Faith & Knowledge

A. Kantian Philosophy

Because the essence of the Kantian philosophy consists in its being critical idealism, it plainly confesses that its principle is subjectivism and formal thinking. Secure in its standpoint, which makes the unity of reflection supreme, it reveals what it is and aims at, by telling its story quite frankly. The name of Reason which it gives to the concept may, at the worst, impede the disclosure or mask it. On its lower levels, in cases where an Idea truly does provide the basis, the confused way in which the Idea is expressed makes it difficult to recognize it in the first place; and secondly, the rational ground is soon transformed back into something conditional that pertains to the intellect. But, for the rest, when the Kantian philosophy happens upon Ideas in its normal course, it deals with them as mere possibilities of thought and as transcendent concepts lacking all reality, and soon drops them again as mere empty thoughts. The highest Idea which it encountered in its critical business [i.e., the Idea of God in the Ontological Argument] it treated at first as if it were empty musing, nothing but an unnatural scholastic trick for conjuring reality out of concepts. Then in the final stage of its development, Kant’s philosophy establishes the highest Idea as a postulate which is supposed to have a necessary subjectivity, but not that absolute objectivity which would get it recognized as the only starting point of philosophy and its sole content instead of being the point where philosophy terminates in faith.

The Kantian philosophy remains entirely within the antithesis. It makes the identity of the opposites into the absolute terminus of philosophy, the pure boundary which is nothing but the negation of philosophy. We must not, by contrast, regard it as the problem of the true philosophy to resolve at that terminus the antitheses that are met with and formulated perchance as spirit and world, or soul and body, or self and nature, etc.

On the contrary, the sole Idea that has reality and true objectivity for philosophy, is the absolute suspendedness of the antithesis. This absolute identity is not a universal subjective postulate never to be realized. It is the only authentic reality. Nor is the cognition of it a faith, that is, something beyond all knowledge; it is, rather, philosophy’s sole knowledge. Philosophy is idealism because it does not acknowledge either one of the opposites as existing for itself in its abstraction from the other. The supreme Idea is indifferent against both; and each of the opposites, considered singly, is nothing. The Kantian philosophy has the merit of being idealism because it does show that neither the concept in isolation nor intuition in isolation is anything at all; that intuition by itself is blind and the concept by itself is empty; and that what is called experience, i.e., the finite identity of both in consciousness is not a rational cognition either.

But the Kantian philosophy declares this finite cognition to be all that is possible. It turns this negative, abstractly idealistic side [of cognition] into that which is in itself, into the positive. It turns just this empty concept into absolute Reason, both theoretical and practical. In so doing, it falls back into absolute finitude and subjectivity, and the whole task and content of this philosophy is, not the cognition of the Absolute, but the cognition of this subjectivity. In other words, it is a critique of the cognitive faculties.

For I thought that the first step towards satisfying several inquiries the mind of man was very apt to run into, was, to take a survey of our own understandings, examine our own powers, and see to what things they were adapted. [..] Thus men, extending their inquiries beyond their capacities and letting their thoughts wander into those depths where they can find no sure footing, it is no wonder that they raise questions and multiply disputes, which, never coming to any clear resolution, are proper only to continue and increase their doubts, and to confirm them at last in perfect scepticism. Whereas, were the capacities of our understanding well considered, the extent of our knowledge (Erkenntnis) once discovered, and the horizon found which sets the bounds between the enlightened and dark parts of things; between what is and what is not comprehensible by us, men would perhaps with less scruple acquiesce in the avowed ignorance of the one, and employ their thoughts and discourse with more advantage and satisfaction in the other.

With these words, Locke expresses in the Introduction to his Essay the goal of his undertaking. They are words which one could just as well read in the introduction to Kant’s philosophy; for it similarly confines itself to Locke’s goal, that is, to an investigation of the finite intellect.

Within these bounds, however, and notwithstanding its ultimate results which are quite different, the Kantian philosophy expresses the authentic Idea of Reason in the formula, “How are synthetic judgments a priori possible?” Kant reproaches Hume for thinking of this task of philosophy with far too little definiteness and universality. This is exactly what happened to Kant himself; and like Hume he stopped at the subjective and external meaning of this question and believed he had established that rational cognition is impossible. According to his conclusions all so-called philosophy comes down to a mere delusion of supposed rational insight.

How are synthetic judgments a priori possible? This problem expresses nothing else but the Idea that subject and predicate of the synthetic judgment are identical in the a priori way. That is to say, these heterogeneous elements, the subject which is the particular and in the form of being, and the predicate which is the universal and in the form of thought, are at the same time absolutely identical. It is Reason alone that is the possibility of this positing, for Reason is nothing else but the identity of heterogeneous elements of this kind. One can glimpse this Idea through the shallowness of the deduction of the categories. With respect to space and time one can glimpse it, too, though not where it should be, in the transcendental exposition of these forms, but later on, in the deduction of the categories, where the original synthetic unity of apperception finally comes to the fore. Here, the original synthetic unity of apperception is recognized also as the principle of the figurative synthesis, i.e., of the forms of intuition; space and time are themselves conceived as synthetic unities, and spontaneity, the absolute synthetic activity of the productive imagination, is conceived as the principle of the very sensibility which was previously characterized only as receptivity.

This original synthetic unity must be conceived, not as produced out of opposites, but as a truly necessary, absolute, original identity of opposites. As such, it is the principle both of productive imagination, which is the unity that is blind, i.e., immersed in the difference and not detaching itself from it; and of the intellect, which is the unity that posits the difference as identical but distinguishes itself from the different. This shows that the Kantian forms of intuition and the forms of thought cannot be kept apart at all as the particular, isolated faculties which they are usually represented as. One and the same synthetic unity – we have just now determined what this means here – is the principle of intuition and of the intellect. The intellect is only the higher potency; in it the identity which in intuition is totally immersed in the manifold, simultaneously sets itself against the manifold, and constitutes itself within itself as universality, which is what makes it the higher potency. Kant is therefore quite right in calling intuition without form [i.e., concept] blind. For in [mere] intuition [without form] there is no relative antithesis, and hence there is no relative identity of unity and difference. This relative identity and antithesis is what seeing or being conscious consists in; but the identity is completely identical with the difference just as it is in the magnet. The antithesis is not suspended in sensuous intuition, as it is in intellectual intuition; in the empirical intuition qua sensuous the antithesis must emerge; so it keeps its standing even in this state of immersion. Hence, the antitheses step apart as two forms of intuiting, the one as identity of thinking, the other as identity of being, the one as intuition of time and the other of space. – Similarly, the concept is empty without intuition. For the synthetic unity is only concept because it binds the difference in such a way that it also steps outside of it, and faces it in relative antithesis. In isolation the pure concept is the empty identity. It is only as being relatively identical with that which it stands against, that it is concept; and it is [thus] plenished only through the manifold of intuition: sensuous intuition A = B, concept A2 = (A = B).

