Front Page Titles (by Subject) APPENDIX. - Kant’s Prolegomena and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science.
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APPENDIX. - 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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On what may be done to make Metaphysics real as Science.
Since none of the ways hitherto trodden have attained this end, and since without a previous Critique of the pure Reason it can never be attained, it seems not unfair to expect that the attempt now laid open to view shall undergo an accurate and painstaking investigation, where it is not deemed more advisable to give up all the claims of metaphysics wholly, in which case, if only the intention be loyally adhered to, there is no objection to be made. If the course of things be taken as it really goes, and not as it should go, there are two classes of judgments, a judgment that precedes examination, and this is in our case the one, when the reader forms a judgment on the Critique of the pure Reason from his system of metaphysics (whereas it ought first of all to prove the possibility of the latter); and there is another judgment that follows examination, where the reader ventures to leave on one side for a time the consequences of critical researches, investigations which might somewhat severely clash with his accepted metaphysics, and first of all examines the grounds from which these consequences may be derived. If what the ordinary metaphysics lays down were demonstrably certain (as with geometry), the first mode of judging would answer; for where the consequences of certain principles conflict with demonstrable truths, these principles must be false, and to be rejected without any further investigation. But if it be not the case that metaphysics has a store of incontestably certain synthetic propositions, and perhaps, so much so, that a number of these, as plausible as the best among them, contradict one another in their consequences; and if there be nowhere any absolutely certain criterion of the truth of properly metaphysical (synthetic) propositions, to be found therein; [in this case] the above mode of judging is inadmissible, and an investigation of the principles of the Critique must precede all judgment as to its worth or worthlessness.
Examination of a Judgment on the Critique that precedes Investigation.
This judgment is to be found in the Göttingen Gelehrten Anzeigen, in the supplement to the third division, of January 19, 1782, page 40 et seq.
When an author who is well acquainted with the subject of his work, and diligent in placing his own reflections in its elaboration, falls into the hands of a critic, who is in his turn keen-sighted enough to discern the points on which the worth or worthlessness of his production rests, who does not cling to words, but goes to the heart of the subject, sifting and testing more than the mere principles which the author takes as his point of departure, the severity of the judgment may indeed displease the latter, but the public is indifferent, as it gains thereby; and the author himself may be contented, as he gets the opportunity of correcting or explaining his positions from the timely examination of a competent judge, in such a manner, that if he believes himself fundamentally right, he can remove in time any stumbling block that might in the result prove prejudicial to his work.
I find myself, with my critic, in quite another position. He seems not to see at all the real matter of the investigation with which (successfully or unsuccessfully) I have been occupied. It is either impatience at thinking out a lengthy work, or vexation at a threatened reform of a science in which he believed he had brought everything to perfection long ago, or, what I am unwilling to imagine, real narrow-mindedness, that prevents him from ever carrying his thoughts beyond his school-metaphysics. In short, he passes impatiently in review a long series of propositions, by which, without knowing their premises, we can think nothing, distributes here and there his blame, the reason of which the reader sees just as little, as he understands the propositions against which it is directed; and hence [his criticism] can neither serve the public as a report, nor damage me in the least, in the judgment of competent men. I should, for these reasons, have passed over this judgment altogether, were it not that it may afford me occasion for some explanations which may in some cases preserve the readers of these Prolegomena from misunderstanding. In order, however, that my critic may most easily attain a point of view from which he may see the whole work in a light most disadvantageous to the author, without venturing to trouble himself with any special investigation, he begins and ends by saying: “This work is a system of transcendent (or, as he translates it, of higher) Idealism.”1 A glance at this line soon showed me the sort of criticism likely to ensue, much as though some one who had never seen or heard of geometry, having found a Euclid, and coming upon various figures in turning over its leaves, were to say, on being asked his opinion of it: “The book is a systematic guide to drawing; the author uses a peculiar language, in order to give dark, incomprehensible directions, which in the end teach nothing more than what every one can effect by a fair natural accuracy of eye, &c.”
