Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

Having dropped the restriction to experience it

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Unformatted text preview: ding are independent of experience, and despite their seemingly greater sphere of 41 use, we still can’t use them to have any thoughts whatsoever beyond the domain of experience, because their only role is to fix the logical forms of judgments that we make about given intuitions. But as there is absolutely no intuition outside the domain of the senses, these pure concepts have no meaning outside that domain; and all these noumena, together with the intelligible6 world that they compose, are nothing but the representation of a problem, ·namely the problem or question: What are noumena like? What is the intelligible world like?· What the question is about is something possible; but answering it in terms of the concepts of our understanding is quite impossible. That is because of the nature of our understanding, whose role is not to deliver intuitions but to connect intuitions that are given in experience; ·that is, it doesn’t present us with real particular things, but only enables us to inter-connect particulars that we get from elsewhere, namely from our senses·. So experience must contain all the materials to which we apply our concepts; and beyond it no concepts have any significance, as there is no intuition that might offer them something to grip onto. Section 35 The Ÿimagination may perhaps be forgiven for sometimes wandering, not keeping carefully within the limits of experience; for such roaming gives it life and vigour, and ·that is an advantage, because· it is always easier to moderate the imagination’s boldness than to rouse it from lethargy. But the Ÿunderstanding’s job is to think, and it can never be forgiven if it wanders instead, for it is our only resource for setting limits, when they are needed, to the wanderings of the imagination. The understanding begins its misbehaviour very innocently and soberly. First it brings to light the elementary items of knowledge that it contains in advance of all experience, though they must never be applied outside experience. It gradually discards these limits, and what is there to prevent it from doing so when it has quite freely drawn its principles from itself? ·Having dropped the restriction to experience·, it proceeds first to newlythought-up powers in nature, and soon after that to beings outside nature. In short, it proceeds to a ·non-natural· world; and there can be no shortage of materials for constructing such a world, because fertile fiction-making provides them in abundance and though it is not confirmed by experience it is never refuted by it either. This is why young thinkers arc so partial to metaphysics of the truly dogmatic kind, devoting to it their time and talents that could be better employed. But it is no use trying to damp down these fruitless efforts of pure reason by Ÿoffering all sorts of reminders of how hard it is to answer such deep questions, by Ÿcomplaining about how limited our reason is, and by Ÿdown-playing our assertions as mere conjectures. The only way to get these fruitless efforts to be completely abandoned is to Ÿshow clearly that they are impossible, and to allow reason’s knowledge of itself t o become a true science in ·terms of· which the domain of reason’s right use is distinguished with mathematical certainty from that of its worthless and idle use, -----------------------------------6 Not the intellectual world (as the usual expression is). For cognitive Ÿoperations of the understanding are intellectual, and some of them are thinkings about the world of our senses. The term ‘intelligible’ applies to Ÿobjects insofar as they can be represented by the understanding all on its own, without our sensible intuitions coming into it in any way. . . . 42 Section 36: How is nature itself possible? This question is the highest point that transcendental philosophy can ever touch. [Reminder: by ‘transcendental’ Kant means ‘having to do with grounds for a priori knowledge’.] It is a point that transcendental philosophy must reach, because it is its boundary and completion. Really it contains two questions. First: What makes it possible for there to be nature - in the material sense of that word, in which it stands for the totality of appearances? That is to ask: How are space and time and their contents possible in general? The answer is: What makes them possible is Ÿthe way our sensibility is - the special way in which it is affected by objects that are in themselves unknown and are not in themselves spatial or temporal. This answer has been given in the Critique (in the Transcendental Aesthetic), and here in the Preliminaries through the solution of the first question. Secondly: What makes it possible for there to be nature in the formal sense, in which nature involves the totality of rules that must apply to all appearances if they are to be connected by thought in an experience? The answer must be this: What makes nature possible is Ÿthe way our understanding works. ·In the background is the crucial fact that· all the representations of the sensibility have to be related to a conscious...
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