Kant’s Critique of Judgement

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Source: Translator's Introduction to Kant’s Critique of Judgement, translated with Introduction and Notes by J.H. Bernard (2nd ed. revised) (London: Macmillan, 1914).


There are not wanting indications that public interest in the Critical Philosophy has been quickened of recent days in these countries, as well as in America. To lighten the toil of penetrating through the wilderness of Kant’s long sentences, the English student has now many aids, which those who began their studies fifteen or twenty years ago did not enjoy. Translations, paraphrases, criticisms, have been published in considerable numbers; so that if it is not yet true that “he who runs may read,” it may at least be said that a patient student of ordinary industry and intelligence has his way made plain before him. And yet the very number of aids is dangerous. Whatever may be the value of short and easy handbooks in other departments of science, it is certain that no man will become a philosopher, no man will even acquire a satisfactory knowledge of the history of philosophy, without personal and prolonged study of the ipsissima verba of the great masters of human thought. “Above all,” said Schopenhauer, “my truth-seeking young friends, beware of letting our professors tell you what is contained in the Critique of the Pure Reason”; and the advice has not become less wholesome with the lapse of years. The fact, however, that many persons have not sufficient familiarity with German to enable them to study German Philosophy in the original with ease, makes translations an educational necessity; and this translation of Kant’s Critique of the faculty of Judgement has been undertaken in the hope that it may promote a more general study of that masterpiece. If any reader wishes to follow Schopenhauer’s advice, he has only to omit the whole of this prefatory matter and proceed at once to the Author’s laborious Introduction.

It is somewhat surprising that the Critique of Judgement has never yet been made accessible to the English reader. Dr. Watson has indeed translated a few selected passages, so also has Dr. Caird in his valuable account of the Kantian philosophy, and I have found their renderings of considerable service; but the space devoted by both writers to the Critique of Judgement is very small in comparison with that given to the Critiques of Pure and Practical Reason. And yet the work is not an unimportant one. Kant himself regarded it as the coping-stone of his critical edifice; it even formed the point of departure for his successors, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, in the construction of their respective systems. Possibly the reason of its comparative neglect lies in its repulsive style. Kant was never careful of style, and in his later years he became more and more enthralled by those technicalities and refined distinctions which deter so many from the Critical Philosophy even in its earlier sections. These “symmetrical architectonic amusements,” as Schopenhauer called them, encumber every page of Kant’s later writings, and they are a constant source of embarrassment to his unhappy translator. For, as every translator knows, no single word in one language exactly covers any single word in another; and yet if Kant’s distinctions are to be preserved it is necessary to select with more or less arbitrariness English equivalents for German technical terms, and retain them all through. Instances of this will be given later on; I only remark here on the fact that Kant’s besetting sin of over-technicality is especially conspicuous in this treatise.

Another fault—an old fault of Kant—apparent after reading even a few pages, is that repetitions are very frequent of the same thought in but slightly varied language. Arguments are repeated over and over again until they become quite wearisome; and then when the reader’s attention has flagged, and he is glancing cursorily down the page, some important new point is introduced without emphasis, as if the author were really anxious to keep his meaning to himself at all hazards. A book written in such fashion rarely attracts a wide circle of readers. And yet, not only did Goethe think highly of it, but it received a large measure of attention in France as well as in Germany on its first appearance. Originally published at Berlin in 1790, a Second Edition was called for in 1793; and a French translation was made by Imhoff in 1796. Other French versions are those by Keratry and Weyland in 1823, and by Barni in 1846. This last I have had before me while performing my task, but I have not found it of much service; the older French translations I have not seen. The existence of these French versions, when taken in connexion with the absence until very recently of any systematic account of the Critique of Judgement in English, may be perhaps explained by the lively interest that was taken on the Continent in the Philosophy of Art in the early part of the century; whereas scientific studies on this subject received little attention in England during the same period.

The student of the Critique of Pure Reason will remember how closely, in his Transcendental Logic, Kant follows the lines of the ordinary logic of the schools. He finds his whole plan ready made for him, as it were; and he proceeds to work out the metaphysical principles which underlie the process of syllogistic reasoning. And as there are three propositions in every syllogism, he points out that, in correspondence with this triplicity, the higher faculties of the soul may be regarded as threefold. The Understanding or the faculty of concepts gives us our major premiss, as it supplies us in the first instance with a general notion. By means of the Judgement we see that a particular case comes under the general rule, and by the Reason we draw our conclusion. These, as three distinct movements in the process of reasoning, are regarded by Kant as indicating three distinct faculties, with which the Analytic of Concepts, the Analytic of Principles, and the Dialectic are respectively concerned. The full significance of this important classification does not seem, however, to have occurred to Kant at the time, as we may see from the order in which he wrote his great books.1 The first problem which arrests the attention of all modern philosophers is, of course, the problem of knowledge, its conditions and its proper objects. And in the Critique of Pure Reason this is discussed, and the conclusion is reached that nature as phenomenon is the only object of which we can hope to acquire any exact knowledge. But it is apparent that there are other problems which merit consideration; a complete philosophy includes practice as well as theory; it has to do not only with logic, but with life. And thus the Critique of Practical Reason was written, in which is unfolded the doctrine of man’s freedom standing in sharp contrast with the necessity of natural law. Here, then, it seems at first sight as if we had covered the whole field of human activity. For we have investigated the sources of knowledge, and at the same time have pointed out the conditions of practical life, and have seen that the laws of freedom are just as true in their own sphere as are the laws of nature.

