio are to be attributed to a want of judgment, never to the understanding or to reason themselves.
Reason never refers immediately to an object, but to the understanding only, and through it to its own empirical use. It does not form, therefore, concepts of objects, but arranges them only, and imparts to them that unity which they can have in their greatest possible extension, that is, with reference to the totality of different series; while the understanding does not concern itself with this totality, but only with that connection through which such series of conditions become possible according to concepts. Reason has therefore for its object [p. 644] the understanding only and its fittest employment; and, as the understanding brings unity into the manifold of the objects by means of concepts, reason brings unity into the manifold of concepts by means of ideas, making a certain collective unity the aim of the operations of the understanding, which otherwise is occupied with distributive unity only
I maintain, accordingly, that transcendental ideas ought never to be employed as constitutive, so that by them concepts of certain objects should be given, and that, if they are so employed, they are merely sophistical (dialectic concepts). They have, however, a most admirable and indispensably necessary regulative use, in directing the understanding to a certain aim, towards which all the lines of its rules converge and which, though it is an idea only (focus imaginarius), that is, a point from which, as lying completely outside the limits of possible experience, the concepts of the understanding do not in reality proceed, serves nevertheless to impart to them the greatest unity and the greatest extension. Hence there arises, no doubt, the illusion, as if those lines sprang1 from an object itself, outside the field of empirically possible experience (as objects are seen behind the surface of a mirror); but this illusion (by which we need not allow ourselves to be deceived) is nevertheless indispensably necessary, if, besides the objects which lie before our eyes, [p. 645] we want to see those also which lie far away at our back, that is to say, if, as in our case, we wish to direct the understanding beyond every given experience (as a part of the whole of possible experience), and thus to its greatest possible, or extremest extension.
If we review the entire extent of our knowledge supplied to us by the understanding, we shall find that it is the systematising of that knowledge, that is, its coherence according to one principle, which forms the proper province of reason. This unity of reason always presupposes an idea, namely, that of the form of a whole of our knowledge, preceding the definite knowledge of its parts, and containing the conditions according to which we are to determine a priori the place of every part and its relation to the rest. Such an idea accordingly demands the complete unity of the knowledge of our understanding, by which that knowledge becomes not only a mere aggregate but a system, connected according to necessary laws. We ought not to say that such an idea is a concept of an object, but only of the complete unity of concepts, so far as that unity can serve as a rule of the understanding. Such concepts of reason are not derived from nature, but we only interrogate nature, according to these ideas, and consider our knowledge as defective so long as it is not adequate to them. We must confess that [p. 646] pure earth, pure water, pure air, etc., are hardly to be met with. Nevertheless we require the concepts of them (which, so far as their perfect purity is concerned, have their origin in reason only) in order to be able to determine properly the share which belongs to every one of these natural causes in phenomena. Thus every kind of matter is referred to earths (as mere weight), to salts and inflammable bodies (as force), and lastly, to water and air as vehicles (or, as it were, machines, by which the former exercise their operations), in order thus, according to the idea of a mechanism, to explain the mutual chemical workings of matter. For, although not openly acknowledged in these terms, such an influence of reason on the classifications of natural philosophers can easily be discovered.
If reason is the faculty of deducing the particular from the general, the general is either certain in itself and given, or not. In the former case nothing is required but judgment in subsuming, the particular being thus necessarily determined by the general. This I shall call the apodictic use of reason. In the latter case, when the general is admitted as problematical only, and as a mere idea, while the particular is certain, but the universality of the rule applying to it is still a problem, several particular cases, which are all certain, are tested by the rule, whether they submit to it; and in this case, when it appears that all particular cases which can be produced are subjected to it, the rule is concluded to be [p. 647] universal, and from that universality of the rule conclusions are drawn afterwards with regard to all cases, even those that are not given by themselves. This I shall call the hypothetical use of reason.
The hypothetical use of reason, resting on ideas as problematical concepts, ought not to be used constitutively, as if we could prove by it, judging strictly, the truth of the universal rule, which has been admitted as an hypothesis. For how are we to know all possible cases, which, as subject to the same principle, should prove its universality? The proper hypothetical use of reason is regulative only, and intended to introduce, as much as possible, unity into the particulars of knowledge, and thus to approximate the rule to universality.
The hypothetical use of reason aims therefore at the systematical unity of the knowledge of the understanding, and that unity is the touchstone of the truth of the rules. On the other hand, that systematical unity (as a mere idea) is only a projected unity, to be considered, not as given in itself, but as a problem only, though helping us to discover a principle for the manifold and particular exercise of the understanding, and thus to lead the understanding to cases also which are not given, and to render it more systematical.
We have learnt, therefore, that the systematical unity, introduced by reason into the manifold knowledge [p. 648] of the understanding, is a logical principle, intended to help the understanding by means of ideas, where by itself it is insufficient to establish rules, and at the same time to impart to the variety of its rules a certain harmony (or system according to principles), and by it a certain coherence, so far as that is possible. To say, however, whether the nature of the objects or the nature of the understanding which recognises them as objects, were in themselves intended for systematical unity, and whether to a certain extent we may postulate real unity a priori, without any reference to the peculiar interest of reason, maintaining that all possible kinds of knowledge of the understanding (therefore the empirical also) possess such unity and are subject to such general principles from which, in spite of their differences, they can all be derived, would be to apply a transcendental principle of reason, and to render systematical unity necessary, not only subjectively and logically as a method, but objectively also.
We shall try to illustrate this use of reason by an example. One of the different kinds of unity, according to the concepts of the understanding, is that of the causality of a substance, which we call power. The different manifestations of one and the same substance display at first so much diversity that one feels constrained to admit at first almost as many powers as there are effects. Thus we see, for instance, in the human mind sensation, [p. 649] consciousness, imagination, memory, wit, discrimination, pleasure, desire, etc. At first a simple logical maxim tells us to reduce this apparent diversity as much as possible by discovering, through comparison, hidden identity, and finding out, for instance, whether imagination connected with consciousness, be not memory, wit, discrimination, or, it may be, understanding and reason. The idea of a fundamental power, of which logic knows nothing as to its existence, is thus at least the problem of a systematical representation of the existing diversity of powers. The logical principle of reason requires us to produce this unity as far as possible, and the more we find that manifestations of one or the other power are identical, the more probable does it become that they are only different expressions of one and the same power which, relatively speaking, may be called their fundamental power. The same is done with the others.
These relatively fundamental powers must again be compared with each other, in order, if possible, by discovering their harmony, to bring them nearer to one only radical, that is, absolute fundamental power. Such a unity, however, is only an hypothesis of reason. It is not maintained that such a unity must really exist, but only that we must look for it in the interest of reason, that is, for the establishment of certain principles for the various rules supplied to us by experience, and thus introduce, if it is possible, systematical unity into our knowledge. [p. 650]
If, however, we watch the transcendental use of the understanding, we find that the idea of a fundamental power is not only meant as a problem, and for hypothetical use, but claims for itself objective reality, postulating the systematical unity of the diverse powers of a substance, and thus establishing an apodictic principle of reason. For without even having tested the harmony of those diverse powers, nay, even if failing to discover it, after repeated experiments, we still suppose that such a unity exists, and this not only, as in our example, on account of the unity of the substance, but even in cases where very many, though to a certain degree homogeneous, powers are seen, as in matter in general. Here, too, reason presupposes a systematical unity of diverse powers, because particular laws of nature are subject to more general laws, and parsimony in principles is not only considered as an economical rule of reason, but as an essential law of nature.
And, indeed, it is difficult to understand how a logical principle by which reason demands the unity of rules can exist without a transcendental principle, by which such a systematical unity is admitted as inherent in the objects themselves, and as a priori necessary. For how could reason in its logical application presume to treat [p. 651] the diversity of powers which we see in nature as simply a disguised unity, and to deduce it, as far as possible, from some fundamental power, if it were open to reason to admit equally the diversity of all powers, and to look upon the systematical unity in their derivation as contrary to nature? In doing this reason would run counter to its own destination, and propose as its aim an idea contrary to the constitution of nature. Nor could we say that reason had previously, according to its principles, deduced that unity from the contingent character of nature, because this law of reason, compelling her to look for unity, is necessary, and without it we should have no reason at all, and, in the absence of reason, no coherent use of the understanding, and, in the absence of that, no sufficient test of empirical truth; — on which account we must admit the systematical unity of nature as objectively valid and necessary.
