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The Prolegomena, Section Fourteen: The Main Transcendental Question—Second Part: How is pure Natural Science possible?

25 September, 2015 - 16:39

Nature is the existence of things, in so far as it is determined according to universal laws. If Nature signified the exis- tence of thingsinthemselves, we could never know it either priorior posteriori. Not apriori, for how shall we know what applies to things in themselves? since this can never be done by the dissection of our conceptions (analytic propo- sitions). For what I want to know, is not what is contained in my conception of a thing (for that concerns its logical nature), but what in the reality of the thing is superadded to this conception, by which the thing itself is determined outside my conception. My understanding and the conditions under which alone it can connect the determination of things in their existence, prescribes no rules for the things in themselves; these do not conform themselves to my understanding, but my understanding conforms itself to them. They must therefore be previously given me, in order for these determinations to be discovered in them; and in this case they would not be known apriori.

But aposteriori such a knowledge of the nature of things in themselves would be equally impossible. For if experience is to teach me laws to which the existence of things is subordinated, these must, in so far as they concern things in themselves, of necessity also apply to them outside my experience. Now experience teaches me, indeed, what exists and how it exists, but never that it exists necessarily in such a manner and no other. It can never, therefore, teach the nature of things in themselves.