But as we reflect on our mental states we find that here no proper account has been given of the phenomena of feeling, which play so large a part in experience. And this Kant saw before he had proceeded very far with the Critique of Practical Reason; and in consequence he adopted a threefold classification of the higher mental faculties based on that given by previous psychologists. Knowledge, feeling, desire, these are the three ultimate modes of consciousness, of which the second has not yet been described. And when we compare this with the former triple division which we took up from the Aristotelian logic, we see that the parallelism is significant. Understanding is par excellence the faculty of knowledge, and Reason the faculty of desire (these points are developed in Kant’s first two Critiques). And this suggests that the Judgement corresponds to the feeling of pleasure and pain; it occupies a position intermediate between Understanding and Reason, just as, roughly speaking, the feeling of pleasure is intermediate between our perception of an object and our desire to possess it.

And so the Critique of Judgement completes the whole undertaking of criticism; its endeavour is to show that there are a priori principles at the basis of Judgement just as there are in the case of Understanding and of Reason; that these principles, like the principles of Reason, are not constitutive but only regulative of experience, i.e. that they do not teach us anything positive about the characteristics of objects, but only indicate the conditions under which we find it necessary to view them; and lastly, that we are thus furnished with an a priori philosophy of pleasure.

The fundamental principle underlying the procedure of the Judgement is seen to be that of the purposiveness of Nature; nature is everywhere adapted to ends or purposes, and thus constitutes a κόσμος, a well-ordered whole. By this means, nature is regarded by us as if its particular empirical laws were not isolated and disparate, but connected and in relation, deriving their unity in seeming diversity from an intelligence which is at the source of nature. It is only by the assumption of such a principle that we can construe nature to ourselves; and the principle is then said to be a transcendental condition of the exercise of our judging faculty, but valid only for the reflective, not for the determinant Judgement. It gives us pleasure to view nature in this way; just as the contemplation of chaos would be painful.

But this purposiveness may be only formal and subjective, or real and objective. In some cases the purposiveness resides in the felt harmony and accordance of the form of the object with the cognitive faculties; in others the form of the object is judged to harmonise with the purpose in view in its existence. That is to say, in the one case we judge the form of the object to be purposive, as in the case of a flower, but could not explain any purpose served by it; in the other case we have a definite notion of what it is adapted for. In the former case the aesthetical Judgement is brought to bear, in the latter the teleological; and it thus appears that the Critique of Judgement has two main divisions; it treats first of the philosophy of Taste, the Beautiful and the Sublime in Nature; and secondly, of the Teleology of nature’s working. It is a curious literary parallel that St. Augustine hints (Confessions iv. 15) that he had written a book, De Pulchro et Ápto, in which these apparently distinct topics were combined; “pulchrum esse, quod per se ipsum; aptum, autem, quod ad aliquid accommodatum deceret.” A beautiful object has no purpose external to itself and the observer; but a useful object serves further ends. Both, however, may be brought under the higher category of things that are reckoned purposive by the Judgement.

We have here then, in the first place, a basis for an a priori Philosophy of Taste; and Kant works out its details with great elaboration. He borrowed little from the writings of his predecessors, but struck out, as was ever his plan, a line of his own. He quotes with approval from Burke’s Treatise on the Sublime and Beautiful, which was accessible to him in a German translation; but is careful to remark that it is as psychology, not as philosophy, that Burke’s work has value. He may have read in addition Hutcheson’s Inquiry which had also been translated into German; and he was complete master of Hume’s opinions. Of other writers on Beauty, he only names Batteux and Lessing. Batteux was a French writer of repute who had attempted a twofold arrangement of the Arts as they may be brought under Space and under Time respectively, a mode of classification which would naturally appeal to Kant. He does not seem, however, to have read the ancient text-book on the subject, Aristotle’s Poetics, the principles of which Lessing declared to be as certain as Euclid.

Following the guiding thread of the categories, he declares that the aesthetical judgement about Beauty is according to quality disinterested; a point which had been laid down by such different writers as Hutcheson and Moses Mendelssohn. As to quantity, the judgement about beauty gives universal satisfaction, although it is based on no definite concept. The universality is only subjective; but still it is there. The maxim Trahit sua quemque voluptas does not apply to the pleasure afforded by a pure judgement about beauty. As to relation, the characteristic of the object called beautiful is that it betrays a purposiveness without definite purpose. The pleasure is a priori, independent on the one hand of the charms of sense or the emotions of mere feeling, as Winckelmann had already declared; and on the other hand is a pleasure quite distinct from that taken which we feel when viewing perfection, with which Wolff and Baumgarten had identified it. By his distinction between free and dependent beauty, which we also find in the pages of Hutcheson, Kant further develops his doctrine of the freedom of the pure judgement of taste from the thraldom of concepts.

Finally, the satisfaction afforded by the contemplation of a beautiful object is a necessary satisfaction. This necessity is not, to be sure, theoretical like the necessity attaching to the Law of Causality; nor is it a practical necessity as is the need to assume the Moral Law as the guiding principle of conduct. But it may be called exemplary; that is, we may set up our satisfaction in a beautiful picture as setting an example to be followed by others. It is plain, however, that this can only be assumed under certain presuppositions. We must presuppose the idea of a sensus communis or common sense in which all men share. As knowledge admits of being communicated to others, so also does the feeling for beauty. For the relation between the cognitive faculties requisite for Taste is also requisite for Intelligence or sound Understanding, and as we always presuppose the latter to be the same in others as in ourselves, so may we presuppose the former.

