Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy

Section Three: Recent German Philosophy
B. Kant.
Critique of Pure Reason

1. In the first place, as to the theoretic philosophy, Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason sets to work in a psychological manner, i.e. historically, inasmuch as he describes the main stages in theoretic consciousness. The first faculty is sensuousness generally, the second understanding, the third reason. All this he simply narrates; quite empirically, without developing it from proceeding by necessity.

a. The a priori fact of sensuous existence, the forms of sensuous existence, constitute the beginning of this transcendentalism. Kant calls the judgment of the same the transcendental æsthetic. Nowadays æsthetic signifies the knowledge of the beautiful. But here the doctrine of intuition or perception is taken from the point of view of its universality, i.e. from what in it pertains to the subject as such. Perception, says Kant, is the knowledge of an object given to us through the senses; sensuousness, however, is the capacity of being affected by conceptions as external. Now, according to Kant, in perception there are to be found all manner of contents, and in dealing with this he first of all distinguishes feeling as external, such as redness, colour, hardness, &c., and then as internal, such as justice, wrath, love, fear, pleasurable and religious feelings, &c. He says content such as this forms the one constituent and pertains to feeling; all this is subjective and merely subjective. In this sensuous element there is, however, a universal sensuous element likewise contained, which as such does not belong to feeling in so far as it is immediately determined; in such a content this ‘other’ consists in the categories of space and time, which of themselves are void and empty. The filling in is performed by the content, by colour, softness, hardness, &c., as regards space; while as regards time, the same content, so soon as it is something transient, or again some other content, and in particular inward feelings are what causes the determination. Space and time are consequently pure, i.e. abstract perceptions in which we place outside of us the content of individual sensations, either in time as succeeding one another, or in space as separate from one another. Here we thus meet with the division between subjectivity and objectivity, for if we isolate the ‘alongside of’ and ‘after’ we have space and time. It is the act of a priori sensuousness to project the content; the forms of intuition or perception constitute this pure perception.(8) Now everything indeed is termed perception, even thought and consciousness; God, who certainly pertains to thought alone, is said to be comprehended by perception or intuition, the so-called immediate consciousness.

Kant further remarks in this regard, (1) “Space is no empirical Notion which has been derived from outward experiences.” But the Notion is never really anything empiric: it is in barbarous forms like this that Kant, however, always expresses himself: “For in order that I may relate my sensations to something outside of me, I must presuppose space.” Of time Kant speaks in similar terms: “In order that something outside of me may be represented in separate space or time, the conception of space and time must come first, or it cannot be derived from experience, for experience first becomes possible through this antecedent conception.” That is to say, time and space which may appear as objective, since their particular filling in certainly belongs to subjective feeling, are not empirical; for consciousness has time and space first of all in itself.” (2) “Space is a necessary conception which lies at the basis of all external perceptions. Space and time are conceptions a priori, because we cannot represent things without space and time. Time is a necessary basis for all phenomena.” As a priori, space and time are universal and necessary, that is to say we find this to be the case; but it does not follow that they must be previously present as conceptions. They are fundamental indeed, but they are likewise an external universal. Kant however places the matter somewhat in this fashion: there are things-in-themselves outside, but devoid of time and space; consciousness now comes, and it has time and space beforehand present in it as the possibility of experience, just as in order to eat it has mouth and teeth, &c , as conditions necessary for eating. The things which are eaten have not the mouth and teeth, and as eating is brought to bear on things, so space and time are also brought to bear on them; just as things are placed in the mouth and between the teeth, so is it with space and time. (3) “Space and time are not general Notions of the relations of things, but pure intuitive perceptions. For we can only represent to ourselves one space; there are not different component parts of space.” The same is the case with time. The abstract conception tree, for example, is in its actuality a number of individual and separate trees, but spaces are not such particulars, nor are they parts; for one immediate continuity remains, and hence a simple unity. Ordinary perception has always something individual before it; space or time are always however one only, and therefore a priori. It might however be replied to Kant: The nature of space and time undoubtedly involves their being an abstract universal; but there is in like manner only one blue. (4) “Each Notion or conception certainly comprises an infinite number of conceptions under itself, but not within itself; nevertheless this last is the case in space and time, and they are therefore intuitive perceptions and not Notions or conceptions.”(9) Space and time, then, are certainly not thought-determinations, if no thoughts are there present, but a Notion, so soon as we have a Notion of them.