We find this transcendental presupposition concealed in the cleverest way in the principles of philosophers, though they are not aware of it, nor have confessed it to themselves. That all the diversities of particular things do not exclude identity of species, that the various species must be treated as different determinations (varieties) [p. 652] of a few genera, and these again of still higher genera; that therefore we ought to look for a certain systematical unity of all possible empirical concepts, as derivable from higher and more general concepts, this is a rule of the schools or a logical principle without which no use of the understanding would be possible; for we can only conclude the particular from the general, if the general qualities of things form the foundation on which the particular qualities rest.
That, however, there exists in nature such a unity, is only a supposition of the philosophers, embodied in their well-known scholastic rule, ‘entia praeter necessitatem non esse multiplicanda,’ ‘beginnings or principles should not be multiplied beyond necessity.’ It is implied in this, that the nature of things itself offers material for the postulated unity of reason, and that the apparent infinite variety ought not to prevent us from supposing behind it the existence of unity in fundamental properties, from which all diversity is derived by mere determination only. That unity, though it is an idea only, has been at all times so zealously pursued, that there was more ground for moderating than for encouraging the desire for it. It was something when chemists succeeded in reducing all salts to two genera, namely, acids and alkalies; but they tried to consider even this distinction as a variety only, or as a different manifestation of one and the same fundamental [p. 653] element. Different kinds of earths (the material of stones and even of metals) have been reduced gradually to three, at last to two; but not content with this, chemists cannot get rid of the idea that there is behind those varieties but one genus, nay, that there may be even a common principle for the earths and the salts. It might be supposed that this is only an economical trick of reason, for the purpose of saving itself trouble, and a purely hypothetical attempt which, if successful, would impart by that very unity a certain amount of probability to the presupposed principle of explanation. Such a selfish purpose, however, can easily be distinguished from the idea according to which we all presuppose that this unity of reason agrees with nature, and that in this case reason does not beg but bids, although we may be quite unable, as yet, to determine the limits of that unity.
If there existed among phenomena so great a diversity, not of form, for in this they may be similar, but of contents, that even the sharpest human understanding could not, by a comparison of the one with the other, discover the slightest similarity among them (a case which is quite conceivable), the logical law of genera would [p. 654] have no existence at all, there would be no concept of genus, nor any general concept, nay, no understanding at all, considering that the understanding has to do with concepts only. The logical principle of genera presupposes, therefore, a transcendental one, if it is to be applied to nature, that is, to all objects presented to our senses. According to it, in the manifoldness of a possible experience, some homogeneousness is necessarily supposed (although it many be impossible to determine its degree a priori), because without it, no empirical concepts, and consequently no experience, would be possible.
The logical principle of genera, which postulates identity, is balanced by another principle, namely, that of species, which requires manifoldness and diversity in things, in spite of their agreement as belonging to the same genus, and which prescribes to the understanding that it should pay no less attention to the one than to the other. This principle, depending on acute observation or on the faculty of distinction, checks the generalising flights of fancy, and reason thus exhibits a twofold and conflicting interest, namely, on the one hand, the interest in the extent (generality) of genera, on the other hand, the interest in the contents (distinction) of the manifoldness of species. In the former case the understanding thinks more under its concepts, in the latter, more in its concepts. This distinction shows itself in the different manner of thought among students [p. 655] of nature, some of them (who are pre-eminently speculative) being almost averse to heterogeneousness, and always intent on the unity of genera; while others, pre-eminently empirical, are constantly striving to divide nature into so much variety that one might lose almost all hope of being able to judge its phenomena according to general principles.
This latter tendency of thought is likewise based on a logical principle which aims at the systematical completeness of all knowledge, so that, beginning with the genus and descending to the manifold that may be contained in it, we try to impart extension to our system, as we tried to impart unity to it, when ascending to a genus. For if we only know the sphere of a concept which determines a genus, we can no more judge how far its subdivision may be carried than we can judge how far the divisibility of matter may be carried, by knowing the space it occupies. Hence every genus requires species, and these again sub-species, and as none even of these sub-species is without a sphere (extent as conceptus communis), reason in its utmost extension requires that no species or sub-species should in itself be considered as the lowest. Every species is always a concept containing that only which is common to different things, and as it cannot be completely determined, it cannot be directly referred to an individual, but [p. 656] must always comprehend other concepts, that is, sub-species. This principle of specification might be expressed by entium varietates non temere esse minuendas.
It is easily seen that this logical law also would be without meaning and incapable of application, unless it were founded on a transcendental law of specification which, though it cannot demand a real infinity of variety in things that are to become our objects (for this would not be justified by the logical principle, which only asserts the indeterminability of the logical sphere with regard to a possible division), yet imposes on the understanding the duty of looking for sub-species under every species, and for smaller varieties for every variety. If there were no lower concepts, there could not be higher concepts. Now the understanding knows all that it knows by concepts only, and hence, however far it may carry the division, never by means of intuition alone, but again and again by lower concepts. In order to know phenomena in their complete determination (which is possible by the understanding only) it is necessary to carry on without stopping the specification of its concepts, and always to proceed to still remaining differences or varieties of which abstraction had been made in forming the concept of the species, and still more in forming that of the genus.
Nor can this law of specification have been [p. 657] derived from experience, which can never give so farreaching a prospect. Empirical specification very soon comes to a standstill in the distinction of the manifold, unless it is led by the antecedent transcendental law of specification, as a principle of reason, and impelled to look for and to conjecture still differences, even where they do not appear to the senses. That absorbent earths are of different kinds (chalk and muriatic earths) could only be discovered by an antecedent rule of reason, which required the understanding to look for diversity, because it presupposed such wealth in nature as to feel justified in anticipating such diversity. For it is only under a presupposition of a diversity in nature, and under the condition that its objects should be homogeneous, that we have understanding, because it is this very diversity of all that can be comprehended under a concept which constitutes the use of that concept, and the occupation of the understanding.
Reason thus prepares the field for the understanding —
1st. Through the principle of the homogeneousness of the manifold, as arranged under higher genera.
2ndly. Through the principle of the variety of the nomogeneous in lower species; to which,
3rdly, it adds a law of the affinity of all concepts, which requires a continual transition from every species to every other species, by a gradual increase of [p. 658] diversity. We may call these the principles of homogeneousness, of specification, and of continuity of forms. The last arises from the union of the two former, after both in ascending to higher genera, and in descending to lower species, the systematical connection in the idea has been completed; so that all diversities are related to each other, because springing from one highest genus, through all degrees of a more and more extended determination.
We may represent to ourselves the systematical unity under these three logical principles, in the following manner. Every concept may be regarded as a point which, as the standpoint of the spectator, has its own horizon, enclosing a number of things that may be represented, and, as it were, surveyed from that point. Within that horizon, an infinite number of points must exist, each of which has again its own narrower horizon; that is, every species contains sub-species, according to the principle of specification, and the logical horizon consists of smaller horizons (sub-species only), but not of points, which possess no extent (individuals). But for all these different horizons, that is genera, determined by as many concepts, a common horizon may be imagined, in which they may all be surveyed, as from a common centre. This would be the higher genus, while the highest [p. 659] genus would be the universal and true horizon, determined from the standpoint of the highest concept, and comprehending all variety as genera, species, and sub-species.
