Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE THIRD PART OF THE MAIN TRANSCENDENTAL PROBLEM. - Kant’s Prolegomena and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science.
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THE THIRD PART OF THE MAIN TRANSCENDENTAL PROBLEM. - 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 THIRD PART OF THE MAIN TRANSCENDENTAL PROBLEM.
How is Metaphysics possible at all?
Pure mathematics and pure natural science would not require for their own security and certainty a deduction such as we have just concluded with respect to them both; for the former rests upon its own evidence, while the latter, although arising from the pure sources of the understanding, is dependent upon the complete substantiation of experience, a witness it is unable altogether to repudiate and do without, seeing that with all its certainty, as philosophy, it can never compete with mathematics. Both these sciences required the foregoing investigation, not for their own sake, but for the sake of another science, namely, metaphysics.
Metaphysics is concerned not merely with natural conceptions, having invariably an application in experience, but, in addition to these, with pure conceptions of the Reason, which can never be given in any possible experience; that is, with conceptions whose objective reality (as distinguished from simple cobwebs of the brain), and with assumptions whose truth or falsity can be confirmed or discovered by no experience. This part of metaphysics is precisely that which constitutes its essential purpose, all else being merely a means thereto, and hence this science requires such a deduction for its own sake. The third problem, now before us, concerns, as it were, the essence and speciality of metaphysics, namely, the occupation of the Reason with itself alone, inasmuch as it broods over its own conceptions and the knowledge of objects supposed to arise immediately from them, without having need of the mediation of experience, or indeed without the possibility of being able to attain thereto by its means.1 Without a satisfactory solution of this problem, Reason can never be just to itself. The empirical use to which the Reason limits the understanding, does not exhaust its own function. Each special experience is but a portion of the whole sphere of its domain. But the absolute totality of all possible experience, though in itself no experience, constitutes nevertheless for the Reason a necessary problem, to the mere presentation of which it demands quite different conceptions from the pure conceptions of the understanding, the use of which is only immanent, i.e., referable to experience, so far as it can be given; whereas the conceptions of the Reason extend to the completeness, i.e., the collective unity of all possible experience, thereby passing beyond any given experience and becoming transcendent.
As, then, the understanding required the Categories for experience, so the Reason contains in itself the ground of Ideas, by which I understand necessary conceptions the subject of which cannot be given in any experience. The latter are as inherent in the nature of the Reason as the former in the nature of the Understanding, and if they carry with them an illusion that may easily mislead, this illusion is unavoidable, although we may very well guard ourselves from being misled by it.
As all illusion consists in the subjective ground of judgment being taken for objective, the self-knowledge of the pure Reason, in its transcendent (exaggerated) use, is the only preservative against the aberrations into which the Reason falls when it misapplies its function, and refers its transcendent character, concerning only its own subject and its direction in all immanent uses, to the object itself.
The distinction between the ideas, or pure conceptions of the Reason, and the categories or pure conceptions of the understanding as being cognitions of quite another order, origin, and use, is so important a point in the foundation of a science, destined to contain the system of all these cognitions à priori, that without a division of this kind metaphysics would be simply impossible, or at best an incoherent, clumsy attempt at building a house of cards, without a knowledge of the materials handled, and of their capacity for this or that purpose. If the Critique of the Pure Reason had only accomplished the direction of attention to the distinction for the first time, it would have thereby contributed more to the explanation of our conceptions and to the guidance of investigation in the field of metaphysics, than all the fruitless endeavours at solving the transcendental problems of the pure Reason that have ever been undertaken, in which the suspicion has never occurred that the field was quite other than that of the pure understanding, and where consequently the conceptions of the understanding and the Reason have been classed together as though they were of the same kind.
All pure cognitions of the understanding have the peculiarity that their conceptions are given in experience, and their axioms can be confirmed by experience; whereas the transcendent cognitions of the Reason are neither given as concerns their ideas in experience, nor can their axioms be confirmed or refuted by experience. Hence the error possibly arising can be detected by nothing else but pure Reason itself, and this is very difficult, because the Reason by means of its ideas is naturally dialectic, and this unavoidable illusion can be held in check by no objective and dogmatic investigations of the matter, but solely by the subjectivity of the Reason itself as a source of ideas.
It has always been my greatest aim in the Critique, not alone to distinguish carefully the modes of cognition, but also to derive from their common source all the conceptions pertaining to them severally, so that I should not only be informed whence they come and hence be able to determine their use with certainty, but also that I should have the altogether unexpected, but priceless, advantage of knowing the numeration, classification, and specification of the conceptions à priori, and, therefore, according to principles. Without this, everything in metaphysics is mere rhapsody, in which one never knows whether what one possesses is sufficient, or whether there may not be something wanting in it; and if so, where. We can certainly only have this advantage in pure philosophy, but of this latter it constitutes the essence.