From the transcendental point of view it is likewise maintained that this conception of space and time contains synthetic propositions a priori, connected with the consciousness of its necessity. Examples of these synthetic propositions are sought in statements such as that of space having three dimensions, or in the definition of a straight line, that it is the shortest distance between two points, and likewise in the statement that 5 + 7=12.(10) All these propositions are however very analytic. Kant nevertheless in the first place holds that such propositions do not take their rise from experience, or, as we might better express it, are not an individual contingent perception; this is very true, the perception is universal and necessary. In the second place he states that we acquire them from pure sensuous perception, and not through the understanding or Notion. But Kant does not grasp the two together, and yet this comprehension of them is involved in such propositions being immediately certain even in ordinary perception. When Kant then expresses himself (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, p. 49) to the effect that we have many sensations which constitute “the real matter,” with which we externally and inwardly “occupy our minds,” and that the mind has in itself in space and time “formal conditions of the mode in which we place them” (those manifold feelings) “in our mind,” the question of how mind arrives at having just these special forms now forces itself upon us. But what the nature of time and space is, it does not occur to the Kantian philosophy to inquire. To it what space and time are in themselves does not signify ‘What is their Notion,’ but ‘Are they external things or something in the mind?’

b. The second faculty, the understanding, is something very different from sensuousness; the latter is Receptivity, while Kant calls thought in general Spontaneity — an expression which belongs to the philosophy of Leibnitz. The understanding is active thought, I myself; it “is the faculty of thinking the object of sensuous perception.” Yet it has thoughts merely without real content: “Thoughts without content are void and empty, sensuous perceptions without Notions are blind.” The understanding thus obtains from the sensuous its matter, both empirical and a priori, time and space; and it thinks this matter, but its thoughts are very different from this matter. Or it is a faculty of a particular kind, and it is only when both occur, when the sensuous faculty has supplied material and the understanding has united to this its thoughts, that knowledge results.(11) The thoughts of the understanding as such are thus limited thoughts, thoughts of the finite only.

Now logic, as transcendental logic, likewise sets forth the conceptions which the understanding has a priori in itself and “whereby it thinks objects completely a priori.” Thoughts have a form which signifies their being the synthetic function which brings the manifold into a unity. I am this unity, the transcendental apperception, the pure apperception of self-consciousness. I=I; I must ‘accompany’ all our conceptions.(12) This is a barbarous exposition of the matter. As self-consciousness I am the completely void, general I, completely indeterminate and abstract; apperception is determination generally, the activity whereby I transplant an empirical content into my simple consciousness, while perception rather signifies feeling or conceiving. In order that a content may enter this One, it must be infected by its simplicity; it is thus that the content first becomes my content. The comprehending medium is ‘I’; whatever I have to do with must allow itself to be forced into these forms of unity. This is a great fact, an important item of knowledge; what thought produces is unity; thus it produces itself, for it is the One. Yet the fact that I am the one and, as thinking, the simplifier, is not by Kant satisfactorily set forth. The unity may likewise be called relation; for in so far as manifold is pre-supposed, and as this on the one side remains a manifold while on the other side it is set forth as one, so far may it be said to be related.

Now as ‘I’ is the universal transcendental unity of self-consciousness which binds together the empirical matter of conception generally, there are various modes in this relationship, and here we have the transcendental nature of the categories or universal thought-determinations. But Kant (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 70, 77) approaches these modes of simplicity by accepting them as they are classified in ordinary logic. For he says that in common logic particular kinds of judgment are brought forward; and since judgment is a special kind of relationship of the manifold, the various functions of thought which 'I’ has in it are shown therein. But the following kinds of judgment have been noticed, viz. Universal, Particular and Singular; Affirmative, Negative, Infinite; Categorical, Hypothetical, Disjunctive; Assertoric, Problematic and Apodictic judgments. These particular modes of relationship now brought forward are the pure forms of the understanding. There are thus, according to Kant (Kritik der reinen Vernuuft, pp. 75, 76, 78-82), twelve fundamental categories, which fall into four classes; and it is noteworthy, and deserves to be recognized, that each species of judgment again constitutes a triad. (1) The first kind of categories are those of Quantity, viz. Unity, Plurality and Totality. Plurality is negation of the one, the assertion of difference; and the third, the bringing of the other two into one, plurality circumscribed, the indeterminate plurality comprehended as one, is the Totality. (2) In the second series are the categories of Quality: Reality, Negation, Limitation. Limitation is as real or positive as negation. (3) The third series comprises the categories of relation, of connection; and first of all, indeed, the relation of Substantiality, Substance and Accident: then the relation of Causality, the relation of Cause and Effect, and finally Reciprocity. (4) The categories of Modality, of the relation of the objective to our thought, come fourth, viz. Possibility, Existence (actuality) and Necessity. Possibility should come second; in abstract thought, however, the empty conception comes first. It betrays a great instinct for the Notion when Kant says that the first category is positive, the second the negative of the first, the third the synthesis of the two. The triplicity, this ancient form of the Pythagoreans, Neo-Platonists and of the Christian religion, although it here reappears as a quite external schema only, conceals within itself the absolute form, the Notion. But since Kant says that a conception can determine itself in me as accidental, as cause, effect, unity, plurality, &c., we thereby have the whole of the metaphysics of the understanding. Kant does not follow up further the derivation of these categories, and he finds them imperfect, but he says that the others are derived from them. Kant thus accepts the categories in an empiric way, without thinking of developing of necessity these differences from unity. Just as little did Kant attempt to deduce time and space, for he accepted them likewise from experience a quite unphilosophic and unjustifiable procedure.