The main point is that productive imagination is a truly speculative Idea, both in the form of sensuous intuition and in that of experience which is the comprehending of the intuition. For the expression “synthetic unity” might make the identity look as if it presupposes the antithesis and need the manifold of the antithesis as something independent and existing for itself; the identity might look as if it was by nature posterior to the opposition. But in Kant the synthetic unity is undeniably the absolute and original identity of self-consciousness, which of itself posits the judgment absolutely and a priori. Or rather, as identity of subjective and objective, the original identity appears in consciousness as judgment. This original unity of apperception is called synthetic precisely because of its two-sidedness, the opposites being absolutely one in it. The absolute synthesis is absolute insofar as it is not an aggregate of manifolds which are first picked up, and then the synthesis supervenes upon them afterwards. If we sunder the absolute synthesis and reflect upon its opposites, one of them is the empty ego, the concept, and the other is the manifold, body, matter or what you will. Kant puts it very well (Critique of Pure Reason): “through the empty Ego as simple representation nothing manifold is given.” The true synthetic unity or rational identity is just that identity which is the connecting of the manifold with the empty identity, the Ego. It is from this connection, as original synthesis that the Ego as thinking subject, and the manifold as body and world first detach themselves. Thus Kant himself distinguishes the abstract Ego or the abstract identity of the intellect from the true Ego, the absolute, original synthetic identity, which is the principle.

This is how Kant truly solved his problem, “How are synthetic judgments a priori possible?” They are possible through the original, absolute identity of the heterogeneous. This identity, as the unconditioned, sunders itself, and appears as separated into the form of a judgment, as subject and predicate, or particular and universal. Still, the rational or, as Kant calls it, the a priori nature of this judgment, the absolute identity as the mediating concept (Mittelbegriff) manifests itself, not in the judgment, but in the [syllogistic] inference. In the judgment the absolute identity is merely the copula “is,” without consciousness. It is the difference whose appearance prevails in the judgment itself. Here, the rational is, for cognition, just as much immersed in the antithesis as the identity is immersed in intuition for consciousness in general. The copula is not something thought, something cognized; on the contrary it expresses precisely our non-cognizance of the rational. What comes to the fore and enters consciousness is only the product, i.e., the subject and predicate as terms of the antithesis. Only these terms are posited as object of thought in the form of judgment, and not their being one. In sensuous intuition concept and real thing do not confront each other. At the same time in the judgment the identity extricates itself as the universal from its immersion in the difference, so that the difference appears as the particular; the identity confronts this immersion as its opposite. Yet the rational identity of identity as [the identity] of the universal and the particular is the non-conscious in the judgment, and the judgment itself is only the appearing of this non-conscious identity.

The whole transcendental deduction both of the forms of intuition and of the category in general cannot be understood without distinguishing what Kant calls the faculty of the original synthetic unity of apperception from the Ego which does the representing and is the subject – the Ego which, as Kant says, merely accompanies all representations. [Secondly,] we must not take the faculty of [productive] imagination as the middle term that gets inserted between an existing absolute subject and an absolute existing world. The productive imagination must rather be recognized as what is primary and original, as that out of which subjective Ego and objective world first sunder themselves into the necessarily bipartite appearance and product, and as the sole In-itself. This power of imagination is the original two-sided identity. The identity becomes subject in general on one side, and object on the other; but originally it is both. And the imagination is nothing but Reason itself, the Idea of which was determined above. But it is only Reason as it appears in the sphere of empirical consciousness. There are those who, when they hear talk of the power of imagination, do not even think of the intellect, still less of Reason, but only of unlawfulness, whim and fiction; they cannot free themselves from the idea of a qualitative manifold of faculties and capacities of the spirit. It is they above all who must grasp that the In-itself of the empirical consciousness is Reason itself; that productive imagination as intuition, and productive imagination as experience are not particular faculties quite sundered from Reason. They must grasp that this productive imagination is only called intellect because the categories, as the determinate forms of the experiential imagination, are posited under the form of the infinite, and fixated as concepts which, also, form a complete system within their [or its] own sphere. Productive imagination has been allowed to get by easily in the Kantian philosophy, first because its pure Idea is set forth in a rather mixed-up way like other potencies, almost in the ordinary form of a psychological faculty, though an a priori one, and secondly because Kant did not recognize Reason as the one and only a priori, whether it be of sensibility, of intellect, or what have you. Instead he conceived of the a priori only under formal concepts of universality and necessity. As we shall now see, he turned the true a priori back into a pure unity, i.e., one that is not originally synthetic.