That highest standpoint is reached by the law of homogeneousness, and all the lower standpoints in their greatest variety, by the law of specification. As in this way there is no void in the whole extent of all possible concepts, and as nothing can be met with outside it, there arises from the presupposition of that universal horizon and its complete division, the principle of non datur vacuum formarum. According to this principle there are no different original and first genera, as it were isolated and separated from each other (by an intervening void), but all diverse genera are divisions only of one supreme and general genus. From that principle springs its immediate consequence, datur continuum formarum; that is, all the diversities of species touch each other and admit of no transition from one to another per saltum, but only by small degrees of difference, by which from one we arrive at the other. In one word, there are neither species nor sub-species, which (in the view of reason) are the nearest possible to each other, but there always remain possible intermediate species, differing from the first and the second by [p. 660] smaller degrees than those by which these differ from each other.
The first law, therefore, keeps us from admitting an extravagant variety of different original genera, and recommends attention to homogeneousness. The second, on the contrary, checks that tendency to unity, and prescribes distinction of sub-species before applying any general concept to individuals. The third unites both, by prescribing, even with the utmost variety, homogeneousness, through the gradual transition from the one species to another: thus indicating a kind of relationship of the different branches, as having all sprung from the same stem.
This logical law, however, of the continuum specierum (formarum logicarum) presupposes a transcendental law (lex continui in natura), without which the understanding would only be misled by following, it may be, a path contrary to nature. That law must therefore rest on purely transcendental, and not on empirical grounds. For in the latter case, it would come later than the systems, while in fact the systematical character of our knowledge of nature is produced by it. Nor are these laws intended only for tests to be carried out experimentally by their aid, although such a connection, if it is found in nature, forms a powerful argument in support [p. 661] of that unity which was conceived as hypothetical only. These laws have therefore a certain utility in this respect also, yet it is easily seen that they regard the parsimony of causes, the manifoldness of effects, and an affinity between the parts of nature arising from thence, as both rational and natural, so that these principles carry their recommendation direct, and not only as aids towards a proper method of studying nature.
It is easy to see, however, that this continuity of forms is a mere idea, and that no object corresponding to it can be pointed out in experience, not only because the species in nature are actually divided, and must form, each by itself, a quantum discretum, while, if the gradual progression of their affinity were continuous, nature would contain a real infinity of intermediate links between every two given species, which is impossible; but also, because we cannot make any definite empirical use of that law, considering that not the smallest criterion of affinity is indicated by it to tell us how and how far we ought to seek for grades of affinity, it telling us only that we ought to seek for them.
If we now arrange these principles of systematical unity in the order required for their empirical employment, [p. 662] they might stand thus: manifoldness, variety, and unity, each of them as ideas taken in the highest degree of their completeness. Reason presupposes the cognitions of the understanding in their direct relation to experience, and looks for their unity according to ideas which go far beyond the possibility of experience. The affinity of the manifold, in spite of its diversity, under one principle of unity, refers not only to things, but even more to the qualities and powers of things. Thus if, for example, our imperfect experience represents to us the orbits of the planets as circular, and we find deviations from that course, we look for them in that which is able to change the circle according to a fixed law, through infinite intervening degrees, into one of these deviating courses; that is, we suppose that the movements of the planets which are not circular will approximate more or less to the properties of a circle, and thus are led on to the ellipse. The comets display a still greater deviation in their courses, because, so far as our experience goes, they do not return in a circle, and we then conjecture a parabolic course which, at all events, is allied to the ellipse, and if its longer axis is widely extended, cannot be distinguished from it in our observations. We thus arrive, [p. 663] under the guidance of these principles, at a unity of the different genera or kinds in the forms of these orbits, and, proceeding still further, at a unity of the cause of all the laws of their movements, namely, gravitation. Here we take our stand and extend our conquests, trying to explain all varieties and seeming deviations from those rules from the same principle, nay, adding more than experience can ever affirm, namely, imaginary hyperbolic courses of comets constructed according to the rules of affinity, in which courses these heavenly bodies may entirely leave our solar system, and, moving from sun to sun, unite in their course the most distant parts of a universe unlimited to our minds, but yet held together by one and the same moving power.
What is most remarkable in these principles, and is, in fact, their chief interest for us is, that they seem to be transcendental, and, although containing mere ideas for the guidance of the empirical use of reason, ideas which our reason can only follow as it were asymptotically, that is, approximately and without our reaching them, they nevertheless possess, as synthetical propositions a priori, an objective, though an undefined validity, serving as a rule for possible experience, nay, as heuristic principles in the elaboration of experience. With all this a transcendental deduction of them cannot be produced, [p. 664] and is, in fact, as we have proved before, always impossible with regard to ideas.
In the transcendental Analytic we distinguished the dynamical principles of the understanding, as purely regulative principles of the intuition, from the mathematical, which, in regard to intuition, are constitutive. In spite of this, these dynamical laws are constitutive with regard to experience, because they render the concepts, without which there can be no experience, a priori possible. The principles of pure reason, however, cannot be constitutive, even with reference to empirical concepts, because we cannot assign to them any corresponding schema of sensibility; they cannot, consequently, have any object in concreto. If, then, I give up an empirical use of them as constitutive principles, how can I yet secure to them a regulative employment, and with it some objective validity, and what can be the meaning of it?
The understanding forms an object for reason in the same manner as sensibility for the understanding. It is the proper business of reason to render the unity of all possible empirical acts of the understanding systematical, in the same manner as the understanding connects the manifold of phenomena by concepts, and brings it under empirical laws. The acts of the understanding, however, without the schemata of sensibility, are undefined, and in the same manner the unity of reason is in itself [p. 665] undefined with reference to the conditions under which, and the extent to which, the understanding may connect its concepts systematically. But although no schema of intuition can be discovered for the perfect systematical unity of all the concepts of the understanding, it is possible and necessary that there should be an analogon of such a schema, and this is the idea of the maximum, both of the division and of the combination of the knowledge of the understanding under one single principle. It is quite possible to form a definite thought of what is greatest and absolutely complete, when all restrictive conditions that lead to an undefined manifoldness have been omitted. In this sense the idea of reason forms an analogon of the schema of sensibility, but with this difference, that the application of the concepts of the understanding to the schema of reason is not a knowledge of the object itself, as in the case of the application of the categories to sensuous schemata, but only a rule or principle for the systematical unity in the whole use of the understanding. Now, as every principle which fixes a priori a perfect unity of its use for the understanding is valid, though indirectly only, for the object of experience also, it follows that the principles of pure reason have objective reality with reference to that object also, not, however, in order to determine anything therein, but only in order to indicate the procedure by which the empirical and definite use of the understanding may throughout remain [p. 666] in complete harmony with itself, by being brought into connection, as much as possible, with the principle of systematical unity, and being deduced from it.
I call all subjective principles which are derived, not from the quality of an object, but from the interest which reason takes in a certain possible perfection of our knowledge of an object, maxims of reason. Thus there are maxims of speculative reason, which rest entirely on its speculative interest, though they may seem to be objective principles.
When purely regulative principles are taken for constitutive, they may become contradictory, as objective principles. If, however, they are taken for maxims only, there is no real contradiction, but it is only the different interest of reason which causes different modes of thought. In reality, reason has one interest only, and the conflict of its maxims arises only from a difference and a mutual limitation of the methods in which that interest is to be satisfied.
In this manner one philosopher is influenced more by the interest of diversity (according to the principle of specification), another by the interests of unity (according to the principle of aggregation). Each believes [p. 667] that he has derived his judgment from his insight into the object, and yet founds it entirely on the greater or smaller attachment to one of the two principles, neither1 of which rests on objective grounds, but only on an interest of reason, and should therefore be called maxims rather than principles. I often see even intelligent men quarrelling with each other about the characteristic distinctions of men, animals, or plants, nay, even of minerals, the one admitting the existence of certain tribal characteristics, founded on descent, or decided and inherited differences of families, races, etc., while others insist that nature has made the same provision for all, and that all differences are due to accidental environment. But they need only consider the nature of the object, in order to understand that it is far too deeply hidden for both of them to enable them to speak from a real insight into the nature of the object. It is nothing but the twofold interest of reason, one party cherishing the one, another party the other, or pretending to do so. But this difference of the two maxims of manifoldness or unity in nature may easily be adjusted, though as long as they are taken for objective knowledge they cause not only disputes, but actually create impediments which hinder the progress of truth, until a means is found of reconciling [p. 668] the contradictory interests, and thus giving satisfaction to reason.