Thinking understanding is thus indeed the source of the individual categories, but because on their own account they are void and empty, they only have significance through their union with the given, manifold material of perception, feeling, &c. Such connection of sensuous material with categories now constitutes the facts of experience, i.e. the matter of sensation after it is brought under the categories; and this is knowledge generally.(13) The matter of perception which pertains to the feelings or sensuous perception is not left in the determination of individuality and immediacy, but I am active in relation to it, inasmuch as I bring it into connection through the categories and elevate it into universal species, natural laws, &c. The question of whether a completed sensuousness or the Notion is the higher may accordingly be easily decided. For the laws of the heavens are not immediately perceived, but merely the change in position on the part of the stars. It is only when this object of immediate perception is laid hold of and brought under universal thought-determinations that experience arises therefrom, which has a claim to validity for all time. The category which brings the unity of thought into the content of feeling is thus the objective element in experience, which receives thereby universality and necessity, while that which is perceived is rather the subjective and contingent. Our finding both these elements in experience demonstrates indeed that a correct analysis has been made. Kant (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 119, 120) however connects with this the statement that experience grasps phenomena only, and that by means of the knowledge which we obtain through experience we do not know things as they are in themselves, but only as they are in the form of laws of perception and sensuousness. For the first component part of experience, sensation, is doubtless subjective, since it is connected with our organs. The matter of perception is only what it is in my sensation. I know of this sensation only and not of the thing. But, in the second place, the objective, which ought to constitute the opposite to this subjective side, is itself subjective likewise: it does not indeed pertain to my feeling, but it remains shut up in the region of my self-consciousness; the categories are only determinations of our thinking understanding. Neither the one nor the other is consequently anything in itself, nor are both together, knowledge, anything in itself, for it only knows phenomena — a strange contradiction.

The transition of the category to the empiric is made in the following way: “Pure conceptions of the understanding are quite of a different nature from empiric, indeed from any sensuous perceptions;” we have thus “to show how pure conceptions of the understanding can be applied to Phenomena.” This is dealt with by the transcendental faculty of judgment. For Kant says that in the mind, in self-consciousness, there are pure conceptions of the understanding and pure sensuous perceptions; now it is the schematism of the pure understanding, the transcendental faculty of the imagination, which determines the pure sensuous perception in conformity with the category and thus constitutes the transition to experience.(14) The connection of these two is again one of the most attractive sides of the Kantian philosophy, whereby pure sensuousness and pure understanding, which were formerly expressed as absolute opposites, are now united. There is thus here present a perceptive understanding or an understanding perception; but Kant does not see this, he does not bring these thoughts together: he does not grasp the fact that he has here brought both sides of knowledge into one, and has thereby expressed their implicitude. Knowledge itself is in fact the unity and truth of both moments; but with Kant the thinking understanding and sensuousness are both something particular, and they are only united in an external, superficial way, just as a piece of wood and a leg might be bound together by a cord. Thus, for example, the conception of substance in the schema becomes permanent in time,(15) i.e. the pure conception of the understanding, the pure category, is brought into unity with the form of pure sensuous perception.