As I had found the origin of the categories in the four logical functions of all judgments of the understanding, it was only natural to seek the origin of the ideas in the three functions of the conclusions of the Reason. For if such pure conceptions of the Reason (transcendental ideas) be once given, they could not, unless they were regarded as innate, be found elsewhere than in the same act of Reason, which, as far as form is concerned, constitutes the logical element of the conclusions of the Reason, but so far as it presents the judgments of the understanding as determined with respect, either to one or the other form à priori, [constitutes] the transcendental conceptions of the pure Reason.
The formal distinction of the conclusions of the Reason, renders their division into categorical, hypothetical and disjunctive, necessary. The conceptions of the Reason based thereon, contain, firstly, the idea of the complete subject (substantial); secondly, the idea of the complete series of conditions; thirdly, the determination of all conceptions in the idea of a complete content (Inbegriff) of the possible.1 The first idea is psychological, the second cosmological, and the third theological; and as all three give occasion to a dialectic, each of its own kind, the division of the whole dialectic of the pure Reason founded thereupon, is into the Paralogism, the Antinomy, and finally the Ideal of the same. By this division we are fully assured that all demands of the pure Reason are here presented, in their completeness; that no single one can fail, because the capacity of the Reason itself, as that from which they all take their origin, is thereby completely surveyed.
In this general consideration it is noteworthy, that the ideas of the Reason, unlike the categories, are not of any service whatever in the use of the understanding in experience, but can be wholly dispensed with in this connection; indeed, they are impediments to the maxims of the understanding’s knowledge of nature, notwithstanding their necessity for another purpose, yet to be determined. Whether the soul be, or be not, a simple substance, can be quite indifferent to us, so far as the explanation of its phenomena is concerned, for we cannot render the conception of a simple essence comprehensible, sensuously or in concreto, by any possible experience; and hence it is quite barren as to the hoped-for insight into the cause of the phenomena; and cannot serve as any principle of explanation for what is afforded, either by internal or external experience. Just as little can the cosmological ideas of the beginning of the world or of the eternity of the world (a parte ante) avail us to explain an occurrence in the world itself. Finally, we must, in accordance with a just maxim of the philosophy of Nature, refrain from all explanation of the order of Nature, which is derived from the will of a Supreme Being, because this is no longer a philosophy of Nature, but a confession that we have finished with the latter. Hence these ideas have quite a different determination of their use from the categories, by means of which, and of the principles based upon them, experience itself is first possible. But our laborious analytic of the understanding would be quite superfluous, if our aim were nothing else but mere knowledge of Nature, such as can be given in experience; for Reason accomplishes its work both in mathematics and natural science, certainly and well, without any of this subtle deduction. Thus our Critique of the understanding combines with the ideas of the pure Reason, in an aim placed beyond the empirical use of the understanding, of which we have above said that, in this respect, it is quite impossible, and destitute alike of object and meaning. But there must, nevertheless, be an agreement between that which belongs to the nature of the Reason and of the understanding, and the former must contribute to the completion of the latter, and cannot possibly confuse it.
The solution of this problem is as follows: the pure Reason has no particular objects denoted by its ideas which lie outside the field of experience in view, but merely requires completeness of the use of the understanding within the system of experience. This completeness, however, can only be a completeness of principles, but not of intuitions and objects. But in order to represent the former definitely, it regards them as the cognition of an object, a cognition completely determined as regards these rules, but the object of which is only an idea, designed to bring the cognition of the understanding as near as possible to the completeness indicated by that idea.
Preliminary Observation on the Dialectic of the Pure Reason.
We have above (§§ 33, 34) shown, that the purity of the categories, from all admixture of sensuous determinations, may mislead the Reason into extending its use entirely beyond the range of all experience, to things in themselves; for although they can find no intuition that could lend them meaning and sense in concreto, yet as mere logical functions they may represent a thing in general, notwithstanding that, independently, they are unable to give a definite conception of anything whatever. Such hyperbolical objects are what are termed noumena, or pure essences of the Understanding (better essences of thought), as, for instance, substance, when considered as without permanence in time, or a cause, which does not operate in time, &c., inasmuch as predicates are then attached to them, which serve merely to make the conformability of experience to law possible, and at the same time all the conditions of intuition—under which experience is alone possible—are taken away from them, whereby these conceptions lose all significance. There is, however, no danger of the understanding of itself, unimpressed by laws foreign to it, branching out so rashly into the field of mere essences of thought. But when the Reason, which cannot be completely satisfied with an empirical use of the rules of the understanding, requires the completion of this chain of conditions, the understanding is driven out of its own sphere, partly to present objects of experience in a series extended so far that no experience can grasp it, and partly (in order to complete this series) to search for noumena, wholly outside the same, to which it may attach the above chain, and thereby, being at last independent of experience, render its attitude once for all complete. These are the transcendental ideas, which, in accordance with the true but hidden ends of the natural determination of our Reason, are designed not for extravagant conceptions, but merely for the unlimited extension of empirical use; but which, however, by an unavoidable illusion seduce the understanding into a transcendent use, that although deceitful, cannot be kept within the bounds of experience by any resolution, but can only be restrained within [due] limits with pains, and by means of scientific instruction.
