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Section Fifty-seven: Conclusion: On the determination of the boundary of pure Reason

29 September, 2015 - 12:54

After all the very clear proofs we have above given, it would be absurd for us to expect to cognise more in any object than what belongs to its possible experience, or to lay claim to the least knowledge of anything whatever which would determine its constitution in itself, unless we assume it to be an object of possible experience. For wherewith shall we effect this determination, inasmuch as time, space, and all the conceptions of the understanding, and still more the con- ceptions derived from empirical intuition or perceptionin the sense-world would neither have nor could have any other use than merely to make experience possible, and when if we leave out this condition from the pure conceptions of the understanding, they determine no object whatever, and have no significance anywhere.

But it would be a still greater absurdity for us not to admit things in themselves at all, or to wish to give out our experience for the only possible mode of the cognition of objects, in other words, our intuition in space and time for the only possible intuition, and our discursive understanding for the model of every possible understanding, thereby wishing principles of the possibility of experience to be held for the universal conditions of things in themselves.

Our principles, which limit the use of Reason to possible experience, might accordingly become transcendent, and the limits of our Reason be given out for the limits of things themselves, … if a careful Critique of the boundaries of our Reason did not keep watch on its empirical use, and set a limit to its pretensions. Scepticism originally arose from metaphysics and its anarchical (Polizeilosen) dialectic. At first, to favour the empirical use of the understanding, it might well give out for nugatory and deceptive all that exceeded this; but gradually, as it became evident that the very same principles which we make use of in experience are apriori, and that they led unobserved, and as it seemed with the same right, still farther than experience reaches, a doubt began to be thrown on the principles of experience themselves. Now as to these there is no danger, for herein a healthy understanding will always assert its rights; but there arose a special confusion in science, which could not determine how far, and why only thus far and no farther, Reason is to be trusted; but this confusion can only be got rid of, and any future relapse prevented, by a formal limitation of the use of our Reason, derived from principles. It is true we cannot form any definite conception of what things in themselves, beyond all possible experience, may be. But we are nevertheless not free to withdraw ourselves wholly from the inquiry as to these; for experience never fully suffices for Reason; it thrusts us ever farther and farther back for the answer to this question, and leaves us as regards its complete solution dissatisfied; as any one can see from the dialectic of pure Reason, which on this account has its valid subjective ground. Who can tolerate [the circumstance] that by the nature of our soul we can attain to the clear consciousness of the subject, and to the conviction that its phenomena cannot be explained materialisticallywithout asking what the soul really is, and if no empirical conception suffices [to explain] this, at least assuming a conception of Reason (of a simple immaterial essence) merely for the above purpose, although we cannot demonstrate its objective reality in any way? Who can satisfy himself in all cosmological questions, as to the size and duration of the world, of freedom or natural necessity, with mere empirical knowledge, since, begin it as we will, every answer given according to the fundamental laws of experience, gives birth to a new question, just as much requiring an answer, and thereby clearly exposing the inadequacy of all physical modes of explanation for the satisfac- tion of Reason? Finally, who in the face of the thoroughgoing contingency and dependence of all that he can assume and think according to empirical principles, does not see the impossibility of taking his stand on these, and does not feel himself necessarily impelled, in spite of all prohibition against losing himself in transcendent ideas, to seek rest and satisfaction beyond all conceptions he can verify by experience, in that of a Being, of whom the possibility of the idea in itself cannot indeed be apprehended, but which cannot be refuted, because it is a mere being [essence] of the under- standing, and without which Reason must remain for ever unsatisfied.

Boundaries (with extended beings) always presuppose a space, met with, outside a certain definite place, and enclosing it. Limits do not require this, being mere negations affecting a quantity, so far as it has no absolute completeness. Our Reason, however, sees around it as it were a space for the cognition of things in themselves, although it can never have definite conceptions of them, being limited to phenomena.

As long as the cognition of Reason is homogeneous, no definite boundaries can be conceived therein. In mathematics and natural science the human Reason recognises indeed limits but no boundaries, i.e., [it recognises] that something exists outside itself, to which it can never attain, but not that it can itself be anywhere terminated in its inner progress.

