Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter II: The Canon of Pure Reason [p. 795] - Critique of Pure Reason
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Chapter II: The Canon of Pure Reason [p. 795] - 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 Canon of Pure Reason [p. 795]
It is humiliating, no doubt, for human reason that it can achieve nothing by itself, nay, that it stands in need of a discipline to check its vagaries, and to guard against the illusions arising from them. But, on the other hand, it elevates reason and gives it self-confidence, that it can and must exercise that discipline itself, and allows no censorship to any one else. The bounds, moreover, which it is obliged to set to its own speculative use check at the same time the sophistical pretensions of all its opponents, and thus secure everything that remains of its formed exaggerated pretensions against every possible attack. The greatest and perhaps the only advantage of all philosophy of pure reason seems therefore to be negative only; because it serves, not as an organon for the extension, but as a discipline for the limitation of its domain, and instead of discovering truth, it only claims the modest merit of preventing error.
Nevertheless, there must be somewhere a source of positive cognitions which belong to the domain of pure reason, and which perhaps, owing to some misunderstanding only, may lead to error, while they form in [p. 796] reality the true goal of all the efforts of reason. How else could we account for that inextinguishable desire to gain a footing by any means somewhere beyond the limits of experience? Reason has a presentiment of objects which possess a great interest for it. It enters upon the path of pure speculation in order to approach them, but they fly before it. May we not suppose that on the only path which is still open to it, namely, that of its practical employments, reason may hope to meet with better success?
I understand by a canon a system of principles a priori for the proper employment of certain faculties of knowledge in general. Thus general logic, in its analytical portion, is a canon for the understanding and reason in general, but only so far as the form is concerned, for it takes no account of any contents. Thus we saw that the transcendental analytic is the canon of the pure understanding, and that it alone is capable of true synthetical knowledge a priori. When no correct use of a faculty of knowledge is possible, there is no canon, and as all synthetical knowledge of pure reason in its speculative employment is, according to all that has been hitherto said, totally impossible, there exists no canon of the speculative employment of reason (for that employment is entirely dialectical), but all transcendental logic is, in this respect, disciplinary only. Consequently, if there exists [p. 797] any correct use of pure reason at all, and, therefore, a canon relating to it, that canon will refer not to the speculative, but to the practical use of reason, which we shall now proceed to investigate.
Of the Ultimate Aim of the Pure Use of our Reason
Reason is impelled by a tendency of its nature to go beyond the field of experience, and to venture in its pure employment and by means of mere ideas to the utmost limits of all knowledge; nay, it finds no rest until it has fulfilled its course and established an independent and systematic whole of all knowledge. The question is, whether this endeavour rests on the speculative, or rather, exclusively on the practical interests of reason?
I shall say nothing at present of the success which has attended pure reason in its speculative endeavours, and only ask which are the problems, the solution of which forms its ultimate aim (whether that object be really reached or not), and in relation to which all other problems are only means to an end. These highest aims must again, according to the nature of reason, possess [p. 798] a certain unity in order to advance by their union that interest of humanity which is second to no other.
The highest aim to which the speculation of reason in its transcendental employment is directed comprehends three objects: the freedom of the will, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of God. The purely speculative interest of reason in every one of these three questions is very small, and, for its sake alone, this fatiguing and ceaseless labour of transcendental investigation would hardly have been undertaken, because whatever discoveries may be made, they could never be used in a way that would be advantageous in concreto, that is, in the investigation of nature.
Our will may be free, but this would only refer to the intelligible cause of our volition. With regard to the phenomena in which that will manifests itself, that is, our actions, we have to account for them (according to an inviolable maxim without which reason could not be employed for empirical purposes at all), in no other way than for all other phenomena of nature, that is, according to her unchangeable laws.
Secondly, the spiritual nature of the soul, and with it its immortality, may be understood by us, yet we could not base upon this any explanation, either with regard to the phenomena of this life, or the peculiar nature of a [p. 799] future state, because our concept of an incorporeal nature is purely negative and does not expand our knowledge in the least, nor does it offer any fit material for drawing consequences, except such as are purely fictitious, and could never be countenanced by philosophy.
Thirdly, even admitting that the existence of a highest intelligence had been proved, we might, no doubt, use it in order to make the design in the constitution of the world and its order in general intelligible, but we should never be justified in deriving from it any particular arrangement, or disposition, or in boldly inferring it where it cannot be perceived. For it is a necessary rule for the speculative employment of reason, never to pass by natural causes, and, abandoning what we may learn from experience, to derive something which we know, from something which entirely transcends all our knowledge.