I. Psychological Idea (Critique, p. 237).
It has long been observed that the subject proper, in all substances, namely, that which remains over after all accidents (as predicates) have been abstracted, that is, the substantial itself, is unknown, and oft-repeated complaints have been made of these limitations of our insight. But it is to be observed as regards this, that the human understanding is not to be taken to task for not knowing the substantial of things, that is, for not being able to determine it by itself, but rather for expecting to know it definitely, like a given object, when it is a mere idea. The pure Reason requires of every predicate of a thing the subject belonging to it, but to this, which is again necessarily only predicate, it requires a further subject, and so on ad infinitum (or as far as we can reach). But it follows from the above, that nothing to which we can attain is to be taken for an ultimate subject, and that the substantial itself can never be thought by our understanding, however deeply penetrating it may be, not even if the whole of Nature were unveiled before it; because the specific nature of our understanding consists in that it thinks all things discursively, i.e., through conceptions, and hence solely by means of predicates, to which the absolute subject must always be wanting. For this reason all real qualities whereby we cognise bodies, even to impenetrability, which must always present itself as the effect of a force, are simply accidents, the subject of which eludes us.
Now it seems as though in our own consciousness (the thinking subject) we have this substantial, and indeed in an immediate intuition; for all predicates of the internal sense refer to the ego, the subject, and this cannot be thought of as predicate of any other subject whatever. Here, then, the completeness in the connection of the given conceptions as predicates of a subject, not merely an idea, but an existence, namely, the absolute subject itself, seem to be given in experience. But this experience is vain, for the ego is no conception at all,1 but merely a designation of the object of the internal sense, so far as we can cognise it by no further predicate, and hence in itself it can indeed be no predicate of another thing, and just as little a definite conception of an absolute subject, but only, as in all other cases, the reference of the internal phenomena to their unknown subject. At the same time, this idea (which serves well enough, as regulative principle, completely to annihilate all materialistic explanations of the internal phenomena of our soul) occasions, owing to a perfectly natural misunderstanding, a very plausible argument, by inferring from this supposed cognition of the substantial in our thinking entity, its nature, in so far as the knowledge of the same falls entirely outside the content of experience.
This thinking self (the soul) may however, as the ultimate subject of thought, which cannot be conceived as the predicate of another thing, be called substance; but this conception remains wholly barren, and void of all results, if permanence, which makes the conception of substances in experience fruitful, cannot be proved of it.
But permanence can never be proved from the conception of a substance, as a thing in itself, but only for the purposes of experience. The above has been fully explained in the first analogy of experience (Critique, p. 136), and, if this demonstration be not accepted, the attempt need only be made as to whether it is possible to prove, from the conception of a subject, not existing as the predicate of some other thing, that its existence is thoroughly permanent, and that neither in itself, nor through any natural cause, can it arise or pass away. Such synthetic propositions à priori can never be proved in themselves, but only with reference to things as objects of possible experience.
When from the conception of the soul as substance we infer its permanence, this can be only valid of it as an object of possible experience, and not as a thing in itself, outside all possible experience. Now the subjective condition of all our possible experience is life; consequently, the permanence of the soul can only be inferred in life, for the death of man is the end of all experience, of which the soul is an object, unless the contrary be proved, and this is precisely the question. Hence, the permanence of the soul can only be proved in the life of man (the proof of which will not be required of us), but not after death, which is the real point at issue, for the general reason that the conception of substance, viewed as necessarily conjoined with the conception of permanence, is only [based on] an axiom of possible experience, and therefore only serviceable for the purposes of the latter.1
That something real not merely corresponds but must correspond to our external perceptions, can be proved as concerns experience, but not as a connection of things in themselves. This is as much as to say, that something of an empirical kind, as phenomenon in space, exists outside us, can be proved; for with objects, other than those belonging to a possible experience, we have nothing to do, because, inasmuch as they can be given in no experience, they are to us nothing. That is empirically outside me which can be intuited in space, and as the latter, together with all the phenomena it contains, belongs to the presentations, whose connection according to the laws of experience proves their objective reality, just as much as the connection of the phenomena of the internal sense proves the reality of my soul, as an object of the internal sense; so, by means of external experience, I am just as conscious of the reality of bodies as external phenomena in space, as I am of the existence of my soul in time by means of the internal experience, which I also cognise only through phenomena, as an object of the internal sense, [that is, as] constituting an internal condition, of which the essence in itself, lying at the foundation of these phenomena, is unknown to me. The Cartesian idealism only distinguishes external experience from dream; its regularity being the criterion of the truth of the one as against the