Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

Section 30 hence the pure concepts of the

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Unformatted text preview: . What I am concerned 38 with is how experiential knowledge of things involves those three types of judgment, i.e. how objects of experience can be brought under those concepts of the understanding. I have perfect insight into that: I grasp not merely that we can bring appearances under these concepts but that we must do so, in that way using the concepts as principles of the possibility of experience. Section 29 Let us apply all this to Hume’s problematic concept, namely the concept of cause. Sheer logic tells me a priori that there can be conditional judgments - ones of the form ‘If . . ., then . . .’ - in which one piece of knowledge is treated as a source and another as an upshot. I may have occasion to make such a judgment, reporting that in my perceptions one kind of appearance is regularly followed by another, as when I say ‘If the sun shines long enough on a body, then the body grows warm’. This doesn’t connect the two necessarily, and it doesn’t involve the concept of cause; so far, it is merely a subjective connection of perceptions. For it to be a proposition of experience, it must be regarded as necessary and as universally valid, like the proposition ‘The sun through its light is the cause of heat’. The empirical generalization with which I started is now regarded as a law, and as being valid for appearances in a manner that is required if experience is to be possible - for there can’t be experience without rules that are universally and therefore necessarily valid. So I do have insight into the concept of cause, as a concept necessarily belonging to the possibility of experience. What about the concept of things ·in themselves· as causes? I have no conception of that, because the concept of cause doesn’t correspond to anything in Ÿthings but only to a Ÿfact about experience, namely that if experience is to be objectively valid knowledge of appearances and of their sequence in time, some appearances must be related to later ones in conditional judgments. Section 30 Hence the pure concepts of the understanding have absolutely no meaning if they are pulled away from objects of experience and applied to things in themselves (noumena). [Kant uses ‘noumenon’ (plural ‘noumena’) to mean ‘thing that can only be thought’, in contrast to ‘phenomenon’ (plural ‘phenomena’), meaning ‘thing that can be experienced’. Things in themselves are noumena because although we can perhaps think about them, we can’t possibly experience them.] The role of pure concepts of the understanding is to spell out appearances, so to speak, enabling them to be read as experience. When these concepts are applied to the world of the senses, the principles that arise from this use help our understanding to manage our experience. Beyond the bounds of experience they are arbitrary connections without objective reality: there is no a priori guarantee that they apply to anything, and no examples can be given of their applicability to objects. Indeed, we don’t even know what such an example could be like. We have no conception of it, because examples have to be drawn from some possible experience. Possible experience is the proper domain of the pure concepts of the understanding. So the Humean problem is completely solved, though in a way that would have surprised its inventor. The solution secures an a priori origin for the pure concepts of the understanding, and for the universal laws of nature it secures a status as valid laws of the 39 understanding; but it does this in such a way as to limit the use of these concepts to experience only, and it grounds them in a relation between the understanding and experience that is the complete reverse of anything that Hume envisaged - instead of the concepts being derived from experience, that experience is derived from them. My line of argument yields the following result: All synthetic a priori principles are simply principles of possible experience; they can never be applied to things in themselves, but only to appearances as objects of experience. Hence pure mathematics as well as pure natural science can never bear on anything except appearances. Section 31 Until now, metaphysicians have proceeded boldly enough, but always tramping over everything blindly, without making any distinctions. My work gives us, at last, something definite to rely on as a guide in metaphysical enterprises. It never dawned on the dogmatic thinkers that the goal of their efforts might be so near; nor did it dawn on the philosophers who, proud of their supposedly sound reason, set out on their quest for results, equipped with concepts and principles of pure reason (which were legitimate and natural, but fit only for merely empirical use). These philosophers did not and could not know any fixed boundaries to territory within which results might be gained, because they hadn’t and couldn’t have ever reflected on the nature of such a pure understanding or even on its possibility. Many a naturalist of pure reason (by which I mean someone who thinks he can settle metaphysical questions with...
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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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