Let us see, in the meantime, what sort of an idealism it is that goes through my whole work, although it does not by a long way constitute the soul of the system. The dictum of all genuine idealists from the Eleatic school to Bishop Berkeley, is contained in this formula: “All cognition through the senses and experience is nothing but sheer illusion, and only, in the ideas of the pure Understanding and Reason there is truth.” The principle governing and determining my Idealism throughout, is on the other hand: “All cognition of things merely from pure Understanding or pure Reason is nothing but sheer illusion, and only in experience is there truth.”
But this is the direct contrary of idealism proper; how came I then to use this expression for quite an opposite purpose, and how came my critic to see it everywhere?
The solution of this difficulty rests on something that could have been very easily understood from the general bearing of the work, if it had only been desired to do so. Space and time, together with all that they contain, are not things nor qualities in themselves, but belong merely to the appearances of the latter: up to this point I am one in confession with the above idealists. But these, and amongst them more particularly Berkeley, regarded space as a mere empirical presentation that, like the phenomenon it contains, is only known to us by means of experience or perception, together with its determinations. I, on the contrary, prove in the first place, that space (and also time, which Berkeley did not consider) and all its determinations à priori, can be cognised by us, because, no less than time, it inheres in our sensibility as a pure form before all perception or experience and makes all intuition of the same, and therefore all its phenomena, possible. It follows from this, that as truth rests on universal and necessary laws as its criteria, experience, according to Berkeley, can have no criteria of truth, because its phenomena (according to him) have nothing à priori at their foundation; whence it follows, that they are nothing but sheer illusion; whereas with us, space and time (in conjunction with the pure conceptions of the understanding) prescribe their law to all possible experience à priori, and at the same time afford the certain criterion for distinguishing truth from illusion therein.1
My so-called (properly critical) Idealism is of quite a special character, in that it subverts the ordinary [Idealism], and that through it all cognition à priori, even that of geometry, first receives objective reality, which, without my demonstrated ideality of space and time, could not be maintained by the most zealous realists. This being the state of the case, I could have wished, in order to avoid all misunderstanding, to have named this conception of mine otherwise, but to alter it altogether was impossible. It may be permitted me however, in future, as has been above intimated, to term it the formal, or better still, the critical Idealism, to distinguish it from the dogmatic [Idealism] of Berkeley, and from the sceptical [Idealism] of Descartes.
Beyond this, I find nothing further remarkable in the judgment of the book in question. Its author criticises here and there en gros, a mode prudently chosen, since it does not betray one’s own knowledge or ignorance; a single thorough criticism en detail, had it touched the main question, as is only fair, would have exposed, it may be my error, or it may be the critic’s measure of insight into this species of research. It was, moreover, not a badly conceived plan, in order at once to take from readers (who are accustomed to form their conceptions of books from newspaper reports) the desire to read the book itself, to pour out in one breath a number of passages in succession, torn from their connection, and their grounds of proof and explanations, and which must necessarily sound senseless, especially considering how antipathetic they are to all school-metaphysics; to storm the reader’s patience to nauseation, and then, after having made me acquainted with the sensible proposition that persistent illusion is truth, to conclude with the crude paternal moralisation: to what end, then, the quarrel with accepted language, to what end, and whence, the idealistic distinction? A judgment which turns all that is special to my book, which was previously metaphysically heterodox, into a mere novelty in terminology, proves clearly that my would-be judge has understood nothing of [the subject], and in addition, [has not understood] himself.1
My critic speaks like a man who is conscious of important and superior insight which he keeps hidden; for I am aware of nothing recent with respect to metaphysics that could justify such a tone [as he assumes]. But he does very wrong in withholding his discoveries from the world, for there are doubtless many who, like myself, have not been able to find in all the fine things that have for long past been written in this department, anything that has advanced the science by so much as a finger-breadth; we find indeed the filling out of definitions, the supplying of lame proofs with new crutches, the giving to the body of metaphysics fresh outgrowths or a different figure; but all this is not what the world requires. The world is tired of metaphysical assertions; it wants the possibility of the science, the sources from which certainty therein can be derived, and certain criteria by which it may distinguish the dialectical illusion of the pure Reason from the truth. The critic must possess this key, else he would never have spoken out in such a high tone.