irregularity and false illusion of the other. It presupposes, in both of them, space and time as conditions of the reality of the objects, and only asks whether the objects of our external sense, which when awake we meet with in space, are really to be found therein, and in the same way whether the object of the internal sense, the soul, really exists in time; in other words, whether experience can afford certain criteria for the distinction between truth and imagination. Now this doubt may be easily decided, and we always do decide it in common life, in that we investigate the connection of the phenomena in both according to universal laws of experience, and we cannot doubt, when the presentation of external things thoroughly agrees with these, that they constitute reliable experience. Material idealism may accordingly be refuted very easily, inasmuch as phenomena quâ phenomena are only considered as to their connection in experience; and it is just as certain an experience that bodies exist outside ourselves (in space), as that I myself according to the presentation of the internal sense exist (in time); for the conception of outside ourselves, denotes simply existence in space. But as the I in the proposition I am, signifies not merely the object of internal intuition (in time) but the subject of consciousness, so in the same way body signifies not merely the external intuition (in space), but also the thing in itself at the basis of this phenomenon, and hence the question as to whether bodies (as phenomena of the external sense) exist apart from my thoughts as bodies, may, in the nature of things, be denied without hesitation. But there is no difference as to the question, whether I myself as phenomenon of the internal sense (soul, according to the empirical psychology) exist in time, apart from my power of presentation, for this must be just as much denied. In the same way, everything when reduced to its true meaning is decided and certain. Formal idealism (otherwise called transcendental by me) really refutes the material or Cartesian [idealism]. For if space be nothing but a form of my sensibility, it is just as real as a presentation in me as I am myself, and the question only turns on the empirical truth of phenomena in the same. If this, however, be not the case, but space and the phenomena [contained] therein are something existing outside ourselves, all criteria of experience, apart from our perception, can never prove the reality of the objects external to us.
Cosmological Idea (Critique, p. 256).
This product of the pure Reason in its transcendent use is its most remarkable phenomenon, and is moreover the one most powerful in awakening philosophy out of its dogmatic slumber, and in urging it on, to the heavy tasks of the Critique of the Reason.
I term this idea cosmological, because it always takes its object from the world of sense, and only requires those [conceptions] whose object is an object of sense, being therefore native [immanent] and not transcendent, and consequently, thus far, no idea; while, on the other hand, to conceive the soul as a simple substance, is equivalent to conceiving an object (the simple) which cannot be presented to the senses. But notwithstanding this, the cosmological idea extends the connection of the conditioned with its condition (whether mathematical or dynamical) so far, that experience can never reach it, and hence remains, as regards this point, always an idea, the object of which can never be adequately given in any experience whatever.
It is here that the usefulness of a system of categories shows itself so plainly and unmistakably, that, even were there not several other proofs of it, this alone would quite sufficiently demonstrate its indispensableness in the system of the pure Reason. There are not more than four of these transcendent ideas, as many as there are classes of categories; but each of them is only concerned with the absolute completion of a series of conditions to a given conditioned. In accordance with these cosmological ideas there are four dialectical assertions of the pure Reason, which, inasmuch as they are dialectical, show that to each one is opposed a contradictory assumption, on equally plausible principles of the pure Reason; and this is a conflict no metaphysical art of the subtlest distinction can avoid, but which compels philosophers to go back to the primary sources of the pure Reason. The above antinomy, which is not arbitrarily invented, but has its basis in the nature of the human Reason, and is hence unavoidable and never-ending, contains the following four theses together with their antitheses:—
The above is the most remarkable phenomenon of the human Reason, of which no instance can be shown in any other sphere. If, as generally happens, we regard the phenomena of the world of sense as things in themselves; if we assume the principles of their connection as universal of things in themselves and not merely as principles valid of experience, as is usual and indeed unavoidable without our Critique; then an unexpected conflict arises, never to be quelled in the ordinary dogmatic way, because both theses and antitheses can be demonstrated by equally evident, clear and irresistible proofs—for I pledge myself as to the correctness of all these proofs—and the Reason thus sees itself at issue with itself, a state over which the sceptic rejoices, but which must plunge the critical philosopher into reflection and disquiet.
One may bungle in metaphysics in many ways, without any danger of being detected in fallacy. For if we only do not contradict ourselves, which is quite possible in synthetic propositions, even though they may be purely invented, we can never in such cases (the conceptions we connect, being mere ideas, which as to their whole content can never be given in experience) be refuted by experience. For how should we decide by experience whether the world exists from eternity, or has a beginning? or whether matter is infinitely divisible, or consists of simple parts? Such conceptions cannot be given in any, even the largest possible experience, and therefore the fallacy of the propositions maintained or denied cannot be discovered by that test.