In as far as we have to deal with our own determinations only and as we do not reach the implicit, the true objective, the Kantian philosophy called itself Idealism. But in this connection Kant (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 200, 201) brings forward a refutation of empirical or material idealism, thus: “I am conscious of my existence as determined in time. But all time-determination presupposes something permanent in perception. This permanence cannot be” a sensuous perception “in me.” For all the determining grounds of my existence which are met with in me are conceptions, and as such themselves require a constant element different from them, and in relation to which the change taking place in them — consequently “my existence in time,” in which they change, “maybe determined.” Or I am conscious of my existence as of an empirical consciousness which is only capable of being determined in relation to something which is outside of me; i.e. I am conscious of something external to me. Conversely it may be said: I am conscious of external things as determined in time and as changing; these hence presuppose something constant which is not in them but outside of them. And this is 'I,’ the transcendental ground of their universality and necessity, of their implicitude, the unity of self-consciousness. On another occasion Kant regards it thus (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, p. 101): These moments confuse themselves, because the constant element is itself a category. Idealism, when we regard it as signifying that nothing exists outside of my individual self-consciousness as individual, as also the refutation of this, the assertion that things exist outside of my self-consciousness as individual, are the one as bad as the other. The former is the idealism of Berkeley, in which self-consciousness as individual is alone in question, or the world of self-consciousness appears as a number of limited, sensuous, individual conceptions, which are as completely devoid of truth as though they were called things. The truth or untruth does not rest in their being things or conceptions, but in their limitation and contingency, whether as conceptions or things. The refutation of this idealism is nothing more than calling attention to the fact that this empirical consciousness does not exist in itself — just as those empiric things do not exist in themselves. But the knowing subject does not with Kant really arrive at reason, for it remains still the individual self-consciousness as such, which is opposed to the universal. As a matter of fact there is described in what we have seen only the empirical finite self-consciousness which requires a material from outside, or which is limited. We do not ask whether these facts of knowledge are in and for themselves true or untrue; the whole of knowledge remains within subjectivity, and on the other side there is the thing-in-itself as an external. This subjectivity is however concrete in itself; even the determinate categories of the thinking understanding are concrete, and much more is experience so — the synthesis of the sensation and the category.(16)

c. The third faculty Kant finds in reason, to which he advances from the understanding after the same psychological method; that is to say, he hunts through the soul’s sack to see what faculties are still to be found there; and thus by merest chance he lights on Reason. It would make no difference if there had been no Reason there, just as with physicists it is a matter of perfect indifference whether, for instance, there is such a thing as magnetism or not. “All our knowledge begins from the senses, thence proceeds to the understanding, and finishes up with reason; nothing higher than this is to be found in us, for it signifies the working up of the material of perception, and the reducing of it to the highest unity of thought.” Reason is therefore, according to Kant, the power of obtaining knowledge from principles, that is, the power of knowing the particular in the universal by means of Notions; the understanding, on the contrary, reaches its particular by means of perception. But the categories are themselves particular. The principle of reason, according to Kant, is really the universal, inasmuch as it finds the unconditioned involved in the conditioned knowledge of the understanding. Understanding is hence for him thought in finite relations; reason, on the contrary, is thought which makes the unconditioned its object. Since Kant’s time it has become customary in the language of philosophy to distinguish understanding and reason, while by earlier philosophers this distinction was not drawn. The product of reason is, according to Kant, the Idea — a Platonic expression — and he understands by it the unconditioned, the infinite.(17) It is a great stop forward to say that reason brings forth Ideas; with Kant, however, the Idea is merely the abstract universal, the indeterminate.

This, the unconditioned, must now be grasped as concrete, and therein lies the main difficulty. For to know the unconditioned means to determine it and to deduce its determinations. Much has been written and said on the subject of knowledge, without a definition of it ever having been offered. But it is the business of Philosophy to see that what is taken for granted as known is really known. Now on this point Kant says that reason has certainly the desire to know the infinite, but has not the power. And the reason which Kant gives for this (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 277, 278), is on the one hand that no psychologically sensuous intuition or perception corresponds with the infinite, that it is not given in outward or inward experience; to the Idea “no congruent or corresponding object can be discovered in the sensuous world.” It depends, however, on how the world is looked at; but experience and observation of the world mean nothing else for Kant than a candlestick standing here, and a snuff-box standing there. It is certainly correct to say that the infinite is not given in the world of sensuous perception; and supposing that what we know is experience, a synthesis of what is thought and what is felt, the infinite can certainly not be known in the sense that we have a sensuous perception of it. But no one wishes to demand a sensuous proof in verification of the infinite; spirit is for spirit alone. The second reason for considering that the infinite cannot be known, lies in this, that Reason has no part in it except as supplying the forms of thought which we call categories; and these doubtless afford what Kant calls objective determinations, but in such a way that in themselves they are still only subjective. If therefore for the determination of the infinite we employ these categories which are applicable only to phenomena, we entangle ourselves in false arguments (paralogisms) and in contradictions (antinomies); and it is an important point in the Kantian philosophy that the infinite, so far as it is defined by means of categories, loses itself in contradictions. Although reason, says Kant, becomes transcendent by the exhibition of these contradictions, it still retains its claim to trace perception, experience, and knowledge pertaining to the understanding, back to the infinite. This union of the infinite, the unconditioned, with the finite and conditioned as existing in the knowledge given by the understanding, or even in perception, would signify that the acme of concreteness had been reached.

