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Unformatted text preview: ngs of the understanding. But when it comes to finding
out what these beings are like, this domain is for us an empty space; and when we are
dealing with concepts whose instances we can identify and study, we can’t pass out of the
field of possible experience. But a boundary is itself something positive, which belongs as
much to Ÿwhat lies inside it as to Ÿthe space lying outside the given totality; so reason
partakes in real positive knowledge when it stretches out to this boundary. Reason doesn’t
try to go beyond the boundary, because out there it is confronted by an empty space in
which it can conceive Ÿforms of things but can’t conceive Ÿthings themselves. Still, even
when it adopts this stance towards the boundary, just in setting the boundary reason has
knowledge. In this knowledge it is not confined within the world of the senses, but nor
does it stray outside; rather, as befits the knowledge of a boundary, it focuses on the
relation between what lies outside the boundary and what is contained inside it.
Natural theology is such a concept at the boundary of human reason, ·because at that
boundary· reason finds itself compelled to look out further towards the Idea of a
ŸSupreme Being (and, for moral purposes towards the Idea of a world that can be thought
but not experienced). It doesn’t do this so as to find out anything about this Ÿmere
creation of the understanding lying outside the world of the senses; its purpose is rather to
employ principles of the greatest possible (theoretical as well as practical) unity to guide
its conduct within the world of the senses - a purpose that is served by relating these
principles to an independent reason, as the cause of all the connections ·found in the world
of the senses·. The aim is not merely to invent a being ·of reason. Invention is not in
question here·, because beyond the world of the senses there must be something that can
be thought only by the pure understanding. Reason’s aim is to characterize this being,
though of course only by analogy.
And so we are left with our original proposition, which is the upshot of the whole
Reason, through all its a priori principles, never teaches us about anything other
than objects of possible experience, and about these it teaches nothing more than
can be known in experience. 73
But this limitation on what reason can do doesn’t prevent it from leading us to the
objective boundary of experience, that is, to the relation to something that is the ultimate
ground of all objects of experience without itself being one of them. Still, reason doesn’t
teach us anything about what this ‘something’ is like in itself - only about how it relates to
reason’s own complete and utterly high-minded use in the domain of possible experience.
But this is all the usefulness that we can reasonably want ·reason to have·, and we have
cause to be satisfied with it.
So I have fully exhibited metaphysics as something we can do, showing it as an automatic
upshot of the natural tendency of human reason, and showing what our essential goal is
when we do metaphysics. But we have found that ·things can go wrong in this pursuit·:
this wholly natural use of such a tendency of our reason, if it is not reined in and given
limits (which can come only from a scientific critique), entangles us in transcendent
dialectical inferences ·leading to conclusions· of which some are illusory and others are
even in conflict with one another; and this fallacious metaphysics is not a help but an
obstacle to the advancement of our knowledge of nature. So it is worth our while to
investigate the natural goals towards which we can steer this liking that our reason has for
transcendent concepts, ·and this will counteract the mishaps mentioned above·, because
everything that is natural must be originally aimed at some useful purpose.
Such an enquiry is risky, and I admit that what I can say about it is only conjecture,
like every speculation about nature’s original purposes. But this is permissible, just this
once, because I am enquiring not into Ÿthe objective validity of metaphysical judgments
but into Ÿour natural tendency to make such judgments, so that the enquiry belongs not to
the system of metaphysics but rather to the study of mankind.
The transcendental Ideas, taken all together, form the real problem of natural pure
reason, a problem that compels reason to quit the mere observation of nature, to go
beyond all possible experience, and in so doing to bring into existence this thing (whether
it is knowledge or sophistry!) called metaphysics. When I consider all of these Ideas, I
think I see that
the aim of this natural tendency - this metaphysics - is to free our thinking from the
fetters of experience and from the limits of the mere observation of nature, taking
this freedom at least far enough to open up to us a field containing only objects for
the pure understanding, which no sensibility can reach.
This is not so that we can speculatively occupy ourselves with this field (for we can find
no ground to stand on while we do that), but so that we can think of moral principles as at
least possible. ·The connection between their being possible and the field opened up by
metaphysics is as follows·. Reason absolutely requires that moral princ...
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