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Unformatted text preview: alone in suggesting a middle way. It could be (he said) that a spirit which can’t err or
deceive originally implanted these laws of nature in us. But there is so much human error  including
plenty of it in Crusius’ own system!  that it seems very dangerous to rely on this line of thought. Even if
some things have been instilled in us by the Spirit of Truth, we have no reliable way of distinguishing
these from ones put there by the Father of Lies. 44
constitution or inner nature·.) For example, take any two straight lines that intersect one
another and intersect some circle (any circle you like):
The rectangle constructed with the two segments of one of the lines is equal to the
rectangle constructed with the two segments of the other.
Now I ask: Does this law lie in the circle or in the understanding? That is: Is the basis for
this law something contained in the figure itself, independently of the understanding, or is
the situation rather that the understanding, having constructed the figure according to its
concepts (a set of points equidistant from a given point) introduces into it this law about
the chords cutting one another in geometrical proportion? When we follow the proofs of
this law, we soon see that it can only be derived from the equality of the circle’s radii,
which is the basis for the understanding’s construction of this figure. But we can replace
the concept on which the circle is based by a more general one that fits every sort of conic
section (the circle being just one kind); that will further the project of unifying various
properties of geometrical figures under common laws; and if we take that step we shall
find that all the chords that intersect within the ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola, always
intersect in such a way that the rectangles of their segments always Ÿbear a constant ratio
to one another (the circle is the special case where they Ÿare equal).
If we proceed still further, to the fundamental laws of physical astronomy, we find
that the whole of the material world is governed by a physical law of mutual attraction for
which the rule is: The force of attraction decreases inversely as the square of the distance
from each attracting point, that is, as the spherical surfaces increase over which the force
spreads. [Kant’s line of thought is as follows. Think of gravity as radiating out from a
point, exerting the same total force evenly across the surface of each imaginary sphere
with that point as centre. The Ÿsurfaceareas of the spheres differ with the squares of their
radii, i.e. their distance from the central point; that’s simple geometry. Then Ÿthe amount
of gravitational force received by an object of a given size will vary with the proportion of
its spheresurface that it occupies, which means that it will vary inversely with the square
of its distance from the gravitational source.] The simplicity of the sources of this law,
which rest merely on the relation of spherical surfaces of different radii, is matched by
what follows from it, namely such a splendid variety and harmony of consequences that
not only are all possible orbits of the celestial bodies conic sections, but these orbits are
interrelated in such a way that no law of attraction other than the inversesquare one can
be imagined as appropriate for a cosmic system.
So here is a nature that rests on laws that the understanding knows a priori, and
chiefly from the universal principles of the geometry of space. Now I ask: ŸDo the laws of
nature lie in space, and does the understanding learn them merely by trying to discover the
great wealth of meaning that lies in space; or Ÿdo they inhere in the understanding and in
how it configures space . . . .?
Because it is so uniform and so indeterminate in its particular properties, one
wouldn’t look to space for a store of laws of nature. ·In contrast with that, there is no
threat of uniformity in the understanding!· What imposes circles, cones and spheres on
space is the understanding, in its role as provider of the basis for of the constructions of
those figures.
So the mere universal form of intuition  we call it ‘space’  is the underlay of all
intuitions of particular objects. There’s no denying that Ÿspace makes the Ÿintuitions 45
possible in all their variety; but the unity of the Ÿobjects  ·or rather the unity among the
intuitions that enables them to qualify as intuitions of objects·  comes ·not from space but·
entirely from the understanding, in accordance with conditions that lie in its own nature.
And so the understanding is the origin of the universal order of nature, in that it brings all
appearances under its own laws, and thereby constructs the formal aspects of experience a
priori, so that nothing can be known by experience except what conforms to the
understanding’s laws. The nature of Ÿthings in themselves is independent of the conditions
of our sensibility and our understanding; but our concern is not with that but rather with
Ÿnature considered as an object of possible experience; and here the understanding, by
making experience possible, brings it about that the world of the senses either is nature
(·in my sense, as...
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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.
 Spring '13
 mendetta
 Philosophy, Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

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