Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

20 my so called idealism properly critical idealism

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Unformatted text preview: asons for which the reader understands no better than he does the propositions being condemned. So his review is no use to the reader, and doesn’t do the slightest harm to me in the judgment of experts. So I would have passed over this review completely if it hadn’t given me an opportunity to provide some clarifications that may save some readers of these Preliminaries from misinterpretations. Wanting to position himself so as to set the whole work in a light that is most unflattering to its author, doing this easily without putting any work into it, Reviewer begins and ends by saying: ‘This work is a system of transcendental (or, as he translates it, of higher) idealism.’19 A glance at this line showed me what sort of review was in store for me. It was like someone who has never seen or heard of geometry, finds a copy of Euclid and on flipping through its pages sees various figures, is asked his opinion of it, and replies: ‘The work is a text-book of drawing; the author uses a special language in which to give dark, incomprehensible directions that in the upshot teach nothing more than what everyone can accomplish with a good natural eye, etc.’ Meanwhile, let us see what sort of idealism it is that runs through my whole work, although it is far from constituting the soul of the system. The thesis of all genuine idealists from the Eleatic school to Bishop Berkeley is contained in this formula: All knowledge through the senses and experience is nothing but sheer illusion, and only in the ideas of the understanding and reason is there truth. The principle that governs and determines my idealism throughout is on the contrary: All knowledge of things through unaided pure understanding or pure reason is nothing but sheer illusion, and only in experience is there truth. This is precisely the opposite of the former, genuine idealism. So how did I come to use this expression for a completely opposite purpose, and how did my reviewer come to see genuine idealism everywhere? The solution of this difficulty rests on something that could have been very easily understood - by anyone who wanted to! - from the over-all structure of the work. Space -----------------------------------19 ‘Higher’ - no way! High towers, and metaphysically-great men that resemble them, are not for me there is usually too much wind around them! My place is the fertile bottom-land of experience; and the word ‘transcendental’ - whose meaning was so often explained by me but not once grasped by my reviewer (so carelessly has he looked at everything) - doesn’t signify something that Ÿgoes beyond all experience, but something that Ÿdoes indeed precede experience a priori, but whose role is simply Ÿto make knowledge through experience possible. If these concepts step beyond experience, their employment is termed transcendent, as distinct from their immanent use, that is, their use limited to experience. ·Don’t confuse ‘transcendent’ with ‘transcendental’·. All misunderstandings of this kind have been adequately guarded against in the work itself, but it suited the reviewer’s turn to misunderstand me. 82 and time, together with everything they contain, are not things or qualities in themselves, but belong merely to the appearances of such things and qualities; up to this point I am doctrinally at one with the ·genuine· idealists. But they, and especially Berkeley, regarded space ·itself· as a mere empirical representation, and held that it together with all its properties is known to us only by means of experience or perception - just like the appearances in space. As against this, I show in the first place, that space (and also time, which Berkeley ignored) and all its properties can be known by us a priori, because space (as well as time) Ÿis present in us before all perception or experience as a pure form of our sensibility and Ÿmakes possible all sensible intuition and thus all appearances. It follows from this ·contrast between Berkeley and me· that Ÿbecause truth rests on universal and necessary laws as its criteria, experience for Berkeley can have no criteria of truth, because its appearances (according to him) have nothing underlying them a priori, from which it follows in turn that they are nothing but sheer illusion; whereas for me space and time (in combination with the pure concepts of the understanding) prescribe their law a priori to all possible experience, and this at the same time yields the sure criterion for distinguishing truth from illusion in experience.20 My so-called idealism (properly: critical idealism) is thus of a quite special kind, in that it overthrows ordinary idealism; and through it all a priori knowledge, even that of geometry, first receives objective reality; and even the most zealous ·ordinary· realists could not have claimed that, because they lacked my demonstrated ideality of space and time - ·that is, my proof that space and time are forms of our sensibility·. In these circumstances I would have liked, so as avoid all misunderstanding, to name this concept of mine differently; but I can’t ver...
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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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