You are here

The CPR, “Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding”

29 September, 2015 - 16:15

This cognition 1, which is limited to objects of experience, is not for that reason derived entirely fromexperience. There are, unquestionably, elements of cognition, which exist in the mind apriori[e.g., the Categories and the pure forms of intuition]. Now there are only two ways in which a necessary harmony of experience with the conceptions of its objects can be cogitated. Either experience makes these conceptions possible, or the conceptions make experience possible. The former of these statements will not hold good with respect to the categories (nor in regard to pure sensuous intuition), for they are aprioriconceptions, and therefore independent of experience. …

Consequently, nothing remains but to adopt the second alternative, namely, that on the part of the understanding the categories do contain the grounds of the possibility of all experience. But with respect to the questions how they make experience possible, and what are the principles of the possibility thereof with which they present us in their application to phenomena, the following section on the transcendental exercise of the faculty of judgement will inform the reader.

It is quite possible that someone may propose a species of preformation-system of pure reason—a middle way between the two—to wit, that the categories are neither innate and first a prioriprinciples of cognition, nor derived from experience, but are merely subjective aptitudes for thought implanted in us contemporaneously with our exis- tence, which were so ordered and disposed by our Creator, that their exercise perfectly harmonizes with the laws of nature which regulate experience. Now, not to mention that with such an hypothesis it is impossible to say at what point we must stop in the employment of predetermined aptitudes, the fact that the categories would in this case entire- ly lose that character of necessity which is essentially involved in the very conception of them, is a conclusive objection to it. The conception of cause, for example, which expresses the necessity of an effect under a presupposed condition, would be false, if it rested only upon such an arbitrary subjective necessity of uniting certain empirical representations according to such a rule of relation. I could not then say, “The effect is connected with its cause in the object (that is, necessarily),” but only, “I am so constituted that I can think this representation as so connected, and not otherwise.” Now this is just what the sceptic wants. For in this case, all our knowledge, depending on the supposed objective valid- ity of our judgement, is nothing but mere illusion; nor would there be wanting people who would deny any such subjective necessity in respect to themselves, though they must feel it. At all events, we could not dispute with any one on that which merely depends on the manner in which his subject is organized.

  1. The problem Kant confronts here is this: why is it that our concepts match experience? Kant says, it’s because we construct our experiences. One alternative is empiricism (experience gives us the concepts). What’s wrong with this view? 
  2. What is the third alternative here? Does it remind you of any view we’ve encountered before?

Now we return to the Prolegomena, and Kant’s answer to the main question of that work.