Front Page Titles (by Subject) PREFACE. - Kant’s Prolegomena and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science.
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PREFACE. - Immanuel Kant, Kant’s Prolegomena and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. 
Kant’s Prolegomena and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, trans. with a Biography and Introduction by Ernest Belfort Bax (2nd revised edition) (London: George Bell and Sons, 1891).
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The growing interest taken in philosophy in this country has led to the issue of the present volume of “Bohn’s Philosophical Library,” containing the presentation for the first time to the British public of one work, important alike to the votary of physical science and of philosophy, and an entirely fresh translation of another which is absolutely indispensable at least to the philosophical student of Kant.
Only two English translations of the “Prolegomena” have hitherto been published. The first (a very bad one), by John Richardson, appeared in 1818, and has been out of print for many years past. The second (based on the last-mentioned) forms one of the volumes in Professor Mahaffy’s series entitled, “Kant’s Critical Philosophy for English Readers,” and while avowedly a somewhat free rendering, conveys the sense of the original fairly well, but its relatively high price places it beyond the reach of many persons. The present translation aims at giving, as far as possible, the ipsissima verba of Kant. No attempt has been made to convert the cumbrous German of the original into elegant English. Even the form and length of the sentences have been retained wherever possible, as it has been thought preferable to place before the reader Kant himself, with all his lack of literary polish, rather than any mere paraphrase of Kant.
Words not contained in the original are indicated by square brackets, as a distinction from Kant’s own, only too numerous, bracketed clauses. The practice of invariably retaining one particular English equivalent for a German word irrespective of usage has not been adhered to, the same word being variously translated according to circumstances. Vorstellung (in a philosophical sense) has been rendered by “presentation,” and for the rest the currently recognised equivalents of the German philosophical expressions have been for the most part adhered to, though some slight deviations from traditional precedent will be observed by the careful reader.
It may be worth while to mention that Dr. Vaihinger, of Strasburg, has indicated (“Philosophische Monatshefte,” XV., pp. 321–332 and 513–532) a remarkable confusion in the paragraphing near the commencement of the Prolegomena. For the conclusive arguments which he adduces in support of his alteration, the reader must be referred to the articles themselves, space only admitting of the result of his investigations being given. This (we quote his own words) is as follows:—“The printer has erroneously introduced the paragraph [p. 18 of present volume] ‘The essential feature distinguishing pure mathematical knowledge,’ &c., down to the sentence on p. 20, concluding with the words ‘make up the essential content of metaphysics,’ into § 4, whereas it directly and with strict logic follows the conclusion of § 2, p. 16, ‘but by means of an added intuition upon its subject.’ ” Dr. Vaihinger instances sundry misconceptions that have arisen from what was probably an accidental misplacement in the leaves of the manuscript.*
The Prolegomena were designed by Kant as an abstract of the Critique, the idea being the presentation in a succinct form of the leading positions of the larger work. In this we venture to think Kant was hardly successful. He labours here, as in the Critique, under the disadvantage of the pioneer, that of not fully grasping the import of his own discovery. While in the Critique the really salient points of the system—those which alone furnish a key to the whole—are overlaid by a mass of comparatively unessential superstructure, and instead of being emphasised and expounded in their entirety at the commencement, in most cases have to be discovered and inferred from detached passages and sections scattered throughout the book; in the Prolegomena they seem purposely left in the background. The real cornerstone of the Critique (although Kant did not see it), the deduction of the categories, is omitted altogether.
Kant, in writing the Prolegomena, seems indeed to have had in his mind the same essentially negative view of the scope of his system we find expressed in the note in the Anfangsgründe on pp. 144 et seq. of present volume. If his object was simply to demolish dogmatic metaphysics, by a limitation of speculation to experience, as its subject-matter, the Prolegomena are admirable, since they are in many respects clearer than the Critique. But if, on the other hand, this negative side of Kant’s labours was only a clearing of the ground for the original and constructive portion of his work, the formulation and attempted solution of the problem, “How is experience itself possible?” then we find in the Prolegomena the shortcomings of the Critique in an exaggerated form.
