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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
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.
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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