In one word, these three propositions remain always transcendent for speculative reason, and admit of no immanent employment, that is, an employment admissible for objects of experience, and therefore of some real utility to ourselves, but are by themselves entirely valueless and yet extremely difficult exertions of our reason.
If, therefore, these three cardinal propositions are of no use to us, so far as knowledge is concerned, and are yet so strongly recommended to us by our reason, their true value will probably be connected with our [p. 800] practical interests only.
I call practical whatever is possible through freedom. When the conditions of the exercise of our free-will are empirical, reason can have no other but a regulative use, serving only to bring about the unity of empirical laws. Thus, for instance, in the teaching of prudence, the whole business of reason consists in concentrating all the objects of our desires in one, namely, happiness, and in co-ordinating the means for obtaining it. Reason, therefore, can give us none but pragmatic laws of free action for the attainment of the objects recommended to us by the senses, and never pure laws, determined entirely a priori. Pure practical laws, on the contrary, the object of which is given by reason entirely a priori, and which convey commands, not under empirical conditions, but absolutely, would be products of pure reason. Such are the moral laws, and these alone, therefore, belong to the sphere of the practical use of reason, and admit of a canon.
All the preparations of reason, therefore, in what may be called pure philosophy, are in reality directed to those three problems only. These themselves, however, have a still further object, namely, to know what ought to be done, if the will is free, if there is a God, and if there is a future world. As this concerns our actions with reference to the highest aim of life, we see that the last intention [p. 801] of nature in her wise provision was really, in the constitution of our reason, directed to moral interests only.
We must be careful, however, lest, as we are now considering a subject which is foreign to transcendental philosophy,1 we should lose ourselves in episodes, and injure the unity of the system, while on the other side, if we say too little of this new matter, there might be a lack of clearness and persuasion. I hope to avoid both dangers by keeping as close as possible to what is transcendental, and by leaving entirely aside what may be psychological, that is, empirical in it.
I have, therefore, first to remark that for the present I shall use the concept of freedom in its practical meaning only, taking no account of the other concept of freedom in its transcendental meaning, which cannot be presupposed empirically as an explanation of phenomena, but is itself a problem of reason and has been disposed [p. 802] of before. A will is purely animal (arbitrium brutum) when it is determined by nothing but sensuous impulses, that is, pathologically. A will, on the contrary, which is independent of sensuous impulses, and can be determined therefore by motives presented by reason alone, is called Free-will (arbitrium liberum), and everything connected with this, whether as cause or effect, is called practical. Practical freedom can be proved by experience. For human will is not determined by that only which excites, that is, immediately affects the senses; but we possess the power to overcome the impressions made on the faculty of our sensuous desires, by representing to ourselves what, in a more distant way, may be useful or hurtful. These considerations of what is desirable with regard to our whole state, that is, of what is good and useful, are based entirely on reason. Reason, therefore, gives laws which are imperatives, that is, objective laws of freedom, and tell us what ought to take place, though perhaps it never does take place, differing therein from the laws of nature, which relate only to what does take place. These laws of freedom, therefore, are called practical laws.
Whether reason in prescribing these laws is [p. 803] not itself determined by other influences, and whether what, in relation to sensuous impulses, is called freedom, may not, with regard to higher and more remote causes, be nature again, does not concern us while engaged in these practical questions, and while demanding from reason nothing but the rule of our conduct. It is a purely speculative question which, while we are only concerned with what we ought or ought not to do, may well be left aside. We know practical freedom by experience as one of the natural causes, namely, as a causality of reason in determining the will, while transcendental freedom demands the independence of reason itself (with reference to its causality in beginning a series of phenomena) from all determining causes in the world of sense, thus running counter, as it would seem, to the law of nature and therefore to all possible experience, and remaining a problem. Reason, however, in its practical employment has nothing to do with this problem, so that there remain but two questions in a canon of pure reason which concern the practical interest of pure reason, and with regard to which a canon of their employment must be possible, namely: Is there a God? Is there a future life? The question of transcendental freedom refers to speculative knowledge only, and may be safely left aside as quite indifferent when we are concerned with practical interests. A sufficient discussion [p. 804] of it may be found in the antinomy of pure reason.
Of the Ideal of the Summum Bonum as determining the Ultimate Aim of Pure Reason
Reason, in its speculative employment, conducted us through the field of experience, and, as it could find no perfect satisfaction there, from thence to speculative ideas which, however, in the end conducted us back again to experience, and thus fulfilled their purpose in a manner which, though useful, was not at all in accordance with our expectation. We may now have one more trial, namely, to see whether pure reason may be met with in practical use also, and whether thus it may lead to ideas which realise the highest aims of pure reason as we have just stated them, and whether therefore from the point of view of its practical interest, reason may not be able to grant us what it entirely refused to do with regard to its speculative interest.