Of this Unconditioned there are several kinds, objects having special features of their own and proceeding from reason, transcendental Ideas; they are thus themselves particular in their nature. The manner in which Kant arrives at these Ideas is again derived from experience, from formal logic, according to which there are various forms of the syllogism. Because, says Kant, there are three forms of the syllogism, categorical, hypothetical, and disjunctive, the Unconditioned is also threefold in its nature: “Firstly, an Unconditioned of the categorical synthesis in a subject.” Synthesis is the concrete; but the expression is ambiguous, since it indicates an external association of independent elements. “In the second place, an Unconditioned of the hypothetical synthesis of the members of a series will have to be looked for; and in the third place, an Unconditioned of the disjunctive synthesis of the parts in a system.” We make the first connection, expressed as object of Reason or transcendental Idea, when we conceive “the thinking subject” the second “is the sum total of all phenomena, the world;” and the third is “the thing which contains the supreme condition of the possibility of all that can be thought, the Being of all Beings,” i.e. God. When brought to an ultimate point, the question which meets us is whether Reason can bring these objects to reality, or whether they remain confined to subjective thought. Now, according to Kant, Reason is not capable of procuring reality for its Ideas — otherwise it would be transcendent, its limits would be overstepped; it produces only paralogisms, antinomies, and an ideal without reality.(18)

“A paralogism is a syllogism false in its form.” Since Reason credits with reality that mode of the Unconditioned which constitutes the categorical synthesis in a subject, and therefore the thinking subject, it is termed substance. Now is the thinking ego a substance, a soul, a soul-thing? Further questions are whether it is permanent, immaterial, incorruptible, personal and immortal, and such as to have a real community with the body. The falsity of the syllogism consists in this, that the idea of the unity of the transcendental subject essential to Reason is expressed as a thing; for it is only in this way that the permanency of the same becomes substance. Otherwise I find myself permanent in my thought, of course, but only within perceiving consciousness, not outside of that. The ego is therefore the empty, transcendental subject of our thoughts, that moreover becomes known only through its thoughts; but of what it is in itself we cannot gather the least idea. (A horrible distinction! For thought is nothing more or less than the “in-itself “ or implicit.) We cannot assert of it any present Being, because thought is an empty form, we have a conception of what thinking Beings are through no outward experience, but only by means of self-consciousness, — i.e. because we cannot take the “I” in our hands, nor see it, nor smell it. We therefore know very well that the ego is a subject, but if we pass beyond self-consciousness, and say that it is substance, we go farther than we are entitled to do. I cannot therefore assign any reality to the subject.(19)

We here see Kant fall into contradiction, what with the barbarity of the conceptions which he refutes, and the barbarity of his own conceptions which remain behind when the others are refuted. In the first place, he is perfectly correct when he maintains that the ego is not a soul-thing, a dead permanency which has a sensuous present existence; indeed, were it to be an ordinary thing, it would be necessary that it should be capable of being experienced. But, in the second place, Kant does not assert the contrary of this, namely that the ego, as this universal or as self-thinking, has in itself the true reality which he requires as an objective mode. For he does not get clear of the conception of reality in which reality consists in the possession of a sensuous present existence; accordingly, because the ego is given in no outward experience, it is not real. For self-consciousness, the ego as such, is not, according to Kant, reality; it is only our thought, or in other words he regards self-consciousness as being itself simply and entirely sensuous. The form which Kant accordingly bestows on Being, thing, substance, would seem to indicate that these categories of the understanding were too high for the subject, too high to be capable of being predicated of it. But really such determinations are too poor and too mean, for what possesses life is not a thing, nor can the soul, the spirit, the ego, be called a thing. Being is the least or lowest quality that one can assign to spirit, its abstract, immediate identity with itself; Being thus no doubt pertains to spirit, but it must be considered as a determination scarcely worth applying to it.

In the second place we have the antinomy, i.e. the contradiction in Reason’s Idea of the Unconditioned, an Idea applied to the world in order to represent it as a complete summing-up of conditions. That is to say, in the given phenomena Reason demands the absolute completeness of the conditions of their possibility, so far as these constitute a series, so that the unconditioned is contained in the world, i.e. the totality of the series. If now this completeness is expressed as existing, an antinomy is alone presented, and Reason is presented only as dialectic: i.e. in this object there is on every side a perfect contradiction found.(20) For phenomena are a finite content, and the world is a conjunction of the limited; if this content is now thought by Reason, and therefore subsumed under the unconditioned and the unlimited, we have two determinations, finite and infinite, which contradict each other. Reason demands a perfectly complete synthesis, an absolute beginning; but in phenomena we have, on the contrary, a succession of causes and effects, which never come to an end. Kant here points out four contradictions (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, p. 320), which, however, is not enough; for in each Notion there are antinomies, since it is not simple but concrete, and therefore contains different determinations, which are direct opposites.