Thus the In-itself was established in the power (Potenz) of imagination, but the duplication of this power was conceived as a reflected one, namely as judgment, and the identity of this power was likewise conceived as intellect and category, that is, as similarly reflected and relative. Because the relative identity was fixated as the universal or the category and the relative duplication as that of the universal and the particular, their absolute identity – that is, the identity of the relative identity and the relative duplication – was also bound to be cognized in reflected form, that is, as Reason. Imagination, however, which is Reason immersed in difference, is at this level raised only to the form of infinitude and fixated as intellect. This merely relative identity necessarily opposes itself to, and is radically affected by, the particular as something alien to it and empirical. The In-itself of both, the identity of this intellect and the empirical, i.e., the a priori aspect of judgment, does not come to the fore; philosophy does not go on from judgment to a priori inference, from the acknowledgement that the judgment is the appearing of the In-itself to the cognition of the In-itself. It is for this reason that the absolute judgment of idealism as expounded by Kant [i.e., the synthetic judgment a priori] may, and, on this level [the Potenz of Reason as intellect], must be grasped in such a way that the manifold of sensibility, empirical consciousness as intuition and sensation, is in itself something unintegrated, that the world is in itself falling to pieces, and only gets objective coherence and support, substantiality, multiplicity, even actuality and possibility, through the good offices of human self-consciousness and intellect. All this is an objective determinateness that is man’s own perspective and projection. Thus the whole deduction gets the easily grasped meaning that the things in themselves and the sensations are without objective determinateness – and with respect to the sensations and their empirical reality nothing remains but to think that sensation comes from the things in themselves. For the incomprehensible determinateness of the empirical consciousness comes altogether from the things in themselves, and they can be neither intuited nor yet cognized. In experience, the form of intuition belongs to the figurative synthesis, the concept to the intellectual synthesis. No other organ remains for the things in themselves but sensation; for sensation alone is not a priori, or in other words, it is not grounded in man’s cognitive faculty for which only appearances exist. The objective determinateness of sensations is their unity, and this unity is merely the self-consciousness of an experiencing subject. So it is no more something truly a priori and existing in itself than any other subjectivity.

It would seem, then, as if critical idealism consisted in nothing but the formal knowledge that the subject and the things or the non-Ego exist each for itself – the Ego of the I think, and the thing in itself. They do not, however, exist for themselves in the sense of each being a substance, one posited as soul-thing, the other as objective thing. Rather, the Ego of the I think is absolute qua subject, just as the thing in itself beyond the subject is absolute, without any further categorical determinateness in either case. Objective determinateness and its forms first come in with the connection between them [the Ego and thing-in-itself]; and this identity of theirs is the formal one that appears as causal nexus; the thing in itself becomes object insofar as it obtains from the active subject some determination which for this reason alone is one and the same in both of them. Apart from this they are completely heterogeneous, identical only as sun and stone are in respect to warmth when the sun warms the stone. The absolute identity of the subject and the object has passed into this formal identity, and transcendental idealism into this formal or more properly, psychological idealism.

Once subject and object have been separated, the judgment reappears doubled on the subjective and the objective side. On the objective side it appears as transition from one objective [fact] to another, these objectivities themselves being posited in the relation of subject and object, and in that of the identity of both; and [on the subjective side] it appears likewise as a transition from one subjective phenomenon to another. Thus, gravity is the objective [fact] which qua subjective, or particular, is body, but qua objective or universal is motion. Or imagination is the subjective which qua subjective or particular is Ego and qua objective or universal is experience.

On their objective side Kant has set up these relations of appearance as judgments in the system of the principles of judgment. This must be recognized as true idealism inasmuch as the identity of what appears as heterogeneous in one of these relations of judgment is a necessary identity; or in other words, it is an absolute and therefore transcendental identity. For example, the cause is posited as necessarily, i.e., absolutely bound to the effect. However, this whole system of principles makes its own appearance as conscious human intellect and so belongs to the subjective side; and the question now arises: what sort of relation does this judgment, i.e., this subjectivity of the intellect have to objectivity? They are identical, but only formally so, since the heterogeneity of appearance has here been left out: the form A is present as the same in subject and object. It is not simultaneously posited in a heterogeneous way, i.e., on one side as something subjective, and on the other side as something objective, here as unity, there as manifold, which is the one and only way in which oppositeness and appearance must be cognized; it is not posited as 1=2, here as point, there as line. Rather, if the subjective is point, then the objective is point; and if the subjective is line, then the objective is line. The same thing is regarded, first as idea, then as existing thing: the tree as my idea and as thing; warmth, light, red, sweet, etc. as my sensations and as qualities of a thing, and the category, similarly, is posited once as a relation of my thinking and then again as a relation of the things. It is the essence of formal or psychological idealism to regard a distinction of the kind here represented as being just distinct aspects of my subjective viewpoint, and not to regard them in their turn as objectively posited, in the positing of opposites as cognition of appearance, but to allow that formal identity to appear to be the main thing. This sort of idealism can no more cognize the appearance of the Absolute in its truth than it can cognize the absolute identity, the one being completely inseparable from the other. Kantian, and more particularly Fichtean philosophy are forever sliding into this psychological idealism.

Identity of this formal kind finds itself immediately confronted by or next to an infinite non-identity, with which it must coalesce in some incomprehensible way. On one side there is the Ego, with its productive imagination or rather with its synthetic unity which, taken thus in isolation, is formal unity of the manifold. But next to it there is an infinity of sensations and, if you like, of things in themselves. Once it is abandoned by the categories, this realm cannot be anything but a formless lump, even though, according to The Critique of Judgment, it is a realm of beauteous nature and contains determinations with respect to which judgment cannot be subsumptive but only reflecting. Objectivity and stability derive solely from the categories; the realm of things in themselves is without categories; yet it is something for itself and for reflection. The only idea we can form of this realm is like that of the iron king in the fairy tale whom a human self-consciousness permeates with the veins of objectivity so that he can stand erect. But then formal transcendental idealism sucks these veins out of the king so that the upright shape collapses and becomes something in between form and lump, repulsive to look at. For the cognition of nature, without the veins injected into nature by self-consciousness, there remains nothing but sensation.

In this way, then, the objectivity of the categories in experience and the necessity of these relations become once more something contingent and subjective. This intellect is human intellect, part of the cognitive faculty, the intellect of a fixed Ego-point. The things, as they are cognized by the intellect, are only appearances. They are nothing in themselves, which is a perfectly truthful result. The obvious conclusion, however, is that an intellect which has cognizance only of appearances and of nothing in itself, is itself only appearance and is nothing in itself. But, on the contrary, Kant regards discursive intellect, with this sort of cognition, as in itself and absolute. Cognition of appearances is dogmatically regarded as the only kind of cognition there is, and rational cognition is denied. If the forms through which the object exists are nothing in themselves, they must also be nothing in themselves for cognitive Reason. Yet Kant never seems to have had the slightest doubt that the intellect is the absolute of the human spirit. The intellect is (for him) the absolute immovable, insuperable finitude of human Reason.