The analysis of the Sublime which follows that of the Beautiful is interesting and profound; indeed Schopenhauer regarded it as the best part of the Critique of the Aesthetical Judgement. The general characteristics of our judgements about the Sublime are similar to those already laid down in the case of the Beautiful; but there are marked differences in the two cases. If the pleasure taken in beauty arises from a feeling of the purposiveness of the object in its relation to the subject, that in sublimity rather expresses a purposiveness of the subject in respect of the object. Nothing in nature is sublime; and the sublimity really resides in the mind and there alone. Indeed, as true Beauty is found, properly speaking, only in beauty of form, the idea of sublimity is excited rather by those objects which are formless and exhibit a violation of purpose.

A distinction not needed in the case of the Beautiful becomes necessary when we proceed to further analyse the Sublime. For in aesthetical judgements about the Beautiful the mind is in restful contemplation; but in the case of the Sublime a mental movement is excited (pp. 105 and 120). This movement, as it is pleasing, must involve a purposiveness in the harmony of the mental powers; and the purposiveness may be either in reference to the faculty of cognition or to that of desire. In the former case the sublime is called the Mathematically Sublime—the sublime of mere magnitude—the absolutely great; in the latter it is the sublime of power, the Dynamically Sublime. Gioberti, an Italian writer on the philosophy of Taste, has pushed this distinction so far as to find in it an explanation of the relation between Beauty and Sublimity. “The dynamical Sublime,” he says, “creates the Beautiful; the mathematical Sublime contains it,” a remark with which probably Kant would have no quarrel.

In both cases, however, we find that the feeling of the Sublime awakens in us a feeling of the supersensible destination of man. “The very capacity of conceiving the sublime,” he tells us, “indicates a mental faculty that far surpasses every standard of sense.” And to explain the necessity belonging to our judgements about the sublime, Kant points out that as we find ourselves compelled to postulate a sensus communis to account for the agreement of men in their appreciation of beautiful objects, so the principle underlying their consent in judging of the sublime is “the presupposition of the moral feeling in man.” The feeling of the sublimity of our own moral destination is the necessary prerequisite for forming such judgements. The connexion between Beauty and Goodness involved to a Greek in the double sense of the word καλόν is developed by Kant with keen insight. To feel interest in the beauty of Nature he regards as a mark of a moral disposition, though he will not admit that the same inference may be drawn as to the character of the art connoisseur (§ 42) . But it is specially with reference to the connexion between the capacity for appreciating the Sublime, and the moral feeling, that the originality of Kant’s treatment becomes apparent.

The objects of nature, he continues, which we call sublime, inspire us with a feeling of pain rather than of pleasure; as Lucretius has it—

  • Me quaedam divina voluptas
  • Percipit atque horror.

But this “horror” must not inspire actual fear. As no extraneous charm must mingle with the satisfaction felt in a beautiful object, if the judgement about beauty is to remain pure; so in the case of the sublime we must not be afraid of the object which yet in certain aspects is fearful.

This conception of the feelings of sublimity excited by the loneliness of an Alpine peak or the grandeur of an earthquake is now a familiar one; but it was not so in Kant’s day. Switzerland had not then become the recreation-ground of Europe; and though natural beauty was a familiar topic with poets and painters it was not generally recognised that taste has also to do with the sublime. De Saussure’s Travels, Haller’s poem Die Alpen, and this work of Kant’s mark the beginning of a new epoch in our ways of looking at the sublime and terrible aspects of Nature. And it is not a little remarkable that the man who could write thus feelingly about the emotions inspired by grand and savage scenery, had never seen a mountain in his life. The power and the insight of his observations here are in marked contrast to the poverty of some of his remarks about the characteristics of beauty. For instance, he puts forward the curious doctrine that colour in a picture is only an extraneous charm, and does not really add to the beauty of the form delineated, nay rather distracts the mind from it. His criticisms on this point, if sound, would make Flaxman a truer artist than Titian or Paolo Veronese. But indeed his discussion of Painting or Music is not very appreciative; he was, to the end, a creature of pure Reason.

Upon the analysis he gives of the Arts, little need be said here. Fine Art is regarded as the Art of Genius, “that innate mental disposition through which Nature gives the rule to Art” (§ 46) . Art differs from Science in the absence of definite concepts in the mind of the artist. It thus happens that the great artist can rarely communicate his methods; indeed he cannot explain them even to himself. Poeta nascitur, non fit; and the same is true in every form of fine art. Genius is, in short, the faculty of presenting aesthetical Ideas; an aesthetical Idea being an intuition of the Imagination, to which no concept is adequate. And it is by the excitation of such ineffable Ideas that a great work of art affects us. As Bacon tells us, “that is the best part of Beauty which a picture cannot express; no, nor the first sight of the eye.” This characteristic of the artistic genius has been noted by all who have thought upon art; more is present in its productions than can be perfectly expressed in language. As Pliny said of Timanthus the painter of Iphigenia, “In omnibus ejus operibus intelligitur plus super quam pingitur.” But this genius requires to be kept in check by taste; quite in the spirit of the σωϕροσύνη of the best Greek art, Kant remarks that if in a work of art some feature must be sacrificed, it is better to lose something of genius than to violate the canons of taste. It is in this self-mastery that “the sanity of true genius” expresses itself.

The main question with which the Critique of Judgement is concerned is, of course, the question as to the purposiveness, the Zweckmässigkeit, exhibited by nature. That nature appears to be full of purpose is mere matter of fact. It displays purposiveness in respect of our faculties of cognition, in those of its phenomena which we designate beautiful. And also in its organic products we observe methods of operation which we can only explain by describing them as processes in which means are used to accomplish certain ends, as processes that are purposive. In our observation of natural phenomena, as Kuno Fischer puts it, we judge their forms aesthetically, and their life teleologically.