But I am driven to the suspicion that no such requirement of the science has ever entered his thoughts, for in that case he would have directed his judgment to this point, and even a mistaken attempt in such an important matter, would have won his respect. If that be the case, we are once more good friends. He may penetrate as deeply as he likes into metaphysics, without any one hindering him; only as concerns that which lies outside metaphysics, its sources, which are to be found in the Reason, he cannot form a judgment. That my suspicion is not without foundation, is proved by the fact that he does not mention a word about the possibility of synthetic knowledge à priori, the special problem upon the solution of which the fate of metaphysics wholly rests, and upon which my Critique (as well as the present Prolegomena) entirely hinges. The Idealism he encountered, and which he hung upon, was only taken up in the doctrine as the sole means of solving the above problem (although it received its confirmation on other grounds), and hence he must have shown either that the above problem does not possess the importance I attribute to it (even in these Prolegomena), or that by my conception of phenomena, it is either not solved at all, or can be better solved in another way; but I do not find a word of this in the criticism. The critic, then, understands nothing of my work, and possibly also nothing of the spirit and essential nature of metaphysics itself; and it is not, what I would rather assume, the hurry of a man incensed at the labour of plodding through so many obstacles, that threw an unfavourable shadow over the work lying before him, and made its fundamental features incomprehensible.
There is a good deal to be done before a learned journal, it matters not with what care its writers may be selected, can maintain its otherwise well-merited reputation, in the field of metaphysics as elsewhere. Other sciences and branches of knowledge have their standard. Mathematics has it, in itself; history and theology, in profane or sacred books; natural science and the art of medicine, in mathematics and experience; jurisprudence, in law books; and even matters of taste in the examples of the ancients. But for the judgment of the thing called metaphysics, the standard has yet to be found. I have made an attempt to determine it, as well as its use. What is to be done, then, until it be found, when works of this kind have to be judged of? If they are of a dogmatic character, one may do what one likes; no one will play the master over others here for long, before some one else appears to deal with him in the same manner. If, however, they are critical in their character, not indeed with reference to other works, but to the Reason itself, so that the standard of judgment cannot be assumed but has first of all to be sought for, then, though objection and blame may indeed be permitted, yet tolerance must lie at its foundation, since the need is common to us all, and the lack of the necessary insight makes a judicially decisive attitude out of place.
In order, however, to connect my defence with the interest of the philosophical common weal, I propose a test, to be decisive as to the mode, whereby all metaphysical investigations may be directed to their common purpose. This is nothing more than what mathematicians have done elsewhere, in establishing the advantage of their methods by competition, namely, by challenging my critic to demonstrate, as is only just, on à priori grounds, in his way, a single really metaphysical principle, asserted by him, that is, [a principle] synthetic and cognised à priori from conceptions, even one of the most indispensable, as for instance, the principle of the persistence of substance, or of the necessary determination of events in the world by their causes. If he cannot do this (silence being confession), he must admit, that as metaphysics without apodictic certainty of propositions of this kind is nothing at all, its possibility or impossibility must before all things be established in a Critique of the pure Reason; and thereby he is bound either to confess that my principles in the Critique are correct, or to prove their invalidity. But as I can already foresee, that, confidently as he has hitherto relied on the certainty of his principles, when it comes to a strict test he will not find a single one in the whole range of metaphysics he can bring forward, I will concede to him an advantageous condition, which can only be expected in such a competition, and will relieve him of the onus probandi by laying it on myself.
He finds in these Prolegomena and in my Critique (pp. 266–290) eight propositions, of which two and two contradict one another, but each of which necessarily belongs to metaphysics, which must either accept it or refute it (although there is not one that has not in its time been assumed by some philosopher). Now he has the liberty of seeking out any one of these eight propositions at his pleasure, and accepting it without any proof, of which I shall make him a present, but only one (for waste of time will be just as little serviceable to him as to me), and then of attacking my proof of the opposite proposition. If I can save this one, and at the same time show, that according to principles which every dogmatic metaphysics must necessarily recognise, the opposite of the proposition adopted by him can be just as clearly proved, it is thereby established that metaphysics has an hereditary failing, not to be explained, much less set aside, until we ascend to its birthplace, the pure Reason itself, and thus my Critique must either be accepted or a better one take its place; it must at least be studied, which is the only thing I now require. If, on the other hand, I cannot save my demonstration, a synthetic proposition à priori from dogmatic principles is to be reckoned to the side of my opponent, my impeachment of ordinary metaphysics was unjust, and I pledge myself to recognise his stricture on my Critique as justified (although this would not be the consequence by a long way). But to this end it would be necessary, it seems to me, to step out of the incognito, as I do not see how it could otherwise be avoided, that instead of one problem, I should be honoured or attacked with several, from unknown and unqualified opponents.
