Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

9 if we can say that a science

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Unformatted text preview: these sciences therefore needed my enquiry not for themselves but for another science, namely Ÿmetaphysics. Metaphysics is concerned not only with concepts of nature (which always find their application in experience) but also with pure concepts of reason, which never find application in any possible experience. No experience can tell us what is true and what false involving concepts of reason, or even whether these concepts are objectively real or mere fictions. Yet the part of metaphysics that involves them is the essential end of metaphysics - it is what the rest of metaphysics is for - and that is why this science ·unlike the other two· needs an explanatory justification for its own sake. The third question now before us concerns the heart of metaphysics, its special feature, namely reason’s preoccupation with itself, and its assumption that by brooding over its own concepts it can come to know about objects that it supposes to arise immediately out of those concepts without help of any kind from experience.9 Reason will never be satisfied until it has solved this problem- ·that is, answered the question ‘How is metaphysics possible·?’. Reason won’t let pure understanding be used outside the domain of experience; but reason itself is destined to go beyond those confines. Every particular experience is only a part of the whole domain of experience; but the absolute whole of all possible experience is not itself experience, yet it is something that reason has to think about, as a problem. For reason to present this problem to itself, it needs concepts quite different from those of the understanding. The latter are applied only to items given in experience; but the concepts of reason have a use that is transcendent: it transcends all actual and possible experience, because it involves thinking about the completeness of all possible experience, i.e. thinking about the-totality-of-possibleexperience considered as a single unified item. Such an item could not itself be given in experience. Just as Ÿthe understanding supplies categories, which are needed for experience, so Ÿreason supplies Ideas, by which I mean concepts that one must have though their objects can’t be given in any possible experience. Ideas are as inherent in the nature of reason as categories are in the nature of the understanding. Ideas carry with them an illusion that could easily mislead; this illusion is unavoidable, although it can be prevented from actually leading us astray. -----------------------------------9 If we can say that a science is actual, at least in the thinking of all men (·subjectively actual·), as soon as we have established that the problems leading to it are ones that are set before everybody by the nature of human reason, . . . then we are bound to say that metaphysics is subjectively actual (and necessarily so), which leads us to the legitimate question: How is it (objectively) possible? 49 All illusion consists in taking the subjective ground of judgment to be objective, as though reason in its use of the Ideas were acquiring a special kind of knowledge. Reason falls victim to this, and is guilty of error, when it takes something that merely concerns Ÿreason’s own nature and mode of operation and tries to make it refer to Ÿsome object in itself. The only safeguard against this temptation is for reason to know itself - to understand what is going on when it uses Ideas in a transcendent, extravagant manner that goes beyond all possible experience. Section 41 We must distinguish Ideas, which are pure concepts of reason, from the categories or pure concepts of the understanding; the two correspond to two sorts of knowledge that are quite different from one another Ÿin their natures, Ÿin where they come from, and Ÿin how they are used. In the fundamentals of a science that purports to cover all a priori knowledge, the distinction between Ideas and categories is crucial. If we don’t respect it, metaphysics will be absolutely impossible - or at best a random, bungling attempt to build a house of cards in ignorance of the materials one is using and of what they are good for. If my Critique of Pure Reason had done nothing but make this distinction plain for the first time, it would have contributed more to our grasp of metaphysics - what it is, and how it should be conducted - than all the fruitless efforts to do justice to the transcendent problems of pure reason that had ever before been undertaken. Before the Critique no-one had even suspected that reason was quite different from understanding; so everybody ran the two together, mentioning concepts of the understanding and concepts of reason in the same breath, as though they were of the same kind. Section 42 All instances of pure knowledge by the understanding have this in common: ·although they are not derived from experience·, they involve concepts that can have application in experience, and principles that can be confirmed by experience. Transcendent knowledge by reason contrasts with this....
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This note was uploaded on 03/12/2013 for the course PHIL 105 taught by Professor Mendetta during the Spring '13 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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