The whole interest of my reason, whether speculative or practical, is concentrated in the three following questions: — [p. 805]
1. What can I know?
2. What should I do?
3. What may I hope?
The first question is purely speculative. We have, as I flatter myself, exhausted all possible answers, and found, at last, that with which no doubt reason must be satisfied, and, except with regard to the practical, has just cause to be satisfied. We remained, however, as far removed from the two great ends to which the whole endeavour of pure reason was really directed as if we had consulted our ease and declined the whole task from the very beginning. So far then as knowledge is concerned, so much is certain and clear that, with regard to these two problems, knowledge can never fall to our lot.
The second question is purely practical. As such it may come within the cognisance of pure reason, but is, even then, not transcendental, but moral, and cannot, consequently, occupy our criticism by itself.
The third question, namely, what may I hope for, if I do what I ought to do? is at the same time practical and theoretical, the practical serving as a guidance to the answer to the theoretical and, in its highest form, speculative question; for all hoping is directed towards happiness and is, with regard to practical interests and the law of morality, the same as knowing and the law of nature, with regard to the theoretical cognition of things. The former arrives at last at a conclusion that something is [p. 806] (which determines the last possible aim) because something ought to take place; the latter, that something is (which operates as the highest cause) because something does take place.
Happiness is the satisfaction of all our desires, extensively, in regard to their manifoldness, intensively, in regard to their degree, and protensively, in regard to their duration. The practical law, derived from the motive of happiness, I call pragmatical (rule of prudence); but the law, if there is such a law, which has no other motive but to deserve to be happy, I call moral (law of morality). The former advises us what we have to do, if we wish to possess happiness; the latter dictates how we ought to conduct ourselves in order to deserve happiness. The former is founded on empirical principles, for I cannot know, except by experience, what desires there are which are to be satisfied, nor what are the natural means of satisfying them. The second takes no account of desires and the natural means of satisfying them, and regards only the freedom of any rational being and the necessary conditions under which alone it can harmonise with the distribution of happiness according to principles. It can therefore be based on mere ideas of pure reason, and known a priori. I assume that there really exist pure moral laws [p. 807] which entirely a priori (without regard to empirical motives, that is, happiness) determine the use of the freedom of any rational being, both with regard to what has to be done and what has not to be done, and that these laws are imperative absolutely (not hypothetically only on the supposition of other empirical ends), and therefore in every respect necessary. I feel justified in assuming this, by appealing, not only to the arguments of the most enlightened moralists, but also to the moral judgment of every man, if he only tries to conceive such a law clearly.
Pure reason, therefore, contains not indeed in its speculative, yet in its practical, or, more accurately, its moral employment, principles of the possibility of experience, namely, of such actions as might be met with in the history of man according to moral precepts. For as reason commands that such actions should take place, they must be possible, and a certain kind of systematical unity also, namely, the moral, must be possible; while it was impossible to prove the systematical unity of nature according to the speculative principles of reason. For reason, no doubt, possesses causality with respect to freedom in general, but not with respect to the whole of nature, and moral principles of reason may indeed produce free actions, but not laws of nature. Consequently, the principles of pure reason possess objective reality in their practical [p. 808] and more particularly in their moral employment.
I call the world, in so far as it may be in accordance with all moral laws which, by virtue of the freedom of rational beings it may, and according to the necessary laws of morality it ought to be, a moral world. As here we take no account of all conditions (aims) and even of all impediments to morality (the weakness or depravity of human nature), this world is conceived as an intelligible world only. It is, therefore, so far a mere idea, though a practical idea, which can and ought really to exercise its influence on the sensible world in order to bring it, as far as possible, into conformity with that idea. The idea of a moral world has therefore objective reality, not as referring to an object of intelligible intuition (which we cannot even conceive), but as referring to the sensible world, conceived as an object of pure reason in its practical employment, and as a corpus mysticum of rational beings dwelling in it, so far as their free-will, placed under moral laws, possesses a thorough systematical unity both with itself and with the freedom of everybody else.
The answer, therefore, of the first of the two questions of pure reason with reference to practical interests, [p. 809] is this, ‘do that which will render thee deserving of happiness.’ The second question asks, how then, if I conduct myself so as to be deserving of happiness, may I hope thereby to obtain happiness? The answer to this question depends on this, whether the principles of pure reason which a priori prescribe the law, necessarily also connect this hope with it?
