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Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

But these limits should not be misunderstood that is

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Unformatted text preview: far and no further? - and the only way to clear up this confusion and forestall any future relapses is through a formal, principled fixing of the boundary of the use of our reason. It is true: we cannot rise above all possible experience and form a definite concept of what things in themselves may be. Nevertheless, we are not free to refrain entirely from enquiring into them; for experience never satisfies reason fully; rather, in answering ·our· questions it points further and further back, leaving us still hungering for their complete solution. You can see this in the dialectic of pure reason, the solid subjective ground for which consists in just this hunger for completeness. As regards the nature of our soul: having a clear awareness of oneself as a subject, and having become convinced that psychological phenomena can’t be explained materialistically, Ÿwho can refrain from asking what the soul really is? And if no concept of experience suffices for the purpose, Ÿwho can refrain from accounting for it by a concept of reason (that of a simple immaterial being), even though we are totally unable to show its objective reality? As regards all the cosmological questions about the duration and size of the world, and about freedom versus natural necessity, Ÿwho can be satisfied with mere empirical answers to these, when every answer given on empirical principles gives rise to a fresh question, which then requires an answer in its turn, and in this way clearly shows that reason cannot be satisfied by explanations relying on facts about how things go in the empirical world? Finally, Ÿwho doesn’t see, from the utter contingency and dependence of everything he thinks and assumes using mere principles of experience, the impossibility of stopping with those principles? And Ÿwho doesn’t feel himself compelled, despite all the prohibitions against losing himself in transcendent Ideas, to seek peace and contentment (beyond all the concepts that he can vindicate by experience) in the concept of a being the Idea of which cannot be seen to be possible, but which cannot be refuted either because it relates to a mere being of the understanding, without which ·Idea· reason would remain forever dissatisfied? 66 Where extended things are concerned, boundaries always presuppose a space existing outside a certain definite place, and enclosing it; limits don’t require anything like that, but are mere negations, indicating of some quantity that it is not absolutely complete. But our reason sees around itself a space for knowledge of things in themselves, so to speak, though it can never have definite concepts of them and is limited to appearances only. As long as the knowledge of reason is all of one kind - ·for example, reasoning within number-theory, within geometry, within natural science, or the like· - definite boundaries to it are inconceivable. In mathematics and in natural science human reason recognizes limits, that is, recognizes that its inner progress will never be complete; but it does not recognize boundaries, that is, does not recognize that outside it there is something that it can never reach. In mathematics there is no end to the enlargement of our insight or to the new discoveries that may be made; similarly in natural science, there is no end to the discovery of new properties of nature, of new forces and laws, through continued experience and unification of it by reason. ·So these sciences are never complete, which means that at any time they have limits·. But these limits should not be misunderstood ·that is, should not be thought of as boundaries· - for mathematics bears only on appearances, and so it has no dealings with anything that can’t be an object of sensible intuition, such as the concepts of metaphysics and of morals, ·which means that it has no dealings with anything that could be a boundary for it·. Mathematics can never lead to such things, and has no need for them. So there is a continual progress and approach towards ·completion in· these sciences, towards the point or line, so to speak, of contact ·with completeness·. The inwardness of things doesn’t show up in the domain of appearance, though ·the Idea of· it can serve as the ultimate ground of explanation of appearances; and natural science will never reveal it to us. But it isn’t needed for scientific explanations. Indeed, even if such ·ultimate grounds of explanation· were to be offered from other sources (for instance, the influence of immaterial beings), natural science should reject them and not use them to advance its explanations. For its explanations must be based only on what can belong to experience as an object of sense and be connected with our actual perceptions in accordance with empirical laws. But metaphysics, in the dialectical attempts of pure reason (which we do not undertake arbitrarily or wantonly, being driven to them by the nature of reason itself), leads us to boundaries. And the transcendental Ideas, just because we can’t evade them and can never realize them ·in the sense of encountering an instance of one of them·, serve not only to Ÿtell us that the pure use of reason has boundaries, but also to Ÿshow us where they are. Tha...
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