Proposals as to an Investigation of the Critique upon which a Judgment may follow.
I am indebted to the honoured public for the silence with which it for a long time favoured my Critique, for this proves at least a postponement of judgment, and some supposition that in a work, leaving all beaten tracks and striking out a new one, in which one cannot at once perhaps so easily find one’s way, something may perchance lie, from which an important but at present dead branch of human knowledge may derive new life and fruitfulness; and hence a guardedness against destroying by a hasty judgment the as yet tender shoot. A test of a judgment, delayed for the above reasons, is now before my eye in the Gottaischen gelehrten Zeitung, the thoroughness of which every reader will himself perceive, from the comprehensible and unperverted presentation of a fragment of one of the first principles of my work, without taking into consideration my own suspicious praise.
And now I propose, since an extensive structure cannot be judged of as a whole from a hurried glance to test it piece by piece from its foundations, and thereby to use the present Prolegomena as a general outline with which the work itself may be compared. This notion, if it were founded on nothing more than my conceit of importance, such as vanity commonly attributes to one’s own productions, would be immodest and would deserve to be repudiated with disgust. But now, the interests of speculative philosophy have arrived at the point of total extinction, while the human Reason hangs upon them with inextinguishable affection, and only after having been ceaselessly deceived does it vainly attempt to change this into indifference.
In our thinking age, it is not to be supposed but that many deserving men would use any good opportunity of working for the common interest of the more and more enlightened Reason, if there were only some hope of attaining the [desired] end. Mathematics, natural science, laws, arts, even morality, &c., do not completely fill the soul; there is always a space left over, cut out for the pure and speculative Reason, whose vacuity forces us to seek for apparent employment and entertainment, which is in reality mere pastime, in nonsense, trifling, or extravagance; in order to deaden the troublesome call of the Reason, which in accordance with its nature requires something that can satisfy itself, and not merely subserve other ends or the interests of the appetites. A consideration, therefore, concerning itself with the range of the Reason subsisting for itself, because in it all other cognitions, and even purposes, must meet and unite themselves in a whole, has as I may reasonably suppose a great fascination for every one who has only attempted to extend his conceptions, and I may even say a greater than any other theoretical branch of knowledge, for which he would not willingly exchange it.
I put these Prolegomena forward, therefore, as a plan and clue for the investigation, and not the work itself, because, although I am even now perfectly satisfied with it as far as content, order, and mode of presentation, and the care that I have expended in weighing and testing every sentence before writing it down, are concerned (for it has taken me years to satisfy myself fully, not only as regards the whole, but in some cases even as to the sources of one particular proposition); yet I am not quite satisfied with my exposition in some sections of the doctrine of elements, as for instance, in the deduction of the conceptions of the Understanding, or in that on the parallogisms of the pure Reason, because a certain diffuseness takes away from their clearness, and in place of them, what is here said in the Prolegomena respecting these sections, may be made the basis of the test.
It is the boast of the Germans that where steady and continuous industry are requisite, they can carry things farther than other nations. If this opinion be well-founded, an opportunity, a business, presents itself whose successful issue we can scarcely doubt, and in which all thinking men can equally take part, though they have hitherto been unsuccessful in accomplishing it and in thus confirming the above good opinion. But this is chiefly because the science in question is of so peculiar a kind, that it can be at once brought to completion and to that enduring state that it will never be able to be brought in the least degree farther or increased by later discoveries, or even changed (adornment by greater clearness in some places, or additional uses, I here leave out of account); and this is an advantage no other science has or can have, because there is none so fully isolated and independent of others, and which is concerned with an unmixed faculty of cognition. And the present moment seems, moreover, not to be unfavourable to my expectation, for just now, in Germany, no one seems to know what to occupy himself with, apart from the so-called useful sciences, which is not mere play, but a business possessing an enduring purpose.