As regards the first kind of Zweckmässigkeit, that which is ohne Zweck—the purposiveness of a beautiful object which does not seem to be directed to any external end—there are two ways in which we may account for it. We may either say that it was actually designed to be beautiful by the Supreme Force behind Nature, or we may say that purposiveness is not really resident in nature, but that our perception of it is due to the subjective needs of our judging faculty. We have to contemplate beautiful objects as if they were purposive, but they may not be so in reality. And this latter idealistic doctrine is what Kant falls back upon. He appeals in support of it, to the phenomena of crystallisation (pp. 243 sqq.), in which many very beautiful forms seem to be produced by merely mechanical processes. The beauty of a rock crystal is apparently produced without any forethought on the part of nature, and he urges that we are not justified in asserting dogmatically that any laws distinct from those of mechanism are needed to account for beauty in other cases. Mechanism can do so much; may it not do all? And he brings forward as a consideration which ought to settle the question, the fact that in judging of beauty “we invariably seek its gauge in ourselves a priori”; we do not learn from nature, but from ourselves, what we are to find beautiful. Mr. Kennedy in his Donnellan Lectures has here pointed out several weak spots in Kant’s armour. In the first place, the fact that we seek the gauge of beauty in our own mind “may be shown from his own definition to be a necessary result of the very nature of beauty.”1 For Kant tells us that the aesthetical judgement about beauty always involves “a reference of the representation to the subject”; and this applies equally to judgements about the beautiful in Art and the beautiful in Nature. But no one could maintain that from this definition it follows that we are not compelled to postulate design in the mind of the artist who paints a beautiful picture. And thus as the fact that “we always seek the gauge of beauty” in ourselves does not do away with the belief in a designing mind when we are contemplating works of art, it cannot be said to exclude the belief in a Master Hand which moulded the forms of Nature. As Cicero has it, nature is “non artificiosa solum, sed plane artifex.” But the cogency of this reasoning, for the details of which I must refer the reader to Mr. Kennedy’s pages, becomes more apparent when we reflect on that second form of purposiveness, viz. adaptation to definite ends, with which we meet in the phenomena of organic life.

If we watch, e.g. the growth of a tree we perceive that its various parts are not isolated and unconnected, but that on the contrary they are only possible by reference to the idea of the whole. Each limb affects every other, and is reciprocally affected by it; in short “in such a product of nature every part not only exists by means of the other parts, but is thought as existing for the sake of the others and the whole” (p. 277). The operations of nature in organised bodies seem to be of an entirely different character from mere mechanical processes; we cannot construe them to ourselves except under the hypothesis that nature in them is working towards a designed end. The distinction between nature’s “Technic” or purposive operation, and nature’s Mechanism is fundamental for the explanation of natural law. The language of biology eloquently shows the impossibility of eliminating at least the idea of purpose from our investigations into the phenomena of life, growth, and reproduction. And Kant dismisses with scant respect that cheap and easy philosophy which would fain deny the distinctiveness of nature’s purposive operation. A doctrine, like that of Epicurus, in which every natural phenomenon is regarded as the result of the blind drifting of atoms in accordance with purely mechanical laws, really explains nothing, and least of all explains that illusion in our teleological judgements which leads us to assume purpose where really there is none.

It has been urged by Kirchmann and others that this distinction between Technic and Mechanism, on which Kant lays so much stress, has been disproved by the progress of modern science. The doctrines, usually associated with the name of Darwin, of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, quite sufficiently explain, it is said, on mechanical principles the semblance of purpose with which nature mocks us. The presence of order is not due to any purpose behind the natural operation, but to the inevitable disappearance of the disorderly. It would be absurd, of course, to claim for Kant that he anticipated the Darwinian doctrines of development; and yet passages are not wanting in his writings in which he takes a view of the continuity of species with which modern science would have little fault to find. “Nature organises itself and its organised products in every species, no doubt after one general pattern but yet with suitable deviations, which self-preservation demands according to circumstances” (p. 279). “The analogy of forms, which with all their differences seem to have been produced according to a common original type, strengthens our suspicions of an actual relationship between them in their production from a common parent, through the gradual approximation of one animal genus to another—from those in which the principle of purposes seems to be best authenticated, i.e. from man, down to the polype and again from this down to mosses and lichens, and finally to crude matter. And so the whole Technic of nature, which is so incomprehensible to us in organised beings that we believe ourselves compelled to think a different principle for it, seems to be derived from matter and its powers according to mechanical laws (like those by which it works in the formation of crystals)” (p. 337). Such a theory he calls “a daring venture of reason,” and its coincidences with modern science are real and striking. But he is careful to add that such a theory, even if established, would not eliminate purpose from the universe; it would indeed suggest that certain special processes having the semblance of purpose may be elucidated on mechanical principles, but on the whole, purposive operation on the part of Mother Nature it would still be needful to assume (p. 338). “No finite Reason can hope to understand the production of even a blade of grass by mere mechanical causes” (p. 326). “It is absurd to hope that another Newton will arise in the future who shall make comprehensible by us the production of a blade of grass according to natural laws which no design has ordered” (p. 312).

Crude materialism thus affording no explanation of the purposiveness in nature, we go on to ask what other theories are logically possible. We may dismiss at once the doctrine of Hylozoism, according to which the purposes in nature are explained in reference to a world-soul, which is the inner principle of the material universe and constitutes its life. For such a doctrine is self-contradictory, inasmuch as lifelessness, inertia, is the essential characteristic of matter, and to talk of living matter is absurd (p. 304). A much more plausible system is that of Spinoza, who aimed at establishing the ideality of the principle of natural purposes. He regarded the world whole as a complex of manifold determinations inhering in a single simple substance; and thus reduced our concepts of the purposive in nature to our own consciousness of existing in an all-embracing Being. But on reflection we see that this does not so much explain as explain away the purposiveness of nature; it gives us an unity of inherence in one Substance, but not an unity of causal dependence on one Substance (p. 303). And this latter would be necessary in order to explain the unity of purpose which nature exhibits in its phenomenal working. Spinozism, therefore, does not give what it pretends to give; it puts us off with a vague and unfruitful unity of ground, when what we seek is a unity that shall itself contain the causes of the differences manifest in nature.

