Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

Secondly it is so far from being the case that these

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Unformatted text preview: s, rather than as restricting them to the Ÿconditions of experience. So my doctrine of the ideality of space and of time ·(that is, my doctrine that space and time are appearances) comes nowhere near to turning the whole world of the senses into mere illusion. I shall offer two graphic illustrations of this. Firstly, the doctrine· is so far from Ÿturning the sensible world into illusion that it is the only means of Ÿsaving something from being regarded as mere illusion; what it saves is one of the most important kinds of knowledge (the kind that mathematics propounds a priori), which the doctrine guarantees does apply to actual objects. ·Here is why it is the only way of securing this result·. Without the ideality of space and time it would be quite impossible to decide whether the intuitions of space and time - which we don’t take from any experience, and which nevertheless lie in our representation a priori ·so that we take them to every experience· - are not mere phantoms thrown up by our brain, with nothing adequately corresponding to them, in which case geometry itself is a mere illusion; whereas we have been able to prove geometry’s unquestionable validity with respect to all the objects of the sensible world, just because they are mere appearances. Secondly, it is so far from being the case that these principles of mine turn the truth of experience into mere ·sensory· illusion by making appearances of the representations of the senses, that they are rather the only means of preventing the transcendental illusion by which metaphysics has hitherto been deceived, leading to an infantile snatching at bubbles by metaphysicians who took appearances - which are mere representations - to be things 26 in themselves. [By ‘transcendental illusion’ Kant here means something like ‘abstract philosophical illusion’. His more special sense of ‘transcendental’, explained near the end of section 12, will come up again in the next paragraph.] That illusion is what brought on stage the remarkable antinomy [= ‘contradiction’] of reason that I shall return to in sections 51-53. All it takes to clear up this ·internal contradiction into which reason falls· is a single observation: that appearance, as long as it is employed in experience, produces truth, but as soon as it goes beyond bounds of experience and consequently becomes transcendent [= ‘freed from any constraints having to do with the senses’] it produces nothing but illusion. Thus, in letting things as we confront them through the senses retain their actuality, and limiting our sensory intuition of these things only by saying this: in no respect - not even in the pure intuitions of space and of time - do they represent anything more than mere appearance of those things, never their constitution in themselves, I am not imputing to nature a sweeping illusion. [For the phrase ‘pure intuition’, see the explanation on page 10-11.] My rejection of all such imputations is so obviously valid and convincing that one might think there was no need for it. And there wouldn’t be, if it weren’t for the existence of incompetent judges who - liking to have an old name for everything that diverges from their own wrong-headed though common opinions, and always clinging to the letter of what is said with no thought for its spirit - are ready to deform and distort well-defined notions by putting their own follies in the place of them. I have myself given this theory of mine the name Ÿ‘transcendental idealism’, but that cannot entitle anyone to muddle it either with the Ÿempirical idealism of Descartes or with the Ÿmystical and visionary idealism of Berkeley. (My critique ·of pure reason· contains the proper antidote to phantoms like Berkeley’s. As for Descartes: all he had was an insoluble problem, which led him to think that everyone is at liberty to deny the existence of the corporeal world because it could never be proved satisfactorily.) Doubting the existence of things constitutes ‘idealism’ in the ordinary sense; but the doctrine I have labelled as ‘idealism’ - ·in the phrase ‘transcendental idealism’· - doesn’t concern the existence of things, since it never entered my head to doubt that they exist. Rather, it concerns the sensory representation of things, especially of space and time. All I have shown regarding space and time, and thus more generally regarding all appearances, is that they are not Ÿthings but mere Ÿfeatures of how we represent things, and are not qualities of things in themselves. But the word ‘transcendental’ was meant to guard against this misconception. (For me, ‘transcendental’ signifies a reference to our knowledge not Ÿof things but only Ÿof our ability to have knowledge. ·I characterized my idealism as ‘transcendental’ because it offers an explanation of how we can know certain things a priori·.) But rather than furthering the misunderstanding, I now retract the label ‘transcendental...
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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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