These antinomies in the first place involve our making the one determination, limitation, just as valid as non-limitation. “Thesis: The world has a beginning and an end in time, and it is limited in regard to space. Antithesis: It has no beginning and no end in time, and also no limits in space.” The one, says Kant, can be proved just as easily as the other; and indeed he does prove each indirectly, though his are not “advocate’s proofs.”(21) The world, as the universe, is the whole; it is thus a universal idea, and therefore unlimited. The completion of the synthesis in progression as regards time and space is, however, a first beginning of time and space. If therefore the categories of limited and unlimited are applied to the world in order to attain to a knowledge of it, we fall into contradictions, because the categories are not applicable to things-in-themselves.

The second antinomy is that atoms, from which substance is composed, must necessarily be admitted to exist, therefore simplicity can be proved; but just as easy is it to prove incompleteness, the endless process of division. The thesis is accordingly stated thus: “Every compound substance consists of simple parts,” and the antithesis is as follows: “ There exists nothing simple.”(22) The one is here the limit, a material self-existence, the point which is likewise the enclosing surface; the other is divisibility ad infinitum.

The third antinomy is the opposition between freedom and necessity. The first is the self-determining, the point of view pertaining to infinity: causality according to the laws of freedom is the only causality. The other is: Determinism alone is to be found: everything is determined by means of an external ground or reason.(23)

The fourth antinomy rests on what follows: On the one hand totality completes itself in freedom as a first beginning of action, or in an absolutely necessary Being, as the cause of the world, so that the process is interrupted: but there is opposed to that freedom the necessity of a process according to conditions of causes and effects, and to the necessity of a Being is opposed the consideration that everything is contingent. The absolute necessity of the conditioned world is therefore on the one hand maintained thus: “To the world belongs an absolutely necessary Being.” The opposite to this is, “There exists no absolutely necessary Being, either as part of the world or outside of the world.”(24)

One of these opposites is just as necessary as the other, and it is superfluous to carry this further here. The necessity of these contradictions is the interesting fact which Kant (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, p. 324) has brought to consciousness; in ordinary metaphysics, however, it is imagined that one of these contradictions must hold good, and the other be disproved. The most important point involved in this assertion of Kant’s is, however, unintentional on his part. For he indeed solves these antinomies (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 385, 386), but only in the particular sense of transcendental idealism, which does not doubt or deny the existence of external things (supra, p. 442), but “allows that things are perceived in space and time” (which is the case, whether it allows it or not): for transcendental idealism, however, “space and time in themselves are not things at all," and therefore “do not exist apart from our mind;” i.e. all these determinations of a beginning in time, and so on, do not really belong to things, to the implicitude of the phenomenal world, which has independent existence outside of our subjective thought. If such determinations belonged to the world, to God, to free agents, there would be an objective contradiction; but this contradiction is not found as absolute, it pertains only to us. Or, in other words, this transcendental idealism lets the contradiction remain, only it is not Being in itself that is thus contradictory, for the contradiction has its source in our thought alone. Thus the same antinomy remains in our mind; and as it was formerly God who had to take upon Himself all contradictions, so now it is self-consciousness. But the Kantian philosophy does not go on to grapple with the fact that it is not things that are contradictory, but self-consciousness itself. Experience teaches that the ego does not melt away by reason of these contradictions, but continues to exist; we need not therefore trouble ourselves about its contradictions, for it can bear them. Nevertheless Kant shows here too much tenderness for things: it would be a pity, he thinks, if they contradicted themselves. But that mind, which is far higher, should be a contradiction — that is not a pity at all. The contradiction is therefore by no means solved by Kant; and since mind takes it upon itself, and contradiction is self-destructive, mind is in itself all derangement and disorder. The true solution would be found in the statement that the categories have no truth in themselves, and the Unconditioned of Reason just as little, but that it lies in the unity of both as concrete, and in that alone.

Kant now goes on to the Idea of God; this third idea is the Being of Beings, which the other ideas presupposed. Kant says (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 441-452), that according to the definition of Wolff, God is the most real of all Beings; the object then comes to be to prove that God is not only Thought, but that He is, that He has reality, Being. This Kant calls the Ideal of Reason, to distinguish it from the Idea, which is only the sum of all possibility. The Ideal is thus the Idea as existent; just as in art we give the name of ideal to the Idea realized in a sensuous manner. Here Kant takes into consideration the proof of the existence of God, as he asks whether reality can be assigned to this Ideal.