We have left then as the only remaining possible doctrine, Theism, which represents natural purposes as produced in accordance with the Will and Design of an Intelligent Author and Governor of Nature. This theory is, in the first place, “superior to all other grounds of explanation” (p. 305), for it gives a full solution of the problem before us and enables us to maintain the reality of the Zweckmässigkeit of nature. “Teleology finds the consummation of its investigations only in Theology” (p.311). To represent the world and the natural purposes therein as produced by an intelligent Cause is “completely satisfactory from every human point of view for both the speculative and practical use of our Reason” (p. 312). Thus the contemplation of natural purposes, i.e. the common Argument from Design, enables us to reach a highest Understanding as Cause of the world “in accordance with the principles of the reflective Judgement, i.e. in accordance with the constitution of our human faculty of cognition” (p. 416).

It is in this qualifying clause that Kant’s negative attitude in respect of Theism betrays itself. He regards it as a necessary assumption for the guidance of scientific investigation, no less than for the practical needs of morals; but he does not admit that we can claim for it objective validity. In the language of the Critique of Pure Reason, the Idea of God furnishes a regulative, not a constitutive principle of Reason; or as he prefers to put it in the present work, it is valid only for the reflective, not for the determinant Judgement. We are not justified, Kant maintains, in asserting dogmatically that God exists; there is only permitted to us the limited formula “We cannot otherwise conceive the purposiveness which must lie at the basis of our cognition of the internal possibility of many natural things, than by representing it and the world in general as produced by an intelligent cause, i.e. a God” (p. 312).

We ask then, whence arises this impossibility of objective statement? It is in the true Kantian spirit to assert that no synthetical proposition can be made with reference to what lies above and behind the world of sense; but there is a difficulty in carrying out this principle into details. Kant’s refusal to infer a designing Hand behind the apparent order of nature is based, he tells us, on the fact that the concept of a “natural purpose” is one that cannot be justified to the speculative Reason. For all we know it may only indicate our way of looking at things, and may point to no corresponding objective reality. That we are forced by the limited nature of our faculties to view nature as working towards ends, as purposive, does not prove that it is really so. We cannot justify such pretended insight into what is behind the veil.

It is to be observed, however, that precisely similar arguments might be urged against our affirmation of purpose, design, will, as the spring of the actions of other human beings.1 For let us consider why it is that, mind being assumed as the basis of our own individual consciousness, we go on to attribute minds of like character to other men. We see that the external behaviour of other men is similar to our own, and that the most reasonable way of accounting for such behaviour is to suppose that they have minds like ourselves, that they are possessed of an active and spontaneously energising faculty, which is the seat of their personality. But it is instructive to observe that neither on Kantian principles nor on any other can we demonstrate this; to cross the chasm which separates one man’s personality from another’s requires a venture of faith just as emphatically as any theological formula. I can by no means prove to the determinant Judgement that the complex of sensations which I constantly experience, and which I call the Prime Minister, is anything more than a well-ordered machine. It is improbable that this is the case—highly improbable; but the falsity of such an hypothesis cannot be proved in the same way that we would prove the falsity of the assertion that two and two make five. But then though the hypothesis cannot be thus ruled out of court by demonstration of its absurdity, it is not the simplest hypothesis, nor is it that one which best accounts for the facts. The assumption, on the other hand, that the men whom I meet every day have minds like my own, perfectly accounts for all the facts, and is a very simple assumption. It merely extends by induction the sphere of a force which I already know to exist. Or in other words, crude materialism not giving me an intelligent account of my own individual consciousness, I recognise mind, νονˆ;ς, as a vera causa, as something which really does produce effects in the field of experience, and which therefore I may legitimately put forward as the cause of those actions of other men which externally so much resemble my own. But, as has been said before, this argument, though entirely convincing to any sane person, is not demonstrative; in Kantian language and on Kantian principles the reasoning here used would seem to be valid only for the reflective and not for the determinant Judgement. If the principle of design or conscious adaptation of means to ends be not a constitutive principle of experience, but only a regulative principle introduced to account for the facts, what right have we to put it forward dogmatically as affording an explanation of the actions of other human beings?

It cannot be said that Kant’s attempted answer to such a defence of the Design Argument is quite conclusive. In § 90 of the Methodology (p. 399) he pleads that though it is perfectly legitimate to argue by analogy from our own minds to the minds of other men,—nay further, although we may conclude from those actions of the lower animals which display plan, that they are not, as Descartes alleged, mere machines—yet it is not legitimate to conclude from the apparent presence of design in the operations of nature that a conscious mind directs those operations. For, he argues, that in comparing the actions of men and the lower animals, or in comparing the actions of one man with those of another, we are not pressing our analogy beyond the limits of experience. Men and beasts alike are finite living beings, subject to the limitations of finite existence; and hence the law which governs the one series of operations may be regarded by analogy as sufficiently explaining the other series. But the power at the basis of Nature is utterly above definition or comprehension, and we are going beyond our legitimate province if we venture to ascribe to it a mode of operation with which we are only conversant in the case of beings subject to the conditions of space and time. He urges in short that when speaking about man and his mind we thoroughly understand what we are talking about; but in speaking of the Mind of Deity we are dealing with something of which we have no experience, and of which therefore we have no right to predicate anything.

