Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

65 but on the other hand it would be even more absurd

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Unformatted text preview: oncepts of reason that can’t be applied to anything found in any experience, the questions that reason confronts us with regarding them don’t come from objects but from mere maxims that our reason lays down for its own satisfaction. It must be possible for them all, as a group, to be satisfactorily answered, which is done by showing that they are principles for bringing our use of the understanding into thorough harmony, completeness, and synthetic unity, so that they do in that way hold good for experience - but for experience as a whole. But although an absolute whole of experience is impossible, the Idea of a totality of knowledge according to principles is needed if our knowledge is to have a special kind of unity, the unity of a system. Without that our knowledge is nothing but piece-work, and can’t be used for the highest end (which is always the establishment of a general system of all ends). I am talking here not only about practical ·or moral· ends, but also about the highest end of the speculative use of reason. The transcendental Ideas thus express reason’s special role, namely as setting a standard for systematic unity in the use of the understanding. But if the following happens: We see this unity in our way of knowing as attached to the object of knowledge; we take something that is merely regulative to be constitutive; and we persuade ourselves that by means of these Ideas we can extend our knowledge far beyond all possible experience (and thus in a transcendent manner), this is Ÿa mere misunderstanding in our estimate of the proper role of our reason and of its principles, and it is Ÿa dialectic that confuses the empirical use of reason and also sets reason against itself. What makes it a misunderstanding is the fact that really reason serves merely to bring experience as near as possible to completeness within itself, that is, to stop its progress from being limited by anything that can’t belong to experience. CONCLUSION Determining the boundaries of pure reason Section 57 After the clearest arguments, which I have provided, it would be absurd for us to hope to know more of any object than belongs to the possible experience of it, or lay claim to the slightest knowledge of anything not taken to be an object of possible experience knowledge that would tell us what the thing is like in itself. For how could we learn such facts, given that time, space, and the categories - and even more all the concepts drawn from empirical intuition or perception in the world of the senses - don’t and can’t have any use other than to make experience possible, and that even the pure categories are meaningless if they are removed from this relation to perception? -----------------------------------15 Herr Platner in his Aphorisms acutely says: ‘If reason is a criterion, there can’t be a concept that human reason cannot comprehend. Incomprehensibility comes up only with what is actual. . . .’ So it only sounds paradoxical and is not really strange to say that although much in nature is beyond our comprehension (e.g. biological reproduction), if we rise still higher and go right out beyond nature everything will be comprehensible again. For then we leave behind the objects which can be given us, and occupy ourselves merely with Ideas; and here we can easily grasp the law that reason, through them, prescribes to the understanding for its use in experience, because that law is reason’s own product. 65 But on the other hand it would be even more absurd if we rejected things in themselves, or declared that Ÿour experience is the only possible way of knowing things, Ÿour intuition of them in space and in time the only possible intuition, Ÿour concept-using understanding the pattern for every possible understanding - all of which would amount to taking the principles of the possibility of experience to be universal conditions of things in themselves. My principles, which limit the use of reason to possible experience, could in that way become transcendent, and the limits of our reason might pass themselves off as limits of the possibility of things in themselves (Hume’s Dialogues illustrate this process), if a careful critique didn’t both watch over the bounds of our reason, . . . and set a limit to its pretensions. Scepticism originally arose from metaphysics and its lawless dialectic. Wanting to favour the experiential use of reason, it started out by declaring that whatever transcends this use is worthless and deceitful; but little by little, as the awareness sank in that the a priori principles used in experience lead (surreptitiously, and seemingly just as legitimately) f urther than experience extends, doubt began to be placed even in the principles of experience. There is no danger in this ·error·, for healthy common sense will doubtless always assert its rights ·regarding experience·. But a certain confusion arose in science, which can’t work out how far reason is to be trusted - and why just this...
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