The only possible case in which the Reason could reveal against its will its secret dialectic, fallaciously given out by it as dogmatic, would be, if it grounded an assertion on a universally admitted axiom, and from another, equally conceded, drew a precisely opposite conclusion, with the greatest logical accuracy. This case is here realised, and indeed in respect of four natural ideas of the Reason whence four assertions on the one hand, and just as many counter-assertions on the other, arise, each as a correct consequence from universally admitted premises, and thereby reveal the dialectical illusion of the pure Reason in the use of these principles, which must otherwise have been for ever hidden.
Here then is a decisive attempt, which must necessarily disclose to us the fallacy lying hidden in the assumptions of the Reason.1 Of two mutually contradictory propositions, both cannot be false, unless the conception at their basis be itself contradictory. For instance, two propositions, a square circle is round and a square circle is not round, are both false. For as regards the first, it is false that the [figure] mentioned is round, because it is square, but it is also false that it is not round, or that it is square, because it is a circle. For in this consists the logical mark of the impossibility of a conception, that under the same assumption two contradictory propositions would be equally false; in other words, because no middle can be conceived between them, nothing at all is cogitated by that conception.
Now, a contradictory conception like the foregoing lies at the basis of the two first antinomies, which I call mathematical, because they are concerned with the addition or division of things similar in Nature; and thence I explain how it happens that thesis and antithesis are alike false.
When I speak of objects in time and space, I do not speak of things in themselves, because of these I know nothing, but only of things in the phenomenon, in other words, of experience, as the special mode of the cognition of objects, which is alone vouchsafed to man. I must not say that what I think in space or in time exists in itself in space and time apart from this my thought; for I should then contradict myself, because space and time, together with the phenomena in them, are nothing existing in themselves and apart from my presentations, but are themselves only modes of presentations, and it is obviously contradictory to say that a mere mode of our presentation exists outside our presentation. The objects of sense exist then only in experience; and to give them a special substantive existence for themselves, apart from or before the latter, is equivalent to imagining that experience can be present without or before experience.
Now, when I inquire as to the size of the world in space and time, it is for all my conceptions just as impossible to say, it is infinite, as it is finite. For neither of them can be contained in experience, because experience is neither possible respecting an infinite space, or an infinite time, or the boundary of the world by an empty space or a previous empty time; these [things] are only ideas. Hence as regards either one or the other kind of determinate quantity, it must lie in the world itself, separate from all experience. But this contradicts the conception of a world of sense, which is only a content of experience, whose reality and connection takes place in presentation, namely, in experience, because it is not a thing in itself, but is itself nothing but a mode of presentation. It follows from the above, that, as the conception of a self-existent world is in itself contradictory, the solution of the problem as to its size will be always fallacious, no matter whether it be affirmatively or negatively attempted.
The same applies to the second antinomy, which concerns the division of phenomena. For these are mere presentations, and the parts exist merely in their presentation, and therefore in their division; in other words, in a possible experience in which they are given, and they only extend as far as the latter reaches. To assume that a phenomenon, for instance, that of body, contains all parts in itself, before all experience, to which nought but possible experience can ever attain, is equal to giving to a mere appearance, which can exist only in experience, a special existence preceding experience, or to say that mere presentations are there before they are met with in the faculty of presentation, which contradicts itself; and so, consequently, does every solution of this misunderstood problem, whether it be maintained that bodies consist of infinitely many parts, or of a finite number of simple parts.
In the first class of antinomy (the mathematical), the fallacy of the assumption consisted in that what is self-contradictory (namely, phenomenon and thing in itself) was represented as capable of union in one idea. But as regards the second, or dynamical class of antinomy, the fallacy of the assumption consists in that what is capable of union is represented as contradictory, and consequently, as in the first case, both contradictory assertions were false; so here, where they are opposed to one another merely through misunderstanding, both may be true.
The mathematical connection necessarily presupposes homogeneity in the connected (in the conception of quantity), while the dynamical by no means requires this. Where the quantity of the extended is concerned, all the parts must be homogeneous, both with each other and with the whole; whereas in the connection of cause and effect, although homogeneity may also be met with, it is not necessary. For the conception of causality, by means of which a thing is posited by something quite distinct therefrom, at least does not require it. If the objects of the sense-world were taken for things in themselves, and the above-cited laws of Nature for laws of things in themselves, the contradiction would be un avoidable. In the same way, if the subject of freedom were presented like other objects as mere appearance, the contradiction would be equally unavoidable; for the same thing would be at once affirmed and denied of the same kind of object in the same sense. But if natural necessity be referred merely to phenomena, and freedom merely to things in themselves, no contradiction arises, in assuming or admitting both kinds of causality, however difficult or impossible it may be to render the latter kind comprehensible.