But it is apparent that, as has been pointed out, even when we infer the existence of another finite mind from certain observed operations, we are making an inference about something which is as mysterious an x as anything can be. Mind is not a thing that is subject to the laws and conditions of the world of sense; it is “in the world but not of the world.” And so to infer the existence of the mind of any individual except myself is a quite different kind of inference from that by which, for example, we infer the presence of an electro-magnet in a given field. The action of the latter we understand to a large extent; but we do not understand the action of mind, which yet we know from daily experience of ourselves does produce effects in the phenomenal world, often permanent and important effects. Briefly, the action of mind upon matter (to use the ordinary phraseology for the sake of clearness) is—we may assume for our present purpose—an established fact. Hence the causality of mind is a vera causa; we bring it in to account for the actions of other human beings, and by precisely the same process of reasoning we invoke it to explain the operations of nature.

And it is altogether beside the point to urge, as Kant does incessantly, that in the latter case the intelligence inferred is infinite; in the former only finite. All that the Design Argument undertakes to prove is that mind lies at the basis of nature. It is quite beyond its province to say whether this mind is finite or infinite; and thus Kant’s criticisms on p. 364 are somewhat wide of the mark. There is always a difficulty in any argument which tries to establish the operation of mind anywhere, for mind cannot be seen or touched or felt; but the difficulty is not peculiar to that particular form of argument with which theological interests are involved.

The real plausibility of this objection arises from a vague idea, often present to us when we speak of infinite wisdom or infinite intelligence, namely that the epithet infinite in some way alters the meaning of the attributes to which it is applied. But the truth is that the word infinite, when applied to wisdom or knowledge or any other intellectual or moral quality, can only properly have reference to the number of acts of wisdom or knowledge that we suppose to have been performed. The only sense in which we have any right to speak of infinite wisdom is that it is that which performs an infinite number of wise acts. And so when we speak of infinite intelligence, we have not the slightest warrant, either in logic or in common sense, for supposing that such intelligence is not similar in kind to that finite intelligence which we know in man.

To understand Kant’s attitude fully, we must also take into consideration the great weight that he attaches to the Moral Argument for the existence of God. The positive side of his teaching on Theism is summed up in the following sentence (p. 388): “For the theoretical reflective Judgement physical Teleology sufficiently proves from the purposes of Nature an intelligent world-cause; for the practical Judgement moral Teleology establishes it by the concept of a final purpose, which it is forced to ascribe to creation.” That side of his system which is akin to Agnosticism finds expression in his determined refusal to admit anything more than this. The existence of God is for him a “thing of faith”; and is not a fact of knowledge, strictly so called. “Faith” he holds (p. 409) “is the moral attitude of Reason as to belief in that which is unattainable by theoretical cognition. It is therefore the constant principle of the mind to assume as true that which it is necessary to presuppose as condition of the possibility of the highest moral final purpose.” As he says elsewhere (Introduction to Logic, ix. p. 60), “That man is morally unbelieving who does not accept that which, though impossible to know, is morally necessary to suppose.” And as far as he goes a Theist may agree with him, and he has done yeoman’s service to Theism by his insistence on the absolute impossibility of any other working hypothesis as an explanation of the phenomena of nature. But I have endeavoured to indicate at what points he does not seem to me to have gone as far as even his own declared principles would justify him in going. If the existence of a Supreme Mind be a “thing of faith,” this may with equal justice be said of the finite minds of the men all around us; and his attempt to show that the argument from analogy is here without foundation is not convincing.

Kant, however, in the Critique of Judgement is sadly fettered by the chains that he himself had forged, and frequently chafes under the restraints they impose. He indicates more than once a point of view higher than that of the Critique of Pure Reason, from which the phenomena of life and mind may be contemplated. He had already hinted in that work that the supersensible substrate of the ego and the non-ego might be identical. “Both kinds of objects differ from each other, not internally, but only so far as the one appears external to the other; possibly what is at the basis of phenomenal matter as a thing in itself may not be so heterogeneous after all as we imagine.”1 This hypothesis which remains a bare undeveloped possibility in the earlier work is put forward as a positive doctrine in the Critique of Judgement. “There must,” says Kant, “be a ground of the unity of the supersensible, which lies at the basis of nature, with that which the concept of freedom practically contains” (Introduction, p. 13). That is to say, he maintains that to explain the phenomena of organic life and the purposiveness of nature we must hold that the world of sense is not disparate from and opposed to the world of thought, but that nature is the development of freedom. The connexion of nature and freedom is suggested by, nay is involved in, the notion of natural adaptation; and although we can arrive at no knowledge of the supersensible substrate of both, yet such a common ground there must be. This principle is the starting-point of the systems which followed that of Kant; and the philosophy of later Idealism is little more than a development of the principle in its consequences.