I say, then, that just as the moral principles are necessary according to reason in its practical employment, it is equally necessary according to reason in its theoretic employment to assume that everybody has reason to hope to obtain happiness in the same measure in which he has rendered himself deserving of it in his conduct; and that, therefore, the system of morality is inseparably, though only in the idea of pure reason, connected with that of happiness.
In an intelligible, that is, in a moral world, in conceiving which we take no account of any of the impediments to morality (desires, etc.), such a system, in which happiness is proportioned to morality, may even be considered as necessary, because freedom, as repelled or restrained by the moral law, is itself the cause of general happiness, and rational beings therefore themselves, under the guidance of such principles, the authors of the permanent well-being of themselves, and at the same time of others. But such a system of self-rewarding morality is [p. 810] an idea only, the realisation of which depends on everybody doing what he ought to do, that is, on all actions of reasonable beings being so performed as if they sprang from one supreme will, comprehending within itself or under itself all private wills. But, as the moral law remains binding upon every one in the use of his freedom, even if others do not conform to that law, it is impossible that either the nature of things in the world, or the causality of the actions themselves, or their relation to morality, should determine in what relation the consequences of such actions should stand to happiness. If, therefore, we take our stand on nature only, the necessary connection of a hope of happiness with the unceasing endeavour of rendering oneself deserving of happiness, cannot be known by reason, but can only be hoped for, if a highest reason, which rules according to moral laws, is accepted at the same time as the cause of nature.
I call the idea of such an intelligence in which the most perfect moral will, united with the highest blessedness, is the cause of all happiness in the world, so far as it corresponds exactly with morality, that is, the being worthy of happiness, the ideal of the supreme good. It is, therefore, in the ideal only of the supreme original good that pure reason can find the ground of the practically necessary connection of both elements of the highest [p. 811] derivative good, namely, of an intelligible, that is, moral world. As we are bound by reason to conceive ourselves as belonging necessarily to such a world, though the senses present us with nothing but a world of phenomena, we shall have to accept the other world as the result of our conduct in this world of sense (in which we see no such connection between goodness and happiness), and therefore as to us a future world. Hence it follows that God and a future life are two suppositions which, according to the principles of pure reason, cannot be separated from the obligation which that very reason imposes on us.
Morality, by itself, constitutes a system, but not so happiness, unless it is distributed in exact proportion to morality. This, however, is possible in an intelligible world only under a wise author and ruler. Such a ruler, together with life in such a world, which we must consider as future, reason compels us to admit, unless all moral laws are to be considered as idle dreams, because, without that supposition, the necessary consequences, which the same reason connects with these laws, would be absent. Hence everybody looks upon moral laws as commands, which they could not be if they did not connect a priori adequate consequences with their rules, and carried with them both promises and threats. Nor could they do this unless they rested on a necessary Being, as the supreme good, which alone can render the [p. 812] unity of such a design possible.
Leibniz called the world, if we have regard only to the rational beings in it, and their mutual relations according to moral laws and under the government of the supreme good, the kingdom of grace, distinguishing it from the kingdom of nature, in which these beings, though standing under moral laws, expect no other consequences from their conduct but such as follow according to the course of nature of our sensible world. To view ourselves as belonging to the kingdom of grace, in which all happiness awaits us, except in so far as we have diminished our share in it through our unworthiness of being happy, is a practically necessary idea of reason.
Practical laws, in so far as they become at the same time subjective grounds of actions, that is, subjective principles, are called maxims. The criticism of morality, with regard to its purity and its results, takes place according to ideas, the practical observance of its laws, according to maxims.
It is necessary that the whole course of our life should be subject to moral maxims; but this is impossible, unless reason connects with the moral law, which is a mere idea, an efficient cause, which assigns to all conduct, in accordance with the moral law, an issue accurately corresponding to our highest aims, whether in this or in another [p. 813] life. Thus without a God and without a world, not visible to us now, but hoped for, the glorious ideas of morality are indeed objects of applause and admiration, but not springs of purpose and action, because they fail to fulfil all the aims which are natural to every rational being, and which are determined a priori by the same pure reason, and therefore necessary.
Our reason does by no means consider happiness alone as the perfect good. It does not approve of it (however much inclination may desire it), except as united with desert, that is, with perfect moral conduct. Nor is morality alone, and with it mere desert of being happy, the perfect good. To make it perfect, he who has conducted himself as not unworthy of happiness, must be able to hope to participate in it. Even if freed from all private views and interests reason, were it to put itself in the place of a being that had to distribute all happiness to others, could not judge otherwise; because in the practical idea both elements are essentially connected, though in such a way that our participation in happiness should be rendered possible by the moral character as a condition, and not conversely the moral character by the prospect of happiness. For, in the latter case, the [p. 814] character would not be moral, nor worthy therefore of complete happiness; a happiness which, in the eyes of reason, admits of no limitation but such as arises from our own immoral conduct.
