Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

If anyone thinks himself wronged in this he can

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Unformatted text preview: till far from being able to say that Ÿthe time has come for its rebirth through a solid and complete critique of reason. When someone’s inclinations shift from running one way to running in the opposite direction, he passes through an intermediate stage of indifference ·in which he is not inclined in any direction. And this fact about human desires and tendencies has its analogue in shifts of intellectual direction among the sciences·. This moment ·of ‘indifference’, with an old science on the wane and no new one to take its place·, is Ÿthe most dangerous for an author, but in my opinion it’s Ÿthe most favourable for the science. For when the total dissolution of former ties has extinguished the partisan spirit, minds are in the best state to take in, gradually, proposals for a new scheme of alliances. If I say: 77 I hope that these preliminaries may excite investigation in the field of criticism, and provide something new and promising to nourish the universal spirit of philosophy that seems ·except for moral philosophy· to be under-nourished, I can already imagine that everyone who is tired and cross from walking the thorny paths of my critique will ask me: What is your basis for hoping that? I answer: The basis of the irresistible law of necessity. Will the human mind ever give up metaphysical researches altogether? There is no more chance of that than there is of our choosing to give up breathing altogether so as to avoid inhaling impure air! So there will always be metaphysics in the world; what’s more every person - especially every thinking person - will have metaphysical views, and in the absence of a public standard he will tailor them to suit himself. What has been called ‘metaphysics’ up to now can’t satisfy any demanding mind, but it’s quite impossible to give up metaphysics completely; so a critique of pure reason itself must now be attempted; or if one exists it must be investigated and comprehensively tested. There is no other way to meet this pressing need, which is something more than mere thirst for knowledge. Ever since I have come to know criticism, when I finish reading a book with metaphysical content - one that has entertained and enriched me by its precision of thought, variety, orderliness, and easy style - I can’t help asking: Has this author really advanced metaphysics a single step? I hope they will forgive me - those learned men whose writings have been useful to me in other respects and have always helped me to develop my mental powers - for saying that I have never been able to find that the science of metaphysics has been advanced in the least by their works or by my lesser ones (even when my egotism speaks in their favour!). The reason for this is very obvious: it is that metaphysics did not then exist as a science; and ·those other writers and I couldn’t make small steps towards bringing it into existence, because· it can’t be assembled bit by bit, but must have its seed fully preformed in the critique. However, in order to prevent any misunderstanding we should bear in mind something I have already said: the understanding gains a great deal from the analytic treatment of our concepts, but the science (of metaphysics) is not in the least advanced by it, because these analyses of concepts are merely materials out of which the science is to be assembled in the first place. Let the concepts of substance and of accident be ever so well analysed and fixed; that is an excellent preparation for some future use. But if I cannot prove that in everything that exists the substance endures and only the properties change, our science is not the least advanced by all this analysis. Metaphysics has so far not been able to prove a priori either Ÿthe above proposition, or Ÿthe principle of sufficient reason, still less Ÿany compound principle such as belongs to psychology or cosmology, or indeed Ÿany synthetic proposition whatsoever. So all this analysis has achieved nothing, created and advanced nothing; and despite all this bustle and clatter the science is right back where it was in Aristotle’s time; though the preparations for it would have been better advanced ·now· than they were ·back then·, if only the guiding thread to synthetic knowledge had been found. If anyone thinks himself wronged in this, he can easily refute my charge by producing a single synthetic proposition belonging to metaphysics that he offers to prove a priori in the dogmatic manner. Until he has done this I shan’t grant that he has really advanced the science; even if the proposition ·that he claims to be able to prove· is sufficiently confirmed 78 by common experience. No demand can be more moderate or fairer than this, and if it is not fulfilled (as it quite certainly won’t be), no verdict is more just than this: Up to now, metaphysics has never existed as a science. In case my challenge is accepted, I must rule out just two things: Ÿplaying around with probability and conjecture, which are as little suited to metaphysics as they are to geometry; and Ÿdecision by means of the divining rod of so-called sound common sense, which does not dip...
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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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