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The Prolegomena, Section Fifty-three: “The Cosmological Idea”, Continued

29 September, 2015 - 09:41

In the first class of antinomy (the mathematical), the fallacy of the assumption consisted in that what is self-contradicto- ry (namely, phenomenon and thing in itself) was represented as capable of union in one idea. But as regards the second, or dynamical class of antinomy, the fallacy of the assumption consists in that what is capable of union is represented as contradictory, and consequently, as in the first case, both contradictory assertions were false; so here, where they are opposed to one another merely through misunderstanding, both may be true.

The mathematical connection necessarily presupposes homogeneity in the connected (in the conception of quantity), while the dynamical by no means requires this. Where the quantity of the extended is concerned, all the parts must be homogeneous, both with each other and with the whole; whereas in the connection of cause and effect, although homogeneity may also be met with, it is not necessary. For the conception of causality, by means of which a thing is posited by something quite distinct therefrom, at least does not require it. If the objects of the sense-world were taken for things in themselves, and the above-cited laws of Nature for laws of things in themselves, the contradiction would be un avoidable. In the same way, if the subject of freedom were presented like other objects as mere appearance, the contradiction would be equally unavoidable; for the same thing would be at once affirmed and denied of the same kind of object in the same sense. But if natural necessity be referred merely to phenomena, and freedom merely to things in themselves, no contradiction arises, in assuming or admitting both kinds of causality, however difficult or impossible it may be to render the latter kind comprehensible.

In the phenomenon, every effect is an event, or something that happens in time; a determination of the causality of its cause (a state of the same), must precede it, upon which it follows according to a uniform law. But this determination of the cause to causality must also be something that takes place, or happens. The cause must have begun to act, other- wise between it and the effect, no succession in time could be conceived. The effect would always have existed, as well as the causality of the cause. Thus, among phenomena, the determinationof the cause totheeffectmust also have arisen, and therefore be just as much as its effect, an event which, in its turn, must have a cause, and so on; and consequently, necessity must be the condition according to which the efficient causes are determined. If, on the other hand, freedom be a characteristic of certain causes of phenomena, it must, as regards the latter as events, be a faculty of beginning them fromitself(sponte), i.e., without the causality of the causes themselves having begun, and hence another ground would be necessary to determine its beginning. In that case, however, the cause, as to its causality, must not be subject to time determinations of its state; that is, it must notbe phenomenon, but it must be regarded as a thing in itself, and its effects only, as phenomena. If one can conceive such an influence of the essences of the understanding on phenomena without contradiction, though necessity would attach to all connection of cause and effect in the sense-world, yet of the cause which is itself no phenomenon, although it lies at the foundation of the latter, freedom would be admitted. Thus Nature and Freedom can be attributed without contradiction to the same thing, at one time as phenomenon, at another, as thing in itself.

We have a faculty within us, not only standing in connection with its subjective determining grounds, which are the natural causes of its actions, and in so far the faculty of a being, belonging to phenomena, but also referable to objective grounds, though these are merely ideas, in so far as they can determine this faculty; and this connection is expressed by ought. The above faculty is termed Reason, and when we contemplate a being (man) simply according to this subjectively determining Reason, it cannot be regarded as an essence of sense, but the quality thought of is the quality of a thing in itself, of the possibility of which, namely, the oughtof that which has never happened, and yet the activity of which can be the determination and cause of actions, whose effect is phenomenal in the sense-world, of this we can form no con- ception whatever. At the same time, the causality of Reason as concerns its effects in the sense-world would be freedom, so far as objectivegrounds, which are themselves ideas, are regarded as determining these effects. For its action would then depend not on subjective, and therefore on time-conditions, nor on natural laws, serving to determine these, since grounds of Reason in general would furnish the rule for actions according to principles, without the influence of cir- cumstances, time, or place.

What I adduce here, is merely meant as an instance for the sake of intelligibility, and does not necessarily belong to our question, which must be decided from mere conceptions, independently of the qualities we meet with in the real world.

I can say now without contradiction, that all actions of rational beings, inasmuch as they are phenomena, met with in any experience, are subject to necessity; but precisely the same actions, with reference to the rational subject, and its capacity of acting according to mere Reason, are free. For what is demanded by necessity? Nothing more than the determinability of every event in the sense-world according to uniform laws; in other words, a reference to Cause in the phenomenon, whereby the thing in itself, lying at its foundation, and its causality, remains unknown. But I say: the natural law subsists alike, whether the rational being [acting] from Reason, and hence through freedom, be the cause of the effects in the sense-world, or whether these are determined by other grounds than those of Reason. For in the first case, the action happens according to maxims, whose effect in the phenomenon will be always in accordance with uniform laws; in the second case, if the action does not happen according to principles of Reason, it is subordinated to the empirical laws of the sensibility, and in both cases the effects are connected according to uniform laws; more than this we do not require to [constitute] natural necessity, nay, more we do not know respecting it. But in the first case, Reason is the cause of these natural laws, and is hence free; in the second case, the effects follow the mere natural laws of the sensibility, because Reason exercises no influence upon them; Reason, however, is not on this account itself determined by the sensibility (which is impossible), and is consequently in this case also free. The freedom does not hinder the natural law of the phenomena, any more than the latter interferes with the freedom of the practical use of Reason, which stands in connection with things in themselves as determining grounds.

In this way, the practical freedom, namely, that by which Reason has causality, according to objective determining grounds, is saved, without natural necessity being curtailed in the least, in respect of the same effects as phenomena. The above may also be serviceable as an explanation of what we had to say regarding transcendental freedom, and its union with natural necessity (in the same subject, but not taken in the same connection). For as to this, every begin- ning of the action of a being, from objective causes, so far as its determining grounds are concerned, is always a first beginning, although the same action in the series of phenomena is only a subalternbeginning, necessarily preceded by a state of the cause determining it, and itself determined by a [state] immediately preceding; so that without falling into contradiction with the laws of Nature, we may conceive of a faculty in rational beings, or in beings generally, in so far as their causality is determined in them, as things in themselves, by which a series of states is begun of themselves. For the relation of the action to objective grounds of Reason is no relation in time; here, what determines the causality does not precede the action according to time, because such determining grounds [as these] do not present a reference of the objects to sense, or, in other words, to causes in the phenomenon, but to determining causes, as things in themselves, which are not subordinated to time-conditions. Hence, the action may be viewed with regard to the causality of Reason as a first beginning, but at the same time, as regards the series of the phenomena, as a merely subordinate beginning, and without contradiction, in the former aspect as free, and in the latter, inasmuch as it is merely phenomenon, as sub- ordinate to natural necessity.

As concerns the fourthantinomy, it is solved in the same manner as is the conflict of Reason with itself, in the third. For if thecauseinthephenomenonbe only distinguished from thecauseofthephenomena, so far as they can be considered as things inthemselves, both propositions can subsist beside one another, namely, that no cause takes place anywhere in the sense-world (according to similar laws of causality) whose existence is absolutely necessary; while, on the other hand, this world may be connected with a necessary being as its cause, though of another kind, and according to oth- er laws; the incompatibility of the above two propositions simply resting on the misunderstanding by which what is merely valid of phenomena is extended to things in themselves, both being mixed up in one conception.

  1. In the case of the third and fourth antinomies, the mistake lies in thinking that the propositions are incompatible, when in fact they are. How does Kant make sense of this? How can both propositions in each pair be true?