In the phenomenon, every effect is an event, or something that happens in time; a determination of the causality of its cause (a state of the same), must precede it, upon which it follows according to a uniform law. But this determination of the cause to causality must also be something that takes place, or happens. The cause must have begun to act, otherwise between it and the effect, no succession in time could be conceived. The effect would always have existed, as well as the causality of the cause. Thus, among phenomena, the determination of the cause to the effect must also have arisen, and therefore be just as much as its effect, an event which, in its turn, must have a cause, and so on; and consequently, necessity must be the condition according to which the efficient causes are determined. If, on the other hand, freedom be a characteristic of certain causes of phenomena, it must, as regards the latter as events, be a faculty of beginning them from itself (sponte), i.e., without the causality of the causes themselves having begun, and hence another ground would be necessary to determine its beginning. In that case, however, the cause, as to its causality, must not be subject to time determinations of its state; that is, it must not be phenomenon, but it must be regarded as a thing in itself, and its effects only, as phenomena.1 If one can conceive such an influence of the essences of the understanding on phenomena without contradiction, though necessity would attach to all connection of cause and effect in the sense-world, yet of the cause which is itself no phenomenon, although it lies at the foundation of the latter, freedom would be admitted. Thus Nature and Freedom can be attributed without contradiction to the same thing, at one time as phenomenon, at another, as thing in itself.
We have a faculty within us, not only standing in connection with its subjective determining grounds, which are the natural causes of its actions, and in so far the faculty of a being, belonging to phenomena, but also referable to objective grounds, though these are merely ideas, in so far as they can determine this faculty; and this connection is expressed by ought. The above faculty is termed Reason, and when we contemplate a being (man) simply according to this subjectively determining Reason, it cannot be regarded as an essence of sense, but the quality thought of is the quality of a thing in itself, of the possibility of which, namely, the ought of that which has never happened, and yet the activity of which can be the determination and cause of actions, whose effect is phenomenal in the sense-world, of this we can form no conception whatever. At the same time, the causality of the Reason as concerns its effects in the sense-world would be freedom, so far as objective grounds, which are themselves ideas, are regarded as determining these effects. For its action would then depend not on subjective, and therefore on time-conditions, nor on natural laws, serving to determine these, since grounds of the Reason in general would furnish the rule for actions according to principles, without the influence of circumstances, time, or place.
What I adduce here, is merely meant as an instance for the sake of intelligibility, and does not necessarily belong to our question, which must be decided from mere conceptions, independently of the qualities we meet with in the real world.
I can say now without contradiction, that all actions of rational beings, inasmuch as they are phenomena, met with in any experience, are subject to necessity; but precisely the same actions, with reference to the rational subject, and its capacity of acting according to mere Reason, are free. For what is demanded by necessity? Nothing more than the determinability of every event in the sense-world according to uniform laws; in other words, a reference to Cause in the phenomenon, whereby the thing in itself, lying at its foundation, and its causality, remains unknown. But I say: the natural law subsists alike, whether the rational being [acting] from Reason, and hence through freedom, be the cause of the effects in the sense-world, or whether these are determined by other grounds than those of Reason. For in the first case, the action happens according to maxims, whose effect in the phenomenon will be always in accordance with uniform laws; in the second case, if the action does not happen according to principles of the Reason, it is subordinated to the empirical laws of the sensibility, and in both cases the effects are connected according to uniform laws; more than this we do not require to [constitute] natural necessity, nay, more we do not know respecting it. But in the first case, Reason is the cause of these natural laws, and is hence free; in the second case, the effects follow the mere natural laws of the sensibility, because the Reason exercises no influence upon them; the Reason, however, is not on this account itself determined by the sensibility (which is impossible), and is consequently in this case also free. The freedom does not hinder the natural law of the phenomena, any more than the latter interferes with the freedom of the practical use of the Reason, which stands in connection with things in themselves as determining grounds.
In this way, the practical freedom, namely, that by which the Reason has causality, according to objective determining grounds, is saved, without natural necessity being curtailed in the least, in respect of the same effects as phenomena. The above may also be serviceable as an explanation of what we had to say regarding transcendental freedom, and its union with natural necessity (in the same subject, but not taken in the same connection). For as to this, every beginning of the action of a being, from objective causes, so far as its determining grounds are concerned, is always a first beginning, although the same action in the series of phenomena is only a subaltern beginning, necessarily preceded by a state of the cause determining it, and itself determined by a [state] immediately preceding; so that without falling into contradiction with the laws of Nature, we may conceive of a faculty in rational beings, or in beings generally, in so far as their causality is determined in them, as things in themselves, by which a series of states is begun of themselves. For the relation of the action to objective grounds of the Reason is no relation in time; here, what determines the causality does not precede the action according to time, because such determining grounds [as these] do not present a reference of the objects to sense, or, in other words, to causes in the phenomenon, but to determining causes, as things in themselves, which are not subordinated to time-conditions. Hence, the action may be viewed with regard to the causality of the Reason as a first beginning, but at the same time, as regards the series of the phenomena, as a merely subordinate beginning, and without contradiction, in the former aspect as free, and in the latter, inasmuch as it is merely phenomenon, as subordinate to natural necessity.