Happiness, therefore, in exact proportion with the morality of rational beings who are made worthy of happiness by it, constitutes alone the supreme good of a world into which we must necessarily place ourselves according to the commands of pure but practical reason. But this is an intelligible world only, and a sensible world never promises us such a systematical unity of ends as arising from the nature of things. Nor is the reality of this unity founded on anything but the admission of a supreme original good, so that independent reason, equipped with all the requirements of a supreme cause, founds, maintains, and completes, according to the most perfect design, the universal order of things which, in the world of sense, is almost completely hidden from our sight.
This moral theology has this peculiar advantage over speculative theology, that it leads inevitably to the concept of a sole, most perfect, and rational first Being, to which speculative theology does not even lead us on, on objective grounds, much less give us a conviction of it. For neither in transcendental nor in natural theology, however far reason may carry us on, do we find any real ground for admitting even one sole being which we should be warranted in placing before all natural causes [p. 815] and on which we might make them in all respects to depend. On the other hand, if, from the point of view of moral unity as a necessary law of the universe, we consider what cause alone could give to it its adequate effect, and therefore its binding force with regard to ourselves, we find that it must be one sole supreme will which comprehends all these laws within itself. For how with different wills should we find complete unity of ends? That will must be omnipotent, in order that the whole of nature and its relation to morality and the world may be subject to it; omniscient, that it may know the most secret springs of our sentiments and their moral worth; omnipresent, that it may be near for supplying immediately all that is required by the highest interests of the world; eternal, that this harmony of nature and freedom may never fail, and so on.
But this systematical unity of ends in this world of intelligences which, if looked upon as mere nature, may be called a sensible world only, but which, if considered as a system of freedom, may be called an intelligible, that is, a moral world (regnum gratiae), leads inevitably also to the admission of a unity of design in all things which constitute this great universe according to general natural laws, just as the former (unity) was according to general and necessary laws of morality. In this way practical and speculative reason become united. The world must be represented as having originated from an idea, if it is to harmonise with that employment of reason without which we should consider ourselves [p. 816] unworthy of reason, namely, with its moral employment, which is founded entirely on the idea of the supreme good. In this way the study of nature tends to assume the form of a teleological system, and becomes in its widest extension physico-theology. And this, as it starts from the moral order as a unity founded on the essence of freedom, and not accidentally brought about by external commands, traces the design of nature to grounds which must be inseparably connected a priori with the internal possibility of things, and leads thus to a transcendental theology, which takes the ideal of the highest ontological perfection as the principle of systematical unity which connects all things according to general and necessary laws of nature, because they all have their origin in the absolute necessity of the one original Being.
What use can we make of our understanding, even in respect to experience, if we have not aims before us? The highest aims, however, are those of morality, and these we can only know by means of pure reason. Even with their help and guidance, however, we could make no proper use of the knowledge of nature, unless nature itself had established a unity of design: for without this we should ourselves have no reason, [p. 817] because there would be no school for it, nor any culture derived from objects which supply the material for such concepts. This unity of design is necessary and founded on the essence of free-will, which must, therefore, as containing the condition of its application in concreto, be so likewise; so that, in reality, the transcendental development of the knowledge obtained by our reason would be, not the cause, but only the effect of that practical order and design which pure reason imposes upon us.
We find therefore in the history of human reason also that, before the moral concepts were sufficiently purified and refined, and before the systematical unity of the ends was clearly understood, according to such concepts and in accordance with necessary principles, the then existing knowledge of nature and even a considerable amount of the culture of reason in many other branches of science could only produce crude and vague conceptions of the Deity, or allow of an astonishing indifference with regard to that question. A greater cultivation of moral ideas, which became necessary through the extremely pure moral law of our religion, directed our reason to that object through the interest which it forced us to take in it, and without the help either of a more extended knowledge of nature, or of more correct and trustworthy transcendental views (which have been wanting in all ages). A concept of the Divine Being was elaborated [p. 818] which we now hold to be correct, not because speculative reason has convinced us of its correctness, but because it fully agrees with the moral principles of reason. And thus, after all, it is pure reason only, but pure reason in its practical employment, which may claim the merit of connecting with our highest interest that knowledge which pure speculation could only guess at without being able to establish its validity, and of having made it, not indeed a demonstrated dogma, but a supposition absolutely necessary to the most essential ends of reason.