The same applies to the assertion or denial of the famous law of the continuous scale of created beings, first advanced by Leibniz, and so cleverly trimmed up by Bonnet. It is nothing but a carrying out of the principle of affinity, resting on the interest of reason; for neither observation nor insight into the constitution of nature could ever have supplied it as an objective assertion. The steps of such a ladder, as far as they can be supplied by experience, are too far apart from each other, and the so-called small differences are often in nature itself such wide gaps that no value can be attached to such observations as revealing the intentions of nature, particularly as it must always be easy to discover in the great variety of things certain similarities and approximations. The method, on the contrary, of looking for order in nature, according to such a principle, and the maxim of admitting such order (though it may be uncertain where and how far) as existing in nature in general, form certainly a legitimate and excellent regulative principle of reason, only that, as such, it goes far beyond where experience or observation could follow it. It only indicates the way which leads to systematical unity, but does not determine anything beyond.
Of the Ultimate Aim of the Natural Dialectic of Human Reason [p. 669]
The ideas of pure reason can never be dialectical in themselves, but it must be due to their misemployment, if a deceptive illusion arise from them. They are given to us by the nature of our reason, and this highest tribunal of all the rights and claims of speculation cannot possibly itself contain original fallacies and deceits. We must suppose, therefore, that they had a good and legitimate intention in the natural disposition of our reason. The mob of sophists, however, cry out as usual about absurdities and contradictions, and blame the government the secret plans of which they cannot even understand, while it is to its beneficent influence that they owe their protection and that amount of intelligence which enables them to blame and condemn the government.
We cannot use a concept a priori with any safety, without having first established its transcendental deduction. It is true the ideas of pure reason do not allow of a deduction in the same manner as the categories; but if they are to claim any, though only an undefined objective validity, and are not to represent mere fictions of thought only (entia rationis ratiocinantis), a [p. 670] deduction of them must be possible, even though it may differ from that which we were able to give of the categories. This will form the completion of the critical task of pure reason, and it is this which we now mean to undertake.
It makes a great difference whether something is represented to our reason as an object absolutely, or merely as an object in the idea. In the former case my concepts are meant to determine the object, in the latter there is only a schema to which no object, not even a hypothetical one, corresponds directly, but which only serves to represent to ourselves indirectly other objects through their relation to that idea, and according to their systematical unity. Thus I say that the concept of a highest intelligence is a mere idea, that is, that its objective reality is not to consist in its referring directly to any object (for in that sense we should not be able to justify its objective validity); but that it is only a schema, arranged according to the conditions of the highest unity of reason, of the concept of a thing in general, serving only to obtain the greatest systematical unity in the empirical use of our reason, by helping us, as it were, to deduce the object of experience from the imagined object of that idea as its ground or cause. Thus we are led to say, for instance, that the [p. 671] things of the world must be considered as if they owed their existence to some supreme intelligence; and the idea is thus a heuristic only, not an ostensive concept, showing us not how an object is really constituted, but how we, under the guidance of that concept, should look for the constitution and connection of the objects of experience in general. If, then, it can be shown that the three transcendental ideas (the psychological, cosmological, and theological), although they cannot be used directly to determine any object corresponding to them, yet as rules1 of the empirical use of reason will lead, under the presupposition of such an object in the idea, to a systematical unity, and to an extension of our empirical knowledge, without ever running counter to this knowledge, it becomes a necessary maxim of reason to act in accordance with such ideas. And this is really the transcendental deduction of all ideas of speculative reason, considered not as constitutive principles for extending our knowledge to more objects than can be given by experience, but as regulative principles for the systematical unity of the manifold of empirical knowledge in general, which knowledge, within its own limits, can thus be better arranged and improved than it would be possible without such ideas, and by the mere use of the principles of the understanding.
I shall try to make this clearer. Following [p. 672] these ideas as principles, we shall first (in psychology) connect all phenomena, all the activity and receptivity of our mind, according to our internal experience, as if our mind were a simple substance, existing permanently, and with personal identity (in this life at least), while its states, to which those of the body belong as external conditions, are changing continually. Secondly (in cosmology), we are bound to follow up the conditions both of internal and external natural phenomena in an investigation that can never become complete, looking upon this investigation as infinite, and without any first or supreme member; but we ought not therefore to deny the purely intelligible first grounds of these phenomena, as outside of them, though not allowed to bring them ever into connection with our explanations of nature, for the simple reason that we do not know them. Thirdly, and lastly (in theology), we must consider everything that may belong to the whole of possible experience as if that experience formed one absolute but thoroughly dependent, and always, within the world of sense, conditioned unity; but, at the same time, as if it, the whole of phenomena (the world of sense itself), had one supreme and all-sufficient ground, outside its sphere, namely, an independent, original, creative reason, in reference to which we direct all empirical use of our [p. 673] reason in its widest extension in such a way as if the objects themselves had sprung from that archetype of all reason. In other words, we ought not to derive the internal phenomena of the soul as if from a simple thinking substance, but derive them from each other, according to the idea of a simple being; we ought not to derive the order and systematical unity of the world from a supreme intelligence, but borrow from the idea of a supremely wise cause the rule according to which reason may best be used for her own satisfaction in the connection of causes and effects in this world.
Now there is nothing that could in the least prevent us from admitting these ideas as objective and hypostatical also, except in the case of the cosmological idea, where reason, when trying to carry it out objectively, is met by an antinomy. There is no such antinomy in the psychological and theological ideas, and how could anybody contest their objective reality, as he knows as little how to deny, as we how to assert, their possibility?
It is true nevertheless that, in order to admit anything, it is not enough that there should be no positive impediment to it, nor are we allowed to introduce fictions of our thoughts, transcending all our concepts, though contradicting none, as real and definite objects, on the mere credit of our somewhat perfunctory speculative reason. [p. 674] They should not therefore be admitted as real in themselves, but their reality should only be considered as the reality of a schema of a regulative principle for the systematical unity of all natural knowledge. Hence they are to be admitted as analoga only of real things, and not as real things in themselves. We remove from the object of an idea the conditions which limit the concepts of our understanding, and which alone enable us to have a definite concept of anything; and then we represent to ourselves a something of which we know not in the least what it is by itself, but which, nevertheless, we represent to ourselves in a relation to the whole of phenomena, analogous to that relation which phenomena have among themselves.
If therefore we admit such ideal beings, we do not really enlarge our knowledge beyond the objects of possible experience, but only the empirical unity of those objects, by means of that systematical unity of which the idea furnishes us the schema, and which therefore cannot claim to be a constitutive, but only a regulative principle. For if we admit a something, or a real being, corresponding to the idea, we do not intend thereby to enlarge our knowledge of things by means of transcendental1 concepts; for such a being is admitted in the idea only, and not by itself, and only in order to express that systematical unity which is to guide the empirical use of our reason, [p. 675] without stating anything as to what is the ground of that unity or the internal nature of such a being on which, as its cause, that unity depends.
Thus the transcendental and the only definite concept which purely speculative reason gives us of God is in the strictest sense deistic; that is, reason does not even supply us with the objective validity of such a concept, but only with the idea of something on which the highest and necessary unity of all empirical reality is founded, and which we cannot represent to ourselves except in analogy with a real substance, being, according to the laws of nature, the cause of all things; always supposing that we undertake to think it at all as a particular object, and, satisfied with the mere idea of the regulative principle of reason, do not rather put aside the completion of all the conditions of our thought, as too much for the human understanding, which, however, is hardly compatible with that perfect systematical unity of our knowledge to which reason at least imposes no limits.
