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Section Fifty-six: General Remark on the Transcendental Ideas.

25 September, 2015 - 14:22

The objects given us through experience are in many respects incomprehensible, and there are many problems to which the natural law leads us, when it is carried to a certain height, (though always in accordance with these laws,) which can never be solved; as for instance, how it is that substances attract one another. But, if we entirely leave Nature, or in the progress of its connection overstep all possible experience, and thereby immerse ourselves in mere ideas, we can- not then say that the object is incomprehensible, and that the nature of things places insoluble problems before us; for we have in that case, nothing whatever to do with Nature or with given objects, but merely with conceptions, having their origin simply in our Reason, and with mere essences of thought, in respect of which all problems arising from the conception of the same, can be solved, because Reason can and must certainly give a complete account of its own proce- dure. As the psychological, cosmological, and theological ideas, are simply conceptions of Reason, not capable of being given in any experience, so the problems which Reason in respect thereof places before us, are not propounded by the objects, but by mere maxims of Reason for its own satisfaction, and must be capable of being adequately answered in their totality, which is effected by showing them to be principles [designed] to bring the use of our understanding to thorough agreement, completeness and synthetic unity, and which are in so far valid merely of experience, but of the wholeof the latter.

Now, although an absolute whole of experience is impossible, the idea of a whole of knowledge according to prin- ciples in general, is what alone can procure a particular kind of unity, namely, that of a system, without which our knowledge is nothing but a patchwork, and cannot be used for the highest end (which is always the system of all ends); by this I understand not merely the practical, but also the highest end of the speculative use of Reason.

The transcendental ideas express, then, the specific destiny of Reason, namely, as being a principle of the systematic unity of the use of the understanding. But when this unity of the mode of cognition be viewed as though it depended upon the object of cognition; when we hold that which is merely regulativefor constitutive, and persuade ourselves that we can extend our cognition by means of these ideas, far beyond all possible experience in a transcendent manner, notwithstanding that they merely serve to bring experience as nearly as possible to completeness, i.e., to limit its progress by nothing which cannot belong to experience—then this is a simple misunderstanding in judging the special destiny of our Reason and its principles, and a dialectic, partly confusing the use of Reason in experience, and partly making Reason to be at issue with itself.