The extension of our views in mathematics and the possibility of new inventions reaches to infinity; and the same can be said of the discovery of new qualities in Nature, and of new forces and laws, through continued experience and the union of the same by Reason. But, at the same time, it cannot be mistaken that there are limits here, for mathematics refers only to phenomena, and what cannot be an object of sensuous intuition, such as the conceptions of metaphysics and morals, lies wholly outside its sphere, [in a region] to which it can never lead, and which does not at all require it. There is, then, a continuous progress and approach to these sciences, and as it were a point or line of contact. Natural science will never discover for us the inner [nature] of things, namely, that which is not phenomenon, but which can still serve as the highest ground of the explanation of phenomena. But it does not require this for its physical explana- tions; nay, if such were offered it from another source (e.g., the influence of immaterial beings), it ought to reject it, and on no account to bring it into the course of its explanations, but invariably to base these on that which pertains to experience as object of sense, and which can be brought into connection with our real perceptions, and empirical laws.

But metaphysics leads us to boundaries in the dialectical attempts of pure Reason (which are not commenced arbitrarily or rashly, but to which the nature of Reason itself urges us), and the transcendental ideas, as we cannot have intercourse with them, and as they will never allow themselves to be realised, serve, not only to show us the actual boundaries of the use of pure Reason, but also the way to determine them. And this is also the end and use of this natural disposition of our Reason, which has given birth to metaphysics as its pet child, whose generation, like that of everything else in the world, is not to be ascribed to chance, but to an original germ, wisely organised for great ends. For metaphysics is, perhaps more than any other science, rooted in us in its fundamental features by Nature herself, and can by no means be regarded as the product of a voluntary choice or as chance extension in the progress of experiences (from which it is wholly divided).

Reason, though all its conceptions and laws of the understanding are adequate in the sense-world, does not find any satisfaction for itself in them, for it is deprived of all hope of a complete solution by questions recurring adinfinitum. The transcendental ideas which have this completion for an object are such problems of Reason. It sees clearly that the sense-world cannot contain the completeness [required], and therefore just as little can those conceptions which serve simply to the understanding of the same, namely, space and time, and all that we have adduced under the name of pure conceptions of the understanding. The sense-world is nothing but a chain of phenomena, connected according to uni- versal laws, and has therefore no subsistence for itself, being not properly the thing in itself, and only being necessarily referable to that which contains the ground of this phenomenon, to essences that cannot be cognised merely as phe- nomena but as things in themselves. Only in the cognition of these can Reason hope to see its desire for completeness in the progress from the conditioned to its conditions, once for all satisfied.

We have above (Sections Section Thirty-three: The Second Part, Continued and Section Thirty-four: The Second Part, Continued) assigned the limits of Reason in respect of all cognition of mere beings of thought. Now, as the transcendental ideas make the progress up to these necessary, and have thus led us, as it were, to the contact of the full space (of experience) with the void of which we know nothing (to the noumena), we can determine the boundaries of pure Reason. For in all boundaries there is something positive (for instance surface is the boundary of corporeal space and yet is itself a space; line, a space which is the boundary of the surface; point, the boundary of the line, but still [occupying] a position in space), while, on the other hand, limits contain mere negations. The limits assigned in the paragraph cited, are not sufficient, after we have found that something lies beyond them (although we can never know what this may be in itself). For the question is now, what is the attitude of our Reason in this connection of that which we know, with that which we do not know, and never can know? Here is a real connec- tion of the known with a wholly unknown (and something that will always remain unknown), and even if in this the unknown should not become in the least [degree] more known—which is indeed not to be expected—the conception of this connection must be able, notwithstanding, to be determined and reduced to distinctness.

We are obliged, then, to think of an immaterial essence, an intelligible world, and a highest of all beings (mere noumena), because only in these, as things in themselves, does Reason meet with the completeness and satisfaction it can never hope for from the derivation of phenomena from their homogeneous ground, because they really refer to something distinct from the latter (and therefore wholly heterogeneous), inasmuch as phenomena always presuppose a thing in itself, and indicate this, [it matters not] whether we may know it more closely or not.

  1. If Ideas of Reason cannot be used constitutively—that is, they cannot be taken as showing us the nature of things as they are in themselves—what good are they? Pick one of the Ideas (God, the World, or the Soul), and try to explain how it might be worthwhile, before looking below to see what Kant himself says.

But as we can never know these beings of the understanding as to what they may be in themselves, that is, determi- nately, but are obliged nevertheless to assume such in relation to the sense-world, and to connect them with it through Reason, we shall be at least able to cogitate this connection by means of such conceptions as express its relation to the sense-world. For if we cogitate the essence of the understanding, through nothing but pure conceptions of the under- standing, we really cogitate thereby nothing definite, and our conception is consequently without meaning; if we cog- itate it through qualities borrowed from the sense-world, then it is no longer an essence of the understanding, but is conceived as one of the phenomena, and belongs to the sense-world. We will take an instance from the conception of the Supreme Being.

