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Unformatted text preview: s of nature can never be known a priori of objects
considered in themselves (rather than in terms of possible experience of them). But we
aren’t concerned here with things in themselves; their properties don’t interest us. Our
concern is with things considered as objects of a possible experience, and the totality of
these things is what we here call ‘nature’ in the broad sense. Now, we are going to enquire
into what enables us to have a priori knowledge of nature, and we have to choose
between two ways of framing our problem.
ŸHow can we know a priori that experience itself must conform to law?
ŸHow can we know a priori that things (considered as objects of
experience) must conform to law?
The two questions turn out to be equivalent. The laws that govern our Ÿways of knowing
also govern Ÿthe objects that we know, as long as these are considered as objects of
experience and not as they are in themselves. There are two things we can say:
(a) A judgment of perception can’t count as valid for experience unless the mind in
which it occurs conforms to the following law: When any event is observed to
happen, it is connected with some earlier event that it follows according to a
(b) Everything that we experience as happening must be caused to happen.
It makes no difference which we say: they come down to the same thing.
Still, we shall do better if we start with (a). We can make a priori discoveries about
what the conditions are under which experience is possible, but we can’t make such
discoveries about laws that apply to things in themselves independently of our experience
of them. So our only way of studying Ÿthe nature of things a priori is by studying Ÿthe
conditions under which experience is possible, including the universal laws of the mind
that make it possible. ·What I am saying, in effect, is that we should tackle (b) by tackling
(a)·. If I chose to start with (b), I would risk falling into error by imagining that I was 29
talking about nature in itself. That would set me whirling around in endless circles, trying
in vain to discover laws governing things that are not given to me ·as things are given to
me in experience·.
So our only concern here will be with experience and with what universal conditions
have to be satisfied for experience to be possible - conditions that we can know about a
priori. On that basis we are to establish the characteristics of nature as the whole object of
all possible experience. You will understand, I think, that I am not talking about Ÿrules
that we learn by observing a nature that is already given, for such rules already presuppose
experience; so I am not talking about how through experience we can study the laws of
nature, for laws learned in that way would not be laws a priori, and would not supply us
with a pure natural science. Rather, my topic is the question of how Ÿthe conditions that
we can know a priori have to be satisfied if experience is to be possible are at the same
time Ÿthe sources from which all the universal laws of nature must be derived.
The first thing to make clear is this: although all judgments of experience are empirical
(i.e. have their ground in immediate sense-perception), the converse does not hold: not all
empirical judgments are judgments of experience. That is because a judgment of
experience must contain more than merely an empirical component, given through sensory
Ÿintuition. It must also involve particular Ÿconcepts that ·do not come from senseexperience, but· originate a priori in the pure understanding - concepts under which every
Ÿperception must first be brought and then by their means changed into Ÿexperience.
Empirical judgments fall into two kinds: Ÿjudgments of experience and Ÿjudgments of
perception. The former are objectively valid. They are based on immediate sense
perception, but they add to it: when something is given to sensible intuition, a Ÿjudgment
of experience applies to it certain special concepts that pure understanding gives rise to,
completely independently of experience. Perceptions are turned into experience by being
brought under these concepts. ŸJudgments of perception are only subjectively valid: all
they need is that the perceptions hang together in the right way in mind of the person
concerned (the subject); they don’t involve any of the pure concepts of the understanding.
All our judgments start out by being judgments of perception, and thus as valid only
for us (that is, for our subject). Later on we make them refer to an object, and mean them
to be valid for all people and for ourselves at all times. A judgment’s being about an object
connects with its being universally valid, and the connection runs both ways. On the one
hand: if my judgment is about an object, then anyone else’s judgment about that same
object should agree with mine, which is to say that mine must be universally valid. On the
other hand: if a judgment of mine is universally valid, agreeing with the judgments of all
others, this agreement has to be explained. The explanation must be that the judgments
agree with one...
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