As concerns the fourth antinomy, it is solved in the same manner as is the conflict of the Reason with itself, in the third. For if the cause in the phenomenon be only distinguished from the cause of the phenomena, so far as they can be considered as things in themselves, both propositions can subsist beside one another, namely, that no cause takes place anywhere in the sense-world (according to similar laws of causality) whose existence is absolutely necessary; while, on the other hand, this world may be connected with a necessary being as its cause, though of another kind, and according to other laws; the incompatibility of the above two propositions simply resting on the misunderstanding by which what is merely valid of phenomena is extended to things in themselves, both being mixed up in one conception.
This is the arrangement and solution of the whole antinomy, in which the Reason finds itself involved, in the application of its principles to the sense-world, and of which even this (the mere arrangement) would be itself a considerable service to the knowledge of the human Reason, even though the solution of the conflict should not fully satisfy the reader, who has here a natural illusion to combat, which has only recently been presented to him as such, and which he has previously regarded as true. For one consequence of this is inevitable, namely, that seeing it is quite impossible to get free of this conflict of the Reason with itself, so long as the objects of the sense-world are taken for things in themselves, and not for what they are in reality, namely, mere phenomena, the reader is necessitated thereby again to undertake the deduction of all our knowledge à priori, and its examination as given by me, in order to come to a decision in the matter. I do not require more [than this] at present; for if he has but first penetrated deeply enough into the nature of the pure Reason, the conceptions by which the solution of this conflict of the Reason is alone possible, will be already familiar to him, without which circumstance I cannot expect full credit even from the most attentive reader.
III. Theological Idea (Critique, p. 350).
The third transcendental idea, which furnishes material to the most important, but, when merely conducted speculatively, to the exaggerated (transcendent) and thereby dialectical use of the Reason, is the ideal of the pure Reason. The Reason does not here, as with the psychological and cosmological ideas, start from experience, and is not, by a [progressive] raising (Steigerung) of the grounds, misled into an endeavour to contemplate the series in absolute completeness, but wholly breaks therewith, and from mere conceptions of what would constitute the absolute completeness of a thing in general, and consequently by means of the idea of a most perfect original being, descends to the determination of the possibility, and thereby also to the reality, of all other things. For this reason, the mere assumption of a being, which although not given in the series of experience, is nevertheless conceived for the sake of experience, to render comprehensible the connection, order, and unity of the latter, that is, the Idea is more easily distinguishable from the conceptions of experience [in the present] than in the foregoing cases. The dialectical illusion therefore arising from our holding the subjective conditions of our thought for the objective conditions of things themselves, and a necessary hypothesis for the satisfaction of our Reason for a dogma, may be easily exposed to view; and hence I have nothing further to recall on the assumptions of the transcendental theology, for what the Critique has said on this point is comprehensible, clear, and decisive.
General Remark on the Transcendental Ideas.
The objects given us through experience are in many respects incomprehensible, and there are many problems to which the natural law leads us, when it is carried to a certain height, (though always in accordance with these laws,) which can never be solved; as for instance, how it is that substances attract one another. But, if we entirely leave Nature, or in the progress of its connection overstep all possible experience, and thereby immerse ourselves in mere ideas, we cannot then say that the object is incomprehensible, and that the nature of things places insoluble problems before us; for we have in that case, nothing whatever to do with Nature or with given objects, but merely with conceptions, having their origin simply in our Reason, and with mere essences of thought, in respect of which all problems arising from the conception of the same, can be solved, because the Reason can and must certainly give a complete account of its own procedure.1 As the psychological, cosmological, and theological ideas, are simply conceptions of the Reason, not capable of being given in any experience, so the problems which the Reason in respect thereof places before us, are not propounded by the objects, but by mere maxims of the Reason for its own satisfaction, and must be capable of being adequately answered in their totality, which is effected by showing them to be principles [designed] to bring the use of our understanding to thorough agreement, completeness and synthetic unity, and which are in so far valid merely of experience, but of the whole of the latter.
Now, although an absolute whole of experience is impossible, the idea of a whole of knowledge according to principles in general, is what alone can procure a particular kind of unity, namely, that of a system, without which our knowledge is nothing but a patchwork, and cannot be used for the highest end (which is always the system of all ends); by this I understand not merely the practical, but also the highest end of the speculative use of the Reason.