The deistic conception is an entirely pure conception of Reason, which, however, only represents a thing containing all reality, without our being able to determine a single one of its [qualities], because for this an instance would have to be borrowed from the sense-world, in which case I should always have to do with an object of sense, and not with something completely heterogeneous, and which cannot be an object of sense. For instance, I attribute understanding to it; but I have no conception whatever of any understanding but of one like my own, namely, of one to which intu- itions must be given through the senses, and which occupies itself with reducing these under rules of the unity of the consciousness. But then the elements of my conception would always lie in the phenomenon; yet I was necessitated by the inadequacy of the phenomena to pass beyond this, to the conception of a being in no way dependent on phenom- ena, or bound up with them, as conditions of its determination. If, however, I sever the understanding from the sen- sibility in order to have a pure understanding, nothing remains over but the mere form of thought without intuition, by means of which I can cognise nothing determinate as object. For this purpose I should have to conceive another understanding which intuited objects, but of which I have not the least conception, because the human understanding is discursive and can only cognise through universal conceptions. But I am also involved in contradiction if I attribute will to the Supreme Being. For I have this conception only in so far as I derive it from my inner experience, and there- by from the dependence of my satisfaction from objects whose existence we require; but at the foundation of this lies sensibility, which wholly contradicts the pure conception of the Supreme Being. The objections of Hume to Deism are weak, touching no more than the proofs, and never the proposition of the deistic assertion itself. But as regards Theism, which must be arrived at by a closer determination of our, there [viz., in Deism], merely transcendent conception of the Supreme Being, they are very strong, and, according as the conception is constructed, in certain (indeed in all ordinary) cases are irrefragable. Hume always insists, that through the mere conception of an original being, to whom we can attribute none but ontological predicates (eternity, omnipresence, omnipotence) we really think nothing definite, but that qualities expressing an object inconcretomust be superadded. It is not enough to say it is Cause, but [we must also say] what is the nature of its causality, as, whether [it operates] through understanding and will; and at this point his attacks on the thing itself, namely, on Theism, commence, whereas before he had only stormed the grounds of proof of Deism, which does not carry any especial danger with it. His dangerous arguments refer entirely to anthropomorphism, which he holds to be inseparable from Theism, and to make it contradictory in itself; while if this be left out, [Theism itself] would also fall, and nothing would remain but a Deism wherewith nothing could be done, which could not avail us for anything, and could not serve as a foundation for religion and morals. If this inevitability of anthropomorphism were certain, the proofs of the existence of a Supreme Being might be what one liked, and all conceded, yet the concep- tion of this Being would never be able to be determined by us, without involving ourselves in contradictions.

But if with the injunction to avoid all transcendent judgments of pure Reason, we connect the apparently contradictory injunction to proceed to conceptions lying outside the field of its immanent (empirical) use, we shall be aware that both may subsist together, but only on the exact boundaryof all admissible use of Reason; for this belongs as much to the field of experience as to that of essences of thought, and we shall be taught thereby, at the same time, how the above remarkable ideas serve simply, for the determination of the boundaries of the human Reason; namely, on the one hand not to extend cognition of experience in an unbounded manner, so that nothing but mere world remains for us to cognise, and on the other hand not to pass beyond the boundaries of experience, or to seek to judge of things outside the latter as things in themselves.

But we keep to this boundary when we limit our judgment to the relation the world may have to a Being, whose conception itself lies outside all the cognition of which we are capable within the world. For in this case, we do not attribute to the Supreme Being any of the qualities in themselvesby which we cogitate objects of experience, and thereby avoid the dogmatic anthropomorphism; but we apply the relations of the same to the world, and thereby allow ourselves a symbolical anthropomorphism, which as a matter of fact only concerns the language and not the object.

When I say we are obliged to regard the world asthough it were the work of a supreme understanding and will, I do not really say more than—as a watch, a ship, a regiment is related to the artisan, shipbuilder or general, so is the sense-world (or all that which constitutes the foundation of this sum-total of phenomena) [related] to the unknown, that I cognise, not indeed according to what it is in itself, but according to what it is for me, namely, in respect of the world, of which I am a part. …