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Section Fifty-two (B): “The Cosmological Idea”, Continued

25 September, 2015 - 14:22

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 can- not 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 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 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 illu- sion of 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 Reason. 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 concep- tion, that under the same assumption two contradictory propositions would be equally false; in other words, because no middle can be conceived between them, nothingatallis cogitated by that conception.