Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

But no such construction has a place in metaphysics

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Unformatted text preview: ·in the same place· for everyone and is guided by ·the· personal qualities ·of the person holding it·. For as regards Ÿthe former, nothing can be more absurd than to think of grounding our judgments on probability and conjecture in metaphysics, which is a philosophy based on pure reason . Everything that is to be known a priori is for that very reason announced as absolutely certain, and must therefore be proved as such. We might as well think of basing geometry or arithmetic on conjectures! The calculus of probability, which is part of arithmetic, contains no Ÿmerely probable judgments. Rather, it consists of Ÿcompletely certain judgments about the degree of possibility of certain upshots in given homogeneous conditions. What happens across the totality of all possible cases must be in accordance with such rules ·or judgments·, though these are not determinate enough to say what will happen in any particular case. Only in empirical natural science can conjectures be tolerated (they come in there through induction and analogy), and even there at least the possibility of what one is assuming must be quite certain. The appeal to Ÿcommon sense is even more absurd, if that’s possible, when we are dealing with concepts and principles not considered as valid with regard to experience but considered as valid even beyond the conditions of experience. For what is common sense? It is ordinary understanding insofar as it judges correctly. But what is Ÿ ordinary understanding? It is the capacity for knowledge and for using rules in application to particular cases, as distinguished from Ÿspeculative understanding, which is the capacity for knowledge of rules in the abstract. So common sense can hardly understand the rule that every event is determined by its cause, and can never take it in as a general proposition. It therefore demands an example from experience; and when it ·is given one, and· hears that this rule means nothing but what it (·common sense·) always thought when a window-pane was broken or an article of furniture went missing, then it understands the principle and agrees to it. ŸOrdinary understanding is thus of use only to the extent that it can see its rules confirmed by experience (though actually the rules are in it a priori); consequently the job of having insight into these rules a priori and independently of experience is assigned to Ÿspeculative understanding, and lies quite outside the field of vision of common sense. But metaphysics has to do only with speculative understanding; and someone who appeals to common sense for support in metaphysics shows that he doesn’t have much of it! For in this context common sense has no judgment at all; and ·when it is invoked, there is a kind of bad faith in that, because· it is looked down on with contempt except when people are in difficulties and don’t know where else to turn for advice or help. These false friends of common sense (who occasionally prize it highly, but usually despise it) customarily offer this excuse ·for sometimes appealing to it·: There must in the end be some propositions that are immediately certain, and for which there is no need to give any proof, or even any account at all; because if 79 there were not, there would be no end to the grounds for our judgments. ·And these immediately certain propositions are the ones we know to be true through our common sense·. But these people can never prove their right to say this by pointing to anything indubitable that they can immediately ascribe to common sense - with two exceptions ·that are irrelevant to our present concerns·. ŸOne is the principle of contradiction, which ·we can set aside because it· is inadequate for showing the truth of synthetic judgments. ŸThe other is comprised of mathematical propositions, such as that twice two make four, and that between two points there is only one straight line, etc. But these judgments are vastly different from those of metaphysics. For in mathematics when I conceptually represent something to myself as possible I can also make it, construct it, in my thought: to one two I add the other two, one by one, and so myself make the number four; or from one point to another I draw in thought all kinds of lines, and can draw only one in which every part is like every other part ·which means that the line is straight·. But ·no such construction has a place in metaphysics, as I shall explain through the example of the concept of causation·: with all my power of thinking I cannot extract from the concept of one thing the concept of something else whose existence is necessarily connected with the first thing; rather, ·if I want a basis for connecting something with something else· I must call in experience. Now, my understanding provides me a priori (yet always only in reference to possible experience) with the concept of such a connection ·between different things·, namely causation. But I cannot exhibit this concept a priori in intuition, thus showing its possibility a priori, as I can the concepts of mathematics. In metaphysics the concept of causation (together with the principles of its application) has to be valid a priori, and for that there must be a justification and deduction of its possibility...
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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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