The ontological proof proceeds from the absolute Notion, in order from it to argue up to Being. With Anselm, Descartes, and Spinoza the transition to Being is thus made; and all of them assume in so doing the unity of Being and thought. But Kant says (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 458-466): To this Ideal of Reason just as little reality can be assigned: there is no transition from the Notion to Being. “Being is not a real predicate,” like any other, “a Notion of something which might be added to the Notion of a thing. A hundred real dollars do not contain in the very least more than a hundred possible dollars,” they are the same content, i.e. the same Notion; they are also a hundred exactly. The one is the Notion, or rather the conception, the other is the object; Being is no new determination of the Notion, otherwise my Notion of a hundred real dollars would contain something different from a hundred real dollars. But “the object, as real, is not contained in my Notion alone; or to my Notion the real hundred dollars are synthetically added.” Being cannot therefore be derived from the Notion, because it is not contained therein, but must be added to it. “We must go out of the Notion in order to arrive at existence. With regard to objects of pure thought, there are no means of coming to know of their existence, because it had to be known a priori; but our consciousness of all existence belongs entirely to experience.” That is to say, Kant does not attain to the comprehension of that very synthesis of Notion and Being, or in other words, he does not comprehend existence, i.e. he does not attain to the establishment of it as Notion; existence remains for him something absolutely different from a Notion. The content is no doubt the same for him in what exists and in the Notion: but since Being is not involved in the Notion, the attempt to derive the one from the other is unavailing.

Of course the determination of Being is not found as positive and ready-made in the Notion; the Notion is something different from reality and objectivity. If we therefore abide by the Notion, we abide by Being as something different from the Notion, and adhere to the separation of the two; we then have conception, and not Being at all. That a hundred possible dollars are something different from a hundred actual ones is a reflection of a very popular nature, so much so that no proposition has been so well received as the assertion that no transition can be made from the Notion to Being; for though I imagine to myself a hundred dollars, I do not possess them for all that. But in a like popular fashion it might be said that one must leave off imagining, for that is mere conception: i.e. what is merely imaginary is untrue, the hundred imaginary dollars are and remain imaginary. Therefore to believe in them is a proof of an unsound understanding, and is of no manner of use; and he is a foolish fellow who indulges in such fancies and wishes. One possesses a hundred dollars, when they are real only; if a man has therefore so great a desire to possess a hundred dollars, he must put his hand to work in order to obtain them: i.e. he must not come to a standstill at the imagination of them, but pass out beyond it. This subjective side is not the ultimate or the absolute; the true is that which is not merely subjective, If I possess a hundred dollars, I have them actually, and at the same time I form a conception of them to myself. But according to Kant’s representation we come to a deadlock at the difference; dualism is ultimate, and each side has independent validity as an absolute. Against this false idea of what is to be absolute and ultimate, the healthy human understanding is directed; every ordinary consciousness rises above it, every action aims at setting aside a subjective conception and making it into something objective. There is no man so foolish as that philosophy; when a man feels hungry, he does not call up the imagination of food, but sets about satisfying his hunger. All activity is a conception which does not yet exist, but whose subjectivity is abrogated. Moreover the imaginary hundred dollars become real, and the real ones imaginary: this is a frequent experience, this is their fate; it depends on circumstances entirely outward whether a hundred dollars become my property or not. Of course the mere conception is of no good, if I obstinately hold by it: for I can imagine what I will, but that does not make it exist. The only important point is what I conceive to myself, and then whether I think or comprehend the subjective and Being; by means of this each passes into the other. Thought, the Notion, of necessity implies that the Notion does not remain subjective; this subjective is on the contrary abrogated and reveals itself as objective. Now that unity is expressly affirmed by Descartes solely in reference to the Notion of God, for it is just that which is God; he speaks of no hundred dollars, as these are not an existence which has a Notion in itself. That opposition does away with itself absolutely and entirely, i.e. the finite passes away; it holds good only in the philosophy of finitude. If, therefore, there is not a Notion of existence formed, we have in it a notionless, sensuous object of perception; and what is notionless is certainly not a Notion, — therefore sensation, handling, are not Notions. Such existence has of course no Absolute, no real essence: or such existence has no truth, it is only a vanishing moment. This useless thrashing of the empty grainless straw of the common logic is termed philosophizing: it is like Issachar the strong ass, which could not be made to move from the spot where it was (Gen. xlix. 14). People of this kind say: We are good for nothing, and because we are good for nothing, we are good for nothing, and wish to be good for nothing. But it is a very false idea of Christian humility and modesty to desire through one’s abjectness to attain to excellence; this confession of one’s own nothingness is really inward pride and great self-conceit. But for the honour of true humility we must not remain in our misery, but raise ourselves above it by laying hold of the Divine.