Thus it happens that, if we admit a Divine Being, we have not the slightest conception either of the internal possibility of its supreme perfection, nor of the [p. 676] necessity of its existence, but are able at least thus to satisfy all other questions relating to contingent things, and give the most perfect satisfaction to reason with reference to that highest unity in its empirical application that has to be investigated, but not in reference to that hypothesis itself. This proves that it is the speculative interest of reason, and not its real insight, which justifies it in starting from a point so far above its proper sphere, in order to survey from thence its objects, as belonging to a complete whole.
Here we meet with a distinction in our mode of thought, the premisses remaining the same, a distinction which is somewhat subtle, but of great importance in transcendental philosophy. I may have sufficient ground for admitting something relatively (suppositio relativa), without having a right to admit it absolutely (suppositio absoluta). This distinction comes in when we have to deal with a regulative principle, of which we know the necessity by itself, but not the source of this necessity, and where we admit a supreme cause, only in order to think the universality of the principle with greater definiteness. Thus, if I think of a being as existing which corresponds to a mere idea, and to a transcendental one, I ought not to admit the existence of such a being by itself, because no concepts through which I can conceive any [p. 677] object definitely, can reach it, and the conditions of the objective validity of my concepts are excluded by the idea itself. The concepts of reality, of substance, even of causality, and those of necessity in existence, have no meaning that could determine any object, unless they are used to make the empirical knowledge of an object possible. They may be used, therefore, to explain the possibility of things in the world of sense, but not to explain the possibility of a universe itself, because such an hypothesis is outside the world and could never be an object of possible experience. I can, however, admit perfectly well such an inconceivable Being, being the object of a mere idea, relative to the world of sense, though not as existing by itself. For if the greatest possible empirical use of my reason depends on an idea (on the systematically complete unity of which I shall soon speak more in detail), which by itself can never be adequately represented in experience, though it is indispensably necessary in order to bring the empirical unity as near as possible to the highest perfection, I shall not only have the right, but even the duty, to realise such an idea, that is, to assign to it a real object, though only as a something in general, which by itself I do not know at all, and to which, as the cause of that systematical unity, I ascribe, in reference to it, such qualities as are analogous to the concepts [p. 678] employed by the understanding in dealing with experience. I shall, therefore, according to the analogy of realities in the world, of substances, of causality, and of necessity, conceive a Being possessing all these in the highest perfection, and, as this idea rests on my reason only, conceive that Being as self-subsistent reason, being, through the ideas of the greatest harmony and unity, the cause of the universe. In doing this I omit all conditions which could limit the idea, simply in order to render, with the help of such a fundamental cause, the systematical unity of the manifold in the universe, and, through it, the greatest possible empirical use of reason, possible. I then look upon all connections in the world as if they were ordered by a supreme reason, of which our own reason is but a faint copy, and I represent to myself that Supreme Being through concepts which, properly speaking, are applicable to the world of sense only. As, however, I make none but a relative use of that transcendental hypothesis, as the substratum of the greatest possible unity of experience, I may perfectly well represent a Being which I distinguish from the world, by qualities which belong to the world of sense only. For I demand by no means, nor am I justified in demanding, that I should know that object of my idea, according to what it may be by itself. I have no concepts whatever for it, and even the concepts [p. 679] of reality, substance, causality, ay, of the necessity in existence, lose all their meaning, and become mere titles of concepts, void of contents, as soon as I venture with them outside the field of the senses. I only present to myself the relation of a Being, utterly unknown to me as existing by itself, to the greatest possible systematical unity of the universe, in order to use it as a schema of the regulative principle of the greatest possible empirical use of my reason.
If now we glance at the transcendental object of our idea, we find that we cannot, according to the concepts of reality, substance, causality, etc., presuppose its reality by itself, because such concepts are altogether inapplicable to something totally distinct from the world of sense. The supposition, therefore, which reason makes of a Supreme Being, as the highest cause, is relative only, devised for the sake of the systematical unity in the world of sense, and a mere Something in the idea, while we have no concept of what it may be by itself. Thus we are able to understand why we require the idea of an original Being, necessary by itself, with reference to all that is given to the senses as existing, but can never have the slightest conception of it and of its absolute necessity.
At this point we are able to place the results of the whole transcendental Dialectic clearly before our eyes, and to define accurately the final aim of the ideas [p. 680] of pure reason, which could become dialectical through misapprehension and carelessness only. Pure reason is, in fact, concerned with nothing but itself, nor can it have any other occupation, because what is given to it are not the objects intended for the unity of an empirical concept, but the knowledge supplied by the understanding for the unity of the concept of reason, that is, of its connection according to a principle. The unity of reason is the unity of a system, and that systematical unity does not serve objectively as a principle of reason to extend its sway over objects, but subjectively as a maxim to extend its sway over all possible empirical knowledge of objects. Nevertheless, the systematical connection which reason can impart to the understanding in its empirical use helps not only to extend that use, but confirms at the same time its correctness; nay, the principle of such systematical unity is objective also, though in an indefinite manner (principium vagum), not as a constitutive principle, determining something in its direct object, but only as a regulative principle and maxim, advancing and strengthening infinitely (indefinitely), the empirical use of reason by the opening of new paths unknown to the understanding, without ever running counter to the laws of its practical use.
Reason, however, cannot think this systematical [p. 681] unity, without attributing to its idea an object, which, as experience has never given an example of complete systematical unity, can never be given in any experience. This Being, demanded by reason (ens rationis ratiocinatae), is no doubt a mere idea, and not therefore received as something absolutely real and real by itself. It is only admitted problematically (for we cannot reach it by any concepts of the understanding), in order to enable us to look upon the connection of things in the world of sense, as if they had their ground in that being, the real intention being to found upon it that systematical unity which is indispensable to reason, helpful in every way to the empirical knowledge of the understanding, and never a hindrance to it.
We misapprehend at once the true meaning of that idea, if we accept it as the assertion, or even as the hypothesis of a real thing to which the ground of the systematical construction of the world should be ascribed. What we ought to do is to leave it entirely uncertain, what that ground which escapes all our concepts may be by itself, and to use the idea only as a point of view from which alone we may expand that unity which is as essential to reason as beneficial to the understanding. In one word, that transcendental thing is only the schema of [p. 682] the regulative principle with which reason spreads systematical unity, as far as possible, over all experience.
The first object of such an idea is the ego, considered merely as a thinking nature (soul). Now if I want to know the qualities with which a thinking being exists in itself, I have to consult experience: but of all the categories, I cannot apply a single one to that object, unless its schema is given in sensuous intuition. Thus, however, I can never arrive at a systematical unity of all the phenomena of the internal sense. Reason, therefore, instead of taking from experience the concept of that which the soul is in reality, which would not lead us very far, prefers the concept of the empirical unity of all thought, and by representing that unity as unconditioned and original, it changes it into a concept of reason, or an idea of a simple substance, a substance unchangeable in itself (personally identical), and in communication with other real things outside it; in one word, into a simple self-subsistent intelligence. In doing this, its object is merely to find principles of systematical unity for the explanation of the phenomena of the soul, so that all determinations may be received as existing in one subject, all powers, as much as possible, as derived from one fundamental power, and all changes as belonging to the states of one and the same permanent being, while all phenomena in [p. 683] space are represented as totally different from the acts of thought. That simplicity of substance, etc., was only meant to be the schema of this regulative principle; it is not assumed to be the real ground of all the properties of the soul. These properties may rest on quite different grounds, of which we know nothing; nor could we know the soul even by these assumed predicates by itself, even if we regarded them as absolutely valid with regard to it, for they really constitute a mere idea which cannot be represented in concreto. Nothing but good can spring from such a psychological idea, if only we take care not to take it for more than an idea, that is, if we apply it only in relation to the systematical use of reason, with reference to the phenomena of our soul. For in that case no empirical laws of corporeal phenomena, which are of a totally different kind, are mixed up with the explanation of what belongs to the internal sense; and no windy hypothesis of generation, extinction, and palingenesis of souls are admitted. The consideration of this object of the internal sense remains pure and unmixed with heterogeneous matters, while reason in its investigations is directed towards tracing all the grounds of explanation, as far as possible, to one single principle; and this can best be achieved, [p. 684] nay, cannot be achieved otherwise but by such a schema which attributes to the soul hypothetically the character of a real being. The psychological idea cannot be anything but such a schema of a regulative concept. The very question, for instance, whether the soul by itself be of a spiritual nature, would have no meaning, because, by such a concept, I should take away not only corporeal, but all nature, that is, all predicates of any possible experience, and therefore all the conditions under which the object of such a concept could be thought; and, in that case, the concept would have no meaning at all.
