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

25 September, 2015 - 14:22

Now, a contradictory conception like the foregoing lies at the basis of the two first antinomies, which I call mathemat- ical, 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 presen- tations, 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.