In dealing with the problem of “explaining the community of the soul with the body” Kant correctly locates “the difficulty” – which is not one of explanation but of cognition – “in the assumed heterogeneity of [...] the soul and the objects of the outer senses.” The difficulty would disappear:

“if we considered that the two kinds of objects thus differ from each other, not inwardly but only as one outwardly appears with the other, and hence that what, as thing in itself, underlies the appearance of matter perhaps, after all, may not be so heterogeneous. The only remaining difficulty would then concern the general possibility of a community of substances (it was superfluous to shift the difficulty) and the solution of this problem lies without doubt beyond the field of human knowledge.”

As can be seen, it is for the sake of dear mankind and its cognitive faculty, that Kant so little esteems his thought that maybe the two kinds of things are not so heterogeneous in themselves, but only in appearance. He regards this thought as a chance idea about a maybe and not as a rational thought at all.

A formal idealism which in this way sets an absolute Ego-point and its intellect on one side, and an absolute manifold, or sensation, on the other side, is a dualism. Its idealistic side – which claims for the subject certain relations, called categories – is nothing but an extension of Locke’s view. The latter allows the concept and forms to be given by the object, and transfers only perceiving (Wahrnehmen) in general, a universal intellect, into the subject. In Kant’s idealism, on the other hand, the perceiving as immanent form is further determined; and it certainly does make an infinite gain thereby. The emptiness of perceiving (Percipieren) or of a priori spontaneity is filled with content absolutely: the determinateness of form is nothing but the identity of opposites. As a result the a priori intellect becomes, at least in principle, a posteriori as well; for a posteriority is nothing but the positing of the opposite. Thus the format concept of Reason is obtained; Reason has to be a priori and a posteriori, identical and not identical, in absolute unity. This Idea, however, remains intellect and only the product of the Idea is recognized as a synthetic judgment a priori. Inwardly, then, the intellect is, and should be, a speculative Idea, inasmuch as universal and particular are one in it. For the positing of the opposites in the judgment should be a priori, i.e., necessary and universal, which is to say that the opposites should be absolutely identical. But the matter comes to rest with the “should.” For as opposed to empirical sensibility, this thinking [as conceived by Kant] is once more [only] an [activity of] intellect. The entire deduction is [merely] an analysis of experience and it posits an absolute antithesis (Antithesis) and a dualism.

There is, then, a double meaning to the proposition that the intellect is something subjective and that there are only appearances for it, and not things in themselves. There is the quite correct meaning that the intellect expresses the principle of opposition and the abstraction of finitude. But there is also the other meaning according to which this finitude and appearance are an absolute in man: it is not the In-itself of things, but that of cognitive Reason. The intellect is supposed to be absolute as a subjective quality of the spirit. But in general, simply by being posited as something subjective, the intellect is acknowledged to be nothing absolute. Even for formal idealism it must not matter whether the intellect which is the necessary, and the dimensions of whose form have been cognized, is subjectively or objectively posited. If the intellect is to be considered for itself as abstraction of the form in its triplicity, it is all one whether it be regarded as intellect of consciousness or as intellect of nature, as the form of conscious or of non-conscious intelligence: just as in the Ego the intellect is thought of as conceptualized. So in nature it is thought of as realized. Suppose the intellect existed altogether in itself, then it would have as much reality in nature, i.e., in a world outside of intellectual cognition, yet intelligible in and for itself, as it would have in an intellect thinking of itself in the form of intellectuality outside of nature. It would be experience taken subjectively as the conscious system, and experience taken objectively as the non-conscious system of the manifoldness and coherence of the world. The world, however, is nothing in itself, not because a conscious intellect first gives form to it, but because it is nature, i.e., it is exalted above finitude and intellect. In the same way, conscious intellect is nothing in itself, not because it is human intellect, but because it is intellect at all, or in other words, because there is an absolute being of the antithesis in it.

So, then, we must not place Kant’s merit in this, that he put the forms, as expressed in the categories, into the human cognitive faculty, as if it were the stake of an absolute finitude. We must find it, rather, in his having put the Idea of authentic a priority in the form of transcendental imagination; and also in his having put the beginning of the Idea of Reason in the intellect itself. For he regarded thinking, or the form, not as something subjective, but as something in itself; not as something formless, not as empty apperception, but as intellect, as true form, namely as triplicity. The germ of speculation lies in this triplicity alone. For the root judgment, or duality, is in it as well, and hence the very possibility of a posteriority, which in this way ceases to be absolutely opposed to the a priori, while the a priori, for this reason, also ceases to be formal identity. We will touch later on the still purer Idea of an intellect that is at the same time a posteriori, the Idea of an intuitive intellect as the absolute middle.

Before we go on to show how this Idea of an intellect that is also a posteriori or intuitive hovered very clearly before Kant, how he expressed it and consciously destroyed it again, we must consider what Reason can amount to, if it refuses to pass over into this Idea. Because of this refusal nothing remains for Reason but the pure emptiness of identity. It considers identity only in the judgment and conceives it as the pure universal existing for itself, i.e., as the subjective which, in a state completely purified of the manifold, establishes itself as pure abstract unity. The human intellect is the linking together of the manifold through the unity of self-consciousness. Analysis shows that something in the subject is the linking activity. This spontaneity has various dimensions which yield the categories, and it is in this regard intellect. But after abstracting both from the content that the linking activity has through its connection with the empirical, and from its immanent peculiarity as expressed in the dimensions, the empty unity [that remains] is Reason. The intellect is unity of a possible experience whereas the unity of Reason relates to the intellect and its judgments. In this general determination Reason is raised above the sphere of the intellect’s relative identity, to be sure, and this negative character would allow us to conceive of it as absolute identity. But it was raised above intellect only to let the speculative Idea – which came out most vividly in imagination and had already been degraded as intellect – finally sink down completely to formal identity. Kant is quite correct in making this empty unity a merely regulative and not a constitutive principle – for how could something that is utterly without content constitute anything? – and he posits it as the unconditioned. But to consider how he does this would really be of interest from the following perspectives only. For one thing it would be interesting to see how far Kant will go in his polemic against Reason in order to constitute this emptiness – how he roots out again the rational element acknowledged as transcendental synthesis in the intellect and its Deduction; how he roots it out just so far as it should now be recognized as Reason, and not only qua product or in its appearance as judgment. It would be of more particular interest, for another thing, to see how this empty unity, as practical Reason, is nonetheless supposed to become constitutive again, to give birth out of itself and give itself content ; how, moreover, the Idea of Reason is in the end re-established in its purity only to be brought to nought once more and placed in the irrationality of faith as an absolute Beyond which is a vacuum for cognition; and how subjectivity, which had already come onto the stage in the account of the intellect – though in a way that looked more innocent – thus remains the absolute and the principle.

