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The Prolegomena, Remark Two

25 September, 2015 - 16:34

All that is given us as object, must be given us in intuition. But all our intuition takes place by means of the senses alone; the understanding intuits nothing, but only reflects. Inasmuch then as the senses, according to what is above observed, never enable us to cognise, not even in one single point, the things in themselves, but only their phenomena, while these are mere presentations of sensibility, “all bodies, together with the space in which they are found, must be held to be nothing but mere presentations, existing nowhere but in our thoughts.” Now is this not the plainest idealism?

Idealism consists in the assertion that there exist none but thinking entities; the other things we think we perceive in intuition, being only presentations of the thinking entity, to which no object outside the latter can be found to corre- spond. I say, on the contrary, things are given as objects discoverable by our senses, external to us, but of what they may be in themselves we know nothing; we know only their phenomena, i.e., the presentations they produce in us as they affect our senses. I therefore certainly admit that there are bodies outside us, that is, things, which although they are wholly unknown to us, as to what they may be in themselves, we cognise through presentations, obtained by means of their influence on our sensibility. To these we give the designation of body, a word signifying merely the phenomenon of that to us unknown, but not the less real, object. Can this be termed idealism? It is indeed rather the contrary thereof.

That without calling in question the existence of external things, it may be said of a number of their predicates that they do not belong to the things in themselves, but only to their phenomena, and have no self-existence outside our presentation, is what had been generally accepted and admitted long before Locke’s time, but more than ever since then. To these belong heat, colour, taste, &c. No one can adduce the least ground for saying that it is inadmissible on my part, when for important reasons I count in addition the remaining qualities of bodies called primarias, such as extension, place, and more especially space, together with what is dependent thereon (impenetrability or materiality, figure, &c.) amongst the number of these phenomena. And just as little as the man who will not admit colours to be properties of the object in itself, but only to pertain as modifications to the sense of sight, is on that account called an idealist, so little can my conception be termed idealistic because I find in addition that allpropertieswhichmakeuptheintuition ofa bodybelong merely to its appearance. For the existence of a thing, which appears, is not thereby abolished as with real idealism, but it is only shown that we cannot cognise it, as it is in itself, through the senses.

I should like to know how my assertions must be fashioned, if they are not to contain an idealism. I should doubtless have to say, that the presentation of space is not alone completely in accordance with the relation of our sensibility to objects, for that I have already said, but that it is exactly similar to the object itself; an assertion to which no sense can be attached, just as little as that the feeling of red has a similarity with the cinnabar producing this feeling in me.

  1. One of the early criticisms of the CPR was that Kant’s view is really just a complicated version of immaterialism; Kant was called ‘a Teutonic Berkeley.’ why is Kant so sure that his view about space and time—that they are empirically real (i.e., characteristics of all possible objects of experience) but transcendentally ideal (i.e., they do not characterize things as they are in themselves)—does not amount to Berkeleyan idealism?