Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

So our only way of studying the nature of things a

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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 universal rule. (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. Section 18 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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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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