The fact to which Kant clings most strongly (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, p. 467) is this, that Being cannot be extracted from the Notion. The result of this is the proposition that to have the thought of the Infinite is certainly Reason; but that from the Idea of Reason is separated determination in general, and especially the determination which is known as Being. The Ideas of Reason cannot be proved from experience, or obtain from it their verification: if they are defined by means of categories, contradictions arise. If the Idea in general is to be defined as existent only, it is nothing more or less than the Notion; and the Being of the existent is still distinguished from it. This result, however, so highly important with reference to knowledge of the understanding, Kant does not, with reference to Reason, carry further than to say that Reason has on its own account nothing but formal unity for the methodical systematization of the knowledge of the understanding. Abstract thinking is adhered to; it is said that the understanding can only bring about order in things; but order is nothing in and for itself, it is only subjective. There therefore remains nothing for Reason except the form of its pure identity with itself, and this extends no further than to the arranging of the manifold laws and relations of the understanding, the classes, kinds and species which the understanding discovers.(25) I, as Reason or conception, and the things external to me, are both absolutely different from one another; and that, according to Kant, is the ultimate standpoint. The animal does not stop at this standpoint, but practically brings about unity. This is the critique of theoretical Reason which Kant gives, and in which he states the a priori and determinate character of Reason in itself, without bringing it to the determinateness of individuality.(26)

Mention should still be made of the positive philosophy or metaphysics, which Kant sets a priori above objective existence, the content of the object of experience, nature; we have here his natural philosophy, which is a demonstration of the universal conceptions of Nature. But this is on the one hand very scanty and restricted in content, containing as it does sundry general qualities and conceptions of matter and motion, and with regard to the scientific side or the a priori, as Kant calls it, it is likewise altogether unsatisfactory. For Kant assumes all such conceptions as that matter has motion and also a power of attraction and repulsion,(27) instead of demonstrating their necessity. The “Principles of Natural Philosophy” have nevertheless been of great service, inasmuch as at the commencement of a philosophy of nature, attention was called to the fact that physical science employs thought-determinations without further investigation; and these determinations constitute the real foundations of its objects. Density, for instance, is looked on by physical science as a variable quantity, as a mere quantum in space: instead of this Kant asserted it to be a certain degree of occupation of space, i.e. energy, intensity of action. He demands accordingly (Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft, pp. 65-68) a construction of matter from powers and activities, not from atoms; and Schelling still holds to this without getting further. Kant’s work is an attempt to think, i.e. to demonstrate the determinations of thought, whose product consists of such conceptions as matter; he has attempted to determine the fundamental Notions and principles of this science, and has given the first impulse to a so-called dynamic theory of Nature.

“Religion within pure Reason” is also a demonstration of dogmas as aspects of Reason, just as in Nature. Thus in the positive dogmas of religion, which the Aufklärung (the clearing-up) — or the Ausklärung (the clearing-out) — made short work of, Kant called to remembrance Ideas of Reason, asking what rational and, first of all, what moral meaning lies in that which men call dogmas of religion, e.g. original sin.(28) He is much more reasonable than the Ausklärung, which thinks it beneath its dignity to speak of such matters. These are the principal points in respect to the theoretical part of Kant’s philosophy.

Critique of Pure Reason - Critique of Practical Reason - Critique of Practical Judgment - Contents

8. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 25-27.
9. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 29, 30; 34-36.
10. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 30, 31, 41; 12, 13, 150.
11. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 54, 55.
12. Ibidem, pp. 59, 97-104.
13. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 105-110.
14. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 129-132.
15. Ibidem, p. 134.
16. In the lectures of 1825-1826 the philosophy of Fichte on its theoretic side is interpolated. Here, while its practical side is only shortly mentioned after an account is given of the Critique of Practical Reason.
17. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 257-259, 264, 267, 268, 273.
18. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 261, 262, 274, 275, 284, 288, 289.
19. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 289-299.
20. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 312-314.
21. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 317, 318, 328, 329, 332.
22. Ibidem, pp. 318, 336, 337.
23. Ibidem, pp. 319, 346, 347.
24. Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 319, 354, 355.
25. Kritik der reinen Vernunft, pp. 497, 498.
26. Here there is inserted in the lectures of 1825-1826 an examination of what the philosophy of Jacobi has to say on this point.
27. Kant: Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft (third edition, Leipzig, 1800), pp. 1, 27.
28. Kant: Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloosn Vernunft (second edition, Königsberg, 1794), pp. 20-48.

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