But after practical reason has reached this high point, namely, the concept of a sole original Being as the supreme good, it must not imagine that it has raised itself above all empirical traditions of its application and soared up to an immediate knowledge of new objects, and thus venture to start from that concept and to deduce from it the moral laws themselves. For it was these very laws the internal practical necessity of which led us to the admission of an independent cause, or of a wise ruler of the world that should give effect to them. We ought not, therefore, to consider them afterwards again as accidental and derived from the mere will of the ruler, particularly as we could have no concept of such a will, if we had not formed it in accordance with those laws. So [p. 819] far as practical reason is entitled to lead us we shall not look upon actions as obligatory because they are the commands of God, but look upon them as divine commands because we feel an inner obligation to follow them. We shall study freedom according to the unity of design determined by the principles of reason, and we shall believe ourselves to be acting in accordance with the Divine will in so far only as we hold sacred the moral law which reason teaches us from the nature of actions themselves. We shall believe ourselves to be serving Him only by promoting everything that is best in the world, both in ourselves and in others. Moral theology is, therefore, of immanent use only, teaching us to fulfil our destiny here in the world by adapting ourselves to the general system of ends, without either fanatically or even criminally abandoning the guidance of reason and her moral laws for our proper conduct in life, in order to connect it directly with the idea of the Supreme Being. This would be a transcendent use of moral theology which, like a transcendent use of mere speculation, must inevitably pervert and frustrate the ultimate aims of reason.
Of Trowing, Knowing, and Believing [p. 820]
The holding a thing to be true is an event in our understanding which, though it may rest on objective grounds, requires also subjective causes in the mind of the person who is to judge. If the judgment is valid for everybody, if only he is possessed of reason, then the ground of it is objectively sufficient, and the holding it to be true is called conviction. If, on the contrary, it has its ground in the peculiar character of the subject only, it is called persuasion.
Persuasion is a mere illusion, the ground of the judgment, though it lies solely in the subject, being regarded as objective. Such a judgment has, therefore, private validity only, and the holding it to be true cannot be communicated to others. Truth, however, depends on agreement with the object, and, with regard to it, the judgments of every understanding must agree with each other (consentientia uni tertio consentiunt inter se, etc.). An external criterion, therefore, as to whether our holding a thing to be true be conviction or only persuasion, consists in the possibility of communicating it, and finding its truth to be valid for the reason of every man. For, in that case, there is at least a presumption that the ground of the agreement of all judgments, in [p. 821] spite of the diversity of the subjects, rests upon the common ground, namely, on the object with which they all agree, and thus prove the truth of the judgment.
Persuasion, therefore, cannot be distinguished from conviction, subjectively, so long as the subject views its judgment as a phenomenon of his own mind only; the experiment, however, which we make with the grounds that seem valid to us, by trying to find out whether they will produce the same effect on the reason of others, is a means, though only a subjective means, not indeed of producing conviction, but of detecting the merely private validity of the judgment, that is, of discovering in it what is merely persuasion.
If we are able besides to analyse the subjective causes of our judgment, which we have taken for its objective grounds, and thus explain the deceptive judgment as a phenomenon in our mind, without having recourse to the object itself, we expose the illusion and are no longer deceived by it, although we may continue to be tempted by it, in a certain degree, if, namely, the subjective cause of the illusion is inherent in our nature.
I cannot maintain anything, that is, affirm it as a judgment necessarily valid for everybody, except it work conviction. Persuasion I may keep for myself, if it [p. 822] is agreeable to me, but I cannot, and ought not to attempt to make it binding on any but myself.
The holding anything to be true, or the subjective validity of a judgment admits, with reference to the conviction which is at the same time valid objectively, of the three following degrees, trowing, believing, knowing. Trowing is to hold true, with the consciousness that it is insufficient both subjectively and objectively. If the holding true is sufficient subjectively, but is held to be insufficient objectively, it is called believing; while, if it is sufficient both subjectively and objectively, it is called knowing. Subjective sufficiency is called conviction (for myself), objective sufficiency is called certainty (for everybody). I shall not dwell any longer on the explanation of such easy concepts.
I must never venture to trow, or to be of opinion, without knowing at least something by means of which a judgment, problematical by itself, is connected with truth, which connection, though it involves not a complete truth, is yet attended with more than arbitrary fiction. Moreover, the law of such a connection must be certain. For if, even with regard to this law, I should have nothing but an opinion, all would become a mere play of the imagination, without the least relation to truth.