The second regulative idea of speculative reason is the concept of the universe. For nature is really the only object given to us in regard to which reason requires regulative principles. Nature, however, is twofold, either thinking or corporeal. In order to think the internal possibility of the latter, that is, in order to determine the application of the categories to it, we require no idea, that is, no representation which transcends experience. Nor is such an idea possible in regard to it, because we are here guided by sensuous intuition only, different from what it was in the case of the psychological fundamental concept of the I, which contains a priori a certain form of thought, namely, the unity of the I. There remains therefore for pure reason nothing to deal with but [p. 685] nature in general, and the completeness of its conditions according to some principle. The absolute totality of the series of these conditions determining the derivation of all their members, is an idea which, though never brought to perfection in the empirical use of reason, may yet become a rule, telling us how to proceed in the explanation of given phenomena (whether in an ascending or descending line), namely, as if the series were in themselves infinite, that is, in indefinitum; while, when reason itself is considered as the determining cause (in freedom), in the case of practical principles therefore, we must proceed as if we had to deal, not with an object of the senses, but with one of the pure understanding. Here the conditions are no longer placed within the series of phenomena, but outside it, and the series of states considered, as if it had an absolute beginning through an intelligible cause. All this proves that cosmological ideas are nothing but regulative principles, and by no means constitutive, as establishing a real totality of such series. The remainder of this argument may be seen in its place, namely, in the chapter on the Antinomy of Pure Reason.
The third idea of pure reason, containing a merely relative hypothesis of a Being which is the only and all-sufficient cause of all cosmological series, is the idea of God. We have not the slightest ground to [p. 686] admit absolutely the object of that idea (to suppose it in itself); for what could enable, or even justify us in believing or asserting a Being of the highest perfection, and absolutely necessary from its very nature, on the strength of its concept only, except the world with reference to which alone such an hypothesis may be called necessary? We then perceive that the idea of it, like all speculative ideas, means no more than that reason requires us to consider all connection in the world according to the principles of a systematical unity, and, therefore, as if the whole of it had sprung from a single all-embracing Being, as its highest and all-sufficient cause. We see, therefore, that reason can have no object here but its own formal rule in the extension of its empirical use, but can never aim at extension beyond all limits of its empirical application. This idea, therefore, does not involve a constitutive principle of its use as applied to possible experience.
The highest formal unity, which is based on concepts of reason alone, is the systematical and purposeful unity of things, and it is the speculative interest of reason which makes it necessary to regard all order in the world as if it had originated in the purpose of a supreme wisdom. Such a principle opens to our reason in the field of experience quite new views, how to connect the things [p. 687] of the world according to teleological laws, and thus to arrive at their greatest systematical unity. The admission of a highest intelligence, as the only cause of the universe, though in the idea only, can therefore always benefit reason, and yet never injure it. For if, with regard to the figure of the earth (which is round, though somewhat flattened1 ), of mountains, and seas, etc., we admit at once nothing but wise intentions of their author, we are enabled to make in this wise a number of important discoveries. If we keep to this hypothesis as a purely regulative principle, even error cannot hurt us much; for the worst that could happen would be that, when we expected a teleological connection (nexus finalis), we only find a mechanical or physical (nexus effectivus), in which case we merely lose an additional unity, but we [p. 688] do not destroy the unity of reason in its empirical application. And even this failure could not affect the law itself, in its general and teleological character. For although an anatomist may be convicted of error, if referring any member of an animal body to a purpose of which it can clearly be shown that it does not belong to it, it is entirely impossible in any given case to prove that an arrangement of nature, be it what it may, has no purpose at all. Medical physiology, therefore, enlarges its very limited empirical knowledge of the purposes of the members of an organic body by a principle inspired by pure reason only, so far as to admit confidently, and with the approbation of all intelligent persons, that everything in an animal has its purpose and advantage. Such a supposition, if used constitutively, goes far beyond where our present observation would justify us in going, which shows that it is nothing but a regulative principle of reason, leading us on to the highest systematical unity, by the idea of an intelligent causality in the supreme cause of the world, and by the supposition that this, as the highest intelligence, is the cause of everything, according to the wisest design.
But if we remove this restriction of the idea [p. 689] to a merely regulative use, reason is led away in many ways. It leaves the ground of experience, which ought always to show the vestiges of its progress, and ventures beyond it to what is inconceivable and unsearchable, becoming giddy from the very height of it, and from seeing itself on that high standpoint entirely cut off from its proper work in agreement with experience.
The first fault which arises from our using the idea of a Supreme Being, not regulatively only, but (contrary to the nature of an idea) constitutively, is what I call the indolence of reason (ignava ratio1 ). We may so term every principle which causes us to look on our investigation of nature, wherever it may be, as absolutely complete, so that reason may rest as if her task were fully [p. 690] accomplished. Thus the task of reason is rendered very easy even by the psychological idea, if that idea is used as a constitutive principle for the explanation of the phenomena of our soul, and afterwards even for the extension of our knowledge of this subject beyond all possible experience (its state after death); but the natural use of reason, under the guidance of experience, is thus entirely ruined and destroyed. The dogmatical spiritualist finds no difficulty in explaining the unchanging unity of the person, amidst all the changes of condition, from the unity of the thinking substance, which he imagines he perceives directly in the I; — or the interest which we take in things that are to happen after death, from the consciousness of the immaterial nature of our thinking subject, and so on. He dispenses with all investigations of the origin of these internal phenomena from physical causes, passing by, as it were, by a decree of transcendent reason, the immanent sources of knowledge given by experience. This may be convenient to himself, but involves a sacrifice of all real insight. These detrimental consequences become still more palpable in the dogmatism involved in our idea of a supreme intelligence, and of the theological system of nature, erroneously based on it (physico-theology). For here all the aims which we observe [p. 691] in nature, many of which we only imagined ourselves, serve to make the investigation of causes extremely easy, if, instead of looking for them in the general mechanical laws of matter, we appeal directly to the unsearchable counsel of the supreme wisdom, imagining the efforts of our reason as ended, when we have really dispensed with its employment, which nowhere finds its proper guidance, except where the order of nature and the succession of changes, according to their own internal and general laws, supply it. This error may be avoided, if we do not merely consider certain parts of nature, such as the distribution of land, its structure, the constitution and direction of certain mountains, or even the organisation of plants and animals, from the standpoint of final aims, but look upon this systematical unity of nature as something general, in relation to the idea of a supreme intelligence. For, in this case, we look upon nature as founded on intelligent purposes, according to general laws, no particular arrangement of nature being exempt from them, but only exhibiting them more or less distinctly. We have them, in fact, a regulative principle of the systematical unity in a teleological connection, though we do not determine it beforehand, but only look forward to it expectantly, while following up the physico-mechanical connection according [p. 692] to general laws. In this way alone can the principle of systematical and intelligent unity enlarge the use of reason with reference to experience, without at any time being prejudicial to it.