[To decide] how the endeavours of the learned may be united in such a purpose, and to discover the means to this end, I must leave to others. In the meantime, it is not my intention to persuade any one merely to follow my propositions, or even to flatter me with the hope of this; but he may, as it occurs to him, append thereto attacks, repetitions, limitations, or confirmation, completion, and extension. If the matter be but investigated from its foundation, it cannot fail that a structure of doctrine, if not my own, shall be erected, that shall be a possession for the future, for which it may have reason to be thankful.
The kind of metaphysics that may be expected, after [thinkers] are perfected in the principles of criticism, and as a consequence of this, need by no means, because the old false feathers have been pulled out, appear poor and reduced to an insignificant figure, but may be in other ways richly and respectably adorned, although to show this here, would take too long. But there are other and great uses that strike one immediately. The ordinary metaphysics had its uses, in that it sought out the elementary conceptions of the pure Understanding in order to make them clear through analysis, and definite by explanation. In this way it was [a species of] culture for the Reason, in whatever direction it might afterwards find good to turn itself; and thus far what it did was all for the best. But this service it subsequently effaced in favouring conceit by venturesome assertions, sophistry by subtle distinctions and adornment, and shallowness by the ease with which it decided the most difficult problems by means of a little school-wisdom, which is only the more seductive the more it has the choice, on the one hand, of taking something from the language of science, and on the other from that of popular discourse, thus being everything to everybody, but in reality nothing at all. By criticism, on the contrary, a standard is given to our judgment, whereby knowledge may be with certainty distinguished from its counterfeit, and firmly founded, being brought into full practice in metaphysics; a species of thought extending its beneficial influence in the end over every other mode of the Reason’s use, at once infusing into it the true philosophical spirit. But the service also that it performs for theology, by making it independent of the judgment of dogmatic speculation, thereby ensuring it completely against the attacks of all such opponents, is certainly not to be valued lightly. For ordinary metaphysics, although it promised the latter much advantage, could not keep this promise, and moreover, by summoning speculative dogmatics to its assistance, did nothing but arm enemies against itself. Extravagance, which cannot come in a rationalistic age, except when it hides itself behind a system of school-metaphysics, under the protection of which it may venture to rant about the Reason, is driven from this, its last hiding-place, by critical philosophy. And last, but not least, it cannot be otherwise than important to a teacher of metaphysics, to be able to say with universal assent, that what he expounds is at last science, and that thereby genuine services will be rendered to the common weal.
THE METAPHYSICAL FOUNDATIONS OF NATURAL SCIENCE.
[1 ]Not certainly higher. High towers, and metaphysically-great men resembling them, round both of which there is commonly much wind, are not for me. My place is the fruitful bathos of experience; and the word transcendental, the meaning of which is so often elucidated by me, but not once grasped by my critic (so carelessly has he regarded everything), does not signify something passing beyond all experience, but something that indeed precedes it à priori, but that is intended simply to make cognition of experience possible. If these conceptions overstep experience, their employment is termed transcendent, which is distinguished from their immanent [employment], that is, their employment as limited to experience. All misunderstandings of this kind have been sufficiently guarded against in the work itself, but the critic found his advantage in misunderstanding.
[1 ]Idealism proper always has a mystical tendency, and can have no other, but mine is solely designed for the understanding of the possibility of our cognition à priori of objects of experience, which is a problem never hitherto solved or even suggested. In this way the whole mystical idealism falls to the ground, for (as may be seen already in Plato) it inferred from our cognitions à priori (even from those of geometry) another intuition to that of the senses (namely, an intellectual intuition), because it never occured to [philosophers] that the senses themselves might intuite à priori.
[1 ]The critic often fights with his own shadow. When I oppose the truth of experience to dream, he never thinks that I am here speaking simply of the well-known somnio objective sumto of the Wolffian philosophy, which is merely formal, and with which the distinction between sleeping and waking is in no way concerned, and in a transcendental philosophy indeed can have no place. For the rest, he calls my deduction of the categories and table of the principles of the understanding, “common well-known axioms of logic and ontology, expressed in an idealistic manner.” The reader need only consult these Prolegomena upon this, to convince himself that a more miserable and historically incorrect, judgment, could hardly be made.