In the judgments of pure reason opinion is not permitted. For, as they are not based on empirical grounds, but everything has to be known a priori, and [p. 823] everything therefore must be necessary, the principle of connection in them requires universality and necessity, and consequently perfect certainty, without which there would be nothing to lead us on to truth. Hence it is absurd to have an opinion in pure mathematics; here one must either know, or abstain from pronouncing any judgment. The same applies to the principles of morality, because one must not hazard an action on the mere opinion that it is allowed, but must know it to be so.
In the transcendental employment of reason, on the contrary, mere opinion, no doubt, would be too little, but knowledge too much. Speculatively, therefore, we cannot here form any judgment at all, because the subjective grounds on which we hold a thing to be true, as for instance those which may very well produce belief, are not approved of in speculative questions, as they cannot be held without empirical support, nor, if communicated to others, can produce the same effect on them.
Nor can the theoretically insufficient acceptance of truth be called belief, except from a practical point of view. And this practical view refers either to skill or to morality, the former being concerned with any contingent and casual ends and objects whatsoever, the latter with absolutely necessary ends only.
If we have once proposed an object or end to ourselves, the conditions of attaining it are hypothetically necessary. This necessity is subjective, and yet but relatively [p. 824] sufficient, if I know of no other conditions under which the end can be attained: it is sufficient absolutely and for every one, if I am convinced that no one can know of other conditions, leading to the attainment of our end. In the former case my assuming and holding certain conditions as true is merely an accidental belief, while in the latter case it is a necessary belief. Thus a physician, for instance, may feel that he must do something for a patient, who is in danger. But as he does not know the nature of the illness, he observes the symptoms, and arrives at the conclusion, as he knows nothing else, that it is phthisis. His belief, according to his own judgment, is contingent only, and he knows that another might form a better judgment. It is this kind of contingent belief which, nevertheless, supplies a ground for the actual employment of means to certain actions, which I call pragmatic belief.
The usual test, whether something that is maintained be merely persuasion, or a subjective conviction at least, that is, firm belief, is betting. People often pronounce their views with such bold and uncompromising assurance that they seem to have abandoned all fear of error. A bet startles them. Sometimes it turns out that a man has persuasion sufficient to be valued at one ducat, but not at ten; he is ready to venture the first ducat, but [p. 825] with ten, he becomes aware for the first time that, after all, it might be possible that he should be mistaken. If we imagine that we have to stake the happiness of our whole life, the triumphant air of our judgment drops considerably; we become extremely shy, and suddenly discover that our belief does not reach so far. Thus pragmatic belief admits of degrees which, according to the difference of the interests at stake, may be large or small.
Now it is true, no doubt, that, though with reference to an object of our belief, we can do nothing, and our opinion is, therefore, purely theoretical, yet in many cases we can represent and imagine to ourselves an undertaking for which we might think that we had sufficient inducements, if any means existed of ascertaining the truth of the matter. Thus, even in purely theoretical judgments, there is an analogon of practical judgments to which the word belief may be applied, and which we shall therefore call doctrinal belief. If it were possible to apply any test of experience, I should be ready to stake the whole of my earthly goods on my belief that at least one of the planets which we see is inhabited. Hence I say that it is not only an opinion, but a strong belief, on the truth of which I should risk even many advantages of life, that there are inhabitants in other worlds.
Now we must admit that the doctrine of the [p. 826] existence of God belongs to doctrinal belief. For although, with reference to my theoretical knowledge of the world, I can produce nothing which would make this thought a necessary supposition as a condition of my being able to explain the phenomena of the world, but on the contrary am bound to use my reason as if everything were mere nature, nevertheless, the unity of design is so important a condition of the application of reason to nature that I cannot ignore it, especially as experience supplies so many examples of it. Of that unity of design, however, I know no other condition, which would make it a guidance in my study of nature, but the supposition that a supreme intelligence has ordered all things according to the wisest ends. As a condition, therefore, of, it may be, a contingent, but not unimportant end, namely, in order to have a guidance in the investigation of nature, it is necessary to admit a wise author of the world. The result of my experiment confirms the usefulness of this supposition so many times, while nothing decisive can be adduced against it, that I am really saying far too little, if I call my acceptation of it a mere opinion, and it may be said, even with regard to these theoretical matters, that I firmly believe in God. Still, if we use our words strictly, this belief must always be called doctrinal, and not practical, such as the theology of nature (physical theology) must always [p. 827] and necessarily produce. In the same wisdom, and in the prominent endowments of human nature, combined with the inadequate shortness of life, another sufficient ground may be found for the doctrinal belief in the future life of the human soul.