He approaches the same doctrine by a different path in the Critique of the Teleological Judgement (§ 77) , where he argues that the distinction between the mechanical and the teleological working of nature, upon which so much stress has been justly laid, depends for its validity upon the peculiar character of our Understanding. When we give what may be called a mechanical elucidation of any natural phenomenon, we begin with its parts, and from what we know of them we explain the whole. But in the case of certain objects, e.g. organised bodies, this cannot be done. In their case we can only account for the parts by a reference to the whole. Now, were it possible for us to perceive a whole before its parts and derive the latter from the former,1 then an organism would be capable of being understood and would be an object of knowledge in the strictest sense. But our Understanding is not able to do this, and its inadequacy for such a task leads us to conceive the possibility of an Understanding, not discursive like ours, but intuitive, for which knowledge of the whole would precede that of the parts. “It is at least possible to consider the material world as mere phenomenon, and to think as its substrate something like a thing in itself (which is not phenomenon), and to attach to this a corresponding intellectual intuition. Thus there would be, although incognisable by us, a supersensible real ground for nature, to which we ourselves belong” (p. 325). Hence, although Mechanism and Technic must not be confused and must ever stand side by side in our scientific investigation of natural law, yet must they be regarded as coalescing in a single higher principle incognisable by us. The ground of union is “the supersensible substrate of nature of which we can determine nothing positively, except that it is the being in itself of which we merely know the phenomenon.” Thus, then, it appears that the whole force of Kant’s main argument has proceeded upon an assumption, viz. the permanent opposition between Sense and Understanding, which the progress of the argument has shown to be unsound. “Kant seems,” says Goethe,2 “to have woven a certain element of irony into his method. For, while at one time he seemed to be bent on limiting our faculties of knowledge in the narrowest way, at another time he pointed, as it were with a side gesture, beyond the limits which he himself had drawn.” The fact of adaptation of means to ends observable in nature seems to break down the barrier between Nature and Freedom; and if we once relinquish the distinction between Mechanism and Technic in the operations of nature we are led to the Idea of an absolute Being, who manifests Himself by action which, though necessary, is yet the outcome of perfect freedom.

Kant, however, though he approaches such a position more than once, can never be said to have risen to it. He deprecates unceasingly the attempt to combine principles of nature with the principles of freedom as a task beyond the modest capacity of human reason; and while strenuously insisting on the practical force of the Moral Argument for the Being of God, which is found in the witness of man’s conscience, will not admit that it can in any way be regarded as strengthening the theoretical arguments adduced by Teleology. The two lines of proof, he holds, are quite distinct; and nothing but confusion and intellectual disaster can result from the effort to combine them. The moral proof stands by itself, and it needs no such crutches as the argument from Design can offer. But, as Mr. Kennedy has pointed out in his acute criticism1 of the Kantian doctrine of Theism, it would not be possible to combine a theoretical disbelief in God with a frank acceptance of the practical belief of His existence borne in upon us by the Moral Law. Kant himself admits this: “A dogmatical unbelief,” he says (p. 411), “cannot subsist together with a moral maxim dominant in the mental attitude.” That is, though the theoretical argument be incomplete, we cannot reject the conclusion to which it leads, for this is confirmed by the moral necessities of conscience.

Kant’s position, then, seems to come to this, that though he never doubts the existence of God, he has very grave doubts that He can be theoretically known by man. That He is, is certain; what He is, we cannot determine. It is a position not dissimilar to current Agnostic doctrines; and as long as the antithesis between Sense and Understanding, between Matter and Mind, is insisted upon as expressing a real and abiding truth, Kant’s reasoning can hardly be refuted with completeness. No doubt it may be urged that since the practical and theoretical arguments both arrive at the same conclusion, the cogency of our reasoning in the latter should confirm our trust in the former. But true conclusions may sometimes seem to follow from quite insufficient premises; and Kant is thus justified in demanding that each argument shall be submitted to independent tests. I have endeavoured to show above that he has not treated the theoretical line of reasoning quite fairly, and that he has underestimated its force; but its value as an argument is not increased by showing that another entirely different process of thought leads to the same result. And that the witness of conscience affords the most powerful and convincing argument for the existence of a Supreme Being, the source of law as of love, is a simple matter of experience. Induction, syllogism, analogy, do not really generate belief in God, though they may serve to justify to reason a faith that we already possess. The poet has the truth of it:

  • Wer Gott nicht fühlt in sich und allen Lebenskreisen,
  • Dem werdet Ihr Ihn nicht beweisen mit Beweisen.

I give at the end of this Introduction a Glossary of the chief philosophical terms used by Kant; I have tried to render them by the same English equivalents all through the work, in order to preserve, as far as may be, the exactness of expression in the original. I am conscious that this makes the translation clumsy in many places, but have thought it best to sacrifice elegance to precision. This course is the more necessary to adopt, as Kant cannot be understood unless his nice verbal distinctions be attended to. Thus real means quite a different thing from wirklich; Hang from Neigung; Rührung from Affekt or Leidenschaft; Anschauung from Empfindung or Wahrnehmung; Endzweck from letzter Zweck; Idee from Vorstellung; Eigenschaft from Attribut or Beschaffenheit; Schranke from Grenze; überreden from überzeugen, etc. I am not satisfied with “gratification” and “grief” as the English equivalents for Vergnügen and Schmerz; but it is necessary to distinguish these words from Lust and Unlust, and “mental pleasure,” “mental pain,” which would nearly hit the sense, are awkward. Again, the constant rendering of schön by beautiful involves the expression “beautiful art” instead of the more usual phrase “fine art.” Purposive is an ugly word, but it has come into use lately; and its employment enables us to preserve the connexion between Zweck and zweckmässig. I have printed Judgement with a capital letter when it signifies the faculty, with a small initial when it signifies the act, of judging. And in like manner I distinguish Objekt from Gegenstand, by printing the word “Object,” when it represents the former, with a large initial.

The text I have followed is, in the main, that printed by Hartenstein; but occasionally Rosenkranz preserves the better reading. All important variants between the First and Second Editions have been indicated at the foot of the page. A few notes have been added, which are enclosed in square brackets, to distinguish them from those which formed part of the original work. I have in general quoted Kant’s Introduction to Logic and Critique of Practical Reason in Dr. Abbott’s translations.