Kant always and everywhere recognizes that Reason, as the dimensionless activity, as pure concept of infinitude is held fast in its opposition to the finite. He recognizes that in this opposition Reason is an absolute, and hence a pure identity without intuition and in itself empty. But there is an immediate contradiction in this: this infinitude, strictly conditioned as it is by its abstraction from its opposite, and being strictly nothing outside of this antithesis, is yet at the same time held to be absolute spontaneity and autonomy. As freedom, Reason is supposed to be absolute, yet the essence of this freedom consists in being solely through an opposite. This contradiction, which remains insuperable in the system and destroys it, becomes a real inconsistency (reale Inkonsequenz) when this absolute emptiness is supposed to give itself content as practical Reason and to expand itself in the form of duties. Theoretical Reason, on the other hand, lets the intellect give it the manifold which it has only to regulate; it makes no claim to an autonomous dignity, no claim to beget the Son out of itself. We must leave it to its own emptiness and the unworthiness that comes from its being able to put up with this dualism of a pure unity of Reason and a manifold of the intellect, and from its not feeling any need for the middle and for immanent cognition. The Idea of Reason occurs in the Deduction of the Categories as original unity of the one and the manifold. But instead of lifting it entirely out of its appearance as intellect, Kant makes this appearance permanent with respect to one of its terms, unity, thereby also with respect to the other [the manifold]: finitude is made absolute. We get wind of the Rational again, to be sure, the word “Idea” is dragged up out of Plato once more, and virtue and beauty are recognized as Ideas. But this Reason cannot even get to the point of being able to produce an Idea.

The polemical side of Reason, as expressed in the Paralogisms [of Pure Reason] has no other concern save that of setting aside (aufheben) the concepts of the intellect [i.e., the categories] as predicates of the Ego. The Ego is to be raised up into the intelligible realm (Intellektualität), out Of the sphere of the thing, and of objective, finite determinations. On this level, what is to be predicated of spirit is the abstract form of finitude itself, not a determinate dimension and particular form of the intellect. The “I think” is to be transformed into an absolute noumenal (intellektuell) point – not a real existing monad in the form of substance, but a noumenal monad, as a fixed noumenal unit conditioned by infinite opposition, and absolute in this finitude. Thus the Ego is changed from a soul-thing into a qualitative noumenal entity, a noumenal and abstract unit which, as such, is absolute; absolute finitude, which had formerly been a dogmatic object, becomes now a dogmatic subject.

The mathematical antinomies deal with the application of Reason as mere negativity to something reflection has fixed. This application immediately produces empirical infinity. A is posited and at the same time it is not to be posited. A is posited in that it remains what it was. It is suspended in that there is a transition to something else. This empty requirement of another, and the absolute being of that for which another is required, together give rise to this empirical infinitude. The antinomy arises because being-other is posited as well as being, i.e., the contradiction in its absolute insuperability. Hence, one side of the antinomy must consist in positing the determinate point, and the refutation in positing the opposite, the being-other – and vice versa for the other side of the antinomy. Kant recognized that this conflict originates only through and within finitude and is therefore a necessary illusion. Yet he did not succeed in dissolving the conflict. He did not succeed, in the first place, because he did not suspend finitude itself. On the contrary, by turning the conflict into something subjective again, he allowed it to subsist. In the second Place, he did not succeed because he can only use transcendental idealism as a negative key for the solution of the antinomy inasmuch as he denies that either side of it is anything in itself. In this way what is positive in these antinomies, their middle, remains unrecognized. Reason appears pure only in its negative aspect, as suspension of reflection. It does not emerge in its own proper shape. Yet [one would think that] this negative aspect, would already be sufficient to keep practical Reason from infinite progress at least; for there is the same antinomy in it, as there is in infinite regress, and it similarly exists only for the finite and within its realm. Practical Reason, which takes refuge in this infinite progress and means to constitute itself as absolute in freedom, confesses its finitude and its inability to validate its absoluteness precisely through this infinity of the progress. Kant’s solution of the dynamic antinomies, however, did not remain merely negative, but confesses the absolute dualism of his philosophy: it removes the conflict by making it absolute. When freedom and necessity are brought into connection with one another, the intelligible world with the sensible, or absolute with empirical necessity, they produce an antinomy. Kant’s solution directs us not to relate the antinomic propositions (Gegensatze) in this insipid fashion, but to think of them as absolutely heterogeneous and without communion at all. And indeed, in comparison with the [usual] insipid and unsubstantial connection of freedom and necessity, of the intelligible world with the sensible world their pure and complete separation has merit: [it is a step towards] the positing of their absolute identity in perfect purity. But this was not what Kant had in view when he separated them so sharply. To him, the separation [itself] was the absolute: when they are thought without any communion at all freedom and necessity do not conflict.

In this so-called solution of the antinomies the possibility of freedom and necessity being completely separated is proposed as a mere thought. But it is posited categorically in another form of reflection, namely in the celebrated critique of speculative theology. This critique positively asserts the absolute opposition of freedom in the form of concept and necessity in the form of being, and brings about the complete victory of nonphilosophy over the horrible delusion that deranged and blinded previous philosophy. Here blinkered intellect enjoys in complete self-confidence and complacency its triumph over Reason which is the absolute identity of the highest Idea and absolute reality. Kant made his triumph even more brilliant and comfortable for himself by taking what used to be called the ontological proof of the existence of God in the worst form it is capable of, which is the form given to it by Mendelssohn and others. They turned existence into a property so that the identity of Idea and reality was made to look like the adding of one concept to another. Altogether – especially in his refutations – Kant showed a pervasive ignorance of philosophical systems and a lack of any information about them that went beyond purely historical data.

