Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

So it seems that we are given in experience something

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Unformatted text preview: make trouble; but Ÿthe trouble can be averted·. ŸThey don’t try to produce concepts that are in themselves excessive or extravagant; all they aim for - in conformity with the true but hidden goal to which our reason is naturally drawn - is a limitless extension of the empirical use of the categories. ŸBut through an unavoidable ·intellectual· illusion they may seduce the understanding into using the categories in a transcendent manner, ·that is, in a manner that is not related to experience·. Deceitful as this misuse is, ·it is hard to avoid·. To keep yourself from it and confine the categories within the bounds of experience, it won’t do merely to resolve in advance to be on your guard against doing so. ŸWhat you need is scientific instruction ·on how to avoid the trouble·, and even then it takes hard work. I. The psychological Ideas Section 46 People have long since remarked that in all substances the proper subject namely, the substantial as such, that is, what remains after all the qualities (as predicates) are set aside - is unknown, and this limit on our knowledge has been the topic of various complaints. But if our understanding at fault in this matter, it is not for its inability to know - to determine by itself - the substance of things, but rather for its wanting to know the substance of things, thereby treating a mere Idea as though it were a given object ·into whose nature one might enquire· . Pure reason demands that for every predicate of a thing we seek its proper subject; but this subject must itself be nothing but a ·further· predicate, so reason tells us to find a subject for it in its turn, . . . and so on, indefinitely (or until we give up). So we are never to regard anything that we arrive at as an ultimate subject: and our understanding can never have the thought of the substantial itself, however deeply it 53 penetrates and even if all of nature is unveiled to us. That is because the special characteristic of our understanding is that when it thinks something it does so by representing it through concepts, and thus through mere predicates; so it can never reach the absolute subject - ·the sheer thing, not understood as thing-that-is-F for any predicate F·. Hence all the real properties through which we know bodies are mere qualities of them; and that includes impenetrability, which we can only represent to ourselves as the effect of a power whose subject is unknown to us. Now, it appears as if we do confront this ·absolute· subject in our consciousness of ourselves (of the thinking subject), and indeed that we have this in an immediate intuition; for all the predicates of inner sense refer to the I as a subject, and I cannot conceive myself as the predicate of some other subject. So it seems that we are given in experience something that completes the process of relating given concepts predicatively to a subject - given it not merely as an idea but as an object, that is, the absolute subject itself. But this turns out to be a false hope. For the I is not a concept,11 but only a designation of the object of inner sense insofar as we know it by no further predicate. So it can’t itself be a predicate of any other thing, any more than it can be a determinate concept of an absolute subject; all it is is a relating of inner phenomena to their unknown subject. Yet this Idea (which does excellent service as a regulative principle, totally destroying all materialistic explanations of the inner phenomena of the soul) leads through a wholly natural misunderstanding to a highly plausible argument: from Ÿthis supposed knowledge of the substantial status of our thinking being the argument infers Ÿconclusions about the nature of the soul - the nature of it that lies right outside the compass of experience. Section 47 We may call this thinking self (the soul) substance, as being the ultimate subject of thinking that can’t be further represented as the predicate of something else; but the concept ·of substance, in this use of it·, remains quite empty, with nothing following from it, if it can’t be shown to involve permanence - which is what makes fruitful the concept of substances that we encounter in experience. But permanence can never be proved on the basis of the concept of a substance considered as a thing in itself, but only in relation to experience. This is adequately shown by the first Analogy of Experience ·in the Critique of Pure Reason·. If that proof doesn’t convince you, try for yourself whether you can derive from the concept of a subject that does not exist as the predicate of another thing that its existence is thoroughly permanent and that it cannot - unaided or through any natural cause - either come into existence or be annihilated. Synthetic a priori propositions such as that can never be proved ·of things· in themselves, but only in application to things as objects of possible experience. -----------------------------------11 If the representation of self-awareness. the I, were a concept through which something could...
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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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