Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

Common sense which strongly felt that perceptions

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Unformatted text preview: be thought, it could be used as a predicate of other things or would contain such predicates in itself. But it is nothing more than the feeling of something existing, without the slightest concept of it; it is only the representation of that to which all thinking relates. 54 Section 48 So if we want to use the concept of Ÿthe soul as substance as a basis on which to conclude that Ÿthe soul is permanent, we can do this only in relation to possible experience; if we take the soul to be a thing in itself, and look for a conclusion that holds good beyond the bounds of all possible experience, permanence cannot be shown. But all our possible experience requires us to be alive; so the only permanence-of-the-soul result we can establish is that the soul is permanent throughout one’s life; for the death of man is the end of all experience that the soul could have of itself as an object - unless the contrary is proved, but that ‘contrary’ is supposed to be the conclusion of the argument for the soul’s permanence, so it can’t appear among the premises. The most we can show, therefore, is that the soul is permanent throughout one’s life - a result that nobody will disagree with! What we want is to show that the soul lasts after death, and this we cannot do, for the reason I have given: the necessary tie between the concept of substance and the concept of permanence is created by the principles of possible experience, and so it holds good only within the domain of possible experience.12 Section 49 Here is something else that can be proved ·as a requirement for the intellectual management· of experience, but can’t be shown to hold of things in themselves: Our outer experience not only does but must correspond to something real outside of ourselves. That tells us this much: there is something empirical - thus, some phenomenon in space outside us - ·the existence of· which can be satisfactorily proved. ·That is all it tells us·, for we have no dealings with objects other than those belonging to possible experience; because objects that can’t be presented to us in any experience are nothing to us. What is empirically outside me is what appears in space. Now space, together with all the phenomena it contains, belongs to the representations whose objective truth is proved by how they are inter-connected according to laws of experience, just as the actuality of my soul (as an object of inner sense) is proved by how the phenomena of inner sense are inter-----------------------------------12 It is indeed very remarkable that metaphysicians have always glided comfortably over the principle that substances are permanent without trying to prove it. No doubt this is because as soon as they started on the concept of substance they found that every possible basis for a proof had deserted them. Common sense, which strongly felt that perceptions couldn’t be unified in experience without this presupposition ·of the permanence of substance· filled the gap by a postulate. (·It had to postulate permanence instead of proving it· because it could never derive the necessary permanence of substance from experience itself, for two complementary reasons. (1) We have no way of tracking substances through all their alterations and dissolutions and finding ·empirically· that their matter, their stuff, is never lessened. (2) The principle in question involves necessity, which is a sure sign of its being an a priori principle ·and thus not knowable through or provable from experience·.) People then optimistically applied this postulate ·about all substances· to the concept of soul as a substance, and inferred from this that a man’s soul must continue in existence after his death (especially because this substance’s having no parts - which they inferred from the indivisibility of consciousness - guaranteed that it couldn’t be destroyed by falling to pieces). If they had found the genuine source of this principle of the permanence of substance - a discovery requiring deeper researches than they were ever inclined to make - they would have seen that the law of the permanence of substances holds good only for the purposes of ·intellectually managing· experience; so it applies to things only so far as they are to be known and conjoined with others in experience. It never applies independently of all possible experience, and consequently it cannot hold good of the soul after death. 55 connected. Accordingly, Ÿit is by outer experience that I am conscious of the actuality of bodies, as external phenomena in space, just as Ÿby inner experience I am conscious of the existence of my soul in time; but I know this soul only as an object of inner sense knowing it only through appearances that constitute my inner state; the nature of the soul in itself - the thing that has these phenomena - is unknown to me. So all that Cartesian idealism achieves is to distinguish Ÿouter experience from Ÿdreaming; and to distinguish the Ÿconformity to law that is a criterion of the truth of the former from the Ÿirregularity and false...
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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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