Thus Reason is crushed completely. Intellect and finitude are quite properly exultant over the decreeing of their own absolute status. Thereafter, finitude as the very highest abstraction of subjectivity or of conscious finitude, establishes itself also in its positive form, in which it is called practical Reason. How the emptiness, the pure formalism of this principle is set forth in contrast to an empirical fullness, and how it grows into a system, we shall show in greater detail in [our discussion of] Fichte at whose hands the mutual integration of this empty unity and its antithetic opposite receives a more thorough and consistent development.

This is, finally, the place to exhibit the most interesting point in the Kantian system, the point at which a region is recognized that is a middle between the empirical manifold and the absolute abstract unity. But once again, it is not a region accessible to cognition. Only the aspect in which it is appearance is called forth, and not its ground which is Reason. It is acknowledged as thought, but with respect to cognition all reality is denied to it.

It is, namely, in the reflecting judgment that Kant finds the middle term between the concept of nature and the concept of freedom. On one side, there is the objective manifold determined by concepts, the intellect generally; and, on the other side, the intellect as pure abstraction. Neither theoretical nor practical philosophy had lifted themselves above the sphere of the absolute judgment ; the middle ground is the region of the identity of what in the absolute judgment is subject and predicate; this identity is the one and only true Reason. Yet according to Kant it belongs only to the reflecting judgment; it is nothing for Reason. Throughout Kant’s reflections on Reason in its reality, that is, in his reflection on beauty as conscious intuition and on beauty as non-conscious intuition, that is, on organization [in nature] one finds the Idea of Reason expressed in a more or less formal fashion. With respect to beauty in its conscious form (die ideelle Form der Schönheit) Kant sets up the Idea of an imagination lawful by itself, of lawfulness without law and of free concord of imagination and intellect. His explanations of this sound very empirical, however. When he tells us, for example, that “an esthetic Idea is a representation by the imagination which gives rise to much thought without any particular concept being adequate to it, so that it cannot be reached by, and made understandable in any language,” there is no sign that he has even the mildest suspicion that we are here in the territory of Reason.

In resolving the antinomy of taste Kant comes upon Reason as “the key to the riddle”; but it is still nothing but “the undetermined Idea of the supersensuous in us [...] without any further possibility of its being made comprehensible” – as if Kant himself had not given [us] a concept of it in [his doctrine of] the identity of the concepts of nature and freedom. “An esthetic Idea,” according to Kant, “cannot become cognitive because it is an intuition of the imagination for which no concept can ever be found adequate. An Idea of Reason can never be cognitive because it contains a concept of the supersensuous for which no intuition can ever be found commensurate.” The esthetic Idea is a representation of the imagination for which no [conceptual] exposition can be given; the Idea of Reason is a concept of Reason for which no demonstration can be given demonstration in the Kantian sense being the presentation of a concept in intuition. As if the esthetic Idea did not have its exposition in the Idea of Reason, and the Idea of Reason did not have its demonstration in beauty. But instead of asking for an intuition of the absolute identity of the sensuous and the supersensuous, Kant [once more] reverts to what is the very ground of the mathematical antinomies: an intuition for the Idea of Reason in which the Idea would be experienced as purely finite and sensuous and simultaneously and contiguously experienced as a supersensuous Beyond of experience. And he demands an exposition and cognition of the esthetic [intuition, i.e., the beautiful] in which the esthetic would be exhausted by the intellect.

Since beauty is the Idea as experienced or more correctly, as intuited, the form of opposition between intuition and concept falls away. Kant recognizes this vanishing of the antithesis negatively in the concept of a supersensuous realm in general . But he does not recognize that as beauty, it is positive, it is intuited, or to use his own language, it is given in experience. Nor does he see the supersensuous, the intelligible substratum of nature without and within us, the thing in itself, as Kant defines the supersensuous, is at least superficially cognized when the principle of beauty is given a [conceptual] exposition as the identity of the concepts of nature and freedom. Still less does he recognize that it is only because the perennial antithesis of the supersensuous and the sensuous is made basic once for all that the supersensuous is taken to be neither knowable nor intuitable. The rational, fixed in this rigid opposition, becomes the supersensuous and is absolutely negative with respect both to intuition and to rational cognition. Consequently, the esthetic is given a relation to the faculty of judgment, and to a subject for whom the supersensuous becomes the principle of nature’s purposiveness with respect to our cognitive faculty; and intuition does not present the supersensuous for the idea, and for cognition, nor does its Idea present itself for intuition. So again, the supersensuous, insofar as it is principle of the esthetic, is unknowable; and the beautiful turns into something strictly finite and subjective because it is only connected with the human cognitive faculty and a harmonious play of its various powers.

The objective side is the nonconscious intuition of the reality of Reason, that is to say, organic nature. In his reflection upon it in the “Critique of Teleological Judgment,” Kant expresses the Idea of Reason more definitely than in the preceding concept of a harmonious play of cognitive powers. He expresses it now in the Idea of an intuitive intellect, for which possibility and actuality are one. In an intuitive intellect “concepts (which merely concern the possibility of an object) and sensuous intuitions (which give us something without allowing it to be known as object) equally disappear.” An intuitive intellect would “not proceed from the universal to the particular and so to the singular (through concepts); and the concordance of the particular laws in nature’s products with the intellect will not be contingent for it.” It is an “archetypal (urbildlich) intellect” for which “the possibility of the parts, etc., as to their character and integration is dependent on the whole.” Kant also recognizes that we are necessarily driven to this Idea. The Idea of this archetypal intuitive intellect is at bottom nothing else but the same Idea of the transcendental imagination that we considered above. For it is intuitive activity, and yet its inner unity is no other than the unity of the intellect itself, the category [still] immersed in extension, and becoming intellect and category only as it separates itself out of extension. Thus transcendental imagination is itself intuitive intellect.