The transcendental ideas express, then, the specific destiny of the Reason, namely, as being a principle of the systematic unity of the use of the understanding. But when this unity of the mode of cognition be viewed as though it depended upon the object of cognition; when we hold that which is merely regulative for constitutive, and persuade ourselves that we can extend our cognition by means of these ideas, far beyond all possible experience in a transcendent manner, notwithstanding that they merely serve to bring experience as nearly as possible to completeness, i.e., to limit its progress by nothing which cannot belong to experience—then this is a simple misunderstanding in judging the special destiny of our Reason and its principles, and a dialectic, partly confusing the use of the Reason in experience, and partly making the Reason to be at issue with itself.
[1 ]If it be said that a science is at least real in the idea of all men when it is constituted; that the problems leading to it are put forward by the nature of the human reason in all men, and consequently that many, if faulty, attempts at its solution are at all times unavoidable, we must then say, metaphysics is subjectively (and necessarily) real, and hence we ask with justice, How is it (objectively) possible?
[1 ]In disjunctive judgments we consider all possibility as divided in relation to a particular conception. The ontological principle of the thorough determination of a thing generally (that of all possible opposite predicates one must attach to each thing), which is at the same time the principle of all disjunctive judgments, is based on the content (Inbegriff) of all possibility, in which the possibility of a thing in general is regarded as determined. This serves as a slight explanation of the above proposition, that the act of Reason, in disjunctive conclusions of the Reason, is the same, as regards form, as that whereby it attains to the idea of a content of all reality, embracing in itself the positive of all mutually opposing predicates.
[1 ]Were the presentation of the apperception, the ego, a conception whereby anything whatever was thought, it could also be used as predicate of other things, or it would contain such predicates. It is, really, nothing more than the feeling of a reality without the least conception, but only presentation of that to which all thought stands in relation (relatione accidentis).
[1 ]It is indeed very remarkable that the metaphysicians of all times should have so carelessly passed over the permanence of substances without ever attempting a demonstration of it, doubtless because they saw themselves forsaken by all proofs as soon as they began [to deal] with the conception of substance. Common sense, well aware that without this assumption no union of perceptions in an experience is possible, supplied this deficiency by a postulate; for from experience itself it could never have drawn this axiom; partly because it could not pursue the matters (substances) in all their changes and dissolutions far enough to find the matter for ever undiminished; partly because it contained the axiom of necessity, which is always the sign of an à priori principle. Now they composedly applied this axiom to the conception of the soul as a substance, and inferred its necessary continuance after the death of man, especially as the simplicity of this substance, deduced from the indivisibility of consciousness, assured it against destruction by dissolution. Had they found the real source of this axiom, which, however, demanded much deeper investigations than they were disposed to give to it, they would have seen that the above law, of the permanence of substances, only obtains for the sake of experience, and for things in so far as they are to be cognised and connected with others in experience, and that it can never be valid of things, irrespective of all possible experience, such as the soul after death.
[1 ]Hence I am anxious that the critical reader should especially occupy himself with this antinomy, because Nature herself seems to have set it up, in order to make the Reason stagger in its pretensions, and to force it into self-examination. Each proof that I have given, as well for the thesis as the antithesis, I undertake to guarantee, and thereby to exhibit the certainty of this unavoidable antinomy of the Reason. If the reader is only brought by this singular phenomenon to go back to the examination of the assumption at its foundation, he will feel himself compelled to investigate more deeply with me the primary foundation of all cognition of the pure Reason.
[1 ]The idea of freedom finds a place solely in the relations of the intellectual as cause to the phenomenon as effect. Hence we cannot attribute freedom to matter with regard to the ceaseless action with which it fills its space, although this action results from an internal principle. Just as little can we find any conception of freedom suited to pure essences of the understanding; as, for instance, God, in so far as His action, is immanent; for His action, although independent of external determining causes, is nevertheless determined in His eternal Reason, that is, in the divine nature. Only if an action is to commence something, in other words, if the effect is to be met with in the time-series, and consequently in the sense-world (e.g., the beginning of the world), only then does the question arise whether the causality of the cause itself must commence, or whether the cause can give rise to an effect without its causality itself commencing. In the first case the conception of this causality is a conception of necessity, in the second, of freedom. The reader will see from the above that in explaining freedom to be the faculty of beginning an event spontaneously, I exactly hit the conception constituting the problem of metaphysics.
[1 ]Herr Plattner in his Aphorisms says with acuteness, §§ 728, 729: “If the Reason be a criterion no conception can be possible which is incomprehensible to the human Reason. In the real alone is incomprehensibility to be found. Here the incomprehensibility arises from the insufficiency of the ideas acquired.” It, therefore, only sounds paradoxical and is really not strange to say that in Nature there is much that is incomprehensible (for instance, the faculty of procreation), but that when we rise higher and pass beyond Nature all is again comprehensible; for we then quit the objects that can be given us, and occupy ourselves merely with ideas, by which we may well comprehend the law wherewith the Reason prescribes to the Understanding its use in experience, because it is its own product.