The basis of this latter side of Kant’s system, it cannot be too much insisted upon, is the conception of (I.) consciousness-in-general or pure consciousness, as opposed to the consciousness or experience given directly through the individual mind, the object of empirical psychology; (II.) the unity of apperception, which indicates the first moment of the differentiation of form from matter (an important antithesis that Kant rehabilitated), that is, the first moment of the possibility of consciousness; and (III.) finally the immanent noumenon or fundamental agency of which consciousness itself with all its momenta, is the determination. This last, although tacitly assumed throughout, and frequently referred to in terms of psychology as the “mind,” (das Gemüth), it was reserved for Kant’s successors to definitively fix.
Perhaps the greatest service of Kant is the differentiation of the consciousness-in-general, which is constitutive of reality, or in other words, is productive of the synthesis of experience, from the psychological consciousness or mind of the individual qua individual, which is merely reproductive of this synthesis. This is Kant’s great advance upon Berkeley and Hume, who, trained in the psychological school of Locke, failed to distinguish between metaphysics, or theory of knowledge—i.e., the science of the possibility of synthetic or productive experience, in other words, of consciousness-in-general—and psychology, the science of the reproduction of this synthesis in the experience of the individual. Berkeley demolished the scholastic substance or material substratum apart from consciousness, but having done so was confronted with the paradox that he had resolved objective reality into subjective ideality. That this absurdity was only apparent he felt, but was unable to point out where lay the source of the appearance for the reason above stated, namely, his inability to distinguish between consciousness quâ consciousness, and its reflection in mind.
The Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft has never before appeared in an English form. The same remarks, as regards the aim and character of the translation, will apply to this work as to the Prolegomena. I must ask, however, for some indulgence in this case for an occasional barbarism (e.g., “a plurality of the real, outside one another,”) owing to the difficulty of rendering Kant’s meaning adequately in all cases by good English. In the Anfangsgründe Kant seems to have surpassed himself in clumsiness and obscurity of style. In several sentences the verb is wanting, and others by the omission of a negative particle or a similar carelessness, make precisely the reverse sense to that, judging by the context, obviously intended.
The treatise in question is of especial interest in relation to modern speculation on the data of physical science, and particularly as to the ultimate constitution of matter, and may be profitably studied in conjunction with such works as Professor Wurtz’s, “Atomic Theory,” Mr. Stallo’s “Concepts of Modern Physics,” and Mr. Herbert Spencer’s “First Principles.” Written in 1786, just one year before the publication of the second edition of the “Critique,” it belongs to the maturest period of Kant’s philosophical activity. It may be of interest to allude to the fact that since the introductory portion of the present volume was in the press the manuscript treatise of Kant entitled, Uebergang von den Metaphysischen Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft zur Physik, “Transition from the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science to Physics,” has been disinterred and published in the Altpreussische Monatshefte for the year 1882. It should be added that the edition used, both in the case of the Prolegomena and the Anfangsgründe, is that of the collected works by Kirchmann, which, although not without flaw, is probably on the whole the most accurate we possess.
A short biographical sketch of Kant has been supplied by way of introduction to the volume. This is founded chiefly on the old sources, Wasianski, Borowski, Jachmann, Reicke. Schubert, &c. The biography is supplemented by a chapter dealing with Kant’s position in the evolution of thought, which, although necessarily to a large extent a mere bald outline, it has been thought might possibly prove suggestive to students, and stimulative to independent research in some of the directions indicated.
[* ]The subject of the Prolegomena is also dealt with by Dr. Vaihinger in his invaluable and exhaustive Commentary to the Critique, at pp. 38, 141, 145, 163, 280, 298, 303–4, 318, 335, 340–350, 380, 412, 442, &c., of Vol. I.