The second error, arising from the misapprehension of the principle of systematical unity, is that of perverted reason (perversa ratio, ὕστερον πρότερον rationis). The idea of systematic unity was only intended as a regulative principle for discovering that unity, according to general laws, in the connection of things, believing that we have approached the completeness of its use by exactly so much as we have discovered of it empirically, though never able to reach it fully. Instead of this, the procedure is reversed; the reality of a principle of systematical unity is at once admitted and hypostasised, the concept of such a supreme intelligence, though being in itself entirely inscrutable, is determined anthropomorphically, and aims are afterwards imposed on nature violently and dictatorially, instead of looking for them by means of physical investigation. Thus teleology, which was meant to supplement the unity of nature according to general laws, contributes only  to destroy it, and reason deprives itself of its own aim, namely, that of proving the existence of such an intelligent supreme cause from nature. For, if we may not presuppose a priori the most perfect design in nature as belonging to its very essence, what should direct us to look for it, and to try to approach by degrees to the highest perfection of an author, that is, to an absolutely necessary and a priori intelligible perfection? The regulative principle requires us to admit absolutely, and as following from the very nature of things, systematical unity as an unity of nature, which has not only to be known empirically, but must be admitted a priori, though as yet in an indefinite form only. But if I begin with a supreme ordaining Being, as the ground of all things, the unity of nature is really surrendered as being quite foreign to the nature of things, purely contingent, and not to be known from its own general laws. Thus arises a vicious circle by our presupposing what, in reality, ought to have been proved.
To mistake the regulative principle of the systematical unity of nature for a constitutive principle, and to presuppose hypostatically as cause, what is only in the idea made the foundation for the consistent use of [p. 694] reason, is simply to confound reason. The investigation of nature pursues its own course, guided by the chain of natural causes only, according to general laws. It knows the idea of an author, but not in order to derive from it that system of purposes which it tries to discover everywhere, but in order to recognise his existence from those purposes, which are sought in the essence of the things of nature, and, if possible, also in the essence of all things in general, and consequently to recognise his existence as absolutely necessary. Whether this succeeds or not, the idea itself remains always true, as well as its use, if only it is restricted to the conditions of a merely regulative principle.
Complete unity of design constitutes perfection (absolutely considered). If we do not find such perfection in the nature of the things which form the object of experience, that is, of all our objectively valid knowledge; if we do not find it in the general and necessary laws of nature, how shall we thence infer the idea of a supreme and absolutely necessary perfection of an original Being, as the origin of all causality? The greatest systematical and, therefore, well-planned unity teaches us, and first enables us, to make the widest use of human reason, and that idea is, therefore, inseparably connected with [p. 695] the very nature of our reason. That idea becomes, in fact, to us a law, and hence it is very natural for us to assume a corresponding lawgiving reason (intellectus archetypus) from which, as the object of our reason, all systematical unity of nature should be derived.
When discussing the antinomy of pure reason, we remarked that all questions raised by pure reason must admit of an answer, and that the excuse derived from the natural limits of our knowledge, which in many questions concerning nature is as inevitable as it is just, cannot be admitted here, because questions are here placed before us through the very nature of our reason, referring entirely to its own natural constitution, and not to the nature of things. We have now an opportunity of confirming this assertion of ours, which at first sight may have appeared rash, with regard to the two questions in which pure reason takes the greatest interest, and of thus bringing to perfection our considerations on the Dialectic of pure reason.
If, then, we are asked the question (with reference to a transcendental theology),1First, whether there is something different from the world, containing the [p. 696] ground of the order of the world and of its connection according to general laws? our answer is, Certainly there is. For the world is a sum of phenomena, and there must, therefore, be some transcendental ground of it, that is, a ground to be thought by the pure understanding only. If, secondly, we are asked whether that Being is a substance of the greatest reality, necessary, etc.? our answer is, that such a question has no meaning at all. For all the categories by which I can try to frame to myself a concept of such an object admit of none but an empirical use, and have no meaning at all, unless they are applied to objects of possible experience, that is, to the world of sense. Outside that field they are mere titles of concepts, which we may admit, but by which we can understand nothing. If, thirdly, the question is asked, whether we may not at least conceive this Being, which is different from the world, in analogy with the objects of experience? our answer is, Certainly we may, but only as an object in the idea, and not in the reality, that is, in so far only as it remains a [p. 697] substratum, unknown to us, of the systematic unity, order, and design of the world, which reason is obliged to adopt as a regulative principle in the investigation of nature. Nay, more, we need not be afraid to admit certain anthropomorphisms in that idea, which favour the regulative principle of our investigations. For it always remains an idea only, which is never referred directly to a Being, different from the world, but only to the regulative principle of the systematical unity of the world, and this by some schema of it, namely, that of a supreme intelligence, being the author of it, for the wisest purposes. It was not intended that by it we should try to form a conception of what that original cause of the unity of the world may be by itself; it was only meant to teach us how to use it, or rather its idea, with reference to the systematical use of reason, applied to the things of the world.
But, surely, people will proceed to ask, we may, according to this, admit a wise and omnipotent Author of the world? Certainly, we answer, and not only we may, but we must. In that case, therefore, we surely extend our knowledge beyond the field of possible experience? By no means. For we have only presupposed a something of which we have no conception whatever as to [p. 698] what it is by itself (as a purely transcendental object). We have only, with reference to the systematical and well-designed order of the world, which we must presuppose, if we are to study nature at all, presented to ourselves that unknown Being in analogy with what is an empirical concept, namely, an intelligence; that is, we have, with reference to the purposes and the perfection which depend on it, attributed to it those very qualities on which, according to the conditions of our reason, such a systematical unity may depend. That idea, therefore, is entirely founded on the employment of our reason in theworld, and if we were to attribute to it absolute and objective validity, we should be forgetting that it is only a Being in the idea which we think: and as we should then be taking our start from a cause, that cannot be determined by mundane considerations, we should no longer be able to employ that principle in accordance with the empirical use of reason.
But people will go on to ask, May we not then in this way use that concept, and the supposition of a Supreme Being in a rational consideration of the world? No doubt we may, and it was for that very purpose that that idea of reason was established. And if it be asked whether we may look upon arrangements in nature which have all the appearance of design, as real designs, and trace them back to a divine will, though with the [p. 699] intervention of certain arrangements in the world, we answer again, Yes, but only on condition that it be the same to you whether we say that the divine wisdom has arranged everything for the highest purposes, or whether we take the idea of the supreme wisdom as our rule in the investigation of nature, and as the principle of its systematical and well-planned unity according to general laws, even when we are not able to perceive that unity. In other words, it must be the same to you, when you do perceive it, whether we say, God has wisely willed it so, or nature has wisely arranged it so. For it was that greatest systematical and well-planned unity, required by your reason as the regulative principle of all investigation of nature, which gave you the right to admit the idea of a supreme intelligence as the schema of that regulative principle. As much of design, therefore, as you discover in the world, according to that principle, so much of confirmation has the legitimacy of your idea received. But as that principle was only intended for finding the necessary and greatest possible unity in nature, we shall, no doubt, owe that unity, so far as we may find it, to our idea of a Supreme Being; but we cannot, without contradicting ourselves, ignore the general laws of nature for which that idea was adopted, or look upon the designs of nature as contingent and hyperphysical [p. 700] in their origin. For we were not justified in admitting a Being endowed with those qualities as above nature (hyperphysical), but only in using the idea of it in order to be able to look on all phenomena1 as being systematically connected among themselves, in analogy with a causal determination.
For the same reason we are justified, not only in representing to ourselves the cause of the world in our idea according to a subtle kind of anthropomorphism (without which we can think nothing of it), as a Being endowed with understanding, the feelings of pleasure and displeasure, and accordingly with desire and will, but also in attributing to it infinite perfection, which therefore far transcends any perfection known to us from the empirical knowledge of the order of the world. For the regulative law of systematical unity requires that we should study nature as if there existed in it everywhere, with the greatest possible variety, an infinitely systematical and well-planned unity. And although we can discover but little of that perfection of the world, it is nevertheless a law of our reason, always to look for it and to expect it; and it must be beneficial, and can never be hurtful, to carry on the investigation of nature according to this principle. But in admitting this fundamental [p. 701] idea of a Supreme Author, it is clear that I do not admit the existence and knowledge of such a Being, but its idea only, and that in reality I do not derive anything from that Being, but only from the idea of it, that is, from the nature of the things of the world, according to such an idea. It seems also, as if a certain, though undeveloped consciousness of the true use of this concept of reason had dictated the modest and reasonable language of philosophers of all times, when they use such expressions as the wisdom and providence of nature as synonymous with divine wisdom, nay, even prefer the former expression, when dealing with speculative reason only, as avoiding the pretension of a greater assertion than we are entitled to make, and at the same time restricting reason to its proper field, namely, nature.