The Idea occurs [to Kant] here only as a thought. Notwithstanding its admitted necessity, reality must not be predicated of it. On the contrary, we must once for all accept the fact that universal and particular are inevitably and necessarily distinct. “The intellect is for concepts, sensuous intuition for objects – they are two entirely heterogeneous parts” [of cognition]. The Idea is strictly necessary and it is yet problematic. In respect of our cognitive faculty nothing is to be acknowledged save the way it appears in its exercise (as Kant calls it) in which possibility and actuality are distinguished. This its appearance is [for Kant] an absolute essence; it is the In-itself of cognition – as if it were not also an exercise of the cognitive faculty when it conceives and knows (denkt und erkennt) that an intellect for which possibility and actuality are not sundered, in which universal and particular are one and whose spontaneity is at the same time intuitive, is a necessary Idea. Kant has simply no ground except experience and empirical psychology for holding that the human cognitive faculty essentially consists in the way it appears, namely in this process from the universal to the particular or back again from the particular to the universal. Yet he himself thinks an intuitive intellect and is led to. it as an absolutely necessary Idea. So it is he himself who establishes the opposite experience, [the experience] of thinking a nondiscursive intellect. He himself shows that his cognitive faculty is aware not only of the appearance and of the separation of the possible and the actual in it, but also of Reason and the In-itself. Kant has here before him both the Idea of a Reason in which possibility and actuality are absolutely identical and its appearance as cognitive faculty wherein they are separated. In the experience of his thinking he finds both thoughts. However, in choosing between the two his nature despised the necessity of thinking the Rational, of thinking an intuitive spontaneity and decided without reservation for appearance.

He recognizes that in and for itself it may be possible that the mechanism of nature, the relation of causality, is at one with nature’s teleological technique. This is not to say that nature is determined by an Idea opposite to it, but rather that what from the mechanistic point of view appears as absolutely sundered, one term as cause the other as effect in an empirical nexus of necessity, absolutely coheres within an original primordial identity. Kant admits the possibility of this. He admits that this is one way of looking at it. Nonetheless he sticks to the viewpoint from which it is [or they are] absolutely sundered; and what is cognizant of it [them] is thus strictly contingent, an absolutely finite and subjective cognitive faculty which he calls human; and he declares that rational knowledge, for which the organism, as the [physical] reality of Reason, is the higher principle of nature and the identity of the universal and particular, is transcendent. So he recognizes in Spinozism, too, “an idealism of final causes” – as if Spinoza had wished to divest the Idea of final causes of all reality; and as if, without disavowing the teleological coherence of the things of nature, he had given as its principle of explanation only the unity of the subject in which they all inhere, thus turning a merely ontological abstract unity (this means a unity of the intellect like the one that Kant calls Reason) into the principle – for of course “the mere idea of the unity of the substratum cannot even ground the Idea of a merely unintentional purposiveness.” In understanding Spinoza’s unity, Kant should have kept his eye on his own Idea of the unity of an intuitive intellect in which concept and intuition possibility and actuality are one, not on that unity of the intellect which he calls theoretical and practical Reason. He would then have had to take Spinoza’s unity, not as an abstract one lacking purposiveness, that is, lacking an absolute teleological coherence, but as the absolutely intelligible and in itself organic unity. In this way he would have rationally and directly cognized this organic unity which is by nature purposive (Naturzweck) and which he conceives as the determination of the parts by the whole, or as identity of cause and effect. But a true unity such as this, the organic unity of an intuitive intellect must not ever be thought; it must not be Reason that here cognizes; it must be the faculty of judgment that [merely] reflects; and its principle must be to think as if an intellect having consciousness determined nature. Kant recognizes very clearly that this is no objective affirmation, but something merely subjective; yet this subjectivity and finitude of the maxim are to stay as absolute cognition. In itself it is not “impossible that the mechanism and the purposiveness of nature coincide”; but for us men it is impossible. The cognizance of this coincidence would require an intuition other than sensuous. It would require a determinate cognition of the intelligible substratum of nature through which it would be possible even to give a ground for the mechanism of appearances according to particular laws. All this transcends our capacity completely.

Kant himself recognized in the beautiful an intuition other than the sensuous. He characterized the substratum of nature as intelligible, recognized it to be rational and identical with all Reason, and knew that the cognition in which concept and intuition are separated was subjective, finite cognition, a [merely] phenomenal cognition. Nonetheless, there the matter must rest; we must absolutely not go beyond finite cognition. Although the cognitive faculty is capable of [thinking] the Idea and the rational, it simply must not employ it as a cognitive standard; it must regard itself as absolute only when it knows the organic and itself finitely, phenomenally. The truly speculative aspect of Kant’s philosophy can only consist in the Idea being thought and expressed so definitely, and the pursuit of this side of his philosophy is the only interesting aspect of it. This makes it all the harder to see the Rational being muddled up again, and not just that, but to see the highest Idea corrupted with full consciousness, while reflection and finite cognition are exalted above it.

From this exposition we may gather briefly what transcendental knowledge is in this philosophy. The deduction of the categories, setting out from the organic Idea of productive imagination, loses itself in the mechanical relation of a unity of self-consciousness which stands in antithesis to the empirical manifold, either determining it or reflecting on it. Thus transcendental knowledge transforms itself into formal knowledge [i.e., knowledge of the identity of form only]. The unity of self-consciousness is at the same time objective unity, category, formal identity. However, something that is not determined by this identity must supervene to it in an incomprehensible fashion; there must be an addition, a Plus, of something empirical, something alien. This supervening of a B to the pure Ego-concept [which is A] is called experience, while the supervening of A to B, when B is posited first, is called rational action, [and the formula for both is] A: A + B. The A in A + B is the objective unity of self-consciousness, B is the empirical, the content of experience, a manifold bound together through the unity A. But B is something foreign to A, something not contained in it. And the plus itself, i.e., the bond between the binding activity and the manifold, is what is incomprehensible. This plus was rationally cognized as productive imagination. But if this productive imagination is merely a property of the subject, of man and his intellect, it abandons of itself its [place in the] middle, which alone makes it what it is, and becomes subjective. It does not matter whether we picture this formal knowledge as running along the thread of identity or that of causality. For if A as universal is posited in opposition to A + B as particular, it is the cause. On the other hand, if reflection stresses that both [A and A + B] contain one and the same A which as concept binds itself up with the particular, this causal relation appears as identity relation from the side where the cause is joined to the effect, i.e., where it is cause, although on this side something else must still supervene. And saying that the causal bond belongs entirely to the analytic judgment is the same as saying that in the causal bond there is transition to an absolute opposite.