The expression of belief is in such cases an expression of modesty from the objective point of view, and yet, at the same time, a firm confidence from a subjective. If even I were to call this purely theoretical acceptance an hypothesis only, which I am entitled to assume, I should profess to be in possession of a more complete concept of the nature of a cause of the world, and of another world, than I really can produce. If I accept anything, even as an hypothesis only, I must know it at least so much according to its properties, that I need not imagine its concepts, but its existence only. But the word belief refers only to the guidance which an idea gives me, and to its subjective influence on the conduct of my reason, which makes me hold it fast, though I may not be able to give an account of it from a speculative point of view.
Purely doctrinal belief, however, has always a somewhat unstable character. Speculative difficulties often make us lose hold of it, though in the end we always [p. 828] return to it.
It is quite different with moral belief. For here action is absolutely necessary, that is, I must obey the moral law on all points. The end is here firmly established, and, according to all we know, one only condition is possible under which that end could agree with all other ends, and thus acquire practical validity, namely, the existence of a God and of a future world. I also know it for certain that no one is cognisant of other conditions which could lead to the same unity of ends under the moral law. As, then, the moral precept is at the same time my maxim, reason commanding that it should be so, I shall inevitably believe in the existence of God, and in a future life, and I feel certain that nothing can shake this belief, because all my moral principles would be overthrown at the same time, and I cannot surrender them without becoming hateful in my own eyes.
We see, therefore, that, even after the failure of all the ambitious schemes of reason to pass beyond the limits of all experience, enough remains to make us satisfied for practical purposes. No one, no doubt, will be able to boast again that he knows that there is a God and a future life. For a man who knows that, is the very man [p. 829] whom I have been so long in search of. As all knowledge, if it refers to an object of pure reason, can be communicated, I might hope that, through his teaching, my own knowledge would be increased in the most wonderful way. No, that conviction is not a logical, but a moral certainty; and, as it rests on subjective grounds (of the moral sentiment), I must not even say that it is morally certain that there is a God, etc., but that I am morally certain, etc. What I really mean is, that the belief in a God and in another world is so interwoven with my moral sentiment, that as there is little danger of my losing the latter, there is quite as little fear lest I should ever be deprived of the former.
The only point that may rouse misgivings is that this rational belief is based on the supposition of moral sentiments. If we surrender this, and take a man who is entirely indifferent with regard to moral laws, the question proposed by reason becomes merely a problem for speculation, and may in that case be still supported with strong grounds from analogy, but not such to which the most obstinate scepticism has to submit.1
No man, however, is with regard to these questions [p. 830] free from all interest. For although in the absence of good sentiments he may be rid of all moral interest, enough remains even thus to make him fear the existence of God and a future life. For nothing is required for this but his inability to plead certainty with regard to the nonexistence of such a being and of a future life. As this would have to be proved by mere reason, and therefore apodictically, he would have to establish the impossibility of both, which I feel certain no rational being would venture to do. This would be a negative belief which, though it could not produce morality and good sentiments, would still produce something analogous, namely, a check on the outbreak of evil.
But, it will be said, is this really all that pure reason can achieve in opening prospects beyond the limits of experience? Nothing more than two articles of faith? Surely even the ordinary understanding could have achieved as much without taking counsel of [p. 831] philosophers!
I shall not here dwell on the benefits which, by the laborious efforts of its criticism, philosophy has conferred on human reason, granting even that in the end they should turn out to be merely negative. On this point something will have to be said in the next section. But I ask, do you really require that knowledge, which concerns all men, should go beyond the common understanding, and should be revealed to you by philosophers only? The very thing which you find fault with, is the best confirmation of the correctness of our previous assertions, since it reveals to us what we could not have grasped before, namely, that in matters which concern all men without distinction, nature cannot be accused of any partial distribution of her gifts; and that with regard to the essential interests of human nature, the highest philosophy can achieve no more than that guidance which nature has vouchsafed even to the meanest understanding.
[1 ]All practical concepts relate to objects of pleasure or displeasure, that is, of joy or pain, and, therefore, at least indirectly, to objects of our feelings. But, as feeling is not a faculty of representing things, but lies outside the whole field of our powers of cognition, the elements of our judgments, so far as they relate to pleasure or pain, that is, the elements of practical judgments, do not belong to transcendental philosophy, which is concerned exclusively with pure cognitions a priori.
[1 ]The interest which the human mind takes in morality (an interest which, as I believe, is necessary to every rational being) is natural, though it is not undivided, and always practically preponderant. If you strengthen and increase that interest, you will find reason very docile, and even more enlightened, so as to be able to join the speculative with the practical interests. If you do not take care that you first make men at least moderately good, you will never make them honest believers.