Thus we find that pure reason, which at first seemed to promise nothing less than extension of our knowledge beyond all limits of experience, contains, if properly understood, nothing but regulative principles, which indeed postulate greater unity than the empirical use of the understanding can ever achieve, but which, by the very fact that they place the goal which has to be reached at so great a distance, carry the agreement of the understanding with itself by means of systematical [p. 702] unity to the highest possible degree; while, if they are misunderstood and mistaken for constitutive principles of transcendent knowledge, they produce, by a brilliant but deceptive illusion, some kind of persuasion and imaginary knowledge, but, at the same time, constant contradictions and disputes.
* * * * * * * *
Thus all human knowledge begins with intuitions, advances to concepts, and ends with ideas. Although with reference to every one of these three elements, it possesses a priori sources of knowledge, which at first sight seemed to despise the limits of all experience, a perfect criticism soon convinces us, that reason, in its speculative use, can never get with these elements beyond the field of possible experience, and that it is the true destination of that highest faculty of knowledge to use all methods and principles of reason with one object only, namely, to follow up nature into her deepest recesses, according to every principle of unity, the unity of design being the most important, but never to soar above its limits, outside of which there is for us nothing but empty space. No doubt, the critical examination of all propositions which seemed to be able to enlarge our knowledge [p. 703] beyond real experience, as given in the transcendental Analytic, has fully convinced us that they could never lead to anything more than to a possible experience; and, if people were not suspicious even of the clearest, but abstract and general doctrines, and charming and specious prospects did not tempt us to throw off the restraint of those doctrines, we might indeed have dispensed with the laborious examination of all the dialectical witnesses which a transcendent reason brings into court in support of her pretensions. We knew beforehand with perfect certainty that all these pretensions, though perhaps honestly meant, were absolutely untenable, because they relate to a kind of knowledge to which man can never attain. But we know that there is no end of talk, unless the true cause of the illusion, by which even the wisest are deceived, has been clearly exhibited. We also know that the analysis of all our transcendent knowledge into its elements (as a study of our own internal nature) has no little value in itself, and to a philosopher is really a matter of duty. We therefore thought that it was not only necessary to follow up the whole of this vain treatment of speculative reason to its first sources, but considered it advisable also, as the dialectical illusion does here not only deceive the judgment, but, owing to the interest which we take in the judgment, possesses and always will possess a certain natural and irresistible [p. 704] charm, to write down the records of this lawsuit in full detail, and to deposit them in the archives of human reason, to prevent for the future all errors of a similar kind.
METHOD OF TRANSCENDENTALISM [p. 705]
If we look upon the whole knowledge of pure [p. 707] and speculative reason as an edifice of which we possess at least the idea within ourselves, we may say that in the Elements of Transcendentalism we made an estimate of the materials and determined for what kind of edifice and of what height and solidity they would suffice. We found that although we had thought of a tower that would reach to the sky, the supply of materials would suffice for a dwelling-house only, sufficiently roomy for all our business on the level plain of experience, and high enough to enable us to survey it: and that the original bold undertaking could not but fail for want of materials, not to mention the confusion of tongues which inevitably divided the labourers in their views of the building, and scattered them over all the world, where each tried to erect his own building according to his own plan. At present, however, we are concerned not so much with the material as with the plan, and though we have been warned not to venture blindly on a plan which may be beyond our powers, we cannot altogether give up the erection of a solid dwelling, but have to make the plan for a building in proportion to the material which we possess, and sufficient for all our real wants. This determination of the formal conditions of a complete system of pure reason I call the Method of Transcendentalism. We [p. 708] shall here have to treat of a discipline, a canon, an architectonic, and lastly, a history of pure reason, and shall have to do, from a transcendental point of view, what the schools attempt, but fail to carry out properly, with regard to the use of the understanding in general, under the name of practical logic. The reason of this failure is that general logic is not limited to any particular kind of knowledge, belonging to the understanding (not for instance to its pure knowledge), nor to certain objects. It cannot, therefore, without borrowing knowledge from other sciences, do more than produce titles of possible methods and technical terms which are used in different sciences in reference to their systematical arrangement, so that the pupil becomes acquainted with names only, the meaning and application of which he has to learn afterwards.
[1 ]According to this principle, therefore, everything is referred to a common correlate, that is, the whole possibility, which, if it (that is, the matter for all possible predicates) could be found in the idea of any single thing, would prove an affinity of all possible things, through the identity of the ground of their complete determination. The determinability of any concept is subordinate to the universality (universalitas) of the principle of the excluded middle, while the determination of a thing is subordinate to the totality (universitas), or the sum total of all possible predicates.
[1 ]The observations and calculations of astronomers have taught us much that is wonderful; but the most important is, that they have revealed to us the abyss of our ignorance, which otherwise human reason could never have conceived so great. To meditate on this must produce a great change in the determination of the aims of our reason.
[1 ]This ideal of the most real of all things, although merely a representation, is first realised, that is, changed into an object, then hypostasised, and lastly, by the natural progress of reason towards unity, as we shall presently show, personified; because the regulative unity of experience does not rest on the phenomena themselves (sensibility alone), but on the connection of the manifold, through the understanding (in an apperception), so that the unity of the highest reality, and the complete determinability (possibility) of all things, seem to reside in a supreme understanding, and therefore in an intelligence.
[1 ]Read nothwendig instead of unmöglich. Noiré.
[1 ]A concept is always possible, if it is not self-contradictory. This is the logical characteristic of possibility, and by it the object of the concept is distinguished from the nihil negativum. But it may nevertheless be an empty concept, unless the objective reality of the synthesis, by which the concept is generated, has been distinctly shown. This, however, as shown above, must always rest on principles of possible experience, and not on the principle of analysis (the principle of contradiction). This is a warning against inferring at once from the possibility of concepts (logical) the possibility of things (real).
[1 ]This conclusion is too well known to require detailed exposition. It rests on the apparently transcendental law of causality in nature, that everything contingent has its cause, which, if contingent again, must likewise have a cause, till the series of subordinate causes ends in an absolutely necessary cause, without which it could not be complete.
[1 ]Not theological Ethics; for these contain moral laws, which presuppose the existence of a supreme ruler of the world, while Ethico-theology is the conviction of the existence of a Supreme Being, founded on moral laws.
[1 ]Read ausgeschossen.
[1 ]Read keiner instead of keine
[1 ]Instead of alle read als.
[1 ]The early editions read transcendenten, instead of transcendentalen, which is given in the corrigenda of the Fifth Edition; it is not impossible, however, that Kant may have meant to write transcendenten, in order to indicate the illegitimate use of these concepts.
[1 ]The advantage which arises from the circular shape of the earth is well known; but few only know that its flattening, which gives it the form of a spheroid, alone prevents the elevations of continents, or even of smaller volcanically raised mountains, from continuously and, within no very great space of time, considerably altering the axis of the earth. The protuberance of the earth at the equator forms however so considerable a mountain, that the impetus of every other mountain can never drive it perceptibly out of its position with reference to the axis of the earth. And yet people do not hesitate to explain this wise arrangement simply from the equilibrium of the once fluid mass.
[1 ]This was a name given by the old dialecticians to a sophistical argument, which ran thus: If it is your fate that you should recover from this illness, you will recover, whether you send for a doctor or not. Cicero says that this argument was called ignava ratio, because, if we followed it, reason would have no use at all in life. It is for this reason that I apply the same name to this sophistical argument of pure reason.
[1 ]After what I have said before about the psychological idea, and its proper destination to serve as a regulative principle only for the use of reason, there is no necessity for my discussing separately and in full detail the transcendental illusion which leads us to represent hypostatically that systematical unity of the manifold phenomena of the internal sense. The procedure would here be very similar to that which we are following in our criticism of the theological ideal.
[1 ]Instead of der Erscheinungen read die Erscheinungen.