Generally speaking, then, this formal cognition takes the shape of its formal identity being confronted absolutely by a manifold; when taken to exist in itself, the formal identity is freedom, practical Reason, autonomy, law, practical idea, etc., and its absolute opposite is necessity, the inclination and drives, heteronomy, nature, etc. The connection that is possible between the two [formal identity and the manifold] is an incomplete one within the bounds of an absolute antithesis: the manifold gets determined by the unity [in practical philosophy] just as the emptiness of identity gets plenished by the manifold [in theoretical philosophy]. Whether active or passive, each supervenes to the other in a formal way, as something alien. This formal cognition only brings about impoverished identities, and allows the antithesis to persist in its complete absoluteness. What it lacks is the middle term (Mittelglied), which is Reason; for each of the two extremes is to exist within the opposition as an Absolute, so that the middle, and the coming to nothing of both extremes and of finitude is an absolute Beyond. It is recognized [by Kant] that this antithesis necessarily presupposes a middle, and that in this middle the antithesis and its content must be brought to nothing. But this is not an actual, genuine nullification; it is only a confession that the finite ought to be suspended. Nor is the middle any more genuine; again it is only a confession that there ought to be a Reason. And it is all posited in a faith, whose content itself is empty because the antithesis which as absolute identity could be its content has to remain outside it; expressed positively, the content of this faith would be Reasonlessness (Vernunftlosigkeit) because it is an absolutely unthought, unknown and incomprehensible Beyond.

If we remove from the practical faith of the Kantian philosophy some of the popular and unphilosophical garments in which it is decked, we shall find nothing else expressed in it but the Idea that Reason does have absolute reality, that in this Idea the antithesis of freedom and necessity is completely suspended, that infinite thought is at the same time absolute reality – or in short we shall find the absolute identity of thought and being. (We are here thinking only of Kant’s doctrine of faith in God. For his account of immortality has nothing original in it to make it worthy of philosophical attention.) This Idea of the absolute identity of thought and being is the very one which the ontological proof and all true philosophy recognize as the sole and primary Idea as well as the only true and philosophical one. Kant, to be sure, recasts this speculative Idea into the humane form: morality and happiness harmonize. This harmony is made into a thought in its turn, and the realization of this thought is called the highest good in the world – something as wretched as this morality and this happiness the highest good! But then, of course, Reason as active in the finite, and nature as sensed in the finite, cannot raise themselves to anything higher than a practical faith of this kind. This faith is just made to measure for the state of absolute immersion in the empirical; for it lets Reason keep the finitude of thought, and action, as well as the finitude of enjoyment. If Reason were to arrive at intuition and knowledge that Reason and nature are in absolute harmony and are in themselves blissful, it would recognize its wretched morality which does not harmonize with happiness and the wretched happiness which does not harmonize with morality, as the nothings that they are. But what matters [to Kant] is that both morality and happiness be something, and something high and absolute. This morality reviles nature and its spirit, as if the order and direction (die Einrichtung) in nature was not itself made rational, while on the contrary this morality in its misery – it was not for this, surely, that the spirit of the universe organized itself? – existed in itself and eternally. Moreover, this morality means indeed to justify itself and do itself honor on the ground that it does set the reality of Reason before itself in faith though not as something that possesses absolute being. Yet if the absolute reality of Reason were truly certain, then limited being and the finite and this morality could not have either certainty or truth.

It should not be overlooked, however, that Kant remains within the right and proper bounds of his postulates, which Fichte does not respect. According to Kant himself the postulates and the faith that goes with them (ihr Glauben) are subjective; the only question is how to take this “subjective.” Is it the identity of infinite thought and being, of Reason and its reality, that is subjective? Or is it only the postulating and the believing of them? Is it the content or the form of the postulates? It cannot be the content that is subjective, for the negative content of the postulates immediately suspends everything subjective. Hence it is the form, or in other words it is something subjective and contingent that the Idea is only a subjective thing. There should in principle (an sich) be no postulating, no ought and no [mere] believing, and the postulating of the absolute reality of the highest Idea is something non-rational. Fichte did not acknowledge this subjectivity of postulating and believing and ought. To him, this is the In-itself. Kant, on the contrary, does acknowledge that the postulating and the ought and the believing are only a subjective and finite thing. Nevertheless, the matter must simply rest there, just as with morality. Letting it rest there meets with universal approval, and what is approved is just exactly the worst thing about it, namely the form of postulating.

This, then, is the character of the Kantian philosophy. The common ground which it shares with the philosophies of reflection that we are talking about is that knowledge is formal knowledge; Reason as a pure negativity is an absolute Beyond; as a Beyond and as negativity it is conditioned by this-worldliness (Diesseits) and by positivity; infinity and finitude, each with its opposite, are all equally absolute. What is peculiar to the Kantian philosophy is the form in which it presents itself, its richly instructive and well-organized range; also its truth within the bounds that it sets, however, not only for itself, but for Reason in general. Then there is that interesting aspect of it in which it happens on truly speculative Ideas, though as if they were incidental ideas and mere thoughts without reality. Not counting all this, the uniqueness of the Kantian philosophy is that it establishes its absolute subjectivity in objective form, that is, as concept and law – and it is only because of its purity that subjectivity is capable of passing into its opposite, objectivity. – Of the two parts of reflection, the finite and the infinite, therefore, it raises the infinite above the finite, thus vindicating at least the formal aspect of Reason. The highest Idea of the Kantian philosophy is the complete emptiness of subjectivity, or the purity of the infinite concept, which is also posited as what is objective in the sphere of the intellect, though there it has the dimensions of the categories; whereas on the practical side the infinite concept is posited as objective law. On one side there is infinity infected with finitude, on the other side, there is pure infinity, and in the middle there is posited the identity of the finite and the infinite, though once more only in the form of the infinite, that is, as concept. The authentic Idea remains an absolutely subjective maxim, partly for reflecting judgment, and partly for faith; but it does not exist for the middle of cognition and of Reason.

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