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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.
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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