My best thanks are due to Rev. J. H. Kennedy and Mr. F. Purser for much valuable aid during the passage of this translation through the press. And I am under even greater obligations to Mr. Mahaffy, who was good enough to read through the whole of the proof; by his acute and learned criticisms many errors have been avoided. Others I have no doubt still remain, but for these I must be accounted alone responsible.


Trinity College, Dublin,May 24, 1892.

More than twenty-one years have passed since the first edition of this Translation was published, and during that time much has been written, both in Germany and in England, on the subject of Kant’s Critique of Judgement. In particular, the German text has been critically determined by the labours of Professor Windelband, whose fine edition forms the fifth volume of Kant’s Collected Works as issued by the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences (Berlin, 1908). It will be indispensable to future students. An excellent account of the significance, in the Kantian system, of the Urtheilskraft, by Mr. R. A. C. Macmillan, appeared in 1912; and Mr. J. C. Meredith has published recently an English edition of the Critique of Aesthetical Judgement, with notes and essays, dealing with the philosophy of art, which goes over the ground very fully.

Some critics of my first edition took exception to the clumsiness of the word “representation” as the equivalent of Vorstellung, but I have made no change in this respect, as it seems to me (and so far as I have observed to others who have worked on the Critique of Judgement), that it is necessary to preserve in English the relation between the noun Vorstellung and the verb vorstellen, if Kant’s reasoning is to be exhibited clearly. I have, however, abandoned the attempt to preserve the word Kritik in English, and have replaced it by Critique or criticism, throughout. The other changes that have been made are mere corrections or emendations of faulty or obscure renderings, with a few additional notes. I have left my original Introduction as it was written in 1892, without attempting any fresh examination of the problems that Kant set himself.


The Palace, Kilkenny,January 6, 1914.


  • Absicht

    ; design.
  • Achtung

    ; respect.
  • Affekt

    ; affection.
  • Angenehm

    ; pleasant.
  • Anschauung

    ; intuition.
  • Attribut

    ; attribute.
  • Aufklärung

    ; enlightenment.
  • Begehr

    ; desire.
  • Begriff

    ; concept.
  • Beschaffenheit

    ; constitution or characteristic.
  • Bestimmen

    ; to determine.
  • Darstellen

    ; to present.
  • Dasein

    ; presence or being.
  • Eigenschaft

    ; property.
  • Empfindung

    ; sensation.
  • Endzweck

    ; final purpose.
  • Erkenntniss

    ; cognition or knowledge.
  • Erklärung

    ; explanation.
  • Erscheinung

    ; phenomenon.
  • Existenz

    ; existence.
  • Fürwahrhalten

    ; belief.
  • Gebiet

    ; realm.
  • Gefühl

    ; feeling.
  • Gegenstand

    ; object.
  • Geist

    ; spirit.
  • Geniessen

    ; enjoyment.
  • Geschicklichkeit

    ; skill.
  • Geschmack

    ; Taste.
  • Gesetzmässigkeit

    ; conformity to law.
  • Gewalt

    ; dominion or authority.
  • Glaube

    ; faith.
  • Grenze

    ; bound.
  • Grundsatz

    ; fundamental proposition or principle.
  • Hang

    ; propension.
  • Idee

    ; Idea.
  • Leidenschaft

    ; passion.
  • Letzter Zweck

    ; ultimate purpose.
  • Lust

    ; pleasure.
  • Meinen

    ; opinion.
  • Neigung

    ; inclination.
  • Objekt

    ; Object.
  • Prinzip

    ; principle.
  • Real

    ; real.
  • Reich

    ; kingdom.
  • Reiz

    ; charm.
  • Rührung

    ; emotion.
  • Schein

    ; illusion.
  • Schmerz

    ; grief.
  • Schön

    ; beautiful.
  • Schranke

    ; limit.
  • Schwärmerei

    ; fanaticism.
  • Seele

    ; soul.
  • Ueberreden

    ; to persuade.
  • Ueberschwänglich

    ; transcendent.
  • Ueberzeugen

    ; to convince.
  • Unlust

    ; pain.
  • Urtheil

    ; judgement.
  • Urtheilskraft

    ; Judgement.
  • Verbindung

    ; combination.
  • Vergnügen

    ; gratification.
  • Verknüpfung

    ; connexion.
  • Vermögen

    ; faculty.
  • Vernunft

    ; Reason.
  • Vernünftelei

    ; sophistry or subtlety.
  • Verstand

    ; Understanding.
  • Vorstellung

    ; representation.
  • Wahrnehmung

    ; perception.
  • Wesen

    ; being.
  • Willkühr

    ; elective will.
  • Wirklich

    ; actual.
  • Wohlgefallen

    ; satisfaction.
  • Zufriedenheit

    ; contentment.
  • Zweck

    ; purpose.
  • Zweckmässig

    ; purposive.
  • Zweckverbindung

    ; purposive combination, etc.

[1 ]Dr. Caird (Critical Philosophy of Kant, vol. ii. p. 406) has given an instructive account of the gradual development in Kant’s mind of the main idea of the Critique of Judgement.

[1 ]Natural Theology and Modern Thought, p. 158.

[1 ]I reproduce here in part a paper read before the Victoria Institute in April 1892.

[1 ]Critique of Pure Reason. Dialectic, Bk. ii. chap. i. near the end.

[1 ]Cf. Kuno Fischer, A Critique of Kant, p. 142.

[2 ]Quoted by Caird, Critical Philosophy of Kant, vol. ii. p. 507, who reiterates this criticism all through his account of Kant’s teaching.

[1 